Sun Apr 30th, 2006 at 08:41:26 AM EST
With ever increasing energy prices and the fears stoked by the Ukraine-Russia gas war, nuclear energy seems to be coming out the wardrobe, even in Europe.
But how much of this talk about a nuclear renaissance is just that, talk and no action? Answering that question is what this series of diaries is about.
We'll be looking at all European nuclear countries (and all the new potential ones), their current reactor fleets and at the current nuclear projects.
From the diaries ~ whataboutbob
Let's start with the most talked about country in Europe when it comes to new nuclear power, namely Finland.
Finland has four nuclear reactors, two Soviet VVER type reactors (not the Chernobyl variety) at Lovisa and two Swedish ASEA reactors at Olkiluoto. All four reactors have been extensively uprated and together they generated 27 % of Finnish electricity in 2004.
What makes Finland the talking point of the nuclear industry is not the uprates but something else. Finland is the first European country to order a new nuclear reactor for quite some time.
Construction of the new 1600 MWe Framatome European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) began at Olkiluoto in mid 2005 and it is supposed to start operating in 2009. The reactor will be the world's most powerful.
There is also talk about building a sixth reactor, an option that has become a lot more popular during the last year.
Yesterday, speaker of parliament and former Social democrat pm Paavo Lipponen publicly voiced his support for another new reactor beyond Olkiluoto 3. Furthermore, the Green party who left government after the decision to build reactor five was taken, has recently said that they will accept being part of a government building the sixth reactor. If I was a betting man, I'd bet on the sixth reactor happening, and soon.
In 2005 Finnish electricity imports reached a new record, totaling 20 % of consumption. Two thirds of the imports came from Russia, and mainly from the Russian nuclear power plant Sosnovyj Bor (4 RBMK units) at the eastern end of the Gulf of Finland.
One understands why the Finns want a sixth reactor.
Additionally, Finland is the only country to have started construction of its permanent spent nuclear fuel facility.
Computer generated picture of the new EPR next to the two current Olkiluoto reactors.
Lithuania holds the silver medal (after France) in the competition for the highest nuclear generating share as 72 % of all Lithuanian electricity is made at the sole operating reactor at Ignalina nuclear power plant.
Ignalina holds two RBMK-1500 reactors, the same design as at the fateful Chernobyl plant, except Ignalina's reactors are a lot bigger.
The RBMK-1500 is the most powerful reactor in the world and the twins at Ignalina were the only ones ever built. After the Chernobyl disaster they were downrated to 1360 MWe for safety reasons. Much work has been done to radically improve the safety of the Ignalina reactors and much has been achieved, but due to the voluminous design of the reactor core it is impossible to add a full containment to the reactor. The RBMK is basically the only reactor type lacking a full containment building.
As an entrance condition for joining the EU reactor 1 was shutdown on December 31 2004 and reactor 2 is to follow in 2009. The closings have faced stark opposition from the Lithuanian people, in spite of generous EU compensation.
As Ignalina is closed down the obvious short term alternative generation is combined gas cycle turbines utilising Russian natural gas. As Ignalina supplied power not only to Lithuania but also to the other Baltic countries, and as they all are rather paranoid of Russia, everyone is not happy. As a matter of fact, no one (except the EU and Russia) is happy.
Because of this situation there has been some talk about building a new joint Baltic reactor, maybe also with Polish support. At this time, it is just talk.
Ignalina under an ominous sky
According to President Lukashenko a nuclear power program is only a matter of time. Why this is necessary for Belarus is hard to understand as the country is a close ally of Russia and recieves subsidised Russian natural gas. No nuclear plant will make power cheaper than you get from that gas. The picture becomes even stranger since Belarus is weighing a domestic reactor against cooperating with the Russians on a new reactor at Kursk. If the nuclear plans were due to security of supply (against Russia), then why build the reactor in Russia?
My gut feeling is that nothing will come out of this, at least not soon.
With 15 reactors and relying on it for half of its electricity, nuclear power is very important in Ukraine. As late as 2004 two 1000 MW reactors were connected to the grid to replace Chernobyl 1 and 3 who (at long last) were closed in 1996 and 2003. With the last RBMK reactors closed all reactors in Ukraine are now of the safe VVER-type.
To increase security of supply 11 new reactors are planned for 2030. I guess the gas war has made the politicians a lot more interested in pushing nuclear power development.
While exactly 11 new reactors in 2030 is unlikely (things never happen as planned) I think it's is pretty likely that we will see new nuclear reactors in Ukraine in the not very far future.
Another important project is the new Chernobyl sarcophagus.
With six reactors and a net capacity of 5718 MWe, Zaporozhe is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe.
To be continued...