The 12-year-delayed nuclear forerunner of Hinkley Point C is expected to be pumping power into its nation’s grid late next month, according to an industry report.
Olkiluoto 3, Finland’s first new nuclear plant for 40 years, is a template for the EPR (European pressurised water reactor) design favoured by the Franco-Chinese partnership behind the Somerset plant.
Finnish operator Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) initially expected EdF-owned Areva and co-developers Siemens to have the 1.6 GW plant on line in 2009. But flaws in its design mired it in lengthy arbitration between lawyers.
The plant, on an island in the Gulf of Bothnia, this month received its first accreditation from Finland’s nuclear safety authority. TVO hopes to have it generating at 25% capacity late in January, with full power timetabled for June. It is rated to supply 15% of Finland’s electricity.
Chinese nuclear engineers CGN have a 20% stake behind EdF, owner of 75% of Areva, in the £23 billion Hinkley C project, set to debut in 2026. CGN are also interested in building Sizewell C in Essex. But new financing rules outlined two months ago have opened the way potentially for the UK government to replace overseas backers for nuclear projects.
Meanwhile Rolls-Royce have announced that a £ 85 million commitment from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund leaves its small reactor venture fully funded.
The Qataris’ 10% stake has unlocked £210 million in grants from the UK government’s Research and Innovation fund. Under CEO Tom Samson, the newly formed Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd will now undertake further design and accreditation towards building plants of up to 470 MWe, based on adapted PWR designs.
Rolls-Royce have officially named no sites for SMRs. But the parent previously indicated a “pretty high probability” that Trawsfynydd in north Wales, site of a Magnox station closed in 1991, could be one.
On Anglesey, Wylfa Newydd is a second possibility. Hitachi-subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power withdrew in September 2020 from plans for a 2.8 GW project.
It should be mentioned that we still don’t know what to do with all the high-level nuclear waste that has been produced since the 1950s. Until we have a very good answer on what to do with the waste, that will stay highly lethal for hundreds of thousands of years, we should certainly not be adding to the problem. In the meantime we need solar and storage.
PWR means ‘pressurised water reactor’. This design uses water at around 345C and a pressure of 155 bar (approx 2300 psi) to transfer the heat and moderate the high speed neutrons of U238 to a speed low enough to be captured by the fissile U235. Such high pressure needs a very strong reactor enclosure which, if it bursts, will lead to rapid over-heating and meltdown. So the reactor has to be installed in a large, very strong containment building which accounts for much of the construction costs. This is old technology and the same used in the Rolls Royce (RR) SMRs, these are normally in a class of up to 350 MW but R-R’s SMRs are 470 MW. A better proven technology is based on a heat transfer fluid that is liquid at high temperatures and close to atmospheric pressure; molten salt or molten metal fit the bill. Moltex Energy (https://www.moltexenergy.com/) uses molten salt which can also be set-up to consume nuclear waste. (I have no financial interest in Moltex).