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Power Industry News, including Renewables

Fossil Fuels

UK's backup power subsidies are illegal, European court rules

The UK's scheme for ensuring power supplies during the winter months has been suspended after a ruling by the European Court of Justice that it constitutes illegal state aid. Payments to energy firms under the £1bn capacity market scheme will be halted until the government can win permission from the European Commission to restart it. The scheme subsidises owners of coal, gas and other power stations so the plants are ready to ensure that electricity for businesses and homes is available at peak times in winter. The UK has also been blocked from holding any capacity market auctions for energy firms to bid for new contracts to supply backup power in the future. National Grid said ministers had instructed it to indefinitely postpone auctions that had been planned for early 2019. The government said it was disappointed by the judgment but insisted that power supplies were not at risk. Labour said the ruling meant that the government would have to rethink the market. Gives reactions from Governemnt, Opposition, and analysts.


Tilbury Energy Centre

RWE has decided to freeze the development of Tilbury Energy Centre. This decision was made based on current market conditions and project costs. RWE Generation proposed to submit plans to develop the Centre at the former Tilbury B Power Station site. The development would have included the potential for a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine power station with capacity of up to 2,500 Megawatts, 100 MW of energy storage facility and 300MW of open Cycle Gas Turbines. RWE Generation has a strong position in the UK energy market with an overall installed capacity of 8.54GW. It operates and owns gas power plants some coal and a small amount of biomass plants. RWE Generation UK currently owns and operates one of the most modern and efficient gas fleets in Europe. The current UK total electricity consumption is around 340TWh, with a peak demand on the high voltage transmission system of around 53GW. It is predicted that even with energy efficiency measures in place, over the next 10 years total electricity consumption will be similar to 2016 levels. Over the next 10 years it is likely that more power stations will close due to the age of plant or economics of operations. The UK government has also launched a consultation on the future of coal with clear signs that there will be a phase out of coal fired generation by 2025.


Nuclear Energy

Nuclear fusion testing facility eyes autonomous vehicles industry

Reports on a visit to the UK centre for fusion research, the Joint European Torus (JET) at Culham in Oxfordshire, where research is leading to spin-off technology that could make autonomous vehicles a reality in a shorter time frame. The key to this is RACE-Test, the testing facility for remote applications in challenging environments (RACE). Originating in the research effort to support the development of robotic devices for maintaining and installing equipment inside the cramped and dangerous confines of a fusion reactor – the materials of the reactor shell become activated by the neutron bombardment triggered by the nuclear fusion reaction – RACE-Test is now involved in a series of projects both inside and outside the fusion application. Autonomous vehicles may be the area where the RACE expertise makes its first – widely-felt – entrance into the marketplace - as many of the devices it has been involved in developing have to be able to navigate their way through complex labyrinths of pipework or highly confined spaces crowded with equipment, and this navigation has direct applications in the AI systems that autonomous vehicles will need. The Culham site already provides a partially segregated space for vehicle testing, where traffic moves around in a situation resembling public roads, but a new facility currently under construction will mimic various types of junction and other 'street furniture' to facilitate development.


Jacobs secures new framework agreements on Dounreay decommissioning program

Jacobs Engineering Group has been awarded two four-year framework agreements by Dounreay Site Remediation Limited (DSRL) to provide design and engineering services, and safety case production and peer review services. Located in Scotland, the Dounreay site is one of the most complex nuclear decommissioning programmes in Europe, with extensive remediation activities under way to return the site to as near its original condition as possible. Jacobs is one of six companies eligible to tender under both framework agreements. The scope of work under the $15–19M design and engineering services agreement includes: design, construction management, specialist engineering services, environmental restoration, software modelling, commissioning support services and the development of waste strategy documents for DSRL. The safety case and peer review framework will see $10–13M of work delivered through the agreement and will include various levels of detailed safety reporting, radiation and fire assessments, as well as in-depth reviews of site safety and compliance.


Asset management throughout the nuclear warhead product life cycle

AWE is committed to continuously improving the way it manages its infrastructure assets. To do this safely and in the most cost-effective way, it aims to ensure maximum availability of critical facilities, plant and equipment essential to AWE's programme. Asset management must cover the entire asset life cycle from design, installation and commissioning through to operations and decommissioning. AWE has developed a new approach to managing its infrastructure that intrinsically connects operating assets with the wider corporate business strategy. It is now developing leading and lagging indicators that are aligned to its asset management objectives and upgrading the system it uses for computerised maintenance management. The asset management standard is a series of three standards based on a set of four fundamentals - value, alignment, leadership and assurance.

Nuclear Future, vol. 14, no. 6, Nov./Dec. 2018. pp.36-39.


Just as the sun seems to be setting on nuclear power in rich countries, Taiwan's voters have delivered it a new lease on life

A plebiscite on whether to repeal a law requiring Taiwan's four operating reactors to switch off by 2025 passed with 59.5% of the vote in the country's local elections Saturday. As a result the government will drop plans to implement the target. That's an unusual but welcome outcome for nuclear energy, which has been in retreat in developed markets ever since Japan's 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi reactor. That disaster prompted many countries to rethink nuclear, with the immediate result that coal moved in to make up the shortfall. In Japan, imports of thermal coal are up about 8.4% since the disaster and all but nine of its 42 reactors have been either shut down or mothballed while their owners fight through the courts to reopen them. In Germany, the government's Energiewende policy to shutter atomic power stations has reduced nuclear from 25% of the generation mix in 2010 to 13% so far this year, leaving coal power with about the same share it had in 2010 despite a 20% increase in renewables. Discusses the reasons for and implications of Taiwan's decision.


Bradwell enters care and maintenance

The two-unit Magnox nuclear power station at Bradwell in Essex has become the first UK power plant to enter care and maintenance following approval from UK regulators. During the C&M phase, the site will be monitored, maintained and inspected regularly until final site clearance begins in 65 years. Now, four buildings will be visible on the Bradwell skyline: the two reactors, the ponds' building and an intermediate level waste facility. Thanks to a new waste minimisation strategy, this interim storage facility can continue taking waste from two other Magnox sites in the southeast – a change that along with safety and environmental benefits could save UK taxpayers up to £200M. The Bradwell site will be managed by Sizewell A following lengthy preparatory work. The site will be left in a safe condition while remaining radioactivity decays naturally, and be monitored, maintained and inspected periodically until final site clearance starts (currently scheduled for 2083). Entry to the reactors and associated buildings will only be required once a year initially, and then every five years for routine inspection and maintenance. However, Bradwell's interim storage facility will continue to receive packaged waste from Dungeness A and Sizewell A for the next few years. The last stage in Bradwell's lifecycle will see the removal of reactor vessels and building demolition.


NuScale, Bruce Power to develop SMR business case

NuScale Power has signed a memorandum of understanding with Canada's Bruce Power to develop a business case to deploy NuScale's IPWR small modular reactor technology in Canada, NuScale announced on November 27. Bruce Power will support evaluation, planning and licensing activities for the NuScale design, including feasibility studies for proposed SMR sites, NuScale said. If Bruce Power commits to SMR development, it would maintain an owner-operator role and work in partnership with technology suppliers and construction contractors. Separately, the US Department of Energy is to provide funding to Terrestrial Energy USA to support pre-application activities for the licensing of its Integral Molten Salt Reactor SMR design, the DOE announced on November 13. Terrestrial Energy USA aims to deploy its first US plant in the late 2020s. The company is an affiliate of Terrestrial Energy, which is developing SMR projects in Canada.


Renewable Energy

Storage funding boost for renewable energy state

The South Australian Government has launched a A$50M Grid Scale Storage Fund to support construction of new energy storage projects in the state. It has also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Federal Government agency the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), with a view to coordinating the assessment of projects that may be eligible for joint funding under ARENA's Advancing Renewables Program. South Australia leads the nation in the uptake of wind energy and rooftop solar with renewable sources accounting for more than 50% of the electricity generated in the state. However, the closure of two coal-fired power stations in recent years has forced up prices and increased the state's reliance on energy supplies from the eastern Australian states, particularly in times of peak demand. This led to the South Australian Government flying in Tesla's Elon Musk last year to build the world's largest lithium-ion battery (100MW/129MWh) at Neoen's Hornsdale Wind Farm in the state's Mid North. The battery, which was connected almost one year ago, has played a significant role in stabilising supply during periods of peak demand. It has also inspired plans for a number of other grid-scale storage projects across the state that will now potentially be able to access grants from the Grid Scale Storage Fund.


Orbital Marine Power unveil design for Orbital O2 tidal turbine

Orbital Marine Power has revealed the designs of its upcoming commercial production tidal turbine, the Orbital O2 2MW, which is targeted to be deployed at the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney in 2020. The Orbital O2 will comprise of a 73m long floating superstructure, supporting two 1 MW turbines at either side for a nameplate power output of 2MW, at a tidal current speed of 2.5 m/s. With rotor diameters of 20m, it will have a 600sq metre rotor area, the largest ever on a single tidal generating platform to date. Orbital Marine believes that, when launched in 2020, it will be the most powerful tidal generating platform in the world. The Orbital O2 has been designed for low cost access to all systems and components, the vast majority of which are located within the floating superstructure for simple onsite maintenance as per the SR2000. The machine will also feature new 'gull wing' style retractable legs that raise the nacelles, pitch hubs and blades to the water surface for easy access without the need for any specialist heavy lift vessels. The steel structure of the turbine has been simplified to reduce fabrication costs and futureproof the product for volume manufacturing. The new configuration also reduces the draught of the unit to less than 3m to ensure this utility scale machine can be towed and installed with modest sized workboats.


Rugeley coal plant to be transformed into a sustainable village

An old coal power station is set to be transformed into a 'sustainable village' of 2,000 homes powered by solar panels, in the biggest redevelopment yet of a former UK power plant. French firm Engie said it had decided against selling off the Rugeley site in Staffordshire and would instead build super efficient houses on the 139-hectare site as part of its bid to 'move beyond energy'. Half of the energy required by the new homes will come from green sources, predominantly solar, which will be fitted on rooftops, in a field and even floating on a lake. The company is planning for 10 megawatts of solar capacity in total, equivalent to one of the UK's smaller solar farms. Batteries will be used across the site, both in homes and at a communal power storage facility, to balance out electricity supply and demand. The firm is also claiming the homes will be so efficient they will use nearly a third less energy than average new builds. Heating will come not from gas boilers but electric devices such as heat pumps. Engie has said that it is looking at other sites around the country.