Sunday, July 27, 2014

The new CANDU attitude, and agreements

Some positive news for the CANadian Deuterium Uranium reactor (CANDU), and some hope for better news through new marketing to develop new markets.

China signs Candu deals with Romania and Argentina | World Nuclear News:
Two Chinese nuclear utilities have signed agreements that would see them cooperate in the construction and financing of new Candu units at Romania's Cernavoda plant and at Argentina's Atucha plant.
China Nuclear Power Engineering Co (CNPEC) has signed a "binding and exclusive" cooperation agreement with Candu Energy Inc for the construction of two more reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power plant in Romania.
The agreement, signed in Vancouver yesterday, follows a letter of intent signed by CNPEC's parent company China General Nuclear (CGN) and Romanian national nuclear company Nuclearelectrica last November for investment in and development of Cernavoda units 3 and 4.
Cernavoda is home to two operating Candu 6 pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) supplied by Candu Energy's predecessor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), and built by a Canadian-Italian consortium of AECL and Ansaldo. Unit 1 started up in 1996, but work was suspended on a further four units in 1991. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and has been in operation since 2007. The two reactors currently generated almost 20% of Romania's electricity. continue reading at WNN
The story is a good one for the CANDU reactor and a very well earned reward for the excellent performance of Romania's existing reactors at Cernavoda. While the CANDUs located outside of Canada have strong records in both build-times, and adherence to budgets, the excellent performance is particularly apparent in Romania where only CANDU reactors are in service, and where the anti-nuclear World Nuclear Report indicates some of the world's best load factors are achieved.


The media release from Candu Energy notes the load factors of the CANDU reactors at Quinshan, in China, explaining the partnership for the new builds. The media release concludes with:
Candu Energy is pursuing other international new build opportunities in the United Kingdom and China, among other markets.
Graphic from CANDU's Our Solution for the UK (view as .pdf)
These opportunities are seen based on the CANDU's unique fueling characteristics, which were the subject of a news release from Candu Energy parent company SNC Lavalin on another agreement with another company, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC):
SNC-Lavalin (TSX: SNC) is pleased to announce that it has signed a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to jointly develop and pursue power generation, mining and metallurgy and nuclear-related environmental protection projects.
Under the agreement, SNC-Lavalin will work with the CNNC to develop reactors using Advanced Fuel CANDU (AFCR) technology in China. Developed by SNC-Lavalin’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Candu Energy, AFCR technology uses both recycled uranium- and thorium-based fuels to deliver high-performing reactors with strong environmental benefits. The MOU also provides a framework for collaboration between SNC-Lavalin and CNNC on uranium mining projects in China, and the pursuit of international project opportunities in various high-growth sectors and markets.
One of these opportunities is surely the United Kingdom, where the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) continues to look at a CANDU solution to managing plutonium - along with the PRISM integral fast reactor design, and the currently "preferred" option of creating Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX); I believe the claim is that it should be much simpler to reformat spent fuels from light-water reactors to fuel a CANDU than it is to prepare MOX for light water reactors. This seems to be the basis of the CNNC partnership, and the future direction of marketing CANDU reactors.

On the other hand...

The World Nuclear News article at the beginning of this post announced another piece of CANDU news, albeit one that didn't deal with the Candu Energy company, but an agreement between China and Argentina:
The signing of the Romanian agreement comes days after China and Argentina signed a new high-level agreement towards construction of a third PHWR at the Atucha plant in Argentina.
The accord was signed as part of a meeting last week in Buenos Aires between Chinese president Xi Jinping and Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. It provides for nuclear utility Nucleoel├ęctrica Argentina - holder of rights to Candu technology - to be designer, architect-engineer, builder and operator of the new reactor.
Through the agreement, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) would assist by providing goods and services under long-term financing. CNNC operates two Candu 6 units at its Qinshan plant in China's Zhejiang province.
The CNNC is, as cited above, SNC Lavalin's partner in pursuing fuel solutions.

In Argentina, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) - a large portion of which was sold off as Candu Energy - partnered not only on the CANDU at Embalse, but also in bringing online Atucha 2, a long-delayed heavy-water reactor project which Siemens, the original proponent, lacked the capability to complete.

The cost of nuclear reactors is discussed far more frequently than the value. As Atucha 2's first power entered the grid in June, the value was put in understandable terms:
As an oil exporter, Argentina also burns the fuel to generate about 15% of its electricity. Atucha 2's electricity would avoid the burning of oil worth some $1.5 billion per year, said De Vido: "This clearly supports self-sufficiency, aims to improve the balance of foreign exchange, replaces fuel imports and fundamentally consolidates technological knowledge within Argentina."
The balance of foreign exchange is a particularly big deal in currency troubled Argentina, and it may have to do with agreements not only with China, but Russia, on new builds. In Mid-July Russia and Argentina signed an agreement which Vladimar Putin claimed, "will become a strong foundation for close cooperation." The World Nuclear News report on that agreement included:
Rosatom quoted de Vido as saying that the agreement had a special significance, "given the intention of the Russian party to finance projects in Argentina [which] would help the development of nuclear power in the country."
Argentina has two nuclear power units in operation - 335 MWe Atucha I and 660 MWe Embalse - and the 745 MWe Atucha 2, which reached first criticality last month. All are pressurized heavy water reactors.
Russian energy minister Alexander Novak told reporters after Putin and de Kirchner's press conference that Rosatom had submitted the technical and commercial proposal for its participation in the construction of the third unit at the Atucha plant. The tender will be held in the third quarter, he said.
"As for the construction of fourth and fifth units at the nuclear power plant, Rosatom is now actively working here onsite, the technical and commercial proposal has already been handed over to our colleagues," Novak reportedly said. Rosatom is prepared to participate both as contract client and contractor on one unit, he said. Rosatom "is prepared to provide comfortable financial terms, among other things," he said.
Russia has been active internationally with a unique advantage in providing financing along with the reactors.
In mid-July the end of heavy-water reactor builds in Argentina seemed to be communicated in a Nuclear Engineering International article:
Rosatom was one of five prequalified suppliers for the country's first light-water, enriched uranium pressurized water reactor. "After completing the phase of heavy water we pass to the light water reactor but with technology transfer."
Talks also reportedly touched on the possibility of finance.
July also included the announcement of, "plans to establish a BRICS "energy association" that will include a fuel reserve bank and an energy policy institute." The plans are hoped to create financing for new nuclear builds the World Bank has been disinterested in providing.

Argentina may be indicative of a growing competition between Russia and China to build new nuclear units throughout the world - with Candu Energy aligning with companies from China in recognition of that, while using the fuel flexibility of its design to position itself as a solution to the spent fuel problem (from competing light-water reactors).



Related:

CANDU 6 shares the load with light water reactors in China and South Korea | The Don Jones Articles

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