Of the 50-odd nuclear plants currently under construction, around 1 in 3 are Russian VVER designs, being built by Rosatom. Sanctions on the supply of all kinds of electronics mean that few of these will be completed on time, if ever. in promoting sales, Russia has relied heavily on concessional financing through Sberbank, which is also sanctioned. That’s going to make future sales just about impossible, and create big difficulties in fulfilling existing commitments.
With the exception of the EPR money-pit, the only remaining large reactor design still in the market is China’s Hualong One. Given the experience with Russia, buyers outside China may well be cautious about this option.
So, if there is any chance for new nuclear, it rests with Small Modular Reactors, none of which actually exist (there are small reactors, but they aren’t modular, that is, mass-produced).
16 thoughts on “Russia and the end of nuclear power”
M4eeanwhile, back in the real energy world, Longi have announced a 20 GW expansion of their silicon wafer production capacity (confusingly, also +30 GW of cells and +5 GW of modules). That’s just one Chinese company, expanding its part of the PV production chain by the equivalent of four imaginary new nuclear reactors every year. In two years.
Longi’s new plants will be in Inner Mongolia, not Xinjiang. Maybe customer pressure is working.
I haven’t looked at nuclear energy issues for a while. However, if i recall correctly, Russia had extensive nuclear fuel reprocessing capacity. This was legacy capacity from the Soviet era. It still would have this capacity unless it has destroyed it or let it fall into disuse and disrepair. The global nuclear industry over much wider regions than Russia used to depend on this Russian capacity. If they still did at the start of the Ukraine war, they are unlikely to be able to do so now.
In particular, one doubts that Russia will ever again provide Ukraine with materials and services from this reprocessing capacity. Will Ukraine be able to run its nuclear power plants after this war? I doubt it on that basis alone. Russia is also showing a great appetite for destroying everything it can in Ukraine. Certainly, the Azovstal iron and steel works have been / are bing reduced to rubble and tangled steel. This vast metallurgical complex had the capacity to produce enormous amounts of steel on a scale probably dwarfing anything on the planet except Chinese capacity. All that is wrecked now.
Any nuclear plants that Russia still holds in Ukraine are unlikely to be in any workable capacity after the Russians leave, if they are forced to leave. And even if they were, where would their fuel rods come from? I think Ukraine’s nuclear power stations have a very uncertain future. It would not be wise to rely on that power going forward. The Russians get power from Ukraine too but relying on a completely irrational Russia to do anything sensible, even in its own best interest, looks like a very poor bet.
Nuclear power is on the way out. We will still need small reactors and materials for nuclear medicine, nuclear engineering etc.
Per WNA, nuclear reactors currently under construction, by country:
* China, 19 units:
1 & 2: Fangchenggang-3 & -4, type Hualong One, 1180 MWe each, expected operations in 2022
3: Xiapu-1, type CFR600, 600 MWe, expected operation in 2023
4: Shidaowan-1, type CAP1400, 1500 MWe, expected operation in 2024
5: Zhangzhou-1, type Hualong One, 1212 MWe, expected operation in 2024
6: Shidaowan-2, type CAP1400, 1500 MWe, expected operation in 2025
7: Taipingling-1, type Hualong One, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2025
8: Zhangzhou-2, type Hualong One, 1212 MWe, expected operation in 2025
9: Cangnan/San’ao-1, type Hualong One, 1150 MWe, expected operation in 2026
10: Changjiang-3, type Hualong One, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2026
11: Changjiang SMR-1, type ACP100, 125 MWe, expected operation in 2026
12: Taipingling-2, type Hualong One, 1202 MWe, expected operation in 2026
13: Tianwan-7, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2026
14: Xiapu-2, type CFR600, 600 MWe, expected operation in 2026
15: Cangnan/San’ao-2, type Hualong One, 1150 MWe, expected operation in 2027
16: Tianwan-8, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2027
17: Xudabao-3, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2027
18: Changjiang-4, type Hualong One, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2027
19: Xudabao-4, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2028
* India, 8 units:
1: Kakrapar-4, type PHWR-700, 700 MWe, expected operation in 2022
2: Kalpakkam PFBR, type FBR, 500 MWe, expected operation in 2022
3: Rajasthan-7, type PHWR-700, 700 MWe, expected operation in 2022
4 & 5: Kudankulam-3 & -4, type VVER-1000, 1000 MWe each, expected operations in 2023
6: Rajasthan-8, type PHWR-700, 700 MWe, expected operation in 2023
7: Kudankulam-5, type VVER-1000, 1000 MWe, expected operation in 2026
8: Kudankulam-6, type VVER-1000, 1000 MWe, expected operation in 2027
* South Korea, 4 units:
1: Shin Hanul-1, type APR1400, 1400 MWe, expected operation in 2022
2: Shin Hanul-2, type APR1400, 1400 MWe, expected operation in 2023
3: Shin Kori-5, type APR1400, 1400 MWe, expected operation in 2023
4: Shin Kori-6, type APR1400, 1400 MWe, expected operation in 2024
* Russia, 3 units:
1: Kursk II-1, type VVER-TOI, 1255 MWe, expected operation in 2022
2: Kursk II-2, type VVER-TOI, 1255 MWe, expected operation in 2023
3: BREST-OD-300, type BREST-300, 300 MWe, expected operation in 2026
* Turkey, 3 units:
1: Akkuyu-1, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2023
2: Akkuyu-2, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2024
3: Akkuyu-3, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2025
* Bangladesh, 2 units:
1: Rooppur-1, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2023
2: Rooppur-2, type VVER-1200, 1200 MWe, expected operation in 2024
* Slovakia, 2 units:
1: Mochovce-3, type VVER-440, 471 MWe, expected operation in 2022
2: Mochovce-4, type VVER-440, 471 MWe, expected operation in 2023
* United Arab Emirates, 2 units:
1 & 2: Barakah-3 & -4, type APR1400, 1400 MWe each, expected operations in 2023
* UK, 2 units:
1: Hinkley Point C-1, type EPR, 1720 MWe, expected operation in 2027
2: Hinkley Point C-2, type EPR, 1720 MWe, expected operation in 2028
* USA, 2 units:
1 & 2: Vogtle-3 & -4, type AP1000, 1250 MWe each, expected operations in 2023
* Argentina, 1 unit:
1: Carem, type Carem25, 29 MWe, expected operation in 2023
* Belarus, 1 unit:
1: Ostrovets-2, type VVER-1200, 1194 MWe, expected operation in 2022
* France, 1 unit:
1: Flamanville-3, type EPR, 1650 MWe, expected operation in 2023
* Iran, 1 unit:
1: Bushehr-2, type VVER-1000, 1057 MWe, expected operation 2024
Nuclear units that have commenced construction, but have now been suspended include:
* Angra-3 (Brazil);
* Ohma-1 and Shimane-3 (Japan);
* Khmelnitski-3 & -4 (Ukraine).
IMO, rising energy and material costs are now making the economic viability for large-scale projects that require years to construct highly risky.
With hypothetical thorium energy this may be less of a problem. But uranium nuclear needs to be safe from both sabotage and natural disaster. We should be looking at offshore floating sites, where the sea floor drops away quickly. So that the core can be dropped into deep frigid water if anything goes wrong.
Since no-one is scouting out appropriate sites, the amount of time before we can get a facility up and running is measured in decades.
Iko: “The Russians get power from Ukraine too …” The Russians also thought so, and had a Cunning Plan to steal the output from the huge nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia they seized at the start of the invasion. It has hit an unexpected snag. Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenergo:
“Ukraine’s power system currently has no physical connections with Russia’s power system. Therefore, the supply of electricity from Ukrainian power plants to Russia is currently physically impossible.”
The EU hooked up Ukraine’s grid to its continent-wide one on March 14.
I stand corrected. My information is obviously out of date. The Russians have less excuse than me for not knowing that. How wide is the air-gap? I guess it doesn’t matter. The Russians had a lot of cunning plans. Their latest is to raze Azovstal plant and turn it into a resort.
Iko: I am as far out of my depth here as the Russian General Staff, but I doubt if bridging that air gap is as simple as running a pirate coble in a Rio favela, (The gangs also offer cut-rate cable TV.) The Ukrainian grid is now synchronized with the European one of Entso-e, and no longer with that of Russia and the stans. The obvious solution is building an asynchronous HVDC link.GIve n the decay of institutional capacities in Russia under the Yeltsin and Putin kleptocracies, you have to wonder if any Russian company is now able to do this in peacetime, even before the impact of sanctions. Such projects take years anyway.
Interesting that you mention “decay of institutional capacities” in Russia. For sure, it’s true. I saw it in Russia even in 1991. Complex reasons for it including decay of State Capitalism (incorrectly called Socialism) superseded by shock treatment of neoliberal kleptocracy (incorrectly called market capitalism). Like a person hit with two diseases in a row. Does not do the patient a lot of good.
However, “decay of institutional capacities” is a global phenomenon now because of 40 years (about) of globalising neoliberalism. The UK is a case in point. UK is decaying very quickly now. Very corrupt, very kleptocratic under Boris Johnston and his government. The UK is rapidly heading for collapse IMHO. Without a complete change in governance and direction, the UK will look like the UK depicted in the “Children of Men” movie, within 20 years certainly and maybe within 10.
Really, the whole world is collapsing under neoliberalism, climate change and the “pandemicine” (the age of pandemics). Without a global revolutionary change in political economy to value people and environment over making billionaires (kleptocrats) we are clearly doomed.
(Duplicate of Blogstack comment) – Modular reactors – the “just swap for coal plants” sort – are about 5 decades overdue, need another decade (or more), need more grants and subsidies to get there and won’t be low cost. There may yet be some serious growth for nuclear but it will come later than it might have, once (if ever) the Right’s Wall of Denial comes down and the current opponents of climate action turn to using the seriousness of the climate problem to promote nuclear instead of downplaying it in support of not having emissions reductions ambitions or nuclear as the right’s climate solution. Even high cost options like nuclear can get up if the public can be convinced it is necessary. Doubt, Delay, Deny as climate policy works against nuclear more effectively than it works against climate action or renewables growth.
Criticisms of others for not having nuclear as the solutions (after handing off the issue in “you care so much, you fix it” style to environmentalists who they knew wouldn’t support it, in the mistaken belief their “alternative energy” would be a spectacular car crash, leaving the fossil fueled status quo unaffected) is not the same as having nuclear as their own policies and sincerely committing to them.
Take Barnaby Joyce – who insists The Greens must support nuclear if they are serious – who’s nuclear “policy” is no more than the empty symbolism of overturning the emptily symbolic ban on nuclear power, with (not so emptily symbolic) absolute support for fossil fuels running in parallel.
If he and his ilk have their way it would be all the way to RCP8.5 and beyond, as an inalienable right. Meanwhile the renewables success story is only going to grow. Russia’s actions – and responses to it – will reinforce that renewable energy growth.
mrkenfabian: – “Modular reactors – the “just swap for coal plants” sort – are about 5 decades overdue, need another decade (or more), need more grants and subsidies to get there and won’t be low cost.”
The problem is we/humanity don’t have “another decade (or more)”.
The Climate Crisis is already here and it will get worse. The World Meteorological Organisation is warning that the world faces a 50:50 chance of exceeding 1.5°C of warming within the next five years, albeit temporarily, and has pleaded for rapid cuts in greenhouse gas emissions NOW, NOT “another decade (or more)”.
Climate scientist Andy Pitman said in a RenewEconomy podcast that net zero needs to be reached by 2035 to have any chance of capping global warming at 2 °C. TOO LATE for new nuclear technologies.
Climate tipping points in the Antarctica, the Arctic and the Amazon are at risk of being reached before or at the current level of global warming of 1.2 °C, requiring a “major rethink” of global climate goals and the action necessary to achieve them.
Meanwhile, in the Climate Council media release titled ONE IN 25 AUSTRALIAN HOMES UNINSURABLE BY 2030: CLIMATE COUNCIL LAUNCHES CUTTING EDGE DIGITAL CLIMATE-RISK MAP, dated May 3:
The Climate Council’s Climate Risk Map of Australia is an interactive map of climate vulnerable places in Australia. For a selected suburb/postcode, LGA or electorate, specific risks are assessed for the years 2030, 2050 and 2100 for high, medium & low GHG emissions scenarios, that include for:
* Riverine flooding;
* Surface water flooding;
* Coastal inundation;
* Extreme wind; or
* A summation of all of the above risks.
Climate Risk Map – Gee, that makes me feel good. Even at low emissions, my suburb is at high risk of bush-fire in 2030. Even now for that matter in any dry year. I knew that anyway. All other listed risks are near zero out to 2050. I need that emergency roof sprinkler system, back-up diesel pump and 34,000 liter tank. Would cost an arm and a leg. Chances of getting the better half to see the need and getting any diesel at all in 2030 for the pump… minuscule. Things look grim. Let;s face it, we all knew this would happen, since LTG 1972.
Don’t worry Ikon, we are chopping the trees down as fast as we are able.
Make nuclear make work playing both supply and demand sides.
Patents obscuring pollution and securing profits. And (not yet) trying to “develop the US company’s SMR-160 small modular reactor for deployment in Ukraine “, ensuring profit for his patents.
“… wholly owned by Kris Singh, an inventor and entrepreneur, Holtec
says it is pioneering a new model of accelerated decommissioning.”
“The dangerous business of dismantling America’s aging nuclear plants (WashPost)
“Accidents at New Jersey’s Oyster Creek power plant have spurred calls for
stricter oversight of the burgeoning nuclear decommissioning industry.
“Joseph Delmar, a spokesman for Holtec, defended the company’s record, saying it takes safety and security seriously. The recent incidents “are not reflective of the organization’s culture,” he said, adding that the worker
who knocked down the power line “did not follow the proper safety protocols.” Delmar said the company has decades of experience building
equipment to store nuclear waste and employs veteran plant workers to dismantle reactor sites.
“While the decommissioning organization may seem new, the professionals staffing the company are experienced nuclear professionals with intimate
knowledge of the plants they work at,” Delmar said in an emailed statement.
“Founded and wholly owned by Kris Singh, an inventor and entrepreneur, Holtec
says it is pioneering a new model of accelerated decommissioning. At the 24 U.S. reactors currently undergoing decommissioning, over half are expected to take two decades or more to complete the process, NRC data
shows; Holtec pledges to return nuclear sites to safe, clean usable land in as few as eight years. Singh did not respond to requests for comment, and Holtec did not make him available for an interview. […]
“I went from a staff of six to a staff of two, all having extra
responsibilities, doubling our workload and learning new criteria of the positions,’ the manager said in the letter, which was posted on the NRC’swebsite.
“In a settlement with the NRC announced this year, Holtec agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty, hire a new corporate security director and conduct external security assessments. […]
“In 2017, Holtec opened the doors of a stately new manufacturing center in Camden, N.J., that showcases Singh’s accomplishments. Employees arriving at the main office building on the Krishna P. Singh Technology Campus walk by a parking space reserved for the CEO’s chauffeured Rolls-Royce and into an atrium where more than 100 patents bearing Singh’s name are on display.”
[In “only” eight years? PGN
“WNN) Holtec International, Ukraine’s Energoatom and the country’s State Scientific and Technology Centre (SSTC) have formally entered into a partnership to develop the US company’s SMR-160 small modular reactor for deployment in Ukraine.”
“Holtec International CEO Kris Singh acknowledged that even a microscopic through-wall crack would release millions of curies of radiation. He does not endorse attempting to repair a damaged canister.”
No, we don’t have another decade where we can afford to wait for SMR’s (or for Hydrogen hype to come true); it is renewables (and electrification) or nothing at this point. I suspect NOT being able to do these now or any time soon is what makes nuclear and Hydrogen so popular with big emitters and other opponents of strong climate action; the necessary commitments to them have to come from and through others, through top down leadership, planning, large scale investment and follow through from governments and even if they do there can’t be a big impact for at least a decade to prove itself and another decade or more to grow in scale.
I think time of use (5 minute intervals or less) wholesale markets with high solar and wind supply will not suit “baseload” options like nuclear – where required average wholesale prices to be economically viable are depressed by periodic wind and solar abundance and the high value product is in fast response. This probably works as a de-facto carbon price for baseload fossil fuels, decreasing their economic viability, with nuclear being collateral damage, requiring specific support mechanisms like power price guarantees to keep them insulated from the wider electricity market. But I think nuclear will always need to be treated as a special case, with specific regulation and oversight – and guarantees.
Longer term? I expect there will be nuclear around and likely we will see some commercial SMR’s. Perhaps they will get lower cost and quick to build and find a place, but relying on expectations that renewables will hit some kind of impassable wall with respect to energy storage and supply reliability doesn’t look like a good bet to make. Energy storage R&D is running hot right now and significant new developments – new kinds of batteries – are already in the pipeline. I think one more halving of battery costs will take RE over a tipping point, where nothing will be the same after. If we can double the energy density as well fossil fueled transport is doomed – including for aviation.
SMR’s do appear capable of limiting weapons proliferation – by restricting the full range of nuclear industry capabilities (a bit paternalistically) to a few developed nations; prevention of other nations developing comprehensive nuclear energy capabilities (because any that do have those will be capable of weapons development) will probably have precedence over any attempts to encourage nations to go nuclear on their own. It will be that way for solar and wind too – a few global manufacturers – but no-one will oppose a nation seeking to develop a renewable energy manufacturing industry.
I am afraid not. You and I are both “conspiracy theoretic” in our own ways but obviously at opposite poles. I regard corporate and oligarchic capitalism as a conspiracy against the public. This includes US oligarchic capitalism, Russian gangster capitalism and Chinee One Party state capitalism. All are still variants of capitalism; and against the people. True democratic socialism, if feasible, would be diametrically opposed to all of those systems. But I don’t expect to convince you so I won’t try.
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