NRC Advances Design Certification of Westinghouse SMR, South Korea’s APR1400. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on Feb. 27 approved Westinghouse Electric Co.’s testing approach for its small modular reactor (SMR) design—a “significant” step that the Toshiba Corp. company said will reduce the time ultimately needed to obtain design certification. By granting a safety evaluation report for a licensing topical report that the company submitted in April 2012 for agency review and approval, the NRC “confirms the technical maturity of the Westinghouse SMR concept design,” a Westinghouse official said on March 17. The expert-developed panel identified what would occur in the unlikely event of a small-break loss of coolant accident (LOCA) in the 225-MW Westinghouse SMR. It also defined the test program that Westinghouse will conduct in the future to prove that its safety systems would safely shut down the reactor in response to a small-break LOCA.

On March 4, meanwhile, the NRC docketed for review Korea Electric Power Corp. and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power’s application to certify the APR1400 reactor design for use in the U.S. The 1.4-GWe pressurized-water reactor is based on the Korean Optimized Power Reactor 1000. The first APR-1400 units, Shin-Kori 3 and 4, are under construction in South Korea. Construction has also begun on three of four APR1400 reactors at the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates. The first unit could start up as early as May 2017.

Japanese Utilities to Build New Coal Plants. Japanese utility Kyushu Electric Power Co., Tokyo Gas Co., and Idemitsu Kosan Co. on March 27 agreed to proceed with preparations for the development of a coal-fired power plant. The project entails building a 2-GW ultrasupercritical plant in Sodegaura City, Chiba Prefecture, that will also include biomass combustion. The plant is slated to come online in mid-2020. In March, meanwhile, Kansai Electric Power Co. and Marubeni Corp. informed Akita Prefecture of plans to build a new 1.3-GW coal plant, looking to put that plant online by 2025. While Japan has sought to meet ambitious greenhouse gas reduction goals, all of Japan’s 48 nuclear reactors are still offline for safety checks, forcing utilities to rely on older, inefficient oil and gas power plants.

800-MW Natural Gas Facility Opens in Alberta. The Canadian province of Alberta opened its largest natural gas-fired power plant on March 11. The 800-MW, 2 x 1 combined cycle Shepard Energy Centre owned by ENMAX Corp. and Capital Power Corp. is located in east Calgary. The facility’s cooling towers use 14 million liters of reclaimed water daily from a Calgary wastewater treatment plant.

China Resumes Approval of New Nuclear Plants. China’s National Development and Reform Commission on March 10 approved the construction of two 1-GW reactors, Hongyanhe 5 and 6, in northeastern Liaoning Province. The plants designed by owner China General Nuclear (CGN) are Hualong One reactors (formerly known as ACPR1000), and the decision marks the first approval for new reactors since the Fukushima accident in March 2011. The company began pouring of first concrete for Hualong 5’s basemat on March 30 and expects to have both reactors operational by 2021. The site already hosts four CPR-1000 units, two of which came online between June 2013 and March 2014. Unit 3 came online on March 23 and Unit 4 is scheduled to start up later this year.

Russia Gets $10B Deal with Jordan for Nuclear Plant. Russian state-owned nuclear firm Rosatom snagged a lucrative contract in March, signing a $10 billion agreement with Jordan for the country’s first nuclear plant. An intergovernmental agreement between the company and the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) envisions construction of two 1-GW VVER units in central Jordan. It also entails setting up a project company that will be the customer, operator, and owner of the plant, as well as the owner of the power it generates. Site suitability is already under way, Rosatom said. Following the site evaluation results, a feasibility report will be made and the most convenient water supply plan will be selected for the future plant, it added.

Sweden and Norway to Increase Renewable Target. Sweden and Norway on March 15 agreed to increase their annual renewable power production target to 28.4 TWh by 2020. The new target—a 2 TWh increase from a 2012-set target—must be approved by lawmakers in both countries before it goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2016. The two countries share a unique program—the only one in the world—that finances new renewable power by requiring end users to buy “el-certificates” to cover a certain quota of their power consumption. The program has helped to add 10.3 TWh in annual output from new renewables as of January 2015, 8.6 TWh in Sweden and the remainder in Norway. But announcement of the increased target spurred criticism from energy producers, who say more subsidized power could worsen the region’s current supply glut. Norway’s energy ministry has pointed out that there are neighboring markets with a big demand for power and that plans for new interconnectors to Germany, the UK, and the Baltic states could boost demand.

Toshiba to Supply Supercritical Components to Vietnamese Coal Plant. Toshiba Corp. on March 16 announced that it received an order to supply a 688-MW supercritical steam turbine and generator for the Duyen Hai 3 coal-fired power plant in the Duyen Hai district of Tra Vinh Province, Vietnam. The contract was awarded by Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project. Toshiba is to make delivery in 2016 and the plant is scheduled to start up in 2018. The project is one of three the Vietnamese government has fast-tracked to increase national generating capacity.

Sonal Patel, associate editor