Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

This blog is aimed at tracing the world news related to nuclear power development internationally and in particular countries. Being an independent resource, we accept all kinds of opinions, positions and comments, and welcome you to discuss the posts and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

US may have seen last new nuclear, coal plant: FERC's Wellinghoff

[If I had a nickel every time someone said natural gas would be cheap forever and get rid of nuclear...]


Washington (Platts)--22Apr2009
In remarks focused on the promise of renewable energy and demand-side management, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Jon Wellinghoff on Wednesday suggested that there may never be another new nuclear or coal power plant built in the country.

Pointing to upwards of 1,000 GW of potential wind energy in the Midwest and West, new solar power production and storage technologies and emerging hydrokinetic power resources, Wellinghoff asserted that renewables are poised to play a substantial, gap-filling role in the US energy picture.

That, coupled with strong natural gas reserves and load-response leveling systems, could simply price coal and nuclear out of the energy market equation
for the foreseeable future, the chairman said at a Washington press briefing
sponsored by the United States Energy Association.

Asked about challenges facing construction of new nuclear and coal power
plants, Wellinghoff allowed that "we may not need any, ever." That's a "theoretical question" because "I don't see anybody building these things until costs get to a reasonable level."

He characterized the projected costs of new nuclear plants as prohibitive, citing estimates of roughly $7,000/kW.

Price tags for new coal plants are similarly daunting, he said. Coal plants also are being pressed by natural gas, which is coming on strong as a competitor for power production, the chairman said.

"Natural gas is going to be there for a while," he said, noting that production companies in recent years have discovered that "we have twice as much" gas in the US "than we previously thought." That, in combination with other factors, figures to keep natural gas relatively inexpensive "for a while," competing "on the margin with coal" for new generation load.
--Chris Newkumet, chris_newkumet@platts.com

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

China may bid for Jordan's $3.5 bln nuclear contract


Tue Apr 21, 2009 10:18am GMT

BEIJING, April 21 (Reuters) - China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) could join the bidding to build a nuclear power plant in Jordan worth $3.5 billion, Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), said on Tuesday.

French nuclear energy producer Areva (CEPFi.PA: Quote), Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) (015760.KS: Quote), Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and Russia's Atomstroyexport are already competing for the right to build the plant.

"Others, including CNNC, may join the bidding process, given there is still some time before the decision will be made," Toukan told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Beijing.

He said it might take three years to choose the contractor and a further four or five years to build the plant, which would have generating capacity of at least 1 gigawatt, perhaps more.

At 1 GW, the plant would cost $3.3-3.5 billion. It is expected to generate around one quarter of Jordan's electricity. The country has yet to choose a site for the reactor and a lack of water was complicating the issue, Toukan said.

Jordan has reasonably assured resources of about 70,000 metric tonnes of uranium oxide in the centre of the country.

A Jordanian joint venture with Areva is exploring one block which is expected to start production in 2012-2013, while a partnership with China's Sino (U) is in the early stage of exploring two blocks, he said.

China builds third generation nuclear reactors

[Several of my colleagues are working on the Sanmen project. It will be interesting to see if schedule holds on this first AP-1000.]


Zhejiang (China) |Monday, 2009 7:35:09 PM IST

China Sunday started the construction of its Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in collaboration with US-based Westinghouse in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang.

The plant will be built in three phases, with an investment of about 40 billion yuan ($5.88 billion) in the first phase.

The two pressurised water reactors to be built in the first phase will generate 1.25 mn kw each.

The first reactor will be put into operation in 2013, and the second in 2014. The plant will have six reactors.

"It is the biggest energy cooperation project between China and the US," said Zhang Guobao, head of the National Energy Administration.

China launched bidding for the Sanmen nuclear power plant in 2003. Foreign companies including Westinghouse, France's Areva and Russia's AtomStroyExport participated in the process.

Westinghouse became the winner after China signed a memo with the US on the introduction and transfer of third-generation nuclear power technologies in December 2006.

The agreement was signed between China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation and Westinghouse in July 2007.

Two of the four pressurised water reactors will be installed in Sanmen, while two others will be installed in Haiyang City in eastern Shandong province.

China presently has 11 nuclear reactors at its six nuclear power plants, all on the east coast, with a combined installed capacity of 9.07 mn kw.

To meet its fast economic growth, China plans to develop more nuclear power. The country plans to have 40 mn kw of installed nuclear capacity by 2020.

Speaking at Sunday's inauguration ceremony of the first-phase project of the Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang has called for more efforts to develop new energy to ensure the country's energy security and boost economic growth.


Monday, April 13, 2009

EDF suspends managers suspected of spying on nuclear opponents

[Latest on the French espionage story.]


Paris (Platts)--10Apr2009
Electricite de France on Friday suspended two senior nuclear security managers alleged to have hired outside consultants to spy on antinuclear activists using illegal means, including computer hacking, in violation of company rules.

The French utility said in a statement that "as a precautionary measure following an internal inquiry," it had decided to suspend Pierre Francois, site protection engineer, and his line manager Pascal Durieux, security manager in the EDF Production and Engineering Division, from their duties "to ensure that the legal inquiry into unlawful intrusion into information systems is conducted with the necessary impartiality."

A Paris-area judge filed charges against the two EDF employees in March in connection with "fraudulent intrusion" into the computer system of Yannick Jadot, a former Greenpeace campaign director, in association with Kargus Consultant, a computer intelligence firm.

The two denied knowingly hacking into a computer system, as did two Kargus employees also charged in the case, but a contractor for Kargus admitted hacking into Jadot's computers.

At the time, EDF registered as an intervenor, saying it would seek recourse against Kargus. But Friday's announcement indicates that at least in a second case, the two executives may have overstepped their authority.

On Friday, EDF said it had "just found out during internal investigations" that "a monitoring contract with Securewyse...was signed without full regard for [EDF's] rules."

Securewyse, based in Switzerland, specializes in private detective work.

EDF did not say who signed the contract, but the French investigative weekly Canard Enchaine reported Wednesday that Securewyse was contracted to "monitor" the movements and contacts of Stephane Lhomme, a spokesman for the antinuclear group Sortir du Nucleaire.

Lhomme revealed in 2006 that he was in possession of an internal EDF document acknowledging weaknesses in the resistance of the EPR (European Pressurized water Reactor) nuclear plant design to a direct crash impact from a commercial jetliner. The 2003 document was stamped "defense confidential."

When Lhomme was charged with endangering national security by revealing the contents of the document, Sortir du Nucleaire and other groups reacted by publishing it on their Internet sites. Meanwhile, Securewyse was hired to find out who had leaked it, the Canard said.

Lhomme has not been judged; if convicted, he risks a five-year prison sentence.

So far, Sortir du Nucleaire said in a statement Thursday, the organization's informant has apparently not been identified.

EDF has said that the 2003 document is obsolete because the design of the EPR -- which predated the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US -- has been modified to meet new aircraft-crash requirements.

In the statement Friday, EDF said it "endeavors to ensure safety" at its facilities "in order to prevent violent action at its sites." That, it said, requires "constant monitoring of information that may affect its activity."

But EDF said "monitoring" on its behalf must be conducted within the law and that it "wholeheartedly condemns any method aimed at obtaining information illegally."

Durieux is a former police officer. The Canard said that EDF and nuclear vendor Areva employ several former officials from the Ministry of Interior, which oversees both the French police and the national investigation bureau, now called DCRI.

Sortir du Nucleaire said it was preparing to file suit against both EDF and DCRI, which it suspects of helping the utility "in this espionage and infiltration affair."

After the revelation of the Kargus affair, French environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo, who is responsible for energy, said he was keeping an eye on the case but was not worried about the allegations.

"If these extraordinarily things turned out to be true, what [kind of] country would we be living in?" he said during an interview on France Inter radio April 1.

--Ann MacLachlan, ann_maclachlan@platts.com

Friday, April 3, 2009

Senior Staff at French Nuclear Giant EDF Accused of Spying on Greenpeace

[I try not to opine TOO much in these postings, but I feel this is "the pot calling the kettle black". Yes if the charges are true espionage is wrong, but Greenpeace uses illegal tactics as well (e.g., trespassing, blockades, etc.). I sense a double standard here...]


Senior staff at state-owned energy company, EDF, have been charged with engaging in industrial espionage against Greenpeace France.

By Michael Ross Published on 2 Apr 2009

Two senior members of staff at EDF, the world’s largest operator of nuclear reactors, have been charged with spying on environment agency Greenpeace.

However, while both individuals strongly deny the allegations, a computer expert - who also faces charges - has acknowledged plans to hack into Greenpeace France’s secure systems.

Police are now investigating whether French-government-owned EDF hired a private detective agency specifically to engage in industrial espionage.

Headed by a former member of the French Secret Service (who is also being investigation as part of this enquiry), private investigators Kargus Consultants are confirmed to have been working for EDF at the time of the alleged incident in 2006 but no further details have been given about what capacity this was under.

French newspaper website Mediapart however, suggested that EDF had charged investigators at Kargus with the task of infiltrating Greenpeace France and collecting information on anti-nuclear campaigners who would potentially oppose their proposal to build a huge new generation nuclear reactor on the north coast of France.

Unsurprisingly, both EDF and Kargus have officially denied these claims, instead suggesting that the already-charged computer expert was working alone without instruction from either party.

In fact, EDF are now claiming that they are the victims in this case and have filed a civil plaintiff against the private detective firm.

Greenpeace have since confirmed that they are carrying out a thorough security review of the systems used by key officials in both the French and UK branches – EDF have recently bought into the UK’s biggest nuclear company, British Energy.

Director of Greenpeace France, Pascal Husting has also publically expressed his concerns, commenting:

"Greenpeace is a non-violent environmental organisation. The fact that we are being treated like terrorists because we dare to question nuclear energy shows just how frightened the nuclear industry is of transparency and a democratic debate.

"How will public opinion in Britain and the US – where EDF is expanding – react to a company using criminal spying methods against people who contradict them?"