Russia Marks Milestone with Commercial Operation of Third-Generation Reactor. After nearly a decade of construction, the first advanced third-generation VVER-1200 nuclear reactor began commercial operation on February 2 at the Novovoronezh nuclear power station on the bank of the Don River near Voronezh in southwestern Russia. The reactor is the sixth unit to come online at the plant. Unit 1 is a VVER-210 reactor, which was launched in 1964 but closed in 1984. Unit 2, a VVER-365, began operation in 1969 but was shuttered in 1990. Units 3 and 4 are VVER-440 reactors that began commercial operation in 1972 and 1973, respectively, and Unit 5, a VVER-1000, came online in 1980. Construction at Unit 6 and Unit 7, both VVER-1200s, began in 2007, with Unit 7 planned for operation in 2018. Atomenergoproekt JSC is the general designer and contractor for Units 6 and 7. According to Rosenergoatom, the Russian nuclear power station operations subsidiary of Atomenergoprom, Unit 6 was first connected to the country’s Unified Energy System in August 2016. Testing was successfully wrapped up on February 23, 2017. In comparison to the VVER-1000, the VVER-1200 has a number of advantages that boost its economic characteristics and safety. Along with a capacity increase, the reactor design’s lifespan has been doubled from 30 to 60 years. “A number of up-to-date and unique safety systems has been applied, such as corium trap or passive heat removal system that in the absence of electric power supply and human participation allows to cool the reactor core by means of air natural circulation,” said Rosenergoatom in a statement.

Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Upgraded. The design for the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, a $5 billion project whose construction is under way on the Blue Nile near the border of Ethiopia and Sudan, has been revised for a 450-MW capacity increase. It will now have a capacity of 6,450 MW. The plant originally slated to have 5,250 MW had already been upgraded once to 6,000 MW. Ethiopia’s Communication and Information Technology Minister Debretsion Gebremichael told reporters in late February that the plant whose construction began in April 2011 is 56% complete. Its in-service date is now set for 2018. The project has been opposed by Egypt, which says the dam could reduce the amount of water from the Nile. Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan in 2015 signed an agreement seeking to end that dispute. When completed, the roller-compacted concrete dam with two power stations is expected to be the largest in Africa.

Siemens Bags Order for Gas Turbines for Saudi CHP Plant. Siemens on February 23 received an order for five F-class gas turbines for a 1,500-MW combined heat and power (CHP) plant in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The plant is expected to supply about 400 MW of power and process steam to a new natural gas extraction plant in Fadhili, in the Eastern Province of the kingdom. The remainder will supply residential demand. Siemens received the order from South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., which is the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the project. Siemens also signed a long-term service agreement with Kahrabel FZE, an affiliate of the ENGIE Group, for the gas turbines at the Fadhili CHP plant for a period of 16 years.

Spain Conditionally Approves Garoña Reactor Restart. Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear, CSN) on February 8 gave the Garoña nuclear power plant approval to restart after being offline for the past four years on the condition that its operator, Nuclenor, made a number of safety upgrades. If upgraded, the 446-MW boiling-water reactor, which is 46 years old, is suitable for operation until 2019, CSN said. The modifications include the installation of a filtered containment venting system, construction of alternative emergency management centers, and installation of a passive autocatalytic hydrogen recombiner, according to World Nuclear News. A final decision on a license renewal application submitted in February 2014 for Garoña will be made by Spain’s Ministry of Energy, Tourism, and the Digital Agenda after Nucelnor has made the necessary upgrades.

Saudi Arabia Calls for Qualifications for 700 MW of Renewables. Saudi Arabia in late February opened bidding for up to 700 MW of wind and solar power projects in a bid to temper its domestic oil use and meet growing power demand. The Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) invited bidders to qualify for its first renewable energy tender by March 20. The selected parties will be announced by April 10 and will be invited to present their offers for the projects between April 17 and the end of July. The tender calls for 300 MW to 700 MW of solar photovoltaic and 400 MW of wind to be developed at Sakaka in Al Jouf Province. The projects will be backed by 25-year power-purchase agreements for solar and 20-year agreements for wind. It is the first stage of the kingdom’s efforts to develop 10 GW of renewable power by 2023. The ministry said in a press statement that it wants to make the National Renewable Energy Program “among the most attractive, competitive and well executed government renewable energy investment programs in the world, and we have all the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure that is the case.”

Consortium Wins Tender for Japan’s First Offshore Wind Farm. A consortium led by Japanese utility Kyuden Mirai will undertake the development of a $1.54 billion offshore wind project about 10 km off the port of Hibikinada, in Kitakyushu’s Wakamatsu Ward. The project will likely comprise 44 turbines installed on jacket foundations. Construction of the wind farm off the coast of Fukuoka Prefecture on the western island of Kyushu could begin in 2022 following an environmental impact assessment. The consortium comprises Hibiki Wind Energy Group, which includes utility J-Power, Saibu Gas, and engineering firm Kyudenko. It was chosen to develop the project by the Kitakyushu municipal government. A turbine supplier has not yet been identified, though Hitachi’s 5.2-MW offshore turbine is a possible frontrunner, according to industry observers. The project will be Japan’s first offshore wind project. The country in May 2016 amended its Port and Harbour Law to promote the development of offshore wind. The revisions allow developers to lease designated water zones in port areas for a period of up to 20 years. ■