10 months ago

atw 2018-03v6


atw Vol. 63 (2018) | Issue 3 ı March 202 NUCLEAR TODAY Links to reference sources: UK National Audit Office report: US Senate hearing on nuclear’s contribution: Exelon Generation statement on FitzPatrick nuclear plant: Could Our Nuclear Vision Benefit From a Spell of Tesla Magic? John Shepherd As I put the finishing touches to this latest article, US entrepreneur and boss of the Tesla car giant, Elon Musk, successfully launched a new rocket, the Falcon Heavy, from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vast vehicle is the most powerful shuttle system to date and the whole exercise was ‘only’ a test – or should that be taste – of what is to come. The rocket’s payload did not include an array of satellites or other such paraphernalia. Instead, it carried an unmistakably entrepreneurial touch – Musk’s old cherry-red Tesla sports car. On top of that, there was a mannequin in a spacesuit strapped into the driver’s seat of the car and the radio was set to play a David Bowie soundtrack. Maybe this is a bit too theatrical for some, but we’ve come to expect that of Mr Musk. It was he, after all, who made a bet with the government of South Australia to deliver the state the world’s biggest battery within 100 days of being ordered or deliver it free of charge. Musk of course delivered the Tesla 100nMW/129nMWh Powerpack system on time and it is now paired with French utility Neoen’s Hornsdale wind farm and helping to prevent power outages in South Australia. Such was the success of the project – never mind the countless free publicity the project generated around the world – other Australian states are investing in similar projects and Tesla is at the front of the queue. At this point, you’re probably asking yourself what all this has to do with nuclear today. Technologically speaking nothing, of course. But think ‘outside the box’ – as I’m sure many of you have been told in those corporate management- training classes. The answer is: ‘vision’. The unabashed vision to be bold, daring, imaginative. The vision to believe in technology and to be unafraid to build on the experience and knowledge gained to date, including the failures, as we take the next steps forward. I do wonder if nuclear has lost its way a little in the past couple of years in terms and our industry has allowed itself to become bogged down and lose sight of the prize. Perhaps we’ve allowed ourselves to be overtaken by events? For example, there are some exciting nuclear developments in the UK that appear to have been constrained by a lack of imagination and commitment – not by the company and workforce but by those who are supposed to show political leadership. Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Japan’s Hitachi, aims to build two Advanced Boiling Water Reactor plants in North Wales and South Gloucestershire. But the governments in London and Tokyo are still reportedly mulling over how to support the projects’ financing. However, the UK’s Franco-Chinese-funded Hinkley Point C project, to build a twin unit UK EPR capable of generating 3,260nMW of secure, low carbon electricity for 60 years, has finally got into its stride. This was something that could have begun sooner were it not for political prevarication by the UK government. Of course, progress was not helped by the Brexit referendum and a subsequent change of prime ministers! But even when funding and investment guarantees were finalised for Hinkley Point C, there was still criticism from the UK’s National Audit Office. The agency could not resist piling on complaints regarding the investment, saying the government had “committed electricity consumers and taxpayers to a high cost and risky deal in a changing energy marketplace”. Never mind the more than 25,000 new employment opportunities the project will create, plus the fact that, when built, the plant will be generating low-carbon electricity for around six million homes! Contrast this approach with that of countries such as Russia and China, who are prepared not only to invest in the development of civil nuclear power at home they also see the value of partnering in projects beyond the own borders. In the US, key witnesses to a Senate committee hearing have been telling legislators that markets must do a better job of properly incentivising baseload power plants like nuclear, so the national electric grid becomes more resilient and reliable – especially during extreme weather. And there are some positive signs for nuclear again in the US after a period of gloom. Exelon confirmed recently that the James A FitzPatrick nuclear power plant, which had been scheduled to close a year ago, is now spurring investment in local businesses in New York State. The utility said FitzPatrick launched several capital projects in 2017 totalling more than $ 15.2 million to realign the station for long-term operations. In Brussels in February, the European Commission is convening an ‘EU Industry Day’, to “update stakeholders on the Commission's strategic approach to industrial policy and actions to further develop industrial competitiveness in Europe”. The event will include discussions on proposals to create an ‘EU Battery Alliance’, which EU leaders say could support the establishment of a full value chain of batteries in Europe, with large-scale battery cells production. The topic of “clean energy” is mentioned throughout the advance programme for the EU event – but nuclear does not get a mention. Why is that? If this event is truly about building support for European industries and nurturing and investing in the technologies of tomorrow, what is so terrible about including nuclear energy? This brings me back to the ‘vision thing’ I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Leadership in terms of lighting the way to a cleaner, greener plant does not mean taking a blinkered view that turns a blind eye to the undeniable environmental benefits of energy sources that are simply politically unacceptable to some. Perhaps the nuclear industry collectively needs to invite a certain Mr Musk to come on board for a bit of consul tancy work. Nuclear can definitely benefit from a sprinkling of his entrepreneurial spirit and sparkle at this moment in time. Let’s face it, for someone who can steer a sports car into space in one piece, driving investments into a new nuclear era down here on terra firma should be a piece of cake. Author John Shepherd nuclear 24 41a Beoley Road West St George’s Redditch B98 8LR, United Kingdom Nuclear Today Could Our Nuclear Vision Benefit From a Spell of Tesla Magic? ı John Shepherd

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