Wednesday, 11 September 2019

WECsing lyrical over nuclear futures


 

What do Modern Jazz, Unfinished Symphony and Hard Rock have in common? They are, in fact, all nuclear energy scenarios in a new report - released on 9 September by the World Energy Council entitled: “The Future of Nuclear: Diverse Harmonies in the Energy Transition.www.worldenergy.org/assets/downloads/Nuclear_Scenarios_Report_FINAL.pdf) .WEC describes them as “three plausible, alternative pathways for the future development of the sector.”

The WEC’s global scenarios framework used in this report was developed in 2016 in collaboration with Accenture Strategy and the Paul Scherrer Institute, the largest research institute for natural and engineering sciences in Switzerland. (https://www.psi.ch/en).

The report also includes contributions from the international nuclear lobbyist group, the World Nuclear Association, with whom the WEC has recently formed a partnership.

WEC describes its three nuclear scenarios in the following summary form:

Modern Jazz is a digitally disrupted, innovative, and globally market-driven world. In the Modern Jazz scenario, the nuclear industry has the potential to reinvent itself, from selling units to providing services, and to remain an energy source of choice as some of the major existing nuclear countries and emerging economies expand their nuclear fleets. In this scenario, nuclear accounts for 8.5% of electricity generation by 2060 compared with 11% in 2015. Installed nuclear generating capacity increases by 52% from 407 GW in 2015 to 620 GW in 2060.

Unfinished Symphony is a world in which more coordinated and sustainable economic growth models emerge with a global aspiration to a low-carbon future. This scenario sees nuclear energy widely accepted as part of a reliable and affordable response to  the climate change emergency. In this scenario, the share of nuclear reaches 13.5% of total electricity generation by 2060 while its installed capacity almost triples to 1003 GW. In addition to new build and lifetime extension initiatives, new nuclear technologies – small modular reactors, floating units and Gen IV reactors – make a significant contribution to the global nuclear fleet.

Hard Rock explores the consequences of weaker and unsustainable global economic growth and inward-looking governments. In this scenario, nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation reaches 12.5% by 2060, with installed capacity increasing by 70% to 696 GW in 2060. The main focus areas are new construction in emerging markets and lifetime extension initiatives in developed economies.

WEC argues “There is increasing and widespread recognition that nuclear energy will feature in the future global energy mix and make its contribution to sustainable development.”

This is highly contentious, as nuclear power inevitably creates radioactive waste that, because of its very long radio-toxic life, inevitably carries a burden forward to future generations, which makes it inimical to sustainable development.

The report also asserts that “Nuclear energy is one of the most cost-effective sources of electricity in many countries and the industry is actively improving project management.”

I do not think that the French national nuclear-dominated utility, EDF, currently involved in the much delayed completion of the new-design EPR nuclear plant at Flamanville in Normandy, (“French Nuclear Giant EDF Warns of Substandard Reactor Parts, 10 September 2019, www.bnnbloomberg.ca/french-nuclear-giant-edf-warns-of-substandard-reactor-parts-1.1313633; Centrale nucléaire de Flamanville 1 et 2 : l’ASN met le site sous surveillance renforcéehttps://www.asn.fr/Informer/Actualites/Flamanville-1-et-2-surveillance-renforcee) and the hugely expensive UK version at Hinkley C (“Hinkley Point C: rising costs and long delays at vast new power station,” The Guardian, 13 August 2019; www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/aug/13/hinkley-point-c-rising-costs-long-delays-power-station) could currently agree with that!

Part of the WEC study makes use of the  WNA so-called Harmony programme, which it states sets out three objectives,  the first of which is described thus:

"[To] Establish a level playing field in energy markets which drives investment in future clean energy, where nuclear energy is treated on an equal terms with other low-carbon technologies and recognised for its value in a reliable and robust low-carbon energy mix."

But nuclear is improperly described as “low carbon.”

A recent and comprehensive Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) of greenhouse gas emissions from differing power generation technologies by Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, California - and director of its Atmosphere/Energy Program - have indicated that nuclear CO2 emissions are between 10 to 18 times greater than those from renewables. He is very qualified for such analysis, being also Senior Fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy, and at the Woods Institute for the Environment, where he has developed computer models to study the effects of fossil fuel and biomass burning on air pollution, weather, and climate.


Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security† Energy & Environmental Science, 1 December 2008
https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/ReviewSolGW09.pdf

In a newly completed chapter by Professor Jacobson in a forthcoming energy book, Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security, in 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything [Textbook in Preparation] https://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/WWSBook/WWSBook.html) he argues cogently:

 

 

“There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh.

 

 “Overall,” he concludes, “emissions from new nuclear are 78 to178 g-CO2/kWH,  not close to 0”

 

 

See also, a meta-study by Dr Benjamin K Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the School of Business, Management, and Economics, part of the University of Sussex, who serves as Director of the Sussex Energy Group and Director of the Center on Innovation and Energy Demand [which involves the University of Oxford and University of Manchester]  Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey, Energy Policy, 36, 2940-2953, 2008.

 


 

He concludes the following:

 

This article screens 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions for nuclear power plants to identify a subset of the most current, original, and transparent studies.

 

It begins by briefly detailing the separate components of the nuclear fuel cycle before explaining the methodology of the survey and exploring the variance of lifecycle estimates. It calculates that while the range of emissions for nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant, reported from qualified studies

 

examined, is from 1.4 g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh (g CO2e/kWh) to 288 g CO2e/kWh, the mean value is 66 g CO2e/kWh. The article then explains some of the factors responsible for the disparity in lifecycle estimates, in particular identifying errors in both the lowest estimates (not comprehensive) and the highest estimates (failure to consider co-products). It should be noted that nuclear power is not directly emitting greenhouse gas emissions, but rather that lifecycle emissions occur through plant

construction, operation, uranium mining and milling, and plant decommissioning.”

Meanwhile, over the past week, the WNA has been actively cheerleading for much more nuclear power, first at its own annual symposium in London, then at the WEC in Abu Dhabi

This is what the WNA’s own news service reports on itself.

World Nuclear Association sees upturn in uranium demand

05 September 2019


Rapid growth in uranium demand will lead to a need for additional mined uranium in the period to 2040 in all scenarios given in the latest edition of World Nuclear Association's fuel report. Projections for nuclear generating capacity growth have been revised upwards for the first time in eight years, following the introduction of more favourable policies in a number of countries.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/BlankSiteASPX/media/WNNImported/mainimagelibrary/people/Fuel-cycle-report-Sympo-2019-(WNN).JPG?ext=.jpgThe report was launched at a panel session at World Nuclear Association Symposium 2019 (Image: World Nuclear Association)

The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2019-2040 is the 19th in a series of reports published by World Nuclear Association and its predecessor organisation the Uranium Institute at roughly two-yearly intervals since 1975. Launched in London today at World Nuclear Association Symposium 2019, it includes three scenarios - designated Reference, Upper and Lower - covering a range of possibilities for nuclear power to 2040. It also examines the key issues that are likely to have continued relevance beyond that year.

The latest edition of the report has been fundamentally rethought and redesigned, Riaz Rizvi, chief strategy and marketing officer of NAC Kazatomprom and co-chair of the Fuel Report Working Group, told the Symposium. It is based on data gathered from questionnaires sent to World Nuclear Association members and non-members, combined with publicly available information and the judgement and experience of the members of the Association's working groups. "What is unique about this report is that it is essentially compiled by the industry … the practitioners who are actually working and living [it]," he said.

The demand methodology takes into account nuclear economics, state policies, and other issues, including public acceptance, climate change abatement, electricity market structure and regulatory standards. The Reference scenario essentially reflects official targets and plans announced by states and companies and a partial recognition of nuclear's contribution to climate change, while the Upper scenario considers more favourable conditions around economics and public acceptance, and a stronger recognition of nuclear's contribution to climate change abatement, Rizvi explained. The Lower scenario supposes a situation with deteriorating public sentiment, a lack of political support and more challenging nuclear economics.

World nuclear generating capacity of 398 GWe in 2018 is expected to rise to 462 GWe by 2030 and 569 GWe in 2040 under the Reference scenario. In the Upper scenario the figures are 537 GWe by 2030 and 776 GWe in 2040. The Lower scenario sees generating capacity remain effectively unchanged throughout the forecast period, rather than displaying the downward trend seen in previous reports.

The main reasons for the positive trend in nuclear capacity projections are: the modification of France's energy policy to delay a planned reduction of nuclear power's share and allow the extension of reactor operating lifetimes to beyond 40 years; US legislative action at state level to support the continued operation of reactors at the same time as the start of a process by federal regulators to allow reactors to operate for up to 80 years; the extensive nuclear expansion plans of China and India; and improved prospects for new reactors in countries including 'newcomer countries', such as Bangladesh, Egypt and Turkey.

Uranium supply


World Nuclear Association has revised its reactor requirements model for the new edition of the report to include a reassessment of various factors influencing demand. Fast neutron reactors are included for the first time, while a new model has been created to allow a more specific analysis of the fuel fabrication market, and capacity factor assumptions have been revised and updated.

Known world resources of uranium are "more than adequate" to satisfy reactor requirements to 2040 and beyond, although world production fell from 62,221 tU in 2016 to 53,498 tU in 2018. However, oversupply and associated low uranium prices are preventing the investment needed to convert these resources into production.

"The currently depressed uranium market has caused not only a sharp decrease in uranium exploration activities … but also the curtailment of uranium production at existing mines," the report notes.

Uranium production volumes are projected to remain fairly stable until the late 2020s under all three of the report's scenarios for uranium production, which are developed from an evaluation of current and future mine capabilities. They decrease sharply during the period 2035-2040, as a quarter of all mines listed in the model reach the end of their production lives. Global output of 66,400 tU in 2030 declines to 48,100 tU under the Reference scenario; for the Upper scenario the figures are 71,500 tU (2030) and 49,400 tU (2040). The partial return of currently idled mines to production is expected to begin in 2023 in the Reference case, 2022 in the Upper scenario and 2026 in the Lower scenario.

New supply will "categorically" be needed in the future, James Nevling, Exelon's senior manager of nuclear fuels, and co-chair of the Fuel Report Working Group, told the Symposium. "There is no question at all that new projects or the restoration of currently idled projects will have to take place," he said.

The supply methodology used in this year's report introduces a new concept of "unspecified supply" - such as idled production capacity, unspecified secondary supplies and capacity expansions. The contribution of such sources, Rizvi explained, are harder to predict than "specified" supply sources such as current capacity, planned and prospective mines and specified secondary supplies. As a gap emerges between demand and supply, a larger volume will need to come from unspecified sources.

In the near term, commercial inventories and "specified" secondary supplies will play a part in bridging the gap between supply and demand. However the role of secondary supplies will gradually diminish, falling from the 14-15% of reactor requirements they meet today to between 4% and 9% in 2040, depending on the scenario. The gap will be met from commercial inventories, the return to production of idled mines, and the development of new projects, among other sources.

"In all scenarios, the industry needs to at least double projected primary uranium production (including current, idled, under development and planned prospective projects) by 2040," the report notes. There are more than enough resources to accomplish this, "but it is essential for the market to send the signals needed to launch the development of these projects," it says.

Fuel cycle issues


The report also considers the supply and demand of uranium conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication. In the uranium conversion sector - which has for the past eight years been in a situation of oversupply owing to reduced conversion requirements and the accumulation of uranium hexafluoride stockpiles - annual production is currently lower than requirements. The market has now entered a period of rebalancing as inventories are absorbed. In the medium term it is expected that currently idled conversion capacity will return to operation, while in the longer term, capacity expansion will be needed.

There is a global excess of uranium enrichment capacity, with only one of the world's major enrichment suppliers - China National Nuclear Corporation - expected to expand its capacity significantly over the forecast period as China pursues self-sufficiency targets, the report finds. Additional enrichment capacity could be needed as early as the mid-2020s under the Upper scenario but, owing to the modular nature of centrifuge technology and the construction times for nuclear reactors, such expansion can take place in a timely way and supply challenges should be avoided.

Fuel fabrication differs from other stages of the fuel cycle due to the specificity of the highly engineered and technological product, and a market which is more regional than global. Fabrication capacities are currently sufficient to cover anticipated demand, both for first cores and reloads, but supply bottlenecks could still occur for some designs, the report finds.

Harmony


The report sees steady growth in nuclear capacity over the next 20 years, but more is needed to meet the World Nuclear Association's
Harmony target to provide at least 25% of global electricity by 2050. This target requires the construction of more reactors than are currently projected under the Upper scenario, the report notes.

World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said, "Achieving the Harmony goal of supplying 25% of the world's electricity before 2050 will require a rapid ramp-up of new nuclear build, higher than projected in the Upper scenario, which in turn would lead to the need of greater amounts of uranium, enrichment, fuel fabrication, transport and used fuel services. Nuclear fuel cycle participants should be prepared to meet a potentially large increase in demand to meet the Harmony goal."

Nevling and Rizvi took part in a panel dicussion of the fuel report, which was moderated by Cameco President and CEO Tim Gitzel and also included Andrey Tovstenko, first deputy general director for strategy and business development at JSC Tenex, and Julian Tapp, chief nuclenr officer of Vimy Resources.

Rising asked the panel if there is enough uranium to supply the extra 1000 GWe under the Harmony target. The panel agreed there would be, but Tapp pointed to Harmony's 2050 timeframe. "Am I confident there is a lot more uranium out there than is currently in our reserve projects? Yes I am. The problem is that at the moment the market signals aren't there for people to go out and explore and build up those reserves." Uranium availability itself "won't be a factor that prevents Harmony from being achieved".


New dawn for nuclear if issues faced, say industry leaders

World Nuclear News, 10 September 2019


 

The nuclear industry's future is bright, but a number of issues - including public acceptance - must first be resolved, according to a panel of industry leaders at the 24th World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/BlankSiteASPX/media/WNNImported/mainimagelibrary/people/WEC-2019-Nuclear-session.jpg?ext=.jpgThe panel, from left to right: World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising; Kirill Komarov, first deputy chief executive of Rosatom; Xavier Ursat, executive director of EDF; Jong-kap Kim, president and CEO of Kepco; Gu Jun, president of CNNC; and Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of ENEC (Image: WNN)

The session A new dawn for nuclear energy? was moderated by World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising.

Opening the discussion, Rising said that nuclear energy, complemented by other low-carbon sources, "must play a central role if we want to shift to a clean, affordable and reliable electricity system". She noted that the global nuclear industry has set itself the ambitious target to construct an additional 1000 GWe of reactors before 2050 so that nuclear has a 25% share of total electricity generation. "To ensure that we can deliver this, we need to remove some barriers," she said.

Kirill Komarov, first deputy chief executive of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, said nuclear energy has "not only a bright and brilliant future, but a very good existing situation". He noted that last year, nine new nuclear power reactors, with a combined capacity of 10 GWe, were commissioned. At the same time, construction of five more units was launched. A total of 55 new reactors are also at different phases of construction.

On public perception, Komarov said the industry needs to convince people that nuclear power plants are safe and can be a solution to decarbonisation. "I am very optimistic about the existing situation because we see more and more countries ready to join the nuclear club," he said.

Public perception is not fixed and impossible to change, he said. "It depends on the work of the nuclear community to explain to people what we are doing, to convince them that without nuclear power we will not achieve decarbonisation goals."

The industry's ability to complete projects on time and to budget also needs to be addressed. Serial construction, he said, is the solution to this.

Xavier Ursat, executive director of EDF Group, said the biggest battle currently faced by mankind is the fight against climate change, but we are not yet winning that fight. There are two ways of producing clean electricity, he said, renewables and nuclear.

"Never, if we are sincere in the fight against climate change, should we put renewables against nuclear," he said. "It should be renewables plus nuclear, or we will not win the fight. Renewables and nuclear are very complementary."

To improve public acceptance, he said the industry needs to find a way to explain what nuclear electricity actually is - that it is a natural and not an artificial process. He also noted the time to implement nuclear projects is too long at 10-15 years between the decision to construct a plant and its commissioning.

Jong-kap Kim, president and CEO of Korea Electric Power Corporation, agreed that public acceptance is critical to the industry's future. He said governments have to be consistent with their nuclear policies. Public support for nuclear energy in the UAE increased from just 5% in 2011 to 94% in 2018 because the government has been very transparent and consistent, he added.

Mohamed Al Hammadi, CEO of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation said clarity of policy and strategy from the government is the "overriding driver for success". He noted that the UAE government had published its energy roadmap in 2008 and has adhered to it closely ever since. Nuclear technologies are proven, economically viable, safe and clean, he added.

China National Nuclear Corporation President Gu Jun said public communication on nuclear in China had been difficult following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan. "Before the accident, people mainly supported nuclear power, but afterwards incorrect information from the media made people afraid of nuclear energy," he said.

Stricter safety standards were introduced following the Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima Daiichi accidents while regulatory requirements have been tightened. This has made it more difficult for the industry to control construction costs and timescales, he said.

In her closing remarks, Rising said the status of nuclear energy was changing. "We see more intergovernmental organisations mentioning nuclear's part in the future ... It is now becoming clearer how important it is for a stable and affordable electricity system to have nuclear."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

 

 

ABOUT THE WORLD ENERGY COUNCIL

The WEC describes itself as “the principal impartial network”  of energy leaders and practitioners “promoting an affordable, stable and environmentally sensitive energy system for the greatest benefit of all.”

Formed in 1923, the Council is the UN-accredited global energy body, representing the entire energy spectrum, with over 3,000 member organisations in over 90 countries, drawn from governments, private and state corporations, academia, NGOs and energy stakeholders. WEC aims to  “inform global, regional and national energy strategies by hosting high-level events including the World Energy Congress and publishing authoritative studies, and work through our extensive member network to facilitate the world’s energy policy dialogue.”

It is a pity it cannot get its facts right on nuclear. I should draw on a wider information base than a global nuclear cheerleader.

Further details at www.worldenergy.org

 

ANNEX

REFLECTIONS FOR INDUSTRY LEADERS

1INNOVATION IS IMPACTING THE ENTIRE VALUE CHAIN – HOW TO ACCELERATE THE RATE OF

NUCLEAR LEARNING?

The accelerating pace of innovation, particularly in digitalisation, is blurring sector boundaries and enabling new, non-traditional players to enter the market. Looking to the future, digitalization has the potential to improve the nuclear industry’s performance and supporting it to allow better informed decisions on new build and lifetime extension. However, learning curves in other sectors will accelerate too– including renewable power, energy storage, and carbon capture and storage.

The relative pace of learning across the nuclear sector can be increased through international cooperation on harmonisation of regulatory processes, allowing reactor designs to be deployed globally with minimal design alterations. This would significantly reduce costs and project uncertainties.

Nuclear energy is one of the most cost-effective sources of electricity in many countries and the industry is actively improving project management. The industry must continue to ensure projects are delivered successfully, as shown by current programmes in Asia and elsewhere. These projects highlight the opportunity to accelerate innovation and take advantage of digitalisation and standardization to ensure the nuclear industry remains competitive.

2 MANAGING NEW TENSIONS BETWEEN STABILITY AND FLEXIBILITY – HOW CAN NUCLEAR ENABLE INTEGRATED, AGILE AND RESILIENT SYSTEMS?

Decarbonisation continues to be driven by electrification in all three scenarios. The scale up of intermittent renewable energy, however, is associated with system costs. In addition to providing clean and low-carbon energy, nuclear energy contributes to system stability and resilience attributes, which are not currently included in comparison of generation only costs. Small and medium reactor designs, which are being developed and some are under construction in some countries and are expected to be fully commercialized in the next 10-15 years, could provide new and significant opportunities for synergies in the development of nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems. Reductions in the costs of nuclear-based electrolysis also present opportunities to help accelerate global trade in clean liquids, which depends in large part on global cooperation on new hydrogen pathways that might become economically feasible.

3 HOW CAN THE CO-BENEFITS AND SYNERGIES OFFERED BY NUCLEAR BE BETTER UNDERSTOOD AND RECOGNISED?

Despite increasing global awareness of climate change and of nuclear energy’s status as a low-carbon energy source, greater support is needed from policymakers to establish a level playing field that compares the full costs offered by different technology pathways. In the public realm, improving awareness of the benefits of nuclear energy are starting points for clarifying the basis for inclusion of nuclear in green labelling initiatives.

Spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste remains an issue in all three scenarios. Both public and the industry work together on a final solution. Repositories for this purpose are currently in development and under construction in several countries and are expected to provide safe final disposal of the small volumes these materials represent.

Technology-neutral policies that enable all types of low carbon solutions to be considered, including nuclear power, will play a fundamental role in providing signal for investment and reducing the financing costs to deliver the best value to consumers.

Looking across the scenarios, four critical challenges and opportunities faced by the global nuclear industry and energy leaders – faster learning, linking renewables and nuclear, leveraging benefits and leadership for the long-term – become clear and will define how nuclear energy fits in the future energy system. Implications are detailed in the main report.

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