Agreements Sealed for the World’s Biggest Nuclear Plant

The massive project to build six EPR reactors at the Jaitapur site in Maharashtra, India, received a significant boost in late June as GE and French utility EDF signed a strategic cooperation agreement that sets out who will provide the supply of key equipment and services.

In a joint statement, the companies said the agreement lays the foundations for a long-term partnership concerning construction of the conventional island on each of the six reactors. It was an important step in implementing the Industrial Way Forward Agreement, which EDF inked with India’s state-owned nuclear operator, Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. (NPCIL), in March. That agreement sets out the industrial framework for the massive 9.9-GW project, formalizes EDF’s role as supplier of the EPR technology, and tasks it with all engineering studies and component procurement activities for the first two of the six reactors. India will reportedly consider doling out the responsibility of component purchasing for the remaining reactors to local companies.

Under the cooperation agreement signed in June, GE Power will design the conventional island for the plant and supply its main components. GE will also provide operational support services and a training program to respond to NPCIL’s requirements. EDF will be responsible for engineering integration covering the entire project (nuclear island, conventional island, and auxiliary systems) as well as provide all the requisite input data. Both companies now plan to move forward with work to set down the project’s technical options, fine-tune industrial arrangements, and finalize the design-engineering and procurement schedule.

GE and EDF have partnered on several projects before, though the crux of their partnership stems from GE’s acquisition of equipment giant Alstom in 2015. The French government holds preferred interests in an existing joint venture between GE and Alstom pertaining to global nuclear and French steam power (GE is set to purchase that interest by 2021). The French government, meanwhile held 83.5% of EDF’s shares as of March 2018. GE will be the main supplier of conventional island components for at least two nuclear plants that EDF is spearheading: Flamanville 3 and Hinkley Point C. Both projects use EPR technology developed by another French government-owned firm, Framatome (formerly AREVA).

Flamanville 3, in particular, has been delayed for years, and EDF recently said startup of the project may be delayed again by several months due to pipe welding issues. That project could now start up in late 2018. The first 1,770-MW Hinkley Point C unit, the UK’s first nuclear power plant to be built in more than 20 years, is on track to be completed by 2025. GE Power’s Steam Power business will supply the two conventional power islands for that project, which include the steam turbine, generator, and other critical equipment. GE in June noted that Hinkley Point C’s Arabelle turbines will be the largest ever built. EDF’s Olkiluoto 3 EPR plant in Finland is meanwhile scheduled to be connected to the grid in May 2019.

Figure 3_Taishan_EDF
3. Dawn of the EPR. Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company Ltd., which is a joint venture between China General Nuclear Power and EDF, successfully connected Taishan Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 to the Chinese grid at 5:59 p.m. (local time) on June 29, 2018. After the first criticality reached on June 6, this is the first EPR reactor worldwide to be producing electricity. In a separate but equally important milestone, Westinghouse announced Sanmen 1, the first AP1000 unit, was connected to the grid June 30. Courtesy: EDF

EDF marked its biggest milestone for EPR technology on June 28, as China General Nuclear Power Group connected the first unit at the Taishan nuclear plant (Figure 3) west of Hong Kong to the grid. The plant is expected to enter commercial operation later this year. Unit 1, whose construction began in 2009, has an installed capacity of 1,660 MW. According to Framatome Chairman and CEO Bernard Fontana, successful grid connection of Taishan 1 was a historical moment for the company and the whole nuclear industry. “We also remain fully engaged in the completion and startup 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,” he said.

Completion of Jaitapur would be an even bigger accomplishment. As planned, it is slated to be the world’s largest nuclear power plant. According to EDF, the project would be a huge boost both for EPR technology and Franco-Indian civil nuclear initiatives, which have gained ground since 2010, when France and India signed bilateral agreements. For India, which has 22 operating nuclear reactors—a total of 6,219 MW—the project would substantially expand its nuclear capacity. The country is currently building six reactors totaling 4,350 MW, including a prototype fast breeder reactor and a Russian VVER at Kudankulam. Within the next few years, the country plans to embark on 19 other units, at least 10 of which will be indigenously designed PHWRs.

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor.