POWER Digest (December 2015)

GE Completes Alstom Acquisition. GE announced on Nov. 2 that a $10.6 billion deal to acquire Alstom’s power and grid business is complete. Alstom will now entirely refocus its activities on rail transport. For more, see http://goo.gl/rSbTVl.

Switzerland to Debate Energy Policy, Nuclear Lifetime Extensions. Switzerland’s parliament is gearing up to debate the first package of a proposed new energy policy that includes a phase-out of nuclear power. The country has already decided to retire its five nuclear reactors—even though they generate about 40% of its power—by 2035. That decision was made in the aftermath of Fukushima, despite a referendum just a month before the disaster occurred in March 2011. The country’s new energy policy, “Energy Strategy 2050,” is now set to be debated by the lower house. Lawmakers will decide on a draft decree that could allow nuclear plant operators to submit a plan to extend reactor lifetimes by 10 years.

Belgium’s Doel Reactors Get Lifetime Extension OK. In Belgium the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control approved Electrabel’s plans to operate the Doel-1 and Doel-2 nuclear reactors (433 MW each) for 10 more years, until 2025. Electrabel, a subsidiary of French energy group ENGIE, had reached an agreement with the Belgian government on the conditions for a 10-year extension in July 2015. Doel-1 is now expected to close on February 15, 2025, and Doel-2 on December 1, 2025. This means that three of Belgium’s seven reactors have secured 10-year lifetime extensions. Two other units, Doel-3 and Tihange-2, have been offline since 2014 due to manufacturing flaws in their pressure vessels.

Nordex Moves to Acquire Acciona Windpower. German company Nordex will acquire Spanish firm Acciona’s wind power business to “form a new major player in the wind industry,” the company said on Oct. 4. The $404 million transaction, which still needs clearance by competition authorities, will combine Nordex’s mid-sized turbine base with Acciona Windpower’s 3.0- and 1.5-MW turbines for all wind classes. The companies said their products and technologies are complementary and make an “excellent market fit”: Nordex products are well-suited for “complex projects subject to technical restrictions, while Acciona Windpower’s products are primarily aimed at large-scale wind farms that require efficient and sturdy machines for unconstrained terrains,” they said in a joint release.

Amec Foster Wheeler to Study Decommissioning at Fukushima. Amec Foster Wheeler on Oct. 12 said it had been appointed by Japan’s nuclear decommissioning organization to carry out a major study into managing radioactive waste at the Fukushima Daiichi power station. The study is expected to help the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. in developing a long-term waste management strategy for the site. The team will identify practical planning tools to support the future development of a waste management strategy at Fukushima, the company said.

Swansea Bay Tidal Power Lagoon Delayed on Subsidy Talks. The UK’s plans to build a£1 billion ($1.54 billion) tidal energy lagoon in Swansea Bay, South Wales, have been delayed for a year, pending ongoing talks over how much government funding the project will receive. The 320-MW project, which could be the first of its type in the world when operational, would require building a breakwater to cordon off 4.4 square miles in Swansea Bay. The five-mile sea wall would be up to 20 meters high, though only half would be visible from land at low tide. Ultimately, it would funnel enough water to fill 100,000 Olympic swimming pools through dual-direction turbines at both high and low tide, generating an estimated 420 GWh annually. Developer Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay garnered the Department of Climate Change’s planning consent to build the project this June and had hoped to begin building the lagoon next spring. However, that schedule was pegged on achieving financial close by the end of 2015, but the critical contract of difference—an agreed level of subsidy—has yet to be decided. The company has now earmarked 2017 as the start date for construction. First electricity from the lagoon’s 16 turbines could be generated in 2021.

Two Chinese Reactors Move Closer to Commissioning. China’s Changjiang 1 and Yangjiang 3 reactors achieved criticality this October and are expected to begin commercial operation later this year. Changjiang 1 in Hainan Province, a 650-MW CNP-600 pressurized water reactor, is being built as a joint venture between China National Nuclear Corp. and China Huaneng Group. It achieved criticality on Oct. 12. The Yangjiang unit in Guangdong Province, being built by China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction Co. Ltd., achieved criticality on Oct. 11.

Construction Begins at 1.2-GW Vietnamese Coal Plant. Vietnam National Coal-Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) on Oct. 1 began building the 1.2-GW Quynh Lap-1 coal-fired power plant in Vietnam’s central province of Nghe An. The $2.2 billion project consists of two 600-MW units. When commissioned in 2020, the plant will generate 6.6 TWh per year of electricity. South Korea’s Doosan and Vietnamese enterprises Lilama and Narime Corp. will design and manufacture equipment for the plant’s two units. The project is part of the Quynh Lap Thermal Power Centre project, which will include a second, identical unit. According to Vietnamese authorities, the plant is expected to promote economic development in the power-short central region.

AREVA Wins Xcel Contracts for Dry Nuclear Fuel Storage, Management. AREVA TN, the fuel storage and transportation division of the French nuclear product and service provider AREVA, on Oct. 5 signed a multiyear contract with Xcel Energy to provide dry fuel storage management services to the company’s Prairie Island and Monticello nuclear plants in Red Wing and Monticello, Minn., respectively. AREVA will oversee and perform the removal of nuclear fuel from the Prairie Island reactor’s spent fuel storage pool, its placement in dry storage casks, and its secure storage on the site’s existing interim storage pad.

At Monticello, AREVA will deliver and install 10 NUHOMS 61BTH dry fuel storage systems in 2017 and will manage and perform the pool-to-pad process to place the used fuel in the shielded NUHOMS storage modules in 2018.

ENGIE and MHI to Collaborate on Wide Range of Energy Technology and Services. ENGIE (formerly GDF Suez) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. ( MHI) signed a memorandum of understanding to develop collaboration along their energy value chains during a meeting between the French and Japanese prime ministers in Tokyo on Oct. 5. The agreement covers a wide array of technologies and solutions: conventional and nuclear power plants, renewable energy technologies, distributed generation, and services to increase energy efficiency, optimize the use of resources, and reduce carbon emissions. According to the companies, it will cover “the development of technologies and services aiming at increasing process efficiency and reducing emissions of electrical systems globally, including optimising conventional power plants and their auxiliary and integrated facilities, developments of highly efficient gas turbines, developments of innovative solutions for combined generation of electricity, heat and hydrogen, fuel cells, monitoring systems etc. together with the advancement of nuclear-related business.” ENGIE and MHI also said the agreement was signed “within the context of profound changes in the energy sector landscape in order to be able to offer globally a broad range of the most innovative solutions adapted to specific local conditions.”

RWE Commissions Hungary Solar PV Plant. Germany’s RWE in mid-October officially commissioned Hungary’s largest photovoltaic plant, a 16-MW installation located in the vicinity of the town of Visonta. The plant, which comprises 72,480 solar modules with a nominal capacity of 255 W each, is unusual in that it was built on top of a decommissioned sludge basin that was filled in and covered after 20 years. At the end of 2014, the installed solar energy capacity in Hungary was approximately 80 MW. Hungary produces about 6.8% of its power from renewables and has plans to increase that to at least 10.9%. ■

Sonal Patel, associate editor