UK Abolishes Climate Change Department. As part of the major governmental shakeup triggered by Brexit—the UK’s momentous vote to leave the European Union—newly appointed UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in mid-July that her government will replace the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) with a Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy Department. The move was widely criticized by environmental groups and former ministers within the UK, as well as by international observers, who issued statements saying the decision failed to encourage leadership on climate change. Some experts and pro-green think tanks lauded the decision, however, saying that merging the DECC with the business and industry strategy department would politically elevate energy and climate issues.

Orders Pour in for World’s First 1,100-kV UHVDC Power Link in China. State Grid Corp.’s plans to link China’s Xinjiang region in the Northwest to Anhui province in eastern China via a 3,284-kilometer-long ultra-high-voltage direct-current (UHVDC) transmission link have resulted in lucrative orders for Siemens and ABB. The 12-GW line is expected to go into operation at the end of 2018. Siemens on July 11 said it received a contract to deliver the world’s first 1,100-kV converter transformers for the project. The converter transformers, which have a capacity of 587.1 megavolt-amperes, are also the “world’s most powerful,” it said. Beatrix Natter, who heads Siemens’ transformers business unit, said in a statement that to develop the cutting-edge converter transformers, the company worked to “meet the extraordinarily stringent requirements imposed on the insulation systems of these high-tech transformers at a voltage level of 1,100 kV.” For example, the two valve bushings through which the current flows from the interior of the transformers into the converters are approximately 19 meters (m) long, due to the necessary insulation clearance in air. “With bushings, the transformers are 37.8 [m] long, 5.85 [m] high and 5.20 [m] wide. With insulating oil, they weigh 823 metric tons, and the transport weight is 490 metric tons,” she said.

On July 19, meanwhile, ABB said it won orders worth more than $300 million to supply equipment for the UHVDC line, which it noted offers a nearly 50% increase in transmission capacity compared with the 800-kV UHVDC lines currently in operation around the world. The company’s scope of supply includes advanced converter transformers and components such as bushings and tap changers. It will also supply HVDC converter valves, DC circuit breakers, wall bushings, and capacitors as well as provide system design support.

Toshiba Withdraws Application for ABWR Design Certification Renewal, Citing Market Conditions. Japan’s Toshiba Corp. on July 1 withdrew an application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to renew a design certification for its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), citing energy price declines that would hamper new ABWR construction opportunities in the U.S. The ABWR design was developed through collaboration by General Electric (GE), Hitachi, and Toshiba before GE and Hitachi merged their nuclear business units. GE Hitachi, Hitachi-GE, and Toshiba now offer variations of the design. While the NRC issued final design certification for the ABWR in 1997, that certification expired in 2012, and Toshiba sought a renewal, hoping to install ABWRs at a planned expansion of the South Texas Project (STP) in Matagorda County, Texas. Although the STP Units 3 and 4 project received a combined construction and operating license in February 2016 from the NRC, the Japanese conglomerate terminated a series of agreements related to its development this May. Toshiba—which owns Westinghouse, the manufacturer of four AP1000 reactors that are under construction in Georgia and South Carolina—in July said “the timing of the start of construction at STP is now under consideration and will not be impacted by the [design certification] withdrawal.”

Expedited Dry Storage Facility at Mexican Nuclear Plant Nearing Completion. An independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) at the two-unit Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Mexico—a project that typically takes three years—has been completed in just 16 months. Equipment and systems supplier Holtec International said in late June that since its turnkey project for Mexico’s national utility Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE) began with the contract signing in December 2014, Holtec and CFE project teams have completed all design and engineering, fabrication of major equipment, construction of the storage pad, as well as Holtec’s patented subterranean Canister Transfer Facility. The project is now in the final stages of implementing the security systems to guard the ISFSI facility. CFE project manager Federico Gonzalez said in a June 23 statement that the project was necessary for the continued operation of the nuclear power plant. The schedule was “very aggressive,” he said, and the installation of 130 dry casks for used fuel was completed in record time. “The completion of this loading campaign will signify the reduction of 18% of the fuel assemblies in the Spent Fuel Pool.”

BWX Snags Contract for Bruce B Unit 6 Reactor. BWX Technologies on July 12 announced that its subsidiary BWXT Canada has been awarded a steam generator design, manufacturing, and delivery contract valued at C$130 million from Bruce Power for its Bruce B Unit 6 reactor. The reactor will go offline for refurbishment in 2020. In December 2015, the Ontario government announced that Bruce Power would advance a long-term, incremental life-extension program at its site in Tiverton, which is home to eight CANDU reactors: Bruce A Units 1–4 and Bruce B Units 5–8. The refurbishment plans will affect Units 3–8, span 13 years, and cost an estimated C$8 billion. Refurbishment of Bruce A Units 1 and 2 was completed in 2012. (For more on the ongoing Bruce refurbishment project, see the Top Plant article in the November 2013 issue or at

Alpiq and STEAG to Collaborate on Dismantling Nuclear Plants. Swiss power producer and service provider Alpiq Group on June 27 said it would collaborate with Germany’s STEAG Energy Services to plan and supply process engineering systems and components for dismantling of nuclear installations worldwide and offer projects for the planning and construction of waste treatment plants. Under a long-term strategic cooperation agreement signed by the companies, Alpiq subsidiary Kraftanlagen Heidelberg will contribute its power plant and process technology, and STEAG will provide its expertise in storage and disposal facilities. Kraftanlagen Heidelberg is already involved in dismantling a number of German nuclear power plants, including Würgassen, Obrigheim, Isar 1, Neckarwestheim 1, and Philippsburg 1. ■

Sonal Patel, associate editor