POWER digest (October 2008)

News items of interest to power industry professionals.

EDF and CGNPG create joint venture for Taishan nukes. Électricité de France (EDF) and the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) on Aug. 10 finalized a framework agreement made earlier, in November 2007, and formally created a joint venture company to build and operate two evolutionary pressurized reactor (EPR) power stations in Taishan, Guangdong province.

EDF will hold 30% of the Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co. Ltd. (TNPC) for a period of 50 years—the maximum permitted for a nuclear joint venture in China. Chinese authorities must approve the joint venture before the companies may proceed with construction, and other plans, such as development of other nuclear projects in China and elsewhere around the world.

The EPR power stations will be modeled on the existing EPR reactor built by EDF at Flamanville in Normandy, France. Preliminary work at the Taishan 1 site started in late 2007, and the first concrete pouring is scheduled for autumn 2009, less than two years after that at Flamanville 3. Contracts have already been signed with Areva and Alstom for nuclear and turbine equipment. The first unit will be commissioned at the end of 2013, and the second in 2015.

EDF said that the task will require a high level of skill, and it expects to have as many as 60 EDF experts on site at the height of construction work. Per a technical assistance contract, EDF will share its expertise with Chinese workers through demonstration and documentation. CGNPC, China’s leading nuclear operator, will bring to the partnership knowledge of the nuclear electricity sector and of China’s industrial fabric.

Plutonic Power Corp. and GE Energy to submit joint bid to RFP. Canada’s Plutonic Power Corp. and GE Energy Financial Services in August signed an agreement to team up on a C$3.78 billion (US$3.55 billion) bid to develop about 1,000 MW of hydroelectric capacity in the Toba and Bute Inlets along the southwest coast of British Columbia. The companies will submit the bid to the 2008 BC Hydro Clean Power request for proposals (RFP) on Nov. 25, 2008.

With approximate capital costs of $4 billion, the joint investment would be the largest single private sector investment in Canadian hydroelectric power, the companies said.

The Upper Toba Valley Project is a series of three sites with a capacity of approximately 120 MW. The Bute Inlet Project consists of 18 sites with an approximate capacity of 900 MW. Both projects are in the permitting and review stages of the Environmental Assessment Process. The Bute project is located north of the Toba Valley, where Plutonic and GE Energy Financial Services are already partnering on the $660 million, 196-MW East Toba River/Montrose Creek run-of-river hydroelectric power project. That project has been under construction since July 2007.

Based on current assumptions, if the two entities’ joint bid is accepted, GE Energy Financial Services intends to make an equity contribution of $70 million for a 50% interest in the Upper Toba Valley Project and—either by itself or with other partners—an equity contribution of $650 million for a 60% interest in the Bute Inlet Project. The final economic terms will be determined based on project variables including final capital cost, awarded energy price, and estimates of power output.

STP Unit 1 celebrates 20th anniversary. Aug. 25 marked the 20th anniversary of commercial operations by the Unit 1 reactor at the South Texas Project (STP) nuclear power plant. The unit, which led all 439 reactors worldwide in electrical generation last year, has produced a total of 174 billion kWh in the two decades it has been in operation.

STP Unit 1 has also delivered two breaker-to-breaker production runs by operating continuously between refuelings. Unit 1 completed its first breaker-to-breaker run on Oct. 2, 2006, and its second on March 31, 2008. A third breaker-to-breaker run was completed by STP’s twin Unit 2 reactor on March 26, 2007. Most recently, the two reactors, which produce 2,700 MW of electricity, stayed safely on-line during Hurricane Ike.

Unit 1 set a world record for electrical generation in just its second production cycle, completed in September 1992. The unit produced 14.5 billion kWh of electricity in that operational run, a global best for a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor.

In addition to the Unit 1 records, STP has achieved the lowest unsubsidized production cost among U.S. nuclear plants—1.356 cents per kWh in 2006—and the lowest fuel cost of all power plants nationwide—0.399 cents per kWh in 2000.

STP also has earned more honors than any other U.S. nuclear power plant. It is the only repeat-winner of the industry’s top honor, the B. Ralph Sylvia Best of The Best Award, which STP has won three times. It also has won seven of the annual Top Industry Practice awards, a Project of the Year Award for Best Nuclear Project worldwide, and the American Nuclear Society’s Utility Achievement and Utility Leadership awards.

WorleyParsons plans world’s largest solar plant. Australia is uniquely situated to sustain a solar energy industry, as it possesses some of the highest-intensity solar resources on Earth. The country could host the world’s largest solar energy plant within three years, Australian engineering firm WorleyParsons said in August.

The company, whose objective is to deliver 40% of Australia’s additional renewable energy needs through solar thermal power by 2020, is conducting a study to locate potential sites for advanced solar thermal (AST) plants all over the country and is demonstrating solar thermal power’s financial viability.

WorleyParsons said that the study, funded by some of the country’s largest companies, will be completed by the end of the year. Thereafter, it would need commitments from its customers to build the first 250-MW AST facility, which could be operational by 2011. The company is also considering building 33 other power stations by 2020. The total investment in the industry is expected to be about AU$35 billion (US$28.26 billion).

To date, eight solar thermal plants are being built in Spain, Algeria, and Morocco, and 10 are planned or under construction in the U.S. Solar thermal projects are also planned for Israel, Mexico, Iran, China, South Africa, and Egypt.

IPS wins contract to upgrade Taiwan nuclear plant. Texas-based Invensys Process Systems (IPS), a technology, software, and consulting firm, said in August it had signed a multi-million-dollar deal with state-owned Taiwan Power Co. (TPC) to provide critical upgrades to the Kuosheng Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in northern Taiwan.

Under the terms of the contract, IPS will replace and upgrade obsolete analog-based recirculation water control systems with digital systems, allowing Kuosheng NPP to better handle plant transients and significantly improve plant availability. IPS will also provide modifications to operational training simulators to ensure process consistency with the upgrades.

The company will be providing Kuosheng NPP with a suite of digital control automation solutions—including its IA Series system, FSIM and SIM4ME simulation software—as well as nuclear engineering, verification and validation, site installation, and commissioning services.

Kuosheng NPP is the second nuclear power station of state-owned TPC. Each plant generates 985 MW of power. More than 30% of TPC’s generation is controlled and monitored by IPS systems.

Georgia Power seeks approval to convert plant from coal to biomass. Georgia Power in August asked the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) for approval to convert coal-fueled Plant Mitchell to renewable wood biomass. Upon conversion, Plant Mitchell—near Albany—would burn surplus wood fuel from suppliers operating within a 100-mile radius of the plant and be capable of producing 96 MW of renewable energy.

Georgia Power said the plant would have lower emissions, be one of the largest wood biomass plants in the U.S., and would also have lower fuel and operating costs when compared with continued operation using coal—thereby making the plant more cost-effective for customers.

The PSC is expected to rule on the proposal to convert Plant Mitchell to biomass by spring of 2009. Retrofit construction would begin by spring of 2011, and the biomass plant would likely begin operations in June 2012.