Nuclear Delay and Cost Increases Continue

December 16, 2022

Almost like it’s a consistent pattern.

Reuters:

EDF’s (EDF.PA) new nuclear reactor in Flamanville will be delayed by at least six more months and costs will increase by another 500 million euros ($531 million), the company said on Friday.

The new delay is the latest blow to the group’s efforts to show it can keep to its schedules and step up the output of its fleet.

The Flamanville EPR reactor, which is already a decade behind schedule and has been dogged by repeated cost overruns, is now expected to start operations in the first quarter of 2024 and cost 13.2 billion euros, EDF said.

It blamed the move on the need for further works that were proving more complicated than expected following repairs on welds.

The group in January had forecast construction costs of 12.7 billion euros and said the reactor would start loading fuel – one of the final stages before the start up of a plant – in the second quarter of 2023.

EDF will also comply with a request by France’s nuclear watchdog to replace the reactor’s vessel closure head by the end of 2024, which would entail a first mandatory stoppage only some months after its start, the director of the project, Alain Morvan, told journalists on a call.

Reuters:

Finland faces a greater risk of power outages in coming months because of another delay in starting up the new Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) nuclear reactor, national grid operator Fingrid said on Friday.

Fingrid and the state energy authority have told citizens and companies to prepare for possible blackouts, particularly if OL3 does not prove reliable, as countries across Europe seek to curb energy usage, grappling with reduced Russian gas and other energy supplies because of the Ukraine war.

“There will be less domestic production capacity available than was previously estimated which highlights the importance of saving electricity and timing its usage to safeguard its sufficiency,” Fingrid said in a statement.

Finns cut power consumption by 7% year on year in October, but consumption usually peaks during cold winter months in January and February as they turn up the heating.

The OL3 plant is Finland’s first new nuclear plant in more than four decades and Europe’s first in almost 15 years, with a capacity equal to about 14% of Finnish electricity consumption, TVO has said.

In October, the operator said cracks were found in the OL3 reactor’s four feedwater pumps after test production, further delaying startup originally planned to be in 2009.

Test production has been postponed until Dec. 25 at the earliest, from Dec. 11, TVO said, while full production will begin on Feb. 6 at the earliest compared with Jan. 22.

“The investigation into the damage in Olkiluoto 3’s feedwater pumps has proceeded into its final stages. Once the investigation is complete, a decision will be made on the startup of the plant unit,” TVO said in a statement.

Similar story in the UK.

New Civil Engineer:

EDF has announced that the start date for the Unit 1 reactor at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset will be pushed back a year to June 2027, with the project also facing a £3bn cost increase.

This is due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, time needed to adapt the reactor design for UK regulations and excess costs for marine works.

The cost now sits at £25bn to £26bn, an increase on the previous £23bn figure.

It comes after EDF’s announcement in January 2021 that the project’s completion date would be pushed back to June 2026 due to delays arising from the pandemic.

In a letter to staff, Hinkley Point C managing director Stuart Crooks has now said that this assumed “an imminent return to normal conditions” but the “second wave of Covid-19 stopped that happening”.

He added: “In total, the start date for Unit 1 has gone back 18 months since construction started in 2016. In such a complex project, it wouldn’t be credible to say we can measure exactly how much of this is due to Covid-19 impact, but it is clearly in excess of 12 months.”

Other factors affecting the schedule and cost include adapting the reactor design for UK-specific regulations, which has required “more engineering time and more materials”.

But don’t worry, we’ll just build Small Modular Nuclear Reactors. Bill Gates is on it.

oops.

CNBC:

TerraPower’s advanced reactor demonstration will face delays of at least two years because its only source of fuel was Russia, and the Ukraine war has closed the door on that trade relationship. The Bill Gates-backed company is planning to build its first reactor in the frontier-era coal town of Kemmerer, Wyoming and had hoped to finish it by 2028.

“In February 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused the only commercial source of HALEU fuel to no longer be a viable part of the supply chain for TerraPower, as well as for others in our industry,” Chris Levesque, the CEO of TerraPower, said in a written statement sent to the company’s newsletter recipients on Wednesday.

“Given the lack of fuel availability now, and that there has been no construction started on new fuel enrichment facilities, TerraPower is anticipating a minimum of a two-year delay to being able to bring the Natrium reactor into operation,” Levesque said.

Terrapower’s advanced nuclear plant design, known as Natrium, will be smaller than conventional nuclear reactors, and is slated to cost $4 billion, with half of that money coming from the U.S. Department of Energy. It will offer baseload power of 345 megawatts, with the potential to expand its capacity to 500 megawatts — about half of what is needed to power a mid-size city, according to a rule of thumb Gates provided in his book, “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster.

But the plant depends on high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU. The existing fleet of nuclear reactors in the United States runs uranium-235 fuel enriched up to 5%, the Department of Energy says, while HALEU is enriched between 5% and 20%.

The United States does not have the enrichment capacity to supply commercial amounts of HALEU fuel and so TerraPower had “assumed the use of HALEU from Russia for our first core load,” Levesque wrote.

Since the war broke out in February and it became clear that Russia could no longer be a reliable trade partner, TerraPower, the Department of Energy and other stakeholders have been looking for alternate sources of HALEU fuel. They are also pushing lawmakers to approve $2.1 billion to support HALEU production, according to Levesque.

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6 Responses to “Nuclear Delay and Cost Increases Continue”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Western civilization is doomed.

  2. Anthony O'Brien Says:

    Seems the only people that can do reactors sensibly is the US Navy. Everyone else wants bespoke, so every new reactor is a prototype.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It blamed the move on the need for further works that were proving more complicated than expected following repairs on welds.

      I do wonder what, if anything, the Chinese do to prevent weld defects or sloppy (or no) inspections. Are their plants built well, or do we have to wait for a couple of decades before the masked construction defects show up?

      • Anthony O'Brien Says:

        A definite worry. China can do high quality, it can also do rubbish and I don’t know which applies to their nuclear industry. We are unlikely to find out about minor incidents, so until the SHTF in a big way will we know anything.

  3. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    “Almost like it’s a consistent pattern.”
    [Flamanville][Olkiluoto 3][Hinkley Point C][Natrium]

    Yes, but aside from that….

  4. J4Zonian Says:

    Nook boosters on the internet used to insist old-type reactors were fine, then for a while they actually criticized old reactors, admitting they um, well, weren’t. Then they started relentlessly pushing generation-whatever reactors as cheeeper, saaafer, blah blah… Impossible burgers. Now they’re mostly not touting either, just saying nuclear nuclear nuclear, only way to blah blah. Maybe they realized every generation-whatever reactor made was a prototype that took years or decades longer and cost billions more, saw which way the irradiated wind was blowing (and sucking) and now are just doing it out of habit, ignorance, or for the money.


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