KEPCO Wants to Extend Operations of Two Reactors. Japanese utility Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) in April asked Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for permission to extend the lifespan of Units 3 and 4 at its Takahama nuclear power plant by 20 years. KEPCO wants to take advantage of regulations that were put in place after the Fukushima Daiichi incident in 2011. Japan in July 2013 said any Japanese reactors would have a nominal operating period of 40 years, with the possibility of a one-time, 20-year extension to their operating license. The extension would be contingent upon several factors, including a special inspection to ensure the integrity of reactor pressure vessels. Kansai in its application said it had carried out special inspections and evaluations of the two units, and had not found any issues that would preclude an extension of the operating lifecycle. KEPCO also said it had established a management program to support the extended operation, including replacement of steam generators. The utility wrote, “We will continue to strive to improve the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants, and with the understanding of the local community and others we will utilize nuclear power generation as an important power source.” Takahama features four reactors. Units 1 and 2, each 780-MW pressurized water reactors (PWRs), entered service in 1974 and 1975, respectively. Units 3 and 4, each 830-MW PWRs, came online in 1985. Units 1 and 2 are currently offline, as KEPCO works to complete a required bunkered backup control center for those reactors. KEPCO has said it plans to restart those units—which were shut down along with all other reactors in Japan after Fukushima—at some point this year. According to the World Nuclear Association, 10 reactors have restarted in Japan since 2015, with 16 more in the process of aquiring restart approval.

Philippines Ramping Up Use of LNG in Gas-Fired Plants. The Philippines in April received the country’s first-ever cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG), with the fuel earmarked for delivery to a 1,200-MW gas-fired power plant. The LNG was supplied by Vitol Asia Pte Ltd., a supply and trading unit of global energy trader Vitol Group. The fuel was bought by San Miguel Global Power Holdings and will be used at the company’s Ilijan power plant. The Philippines has begun buying LNG to supply its natural gas–fired power plants, which officials said produce more than 3 GW of the country’s electricity. The country is experiencing declining output from its own Malampaya natural gas field. “This is a significant milestone and we look forward to bringing more LNG supply from around the world to meet the rising gas demand of the Philippines,” said Mike Muller, president of Vitol Asia. The Ilijan plant is located in Batangas province about 88 miles south of Manila. The Philippines is trying to increase its power generation capacity as demand for electricity rises after the coronavirus pandemic. The Ilijan plant has been undergoing work to improve its fuel efficiency and ramp rate in the past year. Officials said the first shipment was received at Singapore-based Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific’s (AG&P’s) import terminal. The AG&P terminal is the first to come online among seven LNG terminal projects approved by the Philippine government. It will have annual capacity of 5 million metric tons of fuel.

Turkey Commissions Hybrid Geothermal Plant. A Turkish energy company in April announced it had completed conversion work, and commissioned the Alasehir Geothermal Power Plant in Manisa, Turkey, as a hybrid power plant utilizing both geothermal and solar power. The geothermal facility is now supplemented with 3.75 MW of solar power. Zorlu Energy said the combined renewable electricity production facility will enable more-efficient use of renewable energy, with geothermal as the main energy source, and solar as an auxiliary. The solar farm features 31,200 thin-film panels, each with 115 watts of powers, across about 15 acres of land. “We completed the land installation of our combined renewable electricity generation facility, which will lead the combined power plants in Turkey, in December last year, put it into operation in January, and [have now] started to supply electricity to the system,” said Ali Kindap, general manager for Zorlu Energy in charge of investments, operations, and maintenance. “In this way, we will provide approximately 6 million kWh of energy per year with the commissioning of the solar power plant at the installed power of our Alasehir Geothermal Power Plant, which currently has a capacity of 45 MW.” Kindap said Zorlu Energy will continue its investments in hybrid power plants, and said similar conversion efforts are ongoing at the 80-MW Kizildere 2, and 165-MW Kizildere 3, geothermal facilities in Turkey.

Canada Developing New Uranium Mine to Serve Nuclear Power Program. A new uranium mine and mill facility in Saskatchewan province in Canada is being developed, with the operation expected to supply fuel for Canada’s nuclear power program. Fission Uranium Corp. in late April said it had filed its application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for a license to build the mine and mill at the Patterson Lake South (PLS) high-grade uranium project in Saskatchewan. The CNSC is responsible for licensing and regulation of all existing and future uranium mining and milling operations in Canada. Fission Uranium said it has started front-end engineering design for the project. PLS is on the southwest edge of the Athabasca Basin, located in northern Saskatchewan. The basin is considered one of the world’s leading sources of high-grade uranium, and officials said it currently supplies about 20% of global uranium production. Fission Uranium earlier this year, in a feasibility study for the project, said the mine and mill would take about three years to build, at a cost of about $848 million. Costs were based on a 10-year operating life for the mine. An environmental assessment is underway for the project. Ross McElroy, CEO and president of Fission Uranium, said the company is confident in the project as “the fundamentals for uranium continue to strengthen in line with the global reactor construction boom.”

Construction Begins on Third Unit of Egypt Nuclear Plant. Egyptian officials in May announced the start of construction for Unit 3 of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant, that country’s first nuclear power facility. A construction license for the project was issued by the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority in late March. The El Dabaa station, located about 200 miles northwest of Cairo, when complete will house four VVER-1200 reactors. The plant is a collaboration between Egypt and Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom. Units 1 and 2 at El Dabaa are further along in the construction process. Rosatom is building the plant and also will supply nuclear fuel for the reactors. The group also is assisting its Egyptian partners in training personnel that will support the plant. Rosatom will lead plant maintenance for at least the first decade of El Dabaa’s operation. Rosatom also will build a storage facility, and supply containers, for storing the plant’s used fuel. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power is part of the project, with the group in charge of constructing 80 buildings and supplying materials for the non-nuclear turbine islands. Construction of Unit 1 at El Dabaa began in July 2022, with Unit 2 construction beginning in November 2022.

Wärtsilä, EDF Renewables UK Partner on Battery Project. Technology group Wärtsilä in May announced it had signed an agreement with EDF Renewables UK to deliver a grid-scale energy storage system (ESS) in Bramford, UK. The 57-MW/114-MWh project is Wärtsilä’s sixth project with EDF Renewables UK, including projects in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Wärtsilä’s energy storage portfolio in the UK now exceeds 1 GWh. The companies said the ESS will be connected to the electricity transmission network and enable the integration of renewable energy into the grid. It will automatically charge and discharge to balance supply and demand. The Bramford project also will be capable of supporting future electric vehicle charging and other electrified public transport installations. Wärtsilä will deliver its GridSolv Quantum system and GEMS Digital Energy Management Platform for the project. GEMS will be the main controller for the entire ESS installation, including interfacing with the grid as well as external traders. The Bramford battery storage facility will be constructed near a planned solar farm, also being developed by EDF Renewables UK. GEMS will provide data and insights to instruct trading parties and performance for comprehensive asset management. GEMS will enable balancing services for the UK grid, including electric market trading and frequency response.

Exergy, Hez Enerji Will Build Turkish Geothermal Plant. Exergy International in early May announced it had signed a contract with Hez Enerji for a geothermal Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) power plant in Turkey. The Bilecik HEZ Morali JES-1 is sited on a geothermal field in Aydin. The ORC facility is expected to enter commercial operation by year-end 2024. Hez Enerji has nine geothermal license areas under development in the Aydin, Manisa, Denizli, Bilecik, and Nigde regions in Turkey. It began exploration activities in 2016; the group has said the geothermal potential of the license areas under its control is estimated at about 300 MW of generation capacity. Exergy said it will be responsible for the design, engineering, and supply of the power plant. The design of the binary system features a cycle utilizing two radial outflow turbines of 12 MW each, and an air-cooled condensing system. The project involves the local manufacturing of the turbines and generator from Exergy Turkey, an Exergy subsidiary. That will allow Hez Enerji to benefit from domestic manufacturing incentives. Turkey is among the world’s top 10 countries for geothermal power generation, with 1.7 GW of installed capacity.

Ringhals Nuclear Plant Modernization Project Announced. Framatome will update the reactor control system at Vattenfall’s Ringhals nuclear power plant using its TELEPERM XS digital instrumentation and control platform. The modernization also includes the upgrade of the KSU Simulator at Ringhals. The Ringhals plant has been in commercial operation since 1976 and is located about 60 kilometers south of Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden. In addition to the control system upgrades, Framatome will also refurbish six reactor coolant pumps (RCPs) at the plant. The RCP internals and motors will be transported to the company’s Maubeuge industrial facility in northern France, where they will be inspected and refurbished, including the installation of new stators and the replacement of thermal barrier covers. The refurbished elements will then be shipped back to Sweden to progressively replace the current operating equipment starting in 2025 and progressing through 2031. The new reactor control system will be installed and commissioned in 2026 for Unit 3 and in 2027 for Unit 4.

District Heating Plant Conversion Unveiled in Finland. Valmet plans to convert Helen Ltd.’s coal-fired district heat boiler to bubbling fluidized bed (BFB) combustion to enable wood pellet firing at the Salmisaari “A” power plant in Helsinki, Finland. “Our goal is carbon-neutral energy production in 2030. Sustainable bioenergy is part of the overall solution to achieve our goal. The versatile production structure ensures reliability of heat supply even in freezing weather. This project is an important step for us on the way to carbon neutrality,” said Juhani Aaltonen, responsible for Helen’s sustainable energy solutions. Valmet’s turnkey delivery includes a fuel conversion from pulverized coal to wood pellets on a hot water boiler. It will be modified to a BFB boiler with a fuel capacity of 150 MW. The deal includes a flue gas cleaning system and a heat recovery system, and modification to the Valmet DNA automation system, as well as all necessary auxiliary systems. After the conversion, the plant is expected to produce district heat with extremely high efficiency—the flue gas temperature at the stack will be only 13C. The converted boiler is scheduled to be handed over to Helen in January 2025.

Ballard Orders Fuel Cells for Stationary Power Sites. Canada-based Ballard Power Systems in early May announced it had ordered 3.6 MW of fuel cell systems to provide zero-emission power for a range of applications, including construction sites, electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, and data centers. The systems will be integrated into stationary power units over the next two years. “We are seeing growing market interest for zero-emissions critical power generation for off-grid applications and applications where grid congestion makes grid availability unreliable,” said David Mucciacciaro, Ballard’s chief commercial officer. “Displacing traditional diesel generators with an emissions-free alternative will require creative solutions. Fuel cell–based electricity generators offer high reliability and long run-time, while also cutting carbon emissions and improving local air quality and noise levels.” The company, also known for its fuel cells that power transport vehicles, recently said its proton exchange membrane, or PEM, fuel cells reached a milestone. The company said its fuel cell electric vehicles, or FCEVs, in commercial heavy- and medium-duty vehicles had traveled more than 150 million kilometers, or more than 9.3 million miles. Ballard officials said the company’s fuel cells power more than 3,800 buses and trucks and are used in about 15 countries.
Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).