New-build now. Part 1: Americas7 July 2014
Although the US industry has been busily improving post-Fukushima safety in its nuclear power plants, that level of activity has not stretched to new-build, which, in the US at least, has hit economic problems. Still, there are interesting isolated projects in North and South America. By Thecla Fabian
The US has four units under construction at two sites in the southeast. All are AP1000 advanced PWRs designed by Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse.
South Carolina Electric & Gas and the South Carolina Public Service Authority are building two AP1000s at VC Summer at an estimated cost of $9.8 billion. Summer's existing Westinghouse PWR began commercial operation in 1984.
The South Carolina Public Service Commission approved Summer 2 and 3 in February 2009, and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted construction and operating licences (COLs) for the units in March 2012. Unit 2 is expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 and unit 3 in 2019. Westinghouse began construction on unit 2 in March 2013 and on unit 3 in November 2013.
Toshiba's Keihin Product Operations in Yokohama, Japan, completed the core barrel for Summer 2 in early 2014, and shipped it to South Carolina in April. This is the first time Toshiba itself has produced a major PWR component, although its subsidiary Westinghouse was a pioneer in PWR development. Keihin fabricates major components for Japan's boiling water reactors (BWRs), as well as for thermal and hydroelectric plants.
Georgia Power is building two AP1000s at Vogtle in Georgia, where two 1200 MWe Westinghouse PWRs began operation in 1987 and 1989, respectively. It is the largest infrastructure project in Georgia, with more than 3000 workers.
Parent company Southern Nuclear applied in August 2006 for an early site permit and in March 2008 for a COL. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the COLs in February 2012. Nuclear construction began on Vogtle 3 in March 2013 and on Vogtle 4 in November 2013. The total cost of the two units is estimated at $14 billion. Both are scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2018. Georgia Power holds a 45.7% stake in the new units.
In March 2014, Georgia Power completed the heaviest lift of the project to date, unit 3's CA20 module -- 67 ft long by 47 ft wide, five stories high and weighing 1100t (2.2m lbs). It will house various plant components, including the used fuel storage area. Delays in fabricating and shipping the CA20 sub- modules increased project costs, eventually causing Georgia Power to issue a stop-work order to contractor Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I). In the past year CB&I has delivered all the remaining modules to Vogtle for inspection and repair work under enhanced supervision. The module was assembled at CB&I's Lake Charles, Louisiana facility and at Vogtle.
Other milestones passed in 2014 including placing the 400t CR10 cradle, which will hold the containment vessel bottom head, in unit 4 in February.
Georgia Power is embroiled in a lawsuit with reactor vendor Toshiba Westinghouse amounting to more than $900 million in costs from delays and construction cost overruns. Westinghouse and its construction partner Stone & Webster (S&W) have had to make a number of changes to the original design plan that was the basis of the 2008 contract. Westinghouse attributes the changes and resulting costs to new NRC regulations, including a 2010 requirement that containment buildings must be able to withstand an aeroplane crash. Georgia Power blames the added costs on Westinghouse's designs and S&W's execution. Southern Company's August 2013 quarterly report warned that more litigation is possible.
TVA decided to complete construction of Watts Bar 2 in Spring City, Tennessee, which was halted in 1988 due to falling power demand. It awarded the contract to Bechtel. TVA expects to have the 1200 MWe PWR in commercial operation between September 2015 and June 2016 at a cost of $4.5 billion. Watts Bar 1 is a Westinghouse 1121 MWe Westinghouse PWR that came online in 1996.
In January 2014, TVA said work on Watts Bar 2 was on schedule and on budget as of October 2013. Three operating systems were turned over for pre-operational open-vessel testing scheduled to begin in early 2014.
Argentina has two power reactors under construction: a 692 MWe pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) due to begin commercial operation in 2014 and the prototype CAREM-25, a 25 MWe indigenously-designed SMR. Both are at the Atucha site 100km northwest of Buenos Aires, alongside Atucha 1, a 335 MWe PHWR that started commercial operation in 1974. (Argentina also operates a 600 MWe PHWR at Embalse in Cordoba.)
Argentina's Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) ordered Atucha 2 in 979. The Siemens design is a larger version of Atucha 1 and began construction in 1981 under a joint venture with Siemens-KWU. However, financing difficulties meant work was suspended in 1994 with the unit 81% complete. In 1994, the government set up Nucleoelectrica Argentina (NA-SA) to take over nuclear plant operation and oversee construction of Atucha 2.
The Siemens design of the Atucha units is unique to Argentina, and NA-SA sought expertise from Germany, Spain and Brazil before presenting plans to complete Atucha 2 to the government. In August 2006, the government announced a $3.5 billion strategic plan for Argentina's nuclear sector that involved completion of Atucha 2 and life extension for Atucha 1 and Embalse. (See also 'Ultrasonic inspection systems for Atucha 2,' April 2013 pp. 30-3.)
NA-SA expected completion of Atucha 2 would cost $600 million, including $400 million for heavy water. Most of the work was completed by September 2011. Heavy water and 415 fuel assemblies were loaded into the reactor in 2013. The first hot tests and the pressure tests of the primary circuit and moderator were completed in January 2013. Grid synchronisation tests using non-nuclear heat were completed in February 2013. First criticality was reported to have been 2 May 2014 according to IAEA's PRIS online database.
In February 2014, CNEA formally began construction of CAREM-25 (Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares). CNEA expects the CAREM prototype to cost $446 million. It is scheduled to begin cold testing in 2016 and receive its first fuel load in the second half of 2017. It relies on passive safety systems, with the entire primary coolant system in a single self-pressurised vessel, using free convection to circulate the coolant (see also 'Innovative SMR from Argentina breaks ground' March 2014, pp. 30-3).
Once CNEA proves the CAREM design, it plans to develop versions in the 100-300 MWe range, with forced coolant flow using electrically-driven axial flow pumps. There are tentative plans to build the first larger CAREM in Formosa.
In November 2013, Brazil's state-owned nuclear operator Eletrobras Eletronuclear signed a $1.6 billion contract with France's AREVA to complete Angra 3 in Rio de Janiero state by 2018. Brazil has two operating power reactors, both PWRs: Angra 1 (609 MWe) and Angra 2 (1275 MWe), connected to the grid in 1982 and 2000, respectively.
Angra 3, pictured on the contents page of this issue, is a 1400 MWe Siemens/KWU PWR. Construction began in 1984, and is about 47% complete. It was halted by financing problems in 1986 when about 70% of the equipment was already on site.
The government authorised completion in 2007 and the nuclear regulator granted Eletronuclear a construction permit in 2010. In 2011 Brazilian national development bank BNDES approved $2.6 billion in construction financing.
AREVA will supply engineering services and components, the digital instrumentation and control (I&C) system and will supervise installation and commissioning. It will incorporate post-Fukushima safety upgrades.
Eletronuclear awarded two major projects for completing the plant in early 2014. A $584.6 million contract, for electro-mechanical assembly of the reactor's primary system, went to a consortium of Queiroz Galvão, EBE and Techint. A consortium led by construction company Andrade Gutierrez won the $758.6 million conventional island contract.
Later this year the Brazilian government will release an energy plan to 2050 (PNE 2050) that will define the role of nuclear power in the future Brazilian energy mix. That document will define the priorities amongst the 40 suitable sites already chosen by an Eletronuclear geographical survey. The National Energy Plan PNE 2030 had already considered a 4 GW nuclear expansion: 2 GW at Pernambuco and Bahia in the northeast and 2 GW in the southeast.