News Brief: Nuclear Power Developments in Argentina

Dan Yurman’s recent article for the Energy Collective sheds new light on Argentina’s recent nuclear power developments. Yurman higlights deals for three new nuclear reactors and the the country’s new R&D program focused on the development of a 25 MWe SMR based on a PWR design.

Key facts of the three new reactors include:

  • China’s CNNC is financing two of the new reactors for a total of deal worth $13 billion USD.
  • Russia’s Rosatom is partnering for the third reactor, financing $6 billion USD.
  • Despite these financing deals, Argentina will need to seek further financing, likely from international markets
  • The Chinese reactors are a 800 MW PHWR Candu type reactor scheduled for 2016, and later a new CNNC 1100 MW Hualong One reactor. Rosatom’s reactor is a 1200 MW VVER design.

Yurman also highlights the developmend of a 25 MWe SMR by CNEA (the National Atomic Energy Commission) that is positioned “to be used to supply energy for areas with small populations or, potentially, for supplying power to desalination plants in costal areas.

Nuclear Energy in Argentina

According to World Nuclear Association’s country profile, Argentina currently has three nuclear reactors generating about one-tenth of its electricity. In 2007, per capita energy consumption was over 2600 kWh/yr. In 2012, gross electicity production included 73 TWh from gas, 30 TWh from hydroelectric, 20 TWh from oil, 3 TWh from coal, and 6.4 TWh from nuclear.

Argentina’s electicity production is largely privatised, and is regulated from ENRE (Ente Nacional Regulador de la Electricidad). Yurman, in his article on Argentina’s future nuclear energy plans, describes the three existing reactors:

the profile of installed units includes three PWHR Candu type reactors the oldest of which was built in 1974 (Atucha 1). Atucha 2, a 700 MW PHWR entered revenue service in 2014, and a third unit Embalse, a 600 MW Candu 6, was completed in 1983.

The deals with China and Russia enable a rapid shift in Argentina’s energy mix, with an increasing focus on cutting carbon emmissions. However, questions remain as to whether Argentina can afford major new nuclear infrastructure. As an April 2015 op-ed by Jason Marczak in the World Politics Review noted, Argentina is often an afterthought for investors looking to invest internationally, due to political instabilitity and the fallout from the sovereign debt default in the early 2000s.

However, with presidential elections later this year, there is renewed optimism in Argentina and, perhaps, a chance that international investors will begin to reconsider their skepticism. Renewed investment will make help to catapult the recent Chinese and Russian deals, and the local SMR development, from the early stages of today towards a brighter future.

News in Depth: Deploying SMR Technology in Canada’s Northern Communities

In mid-April, 2015, Peter Lang, President of Dunedin Energy Systems Ltd, gave a presentation at the Nunavut Mining Symposium, arguing for a radical shift in the way we provide energy to remote communities and mining operations. Traditionally, northern communities have relied upon diesel generators that produce substantial pollution and require costly infrastructure for fuel transport to maintain energy production.

Lang suggests a new approach, one that utilizes new, small modular reactor (SMR) technology to produce energy from floating nuclear power ships. In this week’s News in Depth, we explore Lang’s idea and the potential opportunities and challenges that are ahead.

An Old Idea Given New Life

As Lang noted in his presentation, the idea of utilizing nuclear reactors in unique contexts is not new: small, self-contained nuclear reactors have been providing energy on military ships and submarines (103 in the US Navy alone), and ice-breakers for decades and have been deployed in northern Russian communities since the 1970s.

Lang’s Dunedin Energy believes that their SMART (Small Modular Adaptable Reactor Technology) system would provide a more sustainable and consistent energy source for remote communities in Canada. They describe the systems as a “nuclear battery”:

When the fuel in a nuclear battery is consumed, the entire reactor module (which contains the spent fuel) is removed and shipped to a processing facility for fuel recycling. A new, freshly fuelled reactor module is installed to replace it. The reactor module is a sealed unit and cannot be opened for any reason at the operating site.

In his presentation, Lang compares diesel and nuclear, using a 16MWe common production rate. Notably, the annual fuel logistics of diesel include moving and storing over 31 million litres of fuel and annual greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to be 85,000 tonnes. Compare those figures to the zero fuel logistics and greenhouse gas emissions of their nuclear SMART system. Lang also highlights the issue of carbon taxes, arguing that while diesel may cost up to $1.2 Million for a 16MWe plant, a nuclear SMART reactor would gain a credit of $1.2 Million.

The Challenges Ahead

The incredibly favourable comparison above belies some of the deeper challenges that SMR development may face in northern communities.

The first set of challenges relate to cost and public resistance. Dunedin presents two business cases – a full-ownership option and a “zero-capital cost” option wherein Dunedin handles the operation and logistics of deployment, operation, and decommissioning, and the customer pays approximately 29 cents/kW in return.

However, northern communities and mine operators may be tempted to continue to rely on diesel – owing to the current low price of oil and, in essence, because of the stickiness of the status quo. In addition, northern communities, including many Aboriginal groups, continue to be locked in debates over energy development, mining, and socio-economic development; introducing any new nuclear energy plan may provide more fodder for political debate. Dunedin appears to be aware of these challenges and addresses the regulatory and safety issues on their website. However, as we suggested in a piece on April 23, better public engagement and education would be required to quell any genuine fears or uncertainty that exist.

Lastly, northern communities may demand a clearer set of guidelines and regulations relating to decommissioning and remediation. Lang noted in his presentation that decommissioning funds would be held in escrow, effectively guaranteeing that even if a community or mine is bankrupt, that the money for cleanup and restoration is not subject to claims by creditors or other parties. Dunedin’s approach is unique – in that the whole reactor-in-a-ship concept allows for relatively easy site cleanup – but questions still remain. How much would be necessary for cleanup? What does full restoration look like?

In other words, this ambitious idea is not without issues. However, there appear to be tremendous economic and environmental arguments in favour of SMR development in northern and remote communities. These arguments carry over to other contexts – including Mexico, for example – and may one day translate to a new energy future for Canada’s North.

Topic announced for May 27 seminar

We are pleased to announce the topic for the next Future of Nuclear seminar: on May 27, Els Reynaers will speak on the recent breakthroughs in India regarding nuclear liability and trade:

The recent Indo-US political breakthrough: A catalyst towards effective commercial negotiations in civil nuclear trade?

U.S. President Obama’s visit to India on 25 January, 2015 led to a significant political breakthrough between the two nations which should finally enable commercial negotiations in the civil nuclear sector to materialize.  The legal contours of the political understanding became clearer after the Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, published an “FAQ and Answers” on India’s Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act, 2010 – a law with unique characteristics.  One of the key outcomes of this recent denouement is the creation of an Indian Nuclear Insurance Pool (INIP) that would offer a nuclear insurance liability policy not only to the nuclear operator in india but also its suppliers.  On May 27, Els Reynaers will discuss these legal and insurance-related developments in India, and what it means for Canadian nuclear vendors, regulators, and suppliers.

To learn more about this event, and to register to attend, click below:
http://futureofnuclearseminar7-nuclear-liability-india.eventbrite.com/?aff=futureofnuclear

Russia makes an offer to tender two nuclear power plants in Argentina

July 14, 2014 – Messi lookalike and Economy Minister Axel Kicillof and other top Argentine politicians met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Energy Minister Alexander Novak to discuss cooperation and sign a deal to develop two new Rosatom nuclear plants in Argentina. Details of the story are available by  clicking this article in the Buenos Aries Herald.

From an international perspective these negotiations depict the high level of official government involvement that is often required in nuclear energy deals. The united efforts of Russia’s President and Economy Minister is in stark contrast to the noticeably absent support that Prime Minster Stephen Harper has shown for marketing Canadian Candu reactors abroad.  How should Canada compete with Russia and other nations to export Canadian nuclear technology and expertise around the world?

In a recent post we pointed out that Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation Reza Moridi was actively supporting and advocating on behalf of Candu and other Canadian interests at a conference in China. In the high stakes game of international energy, heads of state need to get involved. 

Swafford setting course for Candu in China

On February 25, 2014 SNC-Lavalin Inc. (TSX: SNC) announced the appointment of Preston Swafford to the role of Chief Nuclear Officer, President and CEO, Candu Energy. Based in Toronto and reporting to the Company’s Power Group President, Alexander (Sandy) Taylor, Mr. Swafford will be responsible for growing SNC-Lavalin’s nuclear business to meet the needs of its customers for technical services, major refurbishments and new builds across Canada and in key international markets. Mr. Swafford has impressive experience including senior positions at Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Exelon, both companies are major American nuclear operators. On hearing the news industry observers wondered what course would be set by Swafford, and how applicable would his experience be with the iconic, definitively Canadian Candu heavy water reactors. Reports from a major trade show in China earlier this month, China International Nuclear Industry Exhibition, are providing an indication that Swafford is already starting to make his mark.

Candu Energy Inc. has had a rough period in recent years. Demand for new nuclear softened post Fukushima and in the wake of the financial crisis. Nations with stronger economies, such as China and India, have a burgeoning middle class that is hungry for cheap, reliable energy, and also, a need to rein in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for air quality, health and climate change reasons. International manufacturers have made inroads in these emerging markets with innovative new technologies, such as the four Westinghouse light water AP1000 reactors that China started building in 2008. With diminished demand, government support and privatization domestically, Candu needs to reinvent and reposition itself for the new 21st century nuclear market.

Swafford has quickly displayed that he understands the unique attributes of the Candu reactors. Some of the reactor features that made Candu a global leader when first developed decades ago are still highly relevant today. Candu reactors have demonstrated that they can use spent fuel to produce energy. Further, they can be most readily modified to use thorium as a fuel and they have superior safety features. Engineers estimate that for every four new reactors that China builds of various designs, they could and should build one Candu reactor to use the spent fuel. If China follows through on plans to build 100 new reactors in coming decades, this could potentially mean 25 new reactor sales for Candu.

Sales cycles in the nuclear industry are long. It is still early in the game for Swafford and the new Candu. One thing is certain, new innovations, partnerships and financial players are emerging. As with other technology industries, your competitor today may be your partner tomorrow. Who would have thought years ago that western companies would be selling nuclear technologies to China? Who would have thought that China, France and Russia would be involved in building and financing a new reactor in Britain? These are the times we are now in. Candu is setting a course to be a player in this new world.

Henry Vehovec
Chair, Future of Nuclear Advisory Board
President, Mindfirst Inc.

 

Ala Alizadeh of Candu Energy to speak at Future of Nuclear 2013

The Future of Nuclear staff is pleased to announce that Ala Alizadeh, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Business Development at Candu Energy Inc., will appear as a speaker and panelist at Future of Nuclear 2013, to be held October 9 at MaRS Discovery District.  To read the complete conference-day agenda, click here.

Dr. Ala Alizadeh leads domestic and international business development activities for 66 Coleridge Ave,  Toronto, ON M4C 4H5 416-466-4474 michael@coopershoots.comCandu Energy Inc.

Before joining Candu Energy Inc., Dr. Alizadeh held similar responsibilities for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), where he built his career for close to 30 years. A civil engineering and construction specialist, he has worked on CANDU nuclear plant projects in Canada, Korea, Argentina and Romania.

He holds a PhD in structural engineering from the University of Toronto where he has also taught. He has served on technical committees in Canada as well as internationally.  Ala has acted as an expert advisor and consultant to the International Atomic Energy Agency on subjects such as nuclear construction, nuclear project development and the establishment of nuclear infrastructure for emerging countries. He also sits on the board of the Canada China Business Council.

Additional speakers and panelists will be announced in the coming days.  Like us on facebook, or follow @futureofnuclear on twitter for the latest news.

To learn more about the event and to register, visit the link below:

https://futureofnuclear2013.eventbrite.com

 

PWU and OCI promote nuclear over wind power

The Power Workers’ Union (PWU) and the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCI) issues a press release promoting investment in nuclear power generation instead of further investment in wind power.

The press release was based on a report from Strategy Policy Economics Inc.  It posits two scenarios.  The first scenario sees an expansion of Ontario’s wind farms and natural gas power stations to compensate for the intermittency of wind power.  The second scenario would scale back the growth of wind power in favour of refurbishing existing nuclear plants and building new ones.  According to the report, investing in nuclear power represents a $60 billion net incremental increase to Ontario, when compared to retaining wind power.  They also predict a 108 million tonne reduction in greehouse gasses in the nuclear scenario.

The report and the press release that followed come just as the Government of Ontario reviews its Long Term Energy Plan (LTEP), created in 2010.

Sources:

PRESS RELEASE: New study concludes that nuclear generation is the best investment for Ontario’s energy future, Power Worker’s Union, http://pwu.ca/

Brouillette, Marc, Ontario Electricity Options Report, Strategy Policy Economics Inc., http://strapolec.ca/

First test of thorium fuel commences at Norway’s Halden research reactor

This week at Norway’s Halden research reactor, Norwegian company Thor Energy began testing a promising fuel that could dramatically change the way nuclear power is generated.

Thor Energy and other companies are in the process of developing thorium as the nuclear fuel of the future.  It is much more plentiful in nature than uranium making it cheaper. [1]  It is also highly versatile and can be used in many existing reactor types including heavy water reactors, high-temperature gas cooled reactors, boiling (light) water reactors, pressurized (light) water reactors, and fast neutron reactors. [1] It is also a candidate fuel for new types of reactors including molten salt reactors and accelerator driven reactors. [1]

However, the wide-ranging benefits of thorium will have to wait a while yet.  The test is scheduled to run for five years before the fuel will be studied to determine its performance and safety. [2] This test may be the first of many.  Companies around the world are working on thorium fuel including  Candu of Canada and China National Nuclear Corporation who are leading a research program to use thorium mixed with recycled uranium as a fuel in a modified Candu reactor. [2]

While it is still years away, the industry will be keeping a close eye on Thor Energy and others as they work to make thorium fuel commercially available.

Sources:

1. Thorium, World Nuclear Association Information Library, www.world-nuclear.org

2. Thorium test begins, World Nuclear News, www.world-nuclear-news.org