Friday, February 05, 2010

Energy: Europe backing nuclear power resurgence

BY TATJANA BAUMANN Republished courtesy of IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BRUSSELS (IDN) – Backed by energy-related corporations, the European Commission and individual European countries are backing nuclear power resurgence in Europe and beyond its borders.

This is indicated by the launching of the European Nuclear Energy Leadership Academy (ENELA) and the signing of bilateral agreement between Spain and Jordan to cooperate in the field of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including for power generation and water desalination.

Six corporations -- Areva, Axpo, EnBW, EOn Kernkraft, Urenco and Vattenfall -- have launched the European Nuclear Energy Leadership Academy (ENELA) in Germany at the Garching campus of the Technical University Munich.

Welcoming the signing of the founding treaty covering the essential strategic, legal and financial aspects of the academy, EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said February 1: "The nuclear sector faces a serious challenge: it needs to keep and develop knowledge on nuclear at an appropriate level. This is a matter of concern not only to the industry, but also for researchers, regulators and the health sector. ENELA, by focussing on leadership skills, can help to close the gap in existing training programmes."

ENELA was initiated by the industrial stakeholders in the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) that goes back to an initiative of the European Commission, endorsed by the leaders of the 27 EU member states in March 2007. “During their summit, they demonstrated that the EU is taking the lead in the fight against global warming,” says a statement on the Commission’s website.

“EU heads of state and government adopted an energy policy for Europe which does not simply aim to boost competitiveness and secure energy supply, but also aspires to save energy and promote climate-friendly energy sources. Taking into account the substantial contribution of nuclear energy to meeting these challenges they endorsed the Commission proposal to organise a broad discussion among all relevant stakeholders on the opportunities and risks of nuclear energy,” the Commission says.

As a concrete follow-up, the Prime Ministers of the Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed to jointly host this nuclear discussion forum, the European Nuclear Energy Forum, which is organised in Bratislava and Prague.

During the inaugural meeting on November 26 and 27, 2007 in Bratislava, three working groups on Risks, Opportunities, and Transparency were set up, which meet frequently and prepared the ENEF gatherings.

ENEF gathers all relevant stakeholders in the nuclear field: governments of the 27 EU Member States, European institutions including the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee, nuclear industry, electricity consumers and the civil society.

In a joint statement, the ENELA founding partners said: "In the wake of Europe's nuclear energy renaissance, the purpose of the academy is to train young graduates and high potential employees with different backgrounds to become leaders or to prepare them to take broader responsibilities in European nuclear energy corporations and institutions."

The academy will offer 2011 onwards both a comprehensive nuclear energy management programme and a leadership cycle based on a theoretical and practical approach focusing on specific European requirements and specifications, with regards to economics, politics, technology, legislation, safety standards and certifications.

ENELA academy will also serve as a think-tank, bringing together members of the international nuclear community, comprising employers, prospective employees, as well as political and social opinion leaders.

AREVA, a co-founder of ENELA, is the leading U.S. nuclear energy supplier with 6,000 employees. The company is making significant capital investments to develop the infrastructure to support a U.S. nuclear resurgence.

The group is already involved in the revival of nuclear energy in the United States where its EPR reactor is currently undergoing certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Certification of the EPR reactor is currently underway in the United States. The EPR technology has been chosen by Constellation, PPL, AmerenUE, and Amarillo Power for a total of six potential reactor construction projects. It is also under evaluation by Duke Energy as well as Fresno Nuclear Energy.

Welcoming on January 29, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Speech, in which he cited the need to build "a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" in the United States, AREVA said that it would encourage construction of new nuclear facilities.

"This is a very important and unique signal," said Stephan Doehler, executive vice president of Axpo. "The academy addresses the strong need for joining our efforts in attracting and training on an international level the best heads for the European nuclear energy community."

Walter Hohlefelder of EOn Kernkraft added: "Today marks the birth of what could become in the future the one European institution in the field of nuclear energy management and leadership training. ENELA welcomes further organizations and institutions to support or join the initiative."

SPAIN-JORDAN NUCLEAR COOPERATION

Jordan's official Petra news agency reported that the agreement between Spain and Jordan to cooperate in the field of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including for power generation and water desalination, was signed on January 20 by Sylvia Iranzo Gutierrez, Spain's secretary of state for trade, and Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC).

The agreement covers issues such as the exchange of expertise, human resource development, used nuclear fuel management and disposal, nuclear safety, the drafting of legislation and regulatory frameworks, and public information and awareness. It also includes cooperation in the use of radioisotopes and radiation in industry, agriculture and medicine.

During the signing ceremony at JAEC's headquarters, Gutierrez said that the signing of the cooperation agreement was an expression of Spain's support for Jordan to develop peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Toukan described the agreement as "another milestone on our steady path to nuclear energy”.

According to the World Nuclear News (WNN), the bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with Spain, which had been in the works since May 2009, is Jordan's eighth such accord. It follows similar agreements with countries including Argentina, Canada, China, France, Russia, South Korea and the UK.

Toukan said that Jordan also plans to sign agreements with Romania and the Czech Republic before the end of 2010. The country is also working on finalizing memoranda of understanding (MoU) to proceed with agreements with the USA and Japan.

On January 19, Jordan and France adopted the final version of an MoU to be signed by the countries in February during a visit by French prime minister Fran├žois Fillon. The MoU is expected to lead to an agreement to support energy projects and major projects in Jordan.

It includes the establishment of a centre at the University of Jordan specializing in nuclear science, to teach students not only from Jordan but from different Arab countries. A number of French educational establishments will assist in developing the centre's curriculum.

In December 2009, a consortium of the Korea Atomic Energy Institute (KAERI) and Daewoo Engineering and Construction was selected by JAEC to build a 5 MWt research reactor at the Jordan University for Science and Technology.

The unit is seen as a vital precursor for the kingdom's plans to build a nuclear power reactor, providing training opportunities for nuclear scientists and engineers as well as producing radioisotopes for industry, agriculture and medicine. The contract to build the research reactor and related facilities is worth some 173 million U.S. dollars.

Jordanian energy plans foresee a nuclear power plant for electricity and desalination in operation by 2015, and the country's Committee for Nuclear Strategy has set out a program for nuclear power to provide 30 percent of electricity by 2030 or 2040, and to provide for exports.

As a raft of international cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding covering both nuclear power and uranium exploration, it has agreed an Additional Protocol on nuclear safeguards with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and signed up to the International Nuclear Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.

Australian consulting firm Worley Parsons was award of a 11.3 million dollar pre-construction consultancy services contract as Jordan moves towards its ambition to have a its first nuclear power plant in operation by 2015, the London-based WNN says.

The company has been tasked with narrowing down JAEC's shortlist of five potential reactor designs for the country's first power reactor, as well conducting a feasibility study and financial assessment of the project and assisting in the tender for the plant vendor.

Spain has eight nuclear reactors generating a fifth of its electricity. Its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1968. Government commitment to the future of nuclear energy in Spain is uncertain, but firming up, WNN says.

Electricity consumption in Spain has been increasing steadily and in 2006 grew 2.5 percent. Per capita it is about 5600 kWh/yr.

Power production in 2007 was 306 billion kWh gross, 18 percent of this from nuclear power, 24 percent from coal and 31 percent from gas. Spain is essentially an island separate from the EU grid -- about 2 percent of power is imported from France and a similar amount exported to Portugal. Nuclear supplied 52.7 billion kWh net (17.4 percent) in 2007 -- the lowest level for some years.

Total generating capacity was 82 GWe in 2006, 7.5 GWe of this nuclear. Wind capacity at the end of 2006 reached 11.6 GWe. In 1997 the electricity market was liberalised.

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