Sweden Reverses Ban, Approves Nuclear Reactor Replacements

Sweden’s parliament on June 18 reversed an earlier decision and passed the center-right coalition government’s landmark proposal, made last year, that allows for the replacement of the country’s nuclear reactors at the end of their life span. The country had voted in 1980 to phase out its 12 reactors by 2010. Two reactors have since been closed.

The Scandinavian country’s 10 current reactors account for about half of its power production. The 174-172 vote in June will allow only 10 new reactors to be built, and only at the three nuclear power plant sites where the country’s current reactors exist. The parliament also ruled that Sweden would not subsidize nuclear power construction initiatives and that reactor owners would be responsible for damage liability. The nuclear plan is part of a climate program that requires 50% of the country’s power to come from renewable power by 2020.

Finland Approves Construction of Two Reactors

Finland’s parliament in late June approved construction of two new reactors proposed separately by utilities Teollisuuden Voima Oyj and Fennovoima Oy. The projects, which will add nearly 3,200 MW to Finland’s power profile, are expected to help eliminate the need for imports of electricity from Russia. Finland’s power consumption per capita is the highest in the region. The nation also passed tax incentives for wood-based fuels and wind power to increase renewable power so that the country can comply with climate goals set by the European Union. The country currently operates four nuclear plants.

Alstom Opens New Nuclear, Fossil Fuel Turbine Facility in U.S.

Alstom inaugurated on June 24 a new production facility for steam turbines, gas turbines, large turbo-generators, and related equipment in Chattanooga, Tenn., to serve the North American fossil fuel and nuclear power generation market. The $300 million factory is equipped with a balancing facility that allows it to manufacture the largest turbines in the world, Alstom’s ARABELLE 1,700-MW class nuclear steam turbine. The turbo-generator components will also be manufactured in this facility. Alstom already operates turbine manufacturing facilities in France, Germany, Switzerland, and China.

In May, the company announced plans to build a wind power assembly facility in Amarillo, Texas, that is expected to help the company meet needs for the growing North American wind power market.

NRC Authorizes National Enrichment Facility

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on June 10 authorized the URENCO USA uranium enrichment facility in Eunice, N.M., to accept operational delivery of uranium hexafluoride feedstock and begin commercial operations to enrich up to 5% of the isotope uranium-235. The gas centrifuge uranium enrichment plant will now begin operation of the first cascade—a series of rotating cylinders using centrifugal force to separate uranium isotopes. The facility was granted an NRC construction license in June 2006. At full capacity, it will produce sufficient enriched uranium for nuclear fuel to supply approximately 10% of U.S. electricity needs.

Siemens Increases Share of Shanghai Electric Joint Venture

Siemens Energy said it had increased its share of a joint venture with Chinese company Shanghai Electric Power Generation Equipment Co., Ltd. (SEPG), from 33.7% to 40% in late June. SEPG provides power generation products and solutions for coal-fired and gas-fired power plants as well as for the conventional part of nuclear power plants. Siemens currently maintains 24 operating companies in China, eight of which are operated with Shanghai Electric. The two companies are also in discussions to set up another joint venture to meet the country’s rapidly growing steam and gas turbine power plant market.

GE, Abengoa to Develop Mexico’s Largest Cogeneration Facility

Subsidiaries of Spain-based Abengoa and GE Energy Financial Services said on June 22 they would invest $180 million to develop the largest cogeneration power plant in Mexico. The 300-MW gas-fired facility, expected to cost $640 million, will be located at the Nuevo Pemex gas processing complex, owned by Pemex Gas y Petroquímica Básica, a subsidiary of Mexican state oil company Pemex.

Located near Villahermosa, Tabasco, the plant will supply Nuevo Pemex with power and steam under a 20-year services agreement. Construction began in September 2009 and commercial operation is expected in 2012. The plant is expected to directly supply 55% of Nuevo Pemex’s steam demand and all of its power demand; additional power output will be provided to other Pemex operations throughout Mexico over its national transmission system. The cogeneration facility will use two GE Energy Frame 7FA gas turbines.

TVA Begins Operation of New Scrubbers at Kingston Plant

The largest public utility in the U.S., Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), began operating two recently completed scrubbers at its Kingston Fossil Plant to reduce up to 95% of sulfur dioxide emissions from all nine boilers at the plant. This gives TVA a total of 10 scrubbers installed at five of its 11 coal-fired power plants. Construction on the two scrubbers began in 2006. The first was completed in December 2009 and the second was finished this past April. The two most recent scrubbers cost approximately $475 million.

AEHI to Build and Market Hyperion’s Small Nuclear Modules

Alternate Energy Holdings on June 3 said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with New Mexico–based Hyperion Power Generation to license, build, and market Hyperion’s refrigerator-sized modular nuclear reactors globally. The 25-MW Hyperion Power module reportedly has more than 150 purchase commitments from customers such as mining and telecom companies. The reactors are sealed at the factory and are not refueled onsite. When the reactor has exhausted its fuel, it is returned to the factory and a new reactor is simply installed in its place.

—Sonal Patel is POWER’s senior writer.