POWER Digest

China Makes Nuclear Export Gains in Argentina, Romania. As it boosts its domestic nuclear power capacity, China is also snapping up lucrative contracts to build new reactors abroad. This November, China General Nuclear (CGN) signed a memorandum of understanding with Romania’s national nuclear utility Nuclearelectrica for the development, construction, operation, and decommissioning of Units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant. Cernavoda currently hosts two CANDU 6 heavy water reactors, and the extension could add two more 700-MW CANDU 6 units. CGN subsidiary China Nuclear Power Engineering Co. in July 2014 signed a binding cooperation agreement with Candu Energy (formerly Atomic Energy of Canada) for the construction of the two Cernavoda reactors.

Also in November, China signed deals with Argentina for construction of the country’s fourth and fifth nuclear plants. According to Nucleoeléctrica Argentina and the China National Nuclear Corp., the $15 billion deal (China will reportedly contribute 85% of required financing) will include the Atucha 3 CANDU reactor. The two companies will now form a consortium for construction of that plant at the existing Atucha complex, which hosts the 335-MW Atucha 1 and the 745-MW Atucha 2 units.

Work Begins on 1-GW Coal Plant Expansion in Indonesia. A consortium comprising Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Ltd. (MHPS), Hyundai Engineering & Construction Co., Ltd., and Toshiba Corp. agreed on Nov. 24 to provide engineering, procurement, and construction services for a 1-GW capacity expansion project at an existing coal-fired power plant in Cirebon, Indonesia. The consortium agreed with PT Cirebon Energi Prasarana, the new plant’s owner and operator, to complete the large-scale high-efficiency power plant by June 2020. MHPS will provide an ultrasupercritical boiler and flue gas desulfurization for the expansion.

Operations Begin at Second 800-MW Gas-Fired Block in Thailand. Japanese power wholesaler and plant builder J-POWER on Dec. 1 announced that its 800-MW U-Thai 2 power plant in Thailand had begun operations. The gas-fired combined cycle project in U Thai district, Ayutthaya Province, approximately 70 km north of Bangkok, was awarded in response to an independent power producer bid in 2007. The plant, developed by Gulf JP UT Co. (owned 90% by J-POWER), will sell power to the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand for 25 years through a power purchase agreement. The plant, supplied by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has dual-fuel capability, enabling both natural gas and diesel combustion and employs M701F4 gas turbines. A twin unit, U-Thai 1, began commercial operation in June 2015.

India Mulls Selling 10% Stake in Coal India. India’s government wants to sell a 10% stake of its 79% share in Coal India —the world’s biggest coal miner. The sale, which could raise about $3 billion, will allow the government to reach a budget deficit target. Power Minister Piyush Goyal told reporters on Nov. 18 that a sale could be completed before March 31, dropping the government’s share of the entity to 69%.

Construction Begins on 750-MW Zambian Hydro Plant. China’s Sinohydro Corp. on Nov. 30 began construction of Zambia’s 750-MW Kafue Gorge Lower hydroelectric power plant, a project seen as critical to address a power crisis in the southern African country. China and Zambia signed an agreement this October for construction of the $1.97 billion plant on the Kafue River, a primary tributary of the Zambezi. Sinohydro is expected to arrange debt financing from the China ExIm Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China to fund the project. The plant’s five units (each 150 MW) are slated to be completed within six years. According to government-owned utility ZESCO, the plant’s owner, the project will also address the growing demand for power in the Southern African Power Pool.

Hungary’s Plans to Build Paks II Nuclear Plant Hampered by EU State Aid Investigation. Hungary in mid-November reiterated plans to begin construction of the two-unit Paks II nuclear power plant in 2018. However, the European Commission (EC) soon after opened an investigation into how the Hungarian government plans to finance construction of the two Russian-built VVER-1200 units, raising concerns about how compatible the project is with European Union public procurement rules.

Hungary signed an agreement with Russia in 2014 for the supply of the two reactors at the Paks plant site, which currently comprises four VVER-440 reactors that were built between 1982 and 1987. In early November, the government announced that a site license for Paks II could be issued by 2016 and a construction permit in 2017. The EC investigation will determine whether Hungary’s investment in the plant constitutes state aid and whether it would lead to distortions of competition in the Hungarian energy market.

Germany Cuts Support for Onshore Wind, Biomass. Germany will slash subsidy levels for onshore wind and biomass power as of Jan. 1, 2016, the country’s energy regulator, Bundesnetzagentur, announced on Oct. 30. Support values under the Renewable Energy Sources Act, which are determined by deployment in the preceding 12-month reference period, will be reduced 1.2% for onshore wind and by 0.5% for biomass. The regulator noted that current wind capacity stands at 3,666 MW—well above the statutorily set deployment range of 2,400 MW to 2,600 MW. Biomass capacity, by contrast, stands at 71 MW, below the deployment limit of 100 MW, but biomass expansion has seen a “sharp fall,” it said.

E.ON Permanently Closes Iconic UK Coal Plant. E.ON’s Ironbridge Power Station in Shropshire, UK, reached its 20,000-hour generation limit under the European Union’s Large Combustion Plant Directive and was permanently closed on Nov. 20. The plant, opened in 1969, was originally designed to run on coal in its two 500-MW units. In 2012, it was converted to wood pellet–fired biomass with an output of 740 MW. Only one of the two units was operational following a fire in 2014, causing the plant’s capacity to be further reduced to 370 MW. ■

Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor.