Nuclear Power – Ideas to promote its rapid growth in India

The Fukushima accident on 12fth March 2011 has dented the image of Nuclear Industry very seriously once again. This was third serious accident after Chernobyl on 26th April 1986 and Three Mile Island on 28th March 1979. The impact of nuclear reactor accidents is magnified due to its direct impact in the beginning and the after effects of radiological products lingering in the atmosphere, food chain and water and potentially causing health hazards for years to come. The public perceptions about nuclear power remain negative for years like a long life radionuclide.

There are industries that we are dependent on like aviation, mines, roads, automobiles, bridges, rail road’s etc. These industries too kill thousands each year. Nuclear power is facing difficulties in competing to retain its public acceptance even though in absolute terms it did not result in causing deaths of a small fraction of the numbers that other leading industries had been responsible each year.

Nuclear industry has learnt a lot from the back-lash and vicious attacks about its desirability to supply large scale power production through fission route in several countries after each accident. Nuclear accidents will become rarer with experience and learning but are we ready to accept this approach and allow this industry to grow and play a role in Indian commercial power generation mix?

I think we should sustain this technology for many reasons. First of all power will be required for country’s sustained growth and there is no escaping from this fact. Coal based power generation kills thousands each year without you and me making any fuss, Hydro kills environment but we accept it and renewable energy needs time , several decades, to catch up. This is one Industry that has matured for over 60 years developing and using all types of power reactors world over.

In India we mostly used PHWR type but will add PWR and BWR Types as well, once we import them from Russia, USA and France. These are fairly advanced and well evolved technologies and will ensure that in their operating life time they would not fail and cause public danger. We will also master them over the years and add new ones on self-reliant basis.

Each reactor adds more than 1000 MW installed capacity and this is rapid route to add to national kitty of capacity addition from non-CO2 generating power production units.

Here are some ideas to accelerate nuclear capacity addition in India. Like renewable energy power projects government could allow 80% depreciation in year one of operation. No direct Taxes for 10 years from commercial operation. Allow Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) for nuclear power plants and fix minimum forbearance price of INR 1.5 per unit. Make it salable in Energy Exchanges like IEX in India. It will be sold like hot cake to meet the Renewable Energy Portfolio (RPO) obligations of states utilities to (about 10% of total consumption should come from Renewable Energy quota on per annum basis) to buy green power. The market (buyer of nuclear power) will only pay say INR 4 per unit for Nuclear Power and IEX type exchanges will generate extra INR 1.5 per Kwhr to meet the viability gap of investor (NPC in this case).

Independent Review of Indian Nuclear Facilities is a Must

  • Safety Beyond Rhetoric or Lip Service:      It is time to start thinking about taking steps that go beyond rhetoric that India’s nuclear plants are safe as per the records of operation  and the  PHWR reactors are of design different from Fukushima so we need not worry. Claims that Indian reactors had no accident in our plants, PHWRs are safe and EPR  will be safer, cannot be made in a blanket fashion.
  • Accept that Accidents will Happen in India too:        It is not true that we had no accidents at all. Tarapur had radiation leaks, its secondary steam circuits have been permanently shut down due to leaking tubes and therefore both the units operate at 160 MW each, in place of 210 MW as originally designed. Deaths have occurred inside the Tarapur  reactor building in the inert gas chamber while maintenance was undertaken in early years of its operation. Narora in UP state near Delhi, had major fire accident inside the plant building. It was doused in time and the day was saved. 
  • EPR May be Hot Potato for DAE:                 So far as European Power Reactor (EPR) is concerned it is my assessment that it would not be economically viable due to opportunity cost comparisons. Safety issues will be secondary , first and foremost electricity generation cost has to be proven, to be comparable to other conventional sources of electricity generation in India,  to the Parliament and public at large. There is otherwise likely to be backlash  that it is a cosy deal and tax payers will be eventually forced to foot the bill.
  • Hope is not a good strategy:             Let us examine the other claim that it is the external combination of events that cause nuclear power plants to succumb to accidents. The implication of the message sent out when DAE / NPC said that Indian shores were not prone to Tsunami of the Fukushima type location  are not easily appreciated.  India would not suffer the earthquake of the magnitude experienced in Japan and Tsunami of that magnitude.  Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean shore lines are less troubled. May be true but not for all times to come. There is no evidence that nuclear sites cannot be hit by earthquakes of 7 or 8 magnitude on Richter scale at Narora, Kakprapar and Jaitapur. Similarly no guarantees of size of Tsunami that can hit the Indian shores will be always smaller and manageable. When things go wrong, they do not allow time for correction and back fitting remedial measures.
  • Level 5 & 7 Accidents happened under routine operation:      First of all accidents at TMI in 1979 and at Chernobyl in 1986 occurred without any external natural disaster hitting the reactors. Both these accidents  started inside the nuclear reactor  during routine operations. Secondly , only Fukushima accident happened due to combined impact of EQ + tsunami that knocked out the reactor safety systems and led to this Serial accident situation.  Note that accident occurred  at Fukushima after all units were Safely shut down. Thus shutting down a nuclear power plant hit by any natural disaster event or a combination of events could not mean durable safety. In case the nuclear plant facilities become inaccessible as the roads are wiped out due to torrential rains, Earth Quake or any other reasons and radiation levels run high then one needs large number of trained hands to go in and out frequently for salvage operations. On top of that a very experienced and highly motivated team is needed to deal with this kind of situation. Serial accidents can complicate the challenge and therefore in case like Tarapur and Kalpakkam where several nuclear facilities are located as cluster ,  it could require huge resources during nuclear emergency to attend to all of them simultaneously. What would be the estimated cost for such operations, if it ever happens? Who will bear it?
  • Defense in Depth :   Let us look at so-called Defence in Depth (DID) concept touted for Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor (PHWRs) in India and elsewhere. These are a collection of passive and active Engineered Safety Features. DID does not prevent accidents from happening inside the reactor core. Once accident happens, they come into play to stop egress of radiation from core into the environment. DID is not prevention but mitigation measure and it is not a prophylactic measure and should be made clear to the audience.
  • Manpower Crunch:                 Let us talk of motivation and size of trained manpower in nuclear industry in India. One could put today’s estimate at about 25,000 that includes a few thousand engineers, tradesmen , technicians, management, administration, Real Estate management, procurement department, drivers and cleaners etc. Other than DAE led training schools , there are not enough institutions that could impart the education and knowledge to young engineers and scientists who could supplement sizeable work force to count on. How can the India’s 63,00 MW nuclear power footprint be achieved by 30 to 40 thousand trained manpower under DAE umbrella and very small equity of people located outside in the manufacturing Industry.  Even if we talk of 3 person per MW, it would require 190,000 persons in nuclear industry of high quality ,  dedicated for design, construction, operation & maintenance to support this power program in next 20 years time period. Is  it a pipe dream without implementable blue prints and financial resources at one’s disposal.
  • Discontinue practice of  perpetual extensions to Top Brass:               The Nuclear Industry also suffers from lack of leadership. The DAE and NPC should first of all prove that they do not need to give perpetual extensions to their top brass. Second in line would never be highly motivated  lot. How can than one claim that the department has dedicated staff led by motivated leadership? Leave a healthy legacy of grooming second and third in line leadership, else Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Nuclear power Corporation (NPC) will have pygmies on top.  
  • AERB to be made independent:    There are some very generic issues to be addressed for the health of Indian nuclear industry. First of all Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) should not be under AEC. It should be reconstituted as a statutory body under an independent Act passsed by Parliament. Program is growing in size and one needs totally independent regulatory body. Take the case of Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) and  State Electricity Regulatory Commissions (SERCs) . These are the Central and State Electricity Regulatory Commissions that do not report to Ministry of Power or respective state governments in India. These institutions have now matured and serve with high degree of  independence for all stake holders in power sector as per the Electricity Act 2003. Hundreds of grid codes, tariff orders , regulations , arbitrations, review applications etc have been  handled by these institutions. All the stake holders in conventional ( excluding nuclear power) and renewable energy business in India are OK with the evolution.
  • Make Radiation Data Public:           The body that monitors radiation levels in and around nuclear facilities , water analysis, solid waste management etc at nuclear sites should not be under DAE.  Radiation levels monitored all over India at about 90 locations and their data should be known to the public through Internet. This is the one of the ways to garner confidence of the people and also comfort those who live around these plants. There fear from unknown that may befall upon them should something like Fukushima off site radiation leaks occur to the operating reactors next door be allayed constantly.  On a regular basis the data should be published and made available on internet for any one to see. In Fukushima the owner of the plants delayed dissemination of information to media, public and even to government. This raises suspicion that  nuclear reactor and related facilities accidents get reported late and often they are dressed for presentation.
  • Political Support can vaporize swiftly:    Political class has to reckon with public opinion and they have sensitive ears and fears of electoral loss. Today many politicians may be siding with DAE but tomorrow if there is ground swell against , they will be first to desert leaving DAE in the lurch. 

Nuclear Accident at Fukushima : Collateral Damage to Nuclear Industry

I have been listening to several TV Debates where anti Nukes are having field day following Fukushima nuclear reactors serial melt down disasters. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) mandarins in India  are having tough time to defend India’s nuclear energy program in the wake of one of the unprecedented Nuclear meltdown accident involving several reactors units at one time. “Cluster Meltdown” is the worst nightmare which no nuclear safety experts would have provided for. It has huge implications in short and longterm for this industry.

Whenever a reactor accident happens the plant authorities are prepared as part of their routine drill to respond. The idea is to nip in the bud any potential radiological leakage into environment of the plant and public. I would be surprised if they would have imagined that simultaneous disasters would take place in one facility and they would have to be ready for such eventuality. The penchant to cluster Reprocessing, Spent Fuel Storage and Nuclear reactors all at one place has proved an utter disaster in Fukushima case. A lesson for saefty assesment experts.

Nuclear Industry has to now reckon with a much larger issue  “The Monumental Collateral Damage”. Health and life of people & nuclear power plant workers and auxiliary staff, emotional damage to people by causing Panic and Anxiety, physical and health support for decades to the affected population, damage to environment on long-term basis even after this generation passes away, properties rendered useless due to fission products and radioactive substances / gases coming from non-fission products causing contamination, adverse impact on country’s economy,infrastructure damage,abandoning huge land mass for-ever , where accident happens. In addition the more mundane looking collateral damages would include funding withdrawal by commercial banks for nuclear program world over, inadequacy of insurance coverage, inefficient and corrupt public servants entrusted with disaster management ( Bhopal Gas Tragedy  that killed 20,000 people 25 years ago is one such example)  and lack of money and resources for a third world country to deal with it effectively. Many of these issues had surfaced with Three Mile Island (TMI) and Chernobyl accidents. With passage of time these were ignored / forgotten  by common man over years.

Unfortunately there is no comparable man-made disaster that could leave such long-term and lingering damage to humans, flora and fauna than a massive amounts of gaseous, solid and liquid radiation let off in environment due to combination of unintended human failures married to natural disasters. And Fukushima is one more such proof recently delivered by the nuclear industry to world last week.

This raises some very fundamental questions. If a nuclear power plant is made disaster proof against Tsunami, Air Plane Crash,  Earth Quakes, Missile attacks from boats and ships , terror attacks on the plant site by suicidal fanatics, internal sabotage, reactor core catcher to arrest molten core if it ever happens again then the nuclear power plant well become obscenely costly item.  With no financial / bank funding appetite it will never get off the ground solely based on Utility resources and / or government financing / subsidising the project.  Who will buy this expensive power  when other sources like Wind, Solar and Bio Mass are reducing their generation cost with time and claim CO2 free impact into earths atmosphere. This kind of capital cost for bullet proof nuclear power program cannot be paid for any where in the world. 

The worst nightmare for Nuclear Industry is  drying up of the pool of  political goodwill & public support in democratic countries.   This  phenomena had materialised in USA after the TMI accident at 4 pm on  28th March ,  1979 at Dauphin County in Pennsylvania near Harrisburg. President Jimmy Carter never supported nuclear industry following this event. His disinterest led to US loosing out on Nuclear Business for over 20 years and no new nuclear power plant was built-in that country since than.

Chernobyl happened in Ukraine ( erstwhile USSR) on 26th April 1986. It is only nuclear reactor accident so far classified as a Level 7 accident that ever happened till date. There is reasosn to believe that Fukushima is inexorably reaching to this category of accident description.  In Chernobyl case there was rupture in reactor vessel it self due to power spike. So the fuel rods and fission products were out in open. Since the surrounding material to this vessel was Graphite ( Carbon in purest form) it caught fire when exposed to air at high temperatures sending plumes of smoke out and carrying along with it tons of radioactive material from the core of the reactor into the sky. Many countries in Europe were affected as the Plume travelled  with time. At least 50 deaths were directly attributed to this accident and between 4000 to a million as indirect fatality. The experts keep disputing these numbers all the time. The exact cost of Chernobyl borne by Civil Society will never be known.

Various arguments have been advanced in India about the inevitability of nuclear power, given the endemic power shortages as main driver. All this would have been OK till Fukushima took place last week in Japan, as people had begun to forget Chernobyl disaster. I think DAE has to step back, be humble and modest, stop making tall claims that it can not happen in India, seriously introspect if they really have mastered the safety theory & practice for their power plants.  They need to scrap Officials Secret Act so for as commerical aspect of nuclear power plant design,operation, safety etc are concerned. Rethink is must if it has to survive its nuclear power program on a modest scale following the Fukushima Nuclear Tsunami and retain public support.

It is my view that in India political goodwill and support for  installation of new nuclear power projects will practically disappear in less than 5 years from now. Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) will be predominantly be reduced to being a R&D entity required for this country for  strategic reasons. 

Nuclear Double Whammy – Fukushima Unit 3 Also Suffers Hydrogen Blast

What a double whammy? One of the three least affected Fukushima unit 3 succumbed to Hydrogen bubble induced blast, blowing out the concrete building today. If hear I it right someone failed to notice the fuel gauge and DG sets ran out of fuel. In two hours time due to lack of forced circulation of water in the reactor vessel, fuel rods became so hot that steam must have formed around the top side of these enriched Uranium , Zirconium claded fuel assemblies. Once temperature goes above 1204 Degrees C, the water vapour and Zirconium will violently react and generate Hydrogen. It is explosive gas and once mixed with Oxygen, there will be explosion. Oxygen will be formed as a result of Zr + water reaction itself along with Hydrogen. 4% Hydrogen is good enough to explode ferociously. That could be the cause for blast in second occasion.

In each of these blasts a large amount of radioactive material will escape into human environment. Iodine can reach Thyroid, Cesium in food plates. That will be awful for the population.

Second explosion at Fukushima proves a great error is design of the safety systems , back up DG failure and assessment of multiple failures of hardware , all in tandem.

The Big Lesson is that when there is Nuclear disaster, the common human errors, which otherwise would have no consequence can be devastating.

By the way the other three units at this location are safe. You know why? They were shut down for maintenance for some weeks. So they were already cooled off. Did not need DG back up.

Atomic Energy Establishment of India – Open up Nuclear Safety Issues for Public Scrutiny

As I read several news papers a day in India, all of them have talked about Fukushima nuclear meltdown accident. TVs world over have been talking about reactor accident, core melt down possibility, collateral damage to adjacent reactors. What is not entirely remiss is the IAEA  taciturn apporach and not putting enough information on its web portal. There is a huge failure of social responsibility or guilt complex working here.

Indian media repots that DAE and NPC have staked claims of safe record of operation of the 14 odd reacotrs so far. There have incidents in India, though not of the type that Fukushima is currently experiencing. Interestingly Tarapur 2×210 MW is the same type, Boiling Water Reactor (BWR)  as in Fukushima, with some minor changes. All of these are 60’s design and incorporated safety practices as understood at that point in time. Measures would have been implemented in most of these plants to upgrade the safety and operational practices over the years. However there is no way the establsihment can guarantee absolute safety of these nuclear power plants and we do understand it. Operational and safety features need review involving public discourse to receive accredition to the claims of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).

What are the Big Lesson from Fukushima. The Atomic Energy Establishments in India are not the only repository of knowledge and expertise in nuclear matters. If that is the case, it is very unfortunate situation in this country of intellectuals and scientists. As a nation ( particularly for reasons best known to DAE )  we have either failed to spread the knowledge of this Industry or deliberately suppressed the initiatives of Universities and private instituions that could nurture outside expertise of credible nature.There is no independent think tank in India that is respected within and outside this country for its indepth critique of program, technology , safety and operational practices.

It is only when catastrohphy stirkes, DAE would run to seek shelter under secrecy , defense implications, technical jargons, balme nature, apologise for unforeseen combination of circumstances and worst run like headless chicken. With practically Zero skills of public discourse , aversion to disseminating knowledge in public domain and not willing to accept critical evaluation by committees and groups that have outsiders , independent thinkers; Nuclear business in this country is akin to practicing esoteric Nuclear witchcraft.

Let us not forget that Nuclear Power is economcially viable only till it meets nuclear accident. On the oether hand cost of health, life, limbs and radiation clean up is paid by Tax payers of of the victim nation.

Fukushima – Is it a great disaster for Nuclear Industry?

Following 8.9 intensity Earth Quake under sea bed in North Japan yesterday , 11th March 2011 at 2.46 pm local time, disaster hit Sendai most ferociously compared to land mass located far away in Tokyo. We all saw on BBC / CNN some live clips that numbed my senses and made me feel so sorry for the people there who were totally hapless against the speed with which it all happened. Many would have perished as Tsunami sent a thick waft of water with in minutes to the shores .

Along with it came the news that 5 nuclear reactors in Fukushima were shut down. This is keeping in view the automatic triggers that discontinue the nuclear fission process by inserting poison rods inside the reactor core. It is mandatory for nuclear reactors, however the degree of earth quake intensity varies from location to location in order to set this Trigger Quake level. In India we have Five categories of earth quake  Zones. Some of  Indian reactors are located in Zone IV where the plants can perhaps withstand quake with intensity of 7 on Richter scale. The highest is quake prone is categorized as Zone V , mainly covering the Himalayan region. Himalaya is fragile and Young Mountain compared to many old geological formations in North America and Europe.
Let us come back to Fukushima events that do not portend well for Nuclear Industry, worldwide. The Daiichi site here is located in Onahama city, about 170 miles (270 kilometres) northeast of Tokyo. The 460-megawatt Unit 1 began operating in 1971 and is the oldest at the site. There are five units here and three of them are above 1100 MW installed capacity each (BWR Type) . It is in a boiling water reactor that turbine are driven by radioactive water – steam cycle, unlike pressurized water reactors  (PWR) usually found in many other sites in Japan.  Any breach in steam circuit in BWR type will allow radioactive material straight into the containment building. Japanese regulators decided in February to allow this plant to run another 10 years. We have in India 2×210 MW capacity reactors supplied of this type by GE, Bechtel and Combustion Engineering, in operation since October 1969. It is still operating with the permission of Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), a semi – independent nuclear regulatory body in India.

I am guessing in the context of limited information in public domain, the accident in Fukushima, 470 MW, Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) is indeed serious one. It is derived from single fact publicly admitted so far that the radioactivity inside the reactor building has risen by 1000 times the normal level. Vicinity is experiencing over 8 times  radiation levels than what is permitted.
In the Loss of Cooling Accident (LOCA) in BWR we know that fuel cladding will give way ( practically rupture) allowing most of the gaseous elements released into the surroundings. Since there is suppression water pool outside of the Dry Well but inside of Reactor containment building it could at best reduce the Iodine by dissolving it water. However still some amount will escape into the containment building air environment. The bigger challenge is that Krypton 87 with 76 Minutes Half life and Xenon 137 with 4 minutes half life cannot be absorbed by water. These are inert gases that do not react with any other element and will eventually escape into the environment. Only anti dote is to stop it from running away from nuclear power plant buildings for many hours and only allow very controlled release. This is almost impossible if the Back Up power is disabled. Only  gravity operated ones will do some natural work as barrier. They have their limitations and they are more like natural defence and not serious engineered defence against surging volume of Iodine and highly radioactive inert gases build up.

It is clear that plant authorities are rushing power supplies from external, perhaps mobile DG sets to the site. Batteries, the final recourse when all power fail, will be dead by few hours but can be replaced. There will be chemical emergency team as well at site and evacuation must have planned or put in place.
If the levels are 1000 times high than normal, it is clear case of Fuel rupture, the worst nightmare for power plant manager. They can face Hydrogen build up. Should this exceeds 4% by volume, and we have explosive mixture like a Bomb ticking in the Dry Well containment. The Hydrogen comes from fuel cladding of Zirconium reacting above 1204 Degrees C with water inside the core of BWR and generating this un-cappable gas.

This old reactor BWR type was built in late 60’s based on GE Design. The safety features are still the same that were prevalent in those times. Nothing can be done to change them irrespective of state of art technology prevalent in USA, Japan or Europe today. Even the Control & Instrumentation systems will be old, except the panels in Control Room due to modernization, sensors will be same old ones.

Fukushima 470 MW capacity reactor uses direct Steam cycle which means steam is highly radioactive. This steam goes through reactor core and also Steam Turbine that produces power. Even the PWR type where the secondary steam circuit generates power can face fuel rupture as possible accident scenario.

Release of radioactivity though extremely un-likely in most of the circumstances, such as the one obtained where EQ 8.9 + DG set failure led to core of the reactor overheating, is still puzzling. It must have coincided with other system failures as well.  All these elements would have been taken into account ( I do hope) when the 10 year extension was given to the  Fukushima plant authorities to operate this unit in its 40th year.

Well we have terrible nuclear power plants in Eastern Europe, poorly maintained that gives nightmares to Western European countries. Finally for nuclear industry it is said “Accident any where is an Accident everywhere”.

Whatever it is, it is going to put Global nuclear industry under severe strain and public conviction will be hard to come by. I would like the Fukushima to come out with faster information dissemination, through its own mechanism or by voluminous information supply to IAEA. Delays will make people around the world very suspicious that industry has habit of suppressing the bad news, worst even delaying and distorting when under public scrutiny.

People will be very averse now to live next to Nuclear Power Plants and face the radioactive release burden and its brunt when there is accident, while others living 100s of kilometers away were enjoying power supply from such facilities. And if this reactor accident happens coincidence with a natrual disaster like Earth Quake, there is wider question. How many countries can deal with it?

As I have been writing about this event based on inputs from TV and websites, the Fukushima suffers a blast at about 2.15 hrs India time. We see that on screen as live coverage . It is time for Camera crew to run away from this place before the radioactive cloud  spreads and starts settling down. Fukushima nuclear accident is indeed a bad news for already Quake battered Japan and particularly for people around the plant. With this set back Nuclear industry is in for terrible times.

Is EPR the right choice for Nuclear Power Corporation of India?

Stepping Out

The completed costs and new build project reference costs for nuclear power plants for Chinese Utilities are as under:

1. 1000 Mwe units 1300 USD / Kw installed cost in China
2. AP 1000 is 2000 USD/Kw, estimated project cost
3. EPR is 2300 USD / Kw, estimated project cost

One can compare these costs with the Indian costs for PHWRs and Russian supplied VVER 1000 MW capacity each. These numbers are available on my blog written earlier. Need less to emphasize that the domestically built nuclear power plant costs are half of what NPC would be doling out to French EPR suppliers.

Chinese Electric companies wanted to continue with proven 1000 MW French model. Utilities do not buy new model without proven operating experience. Chinese utilities were made to accept to buy Westinghouse AP 1000 due to politico-commercial reasons that existed at that point in time. Later Chinese government went on to buy EPR to avoid conflict with French suppliers and government. Russian power plants were also ordered for political reasons. Let us not forget that Chinese Government do not have problems to invest funds on such large scale. These monies are indeed completely way beyond Indian government or NPC capacity to put on the table. India may not be able to mimic Chinese route for developing nuclear power not only for lack of public financing but in addition there is a clear absence of unified political will and processes. The political parties are fractious when it comes to Nuclear power initiatives in the country.

As Nuclear deals are politically driven but what is important is to get the costs right. Any open ended costs contracts for turnkey nuclear supply will become controversial. Point in the case is Olkilouto in Finland where it went up to over 4.2 billion Euros from initial offer price of 3 billion Euros. While the Finnish case is making Areva squirm , in their own backyard in France in Flamanville there is significant slippage in construction schedule. There are amazing stories about reasons for delays including the famous concrete pouring for the foundation for the nuclear island that went wrong. The cost of raw material, preparation time and manpower put together made for colossal loss for the EDF. Such learning curves costs will put intolerable funding strain on NPC.

In this context it is important that buyer carefully constructs the price offer and obtains key commitments in absolutely balck and white terms. Especially for nuclear reactor EPR that has never delivered a single Kilowatt Hour (Kwhr) yet, no completion costs are available and unit generation cost is not proven.

I have some doubts about “series effect” claimed by AREVA for EPR, unlike what French utility EDF could do for 900 MW and later 1400 MW size units built on mass scale in mid eighties and early nineties. The difficulties in obtaining Series benifits include involvment of different manufacturers of equipments and components for different countries for supplying EPR hardware. French themselves do not need more that couple of EPRs and that wont standardize manufacturing these units in cost effective way based on local manufacturing industry support. Since EPR depends on export market, French national strategy advantage cited from previous examples are more or less of academic interest for now.

NPC will have many challenges but the one that needs to be taken care from beginning is to have a team that can techno-commercially specify , evaluate and negotiate EPR, review and approve technical documentation, drawings, get AERB approvals etc on time and other technical aspects on day to day basis. Since there is no existing experience is available for this type of reactor , this could lead to delays and eventually AREVA will try to wriggle out of fixed price contract by blaming delays occurring from NPC side. Case in point is TVO, I had mentioned above.

Finnish decision to buy EPR was indeed a big surprise and the unfortunate track record and confounded the misery for TVO. New export EPR Models , including to UNiStar Nuclear Energy of USA will be Finnish type. Government of France forced EDF to buy EPR from AREVA after the Finland export order. Today the best operating reactor in France is called N4. it is 1450 MW unit, lowest operating cost and proven design. The additional safety features that are attributed to EPR are debatable and that would require separate space to go into details.

AVREVA and EDF are owned by French Government. However it is open secret that these two companies and their respective senior management do not see eye to eye on many issues. However it is the French Government that will eventually call the shots. Under the given circumstances and clearly declared French Government policy to support EPR export and installation within the country , EDF experts cannot openly take a very strong position that could go against AREVA promoted EPR nuclear power plants.