Fuel Loading Begins at Kudankulam 2. Nuclear Power Corp. of India (NPCIL) began loading the first of 163 fuel assemblies into the core of the second VVER-1000 reactor of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, India, on May 11. The 1,000-MW unit will begin generating power pending approval from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. The unit is the second supplied by Rosatom subsidiary Atomstroyexport. The first Russian-built reactor at the plant, Kudankulam 1, started commercial operation in December 2014, and state-owned firm NPCIL is readying to build Units 3 and 4 at the site after delays concerning India’s nuclear damage liability law. India is also in discussions with Russia on costs to build Units 5 and 6, Indian news media reported in May.

Saudi Arabia Starts Up $3B Oil-Fired Power Plant.State-controlled Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) in mid-May grid connected and started commercial operations at the first 660-MW unit of its 2,640-MW Jeddah South Thermal Power Plant. The $3.12 billion oil-fired project that was announced in 2012 makes history in the kingdom for its use of highly efficient supercritical boilers. South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries built the plant while Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries supplied the equipment. SEC hasn’t confirmed when it anticipates all units to be completed, though it said that the project will help meet power demand from the western region, particularly during the fasting month of Ramadan (which starts in June) in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

NuGen Delays UK Nuclear Plant Startup by a Year.UK nuclear company NuGeneration (NuGen), a joint venture between Toshiba’s Westinghouse (60%) and ENGIE (40%), has delayed first power from a proposed nuclear plant in Cumbria to the end of 2025, a year later than planned. The company plans to build three AP1000 reactors with a combined capacity of up to 3.8 GW at the site near Sellafield in west Cumbria but has yet to make a final investment decision, likely to come in 2018. However, if the plant comes online in 2025, it could overtake EDF’s Hinkley Point C project, which has been billed as the first new nuclear plant to begin operations in the UK in a generation.

The UK needs the new plants to help replace its coal plants and its aging nuclear fleet, which will be shuttered by 2025. As experts point out, NuGen still needs to secure approval for its AP1000 reactor under the country’s Generic Design Assessment approval process. EDF, meanwhile, in May announced that the Hinkley Point C project could take nearly 10 years to build once a decision has been made, also likely in 2018. The UK expects a third nuclear plant, Hitachi’s Horizon, to come online over the next decade.

CB&I Bows Out of Agreement to Build South Texas Project Nuclear Units. Toshiba Corp. and CB&I on May 11 agreed to terminate a series of agreements related to the development and execution of an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for South Texas Project (STP) Units 3 & 4, and on a global strategic partnership to promote Toshiba’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). Toshiba America Nuclear Energy (TANE), CB&I, and Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA), the entity that owns the STP nuclear units, agreed that CB&I will be relieved from any further obligations related to the units. The agreement termination means that TANE now becomes the sole EPC contractor for the proposed units, though Toshiba noted NINA may not plan to immediately start construction owing to “current economic drivers in Texas and other related issues.” The project received a combined construction and operating license in February 2016.

Shaw Group, which became a CB&I subsidiary after its acquisition in 2013, entered into the alliance with Toshiba in 2010 to promote the Japanese company’s ABWR design in markets worldwide. In December 2015, Westinghouse Electric Co. agreed to acquire CB&I’s Stone & Webster unit, recognizing that “CB&I’s business strategy is now focused on sectors other than nuclear new build projects.”

South Australian Royal Commission Backs International Nuclear Waste Storage Facility.As suggested in tentative findings issued this February, South Australia’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission in May recommended that the state establish a facility that would be used for the interim storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel from all over the world (see “Commission Backs Plan to Store World’s Nuclear Waste in Australian Outback” in the April 2016 issue). The state “has the necessary attributes and capabilities to develop a world-class waste disposal facility, and to do so safely,” the commission said, noting that such a facility could generate more than A$100 billion in income over its 120-year lifetime.

Royal Commissioner Kevin Scarce told reporters in May, after the final report’s release, that the state has a number of competitive advantages such as stable geology, a strong international reputation for a good regulatory environment, and a vast amount of land. Before a final decision can be made, however, the state will need extensive community consultation, he said. A referendum or election wasn’t the best way to gain consent because the planning period for the proposed state government–owned facility would take more than a decade. “There isn’t one silver bullet solution to this,” he was widely quoted as saying.

Eskom Looks to Extend Coal Plant Lifetimes.Power-strapped South Africa’s state-owned utility Eskom has decided to renew, rather than decommission, its aging coal fleet. Eskom’s board in late April approved a fleet renewal strategy that will extend the life of a station by replacing components when they reach the end of their lives, as long as it is economical to carry out the replacement. The utility will begin carrying out 18-month-long pre-feasibility studies to assess renewal options for four of its oldest power stations: Komati, Camden, Hendrina, and Arnot.

Marubeni Signs Deals to Boost Power Capacity in Southeast Asia. Marubeni Corp. on May 16 agreed with South Korean firms Korea Midland Power Co. and Samtan Co., and Indonesian coal miner PT Indika Energi Internasionalto jointly develop the 1-GW ultrasupercritical Cirebon 3 coal plant adjacent to the 660-MW Cirebon Steam Power Plant, which began operations in 2012, and the 1-GW Cirebon 2 plant, which is under construction in the district of Cirebon, West Java province, Indonesia. Indonesia’s government wants to boost its power capacity 35 GW by 2019 to meet increasing demand, which has prompted a flurry of bids from foreign independent power producers. Marubeni on May 24 also signed a memorandum of understanding with Italy’s Enel to cooperate in evaluating power generation project opportunities in Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Malaysia. ■