Court Forces Bulgaria to Pay for One of Two Canceled Reactors at Belene. Bulgaria’s National Electricity Co.(NEK) should pay Russia’s Atomstroyexport nearly $620 million in compensation for its canceled two-unit Belene nuclear plant, an international arbitration court in Geneva ruled in mid-June. The 2-GW plant was in the offing for more than two decades before NEK contracted with Atomstroyexport in 2006 to start construction of two AES-92 model VVER units. Construction officially launched in September 2008, only for Bulgaria to abandon the plant in March 2012, citing soaring costs and a failure to find new financial partners for the $11 billion project after Germany’s RWE withdrew in 2009. At the time, NEK offered to pay for one already-manufactured reactor and install it at its Kozloduy site. The firm announced it would instead build a gas-fired power plant at the Belene site. However, Atomstroyexport rejected its offer of about €500 million, claiming NEK owed twice as much, including damages for the abandoned project.
The international court ruling this June means that NEK will need to pay €550 million for the equipment for one reactor and work with Atomstroyexport on what to do with it, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said. He also emphasized that the court had “only” ruled that the Russian company be compensated for the cost of equipment it had produced for the plant, but rejected its claims for damages and lost profits. The country must now decide whether to seek the European Commission’s guidance on whether to install the reactor or strike a deal with Russia that will allow it to resell the unit to a third party.
AREVA Spins Off Mining, Front-End, Back-End Operations. Troubled French nuclear equipment giant AREVA SA will sell the majority of its reactor business to French power firm EDF and spin off its nuclear fuel operations to attract investors. A new company, “NEW CO,” will take on some of AREVA SA’s debt and focus on uranium mining, conversion, and enrichment, as well as recycling, logistics, and dismantling. Other subsidiaries, including AREVA TA, AREVA NP, and AREVA Energies Renouvelables will be held by AREVA SA until the date of their sale, the company announced as it presented a roadmap for the group’s restructuring in mid-June. (On July 1, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF entered into an agreement to acquire a minority stake in AREVA NP.) AREVA will also sell nuclear measurement and instrumentation specialist Canberra. “As a pure player in the nuclear fuel cycle, NEW CO is in a unique position to play a dominant role for the redefinition of the French nuclear industry and in a market destined to grow, particularly in Asia,” AREVA said in a statement.
Beginning in 2017, the French government, which owns over 85% of AREVA, will inject another €5 billion into the firm to increase the capital for both AREVA and NEW CO, though that increase will be subject to approvals from the European Commission. It means that after this transaction, the French government will hold, directly or indirectly, a minimum of two-thirds of NEW CO’s equity. AREVA SA will also retain the contract for the Olkiluoto 3 EPR, whose construction in Finland is now nine years behind schedule and three times over budget.
South Korea to Shut Down Aging Coal Plants. The Ministry of Energy of South Korea in July announced that it would force 10 coal-fired power plants that are more than 40 years of age to close by 2025 in an effort to limit air pollution and particulate matter emissions. It has also introduced stricter rules for operation and maintenance at existing coal-fired power plants and projects under construction. The country depends on coal for more than 40% of its power, and at least 20 new coal plants are in the development pipeline. Fifteen of those are already under construction, and all are anticipated to come online by 2020. State-run utilities are expected to spend $8.68 billion on closures and upgrades by 2030 to meet new rules.
Joint Venture Bags Key Contract to Develop ITER Fusion Reactor. Momentum, a joint venture comprising Amec Foster Wheeler, Assystem,and Korea Electric Power Corp. Engineering and Construction, has won a 10-year, $194 million contract to manage and coordinate the assembly and installation of more than a million components for the ITER fusion reactor project in France. ITER is an international collaboration between China, the EU, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the U.S. to explore and demonstrate the scientific and technological feasibility of commercial fusion reactors. Project developers are expected to announce its full scope, schedule, and cost in November 2016.
Momentum will work on the world’s largest tokamak, a toroidal electromagnet that will contain the plasma where the fusion reactions occur. The scope of services includes contract management, configuration management, project management, construction preparation, site coordination, works supervision, and activities leading up to mechanical completion, but the contract does not cover design or fabrication of components (which are being provided by multiple companies in the partner countries), construction of the buildings, or building services.
Nigeria’s Power Woes Worsen After Privatization. Generation companies in Nigeria have been operating at a loss since privatization of the nation’s power sector, and investors are urging the government to take drastic steps or face an energy crisis that may have grave implications for its economy. Underscoring the country’s power woes is a July-released generation report from the Transmission Company of Nigeria showing that, despite installing a total of 11.2 GW, available capacity was only 5.5 GW. Power plants with a total capacity of up to 4.4 GW aren’t getting enough gas to operate, while water scarcity and transmission issues are constraining another 230 MW, the Nigerian Electricity and Regulatory Commission said.
Minister of Power, Works, and Housing Babatunde Fashola in June told power users that electricity generation and supply has dropped significantly because of militant attacks on oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta and that the government is increasingly looking to alternative sources of power such as coal, solar, and biomass. The 700-MW Zungeru hydropower project will soon be completed, and construction of the 3-GW Mambilla hydropower plant is expected to begin shortly, he said.
GE Unveils Digital Power Plant for Steam. General Electric (GE) on June 14 unveiled the Digital Power Plant for Steam, a new suite of technologies for coal-fired steam power plants that monitors and analyzes data from more than 10,000 sensor inputs across a plant and is designed to help power operators make smarter decisions about how to run their power plants. GE said the digital power plant’s advanced controls and cybersecurity software interprets data drawn from sensors, highlighting key factors that may affect performance (such as fuel quality, plant aging, and ambient conditions) and takes appropriate action through a closed-loop control system.
In June, GE inked a deal with the Hub Power Co. (Hubco), Pakistan’s largest independent power producer, to provide digital industrial solutions for the 1,292-MW Hubco Power Plant situated in Baluchistan, Pakistan. The system will be powered by Predix, GE’s cloud-based operating system built exclusively for industrial purposes. ■
—Sonal Patel, associate editor