by Will Davis
Long awaited news came today that at 17:59 hours local time, the Taishan-1 EPR nuclear plant connected to the grid for the first time. This makes Taishan-1 not only the first EPR to load fuel anywhere (despite having been the third unit to start construction after units at Flamanville, France and Olkiluoto, Finland) but now also the first to operate its steam plant and close its output breakers.
From today’s press release by Framatome (formerly AREVA): “The successful grid connection of the Taishan 1 nuclear power plant is a historical moment for Framatome and for the whole nuclear industry. It is the result of years of engineering carried out by our company and a fruitful cooperation with our client TNPJVC as well as with CGN and EDF, our main shareholder and partner. We are now focused on supporting our client in the start of commercial operation of unit 1. We also remain fully engaged in the completion and start-up of Taishan 2, Flamanville 3 and Olkiluoto 3, and in the delivery of Hinkley Point C in the United Kingdom. All current and future EPR projects will also benefit from the broad experience acquired by our teams”, said Bernard Fontana, Chairman of the Managing Board and Chief Executive Officer of Framatome.
A similarly timed issuance by EDF, one of the project partners (after having bought out AREVA’s nuclear plant construction business) gave some background on the recent weeks’ events and also detailed the next steps:
On the 10 April, following the completion of preparatory work and testing phases, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment granted Taishan 1 permission to load the reactor with fuel. Fuelling operations commenced on the very same day. The first chain reaction in reactor no. 1 took place on the 6th of June and on the 29 June, main-generator and grid-connection tests were successfully completed.
Following the unit’s first connection to the grid, the reactor will undergo a period of gradual power-up tests. Once the reactor has passed all these tests, it will then be tested in steady-state conditions at full power. Since the start of construction, the Taishan project has aligned itself with the highest safety and quality standards, which have been monitored throughout its duration.
You can find the full Framatome press release by clicking here.
You can find the full EDF press release by clicking here. The EDF release was made jointly with partner CGN.
TEPCO moving on Higashidori
Tokyo Electric Power announced today the commencement of geological surveys, to include rock boring and the investigation of a pilot tunnel, at the site of the long-stalled Higashidori NPP project in Aomori Prefecture, Japan.
This project is sited approximately a mile north of Tohoku Electric Power’s Higashidori plant, but is not connected with it. The TEPCO Higashidori site has been shown in concept art and described by TEPCO itself as a two unit site, although original plans for the site included enough area to house up to ten units of mixed ownership.
Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, very little has occurred at the site and while the original site was to include plants owned by more than one utility, TEPCO is now reaching out to other potential partners for the two Hitachi-GE ABWR units it had planned to build there itself. According to TEPCO’s press release this site survey work will go on through 2020-2021, by which time the company hopes to have secured partners in the project.
Kyodo News has an excellent piece showing the site as it appeared when work halted.
Toshiba Completes NFI Ltd. Acquisition
Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions today announced that it had completed the acquisition of stock in Nuclear Fuel Industries, Ltd., a Japanese fuel maker and services provider. This deal included the buyout of shares from Westinghouse Electric UK Holdings Ltd. and others. NFI itself was formed in 1972 and manufactures both BWR and PWR fuel and is also involved with high temperature reactor fuel research; the company provides other services as well including core management.
SCE&G Rates Cut; Veto Overridden
The South Carolina State Legislature voted to cut SCE&G rates yesterday, overriding a veto by Governor McMaster that would actually have cut the rates more.
The rate cut legislation stems from the desire to relieve ratepayers of the burden of paying for the now-cancelled V.C. Summer nuclear plant expansion, halted when Westinghouse declared bankruptcy and partner Santee Cooper decided to back out. While Governor McMaster had wished for a full relief of monies paid by ratepayers for the project, the legislature decided instead to relieve ratepayers of rate increases applied after 2011. Prior to that time, according to the lawmakers, SCANA did not believe or have reason to believe that progress of the massive engineering and construction project was slipping out of control and, thus, the company does have a right to recover rates applied prior to that time.
SCANA has cut its dividend by 80% in the last 48 hours and according to a press release from the company issued the 27th, SCANA and SCE&G believe that the rate cut is unconstitutional. SCANA is “investigating legal options.” The dividend reduction was made, according to SCANA, “to preserve its options as the Company continues to seek a resolution to the recovery of costs for the VC Summer new nuclear construction project.”
Legal action by SCANA would presumably be based upon the Base Load Reduction Act, made law in South Carolina to allow recovery of monies spent during construction of a plant. Although it’s unclear what the outcome of legal action on this matter might be, Dominion Energy Chairman, President and CEO Thomas F. Farrell II stated in a June 27th press release issued by Dominion that the action taken by the state was “a temporary rate reduction that has good odds of being overturned in court.” Dominion has been in discussion to acquire SCANA; the full Farrell statement can be found here.
Will Davis is a member of the Board of Directors for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. He is a consultant to the Global America Business Institute, a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and he writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is also a consultant and writer for the American Nuclear Society, and serves on the ANS Communications Committee and the Book Publishing Committee. He is a former U.S. Navy reactor operator and served on SSBN-641, USS Simon Bolivar. His popular Twitter account, @atomicnews is mostly devoted to nuclear energy.