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Joined: 01 Sep 2006
|Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 4:01 pm Post subject: The World Nuclear Industry (31 Dec 2007 update)
|This 37 page report, which was commissioned by the Greens-EFA Group in the European Parliament, is worth a read. It details the many practical constraints on the expansion or even maintenance of the nuclear sector. The more you look at it, nuclear is going to die anyway...
The sections on Finland and France are interesting (copied from pp.26 - 28 of the report)...
|Finland currently operates four units that supply 28% (up from 27% in 2003) of its electricity. In December
2003, Finland became the first country to order a new nuclear reactor in Western Europe in 15 years. The
utility TVO signed a turn-key contract with the Franco-German consortium Framatome-ANP, now
AREVA NP (66% AREVA, 34% Siemens) to supply a 1600 MW EPR (European Pressurized water
Reactor). The Bavarian Landesbank ? the Siemens headquarter is located in Bavaria ? granted a loan of
?1.95 billion, over 60% of the contract value, at a particularly preferential interest rate of 2.6%. The French
public COFACE export credit agency covered an additional ?720 million loan. The construction started in
August 2005. Two and a half years later the project is over two years behind schedule and at least 50% over
budget, the loss for the provider being estimated at ?1.5 billion. It remains unclear who will cover the
In an unusually critical report the Finnish safety authorities pinned down a number of reasons for the delays:
?The time and resources needed for the detailed design of the OL3 unit was clearly
underestimated, when the overall schedule was agreed upon (...). An additional problem arose
from the fact that the supplier was not sufficiently familiar with the Finnish practises at the
beginning of the project. (?) The major problems involve project management (...). The power
plant vendor has selected subcontractors with no prior experience in nuclear power plant
construction to implement the project. These subcontractors have not received sufficient
guidance and supervision to ensure smooth progress of their work (...). As another example, the
group monitored manufacturing of the reactor containment steel liner. The function of the steel
liner is to ensure the leak-tightness the containment and thus prevent any leaks of radioactive
substances into the environment even in case of reactor damage. The selection and supervision
of the liner manufacturer was left to the subcontractor who designed the liner and supplied it to
FANP [AREVA NP]. The manufacturer had no earlier experience on manufacturing equipment
for nuclear power plants. Requirements concerning quality and construction supervision were a
surprise to the manufacturer (...).?89
On the attitude of AREVA NP as the vendor, the Finnish safety authorities note:
?At this stage of construction there has already been many harmful changes in the vendor?s site
personnel and even the Site Manager has retired and [has been] replaced. This has made overall
management, as well as detection and handling of problems difficult. (?) The incompetence in
the constructor role becomes obvious in the preparations for concreting of the base slab. (?)
The consortium has a habit of employing new people for problem solving, which seems to have
resulted in even more confusion about responsibilities.?90
The power situation of Finland is quite unusual and is the world?s number five in per capita consumption of
electricity, number two, just after Sweden, in the EU. The average power consumption of a Finn is 2.4 times
that of a German and three times that of an Italian. In order to satisfy that extraordinary level of electricity
consumption, Finland also imports significant quantities of electricity, occasionally exceeding
10 billion kWh per year, including from Russia?s Leningrad Chernobyl-type RBMK reactors. If Finland
reduced its per capita power consumption to Germany?s level, the country would save some 44 billion kWh
89 STUK, Press Release, 12 July 2006, http://www.stuk.fi/stuk/tiedotteet/2006/en_GB/news_419/ ; STUK, ?Management of Safety
Requirements in Subcontracting During the Olkiluoto-3 Nuclear Power Plant Construction Phase?, Investigation
Report 1/06, translation dated 1 September 2006; for full report see
Mycle Schneider with Antony Froggatt
|France is the worldwide exception in the nuclear sector. 33 years ago, the French Government has launched
the world?s largest public nuclear power program as a response to the so-called oil crisis in 1973. However,
less than 13% of France?s oil consumption in 1973 was used for power generation. Three decades later,
France has reduced overall fossil fuel consumption (oil, gas, coal) by less than 10% and the oil consumption
in the transport sector has increased far more than the annual consumption substituted by nuclear energy in
the electricity sector.
In 2006, the 59 French reactors91 produced 78.1% of the electricity (up from 77.7% in 2003), although only
about 55% of its installed electricity generating capacity is nuclear. In other words, France has a huge
overcapacity that led to dumping electricity on neighbouring countries and stimulated the development of
highly inefficient thermal applications. A historical winter peak-load of 86 GW is to be compared with an
installed capacity of over 120 GW. Even a comfortable 20% reserve leaves a theoretical overcapacity of
more than the equivalent all of the 34 units of 900 MW. No wonder that the equivalent of a dozen reactors
operate only for export and France remains still the only country in the world that shuts down nuclear
reactors on certain weekends because it cannot sell their power ? not even for dumping prices.
On the other hand, the electricity seasonal peak-load exploded since the middle of the 1980s, mainly due to
the widespread introduction of electric space and water heating. Roughly a quarter of French households heat
with electricity, the most wasteful form of heat generation (because it results in the loss of most of the
primary energy in the transformation, transport and distribution process). The difference between the lowest
load day in summer and the highest load day in winter is now about 55 GW. That is a very inefficient load
curve, since significant capacities have to be made available for very short periods of time in winter. This
type of consumption is not covered by nuclear power but either by fossil fuel plants or by expensive peakload
power imports. In 2005, France imported 10 TWh net peak power from Germany for an unknown but
probably high price. As a consequence, the national utility EDF (Electricit? de France) decided to reactivate
over the coming years 2,600 MW of very old oil fired power plants ? the oldest one had originally been
started up in 1968! ? in order to cope with the peak load phenomenon.
Today, per capita electricity consumption in France is over 25% higher than in Italy (that phased out nuclear
energy after the Chernobyl accident in 1986) and 15% higher than the EU27 average. French primary energy
consumption is also significantly higher than, for example, in Germany.
Considering the existing overcapacities and the average age of about 23 years, France does not need to build
any new reactors for a long time. Other factors equally play in that direction:
? The energy establishment has admitted privately for years that the country has gone too far with its nuclear
share in the overall power mix and that in the future, the nuclear contribution should not exceed some 60%
of the power production.
? It is inconceivable that France will build new reactors with the sole aim of exporting power. That would be
far too expensive especially in a liberalized energy market.
? EDF is intending to operate its reactors now for at least 40 years.
Therefore it will be many years, if not decades, before capacity constraints require new base load power
plants. If the French government and EDF have announced their intention to go ahead with a new unit, then
this is because the nuclear industry faces a serious problem of maintaining competence in the field. On
21 October 04, EDF has made public Flamanville as the site of the EPR project. Flamanville is only 15 km
from the La Hague reprocessing facilities (see hereunder). The site selection came as a surprise to many
specialists because it does not fit the economical and technical criteria, but appears to be compensation for
the expected cuts in the plutonium business with the completion of work for foreign clients.
France also operates a large number of other nuclear facilities including uranium conversion and enrichment,
fuel fabrication and plutonium facilities. France and the UK are the only countries in the EU that separate
plutonium from spent fuel, called reprocessing. Its two La Hague facilities are licensed to process 1,700 t of
fuel per year. However, all the significant foreign clients have finished their contracts and only a few months
worth of foreign fuel remains under contract. Most of the former clients like Belgium and Switzerland have
turned away from plutonium separation, or will do so shortly ? German utilities have been prohibited by law
to ship fuel to reprocessing plants as of July 2005 ? or started up their own plutonium plants like Japan. The
La Hague operator AREVA NC therefore entirely depends on the domestic client EDF for future business.
While the existing contract expired in 2007, even this does not cover all the spent fuel already in storage or
discharged over that time period and therefore it is clear that there is not and will not be enough business for
both reprocessing lines.
An in-depth investigation into the environmental and health consequences of La Hague and the equivalent
UK facility at Sellafield has been carried out on behalf of the European Parliament in 2001.92 This study
concluded that these plutonium factories are by far the single most polluting nuclear facilities in the EU.
Their radioactive emissions under normal operating conditions correspond to a major accident every year.93
"The greatest shortcoming of the human race (still) is our inability to understand the exponential function."
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