Japan’s Fukui Prefecture approves MOX procurement for Takahama

Issei Nishikawa, governor of the Japanese prefecture of Fukui, approved 20 March plans by Kansai Electric Power Company to sign a contract for the manufacture of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel – to be used at the utility’s Takahama nuclear power station.

Governor Nishikawa had made his intentions known at an earlier press conference, held 15 March, when he said he would invite Kansai Electric president Yosaku Fuji to hear the prefecture’s decision “sometime this week”. Now that the utility has won civic approval, a condition for MOX use, it will finalise its selection of a company to manufacture and supply the fuel – for use in the Takahama units 3 and 4 830-megawatt (MW) pressurised water reactors (PWRs).

Kansai intends to conclude an agreement soon – and if all goes according to plan, the use of MOX fuel at Takahama would represent the first commercial use of MOX in Japan.

While a target date for the commercial use of MOX at Takahama has not been specified, it is expected to happen there first in Japan. Earlier in March, the Kyushu Electric Power Company also reaffirmed its intention to proceed with the use of MOX – but likely by 2010 and at the Genkai plant in the southern prefecture of Saga.

Source: NucNet, 22 March 2004.


Swedish N-Plant proposes uprates for two units

Sweden’s Ringhals nuclear power plant has asked regulators for permission to increase the generating capacity of two of the plant’s units.

The Swedish nuclear power inspectorate, SKI, has been asked to approve an uprate of 380 megawatts (MW) at Ringhals-3 and an uprate of 40 MW at Ringhals-1. The current generating capacities at the plants are 920 MW and 830 MW respectively. If the uprates are approved, the generating capacity at Ringhals-3 would be increased immediately by 80 MW, and would gradually be increased by a further 300 MW.

After considering the applications, SKI is expected to present its recommendations to the Swedish government. Sweden’s environment ministry will consider those recommendations and make proposals for a final decision to be taken by the government. Ringhals is a four-unit plant owned by Vattenfall AB (74.2%) and Sydkraft AB (25.8%). Unit one is a boiling water reactor (BWR) that entered commercial operation in 1976, while units two to four are pressurised water reactors (PWRs) that started commercial operation in 1975, 1981 and 1983 respectively.

Source: NucNet, 30 March 2004.


Swedish Liberals revive energy debate with talk of nuclear expansion

Ahead of an expected Swedish government report on energy policy, the country’s Liberal Party has reinvigorated the national nuclear debate by suggesting not only that nuclear not be phased out but be allowed to expand to satisfy Sweden’s electricity needs.

Liberal vice chairman Jan Björklund heads the 10-member party study group, which spent a year studying the energy issue and which presented its recommendations on 4th April. While the Liberal Party has yet to adopt the group’s position as official policy, party chairman Lars Leijonborg has said he agrees with it in principle.

Among the most significant elements of the Liberal study group’s proposal is that nuclear represents a key way for Sweden to fulfil its commitments to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol – while securing a reliable source of energy in the process. The proposal calls for the repeal of the results of a 1980 referendum in Sweden, which were incorporated into a parliamentary decision to phase out the use of nuclear energy by 2010. While that 2010 target has been relaxed over time, subsequent policy decisions have set Sweden up for a ‘German-type’ policy aimed at a gradual end to the use of nuclear energy. The Liberal Party would like to see, by contrast, changes to the existing energy bill to allow for the expansion of nuclear energy in Sweden, and for the construction of new reactors, as needed.

Sweden’s other political parties have voiced a range of opinions regarding the Liberal Party’s position. They have also remained cautiously neutral, however, ahead of the expected delivery of a report, commissioned by the ruling Social Democrats, on the existing nuclear phase-out programme.

Bo Bylund, director-general of Sweden’s National Railway Administration, was appointed by the government in 2002 to discuss details and a timetable for the phase-out with the country’s nuclear utilities – to be based, like the German model, on market conditions. Mr Bylund is expected to present his findings by the end of April – with the government potentially adopting his recommendations and taking them to parliament for approval in autumn.

But the Liberal Party study group argues that, based on market demands, rather than phase out nuclear, Sweden may need to add two or three units over the next 20 years. And Mr Bylund himself has enlivened the debate by also conceding in a recent interview that nuclear’s contribution to Sweden’s electricity generation can not be compensated for through the country’s planned programme of energy conservation, wind power and bio-mass, or increased imports.

Source: NucNet, 8 April 2004


First criticality for Japan’s Hamaoka-5

Japan’s Hamaoka-5 nuclear reactor unit achieved first criticality on 23 March, and is set to be connected to the grid as scheduled next month.

Construction of the Chubu Electric Power unit, situated in Shizuoka prefecture, started just four years ago and fuel loading began in February of this year.

Hamaoka-5 is Japan’s third advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) unit with a net installed generating capacity of 1325 megawatts (MW) and it is scheduled to enter commercial operation in January 2005.

Hamaoka-2 started an inspection outage in February and it is expected that the examination, including trial operations, will take about nine months. Hamaoka-3 and -4 resumed operations in November and September last year respectively following inspections.

Source: NucNet, 31 March 2004.

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