APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Friday, October 17, 2014

Where is Will, and by the way, Pakistan might be crazy

Some of you might have noticed a distinct reduction in posting here.  That's because for about a month I've been handling all social media for the American Nuclear Society, in the wake of some shaking up at headquarters, in addition to being in on a number of other projects.  So I've been quite busy actually -- it's just that everything has been coming out under the ANS brand.

I've also made the decision to launch a local, Ohio initiative that looks at energy more broadly than just all-nuclear all-the-time, and which will engage (hopefully) some of the local interests here on all sides.  You'll see more of that later.


For now, as I scan the headlines / Facebook posts / Twitterverse for news items today, I run across this little gem:

"Pakistan court stops construction work on nuclear power plants."

Now, the basic premise here is this:  Since the vendor for the proposed nuclear plants in Karachi, which is CNNC or China National Nuclear Corporation, has never built and operated the particular model of nuclear plant slated for this project (the ACP-1000) then the court believes that the environmental assessment is invalid.  This order was issued after receipt of a petition by an environmentalist group (I use that term very loosely indeed) who had made the case for this finding.

The Chinese must believe that Pakistan has some problems - I would.  After all, it's in China that the first-ever Westinghouse AP1000 plants are being built.  In other words, China is the location for a true FOAK (First Of A Kind) nuclear plant not indigenous to China.  On the other hand, it's not really perfectly correct to say that the CNNC ACP1000 is something totally new, out of left field.  That plant derives from over 30 years of work by CNNC in developing indigenous nuclear plant technology.

The ACP1000 nuclear plant is described as GENIII+ by its vendor; the NSSS (Nuclear Steam Supply System) was developed in concert with Westinghouse and Framatome (AREVA now) and is a three loop pressurized water design, very much like designs marketed and built for decades by Westinghouse, and then by its other licensees, again such as Framatome/AREVA (who have extrapolated and advanced designs beyond the 'break' with Westinghouse.)  The overall power plant isn't a totally clean sheet of paper sort of thing, but rather a design developed from decades of experience in Chinese nuclear plants.  CNNC lists in its sales brochure the following points of interest to any discussion of the declaration of "unproven effect" by the Pakistani court:

•  ACP1000 is designed using structures, systems and components already proven in China in existing NPP's (Nuclear Power Plants)
•  Structures, systems and components of new or recent design are acceptable and satisfactory operation can be demonstrated for conditions similar to that of new (existing) plants
•  Extrapolation of the design, size, capacity, duty, etc. of proven structures, systems and components to ACP1000 are reasonable
•  Safety structures, systems and components have been thoroughly tested and approved by the Chinese safety authority (NNSA.)

So it appears then as if the Pakistani court will have to either decide, or defer to other authority, whether or not this new plant design is so far off base compared to existing practice that its safety cannot be assured.

(SPOILER ALERT:  It's not that far off.)

Given this kind of finding (which might indeed just be a temporary holdup for a week or two... but one never knows) one might wonder if the vendors might have to assess whether or not to offer designs for export that are already operating instead of which merely are design certified and/or under construction.  Were this the case, let's say, with the UAE and its Barakah plant, then the South Koreans would not be building the advanced APR1400 plants there but rather the older OPR1000 or perhaps the updated OPR1000+ plants.  And yet again it's hard to offer 'last year's model' in the competitive export world.   

We shall wait and see.

Enough of that - back to work I go!

1:15 PM Eastern October 17, 2014


  1. Hi Will

    As you know, I applaud and support your local initiative, and I am eager to see it launch!

    You are choosing the right topic--local energy. When I started my blog, I thought it would be just about Vermont Yankee. But all such blogs end up growing and changing, because nuclear plants do not exist in a vacuum. First there were the Forward Capacity Auctions and and I was learning about the grid. Then there were the claims that renewables could do everything. Even if Vermont Yankee was not shutting down, the blog would have changed to a regional energy blog. For example, I am on now a member of a coordinating committee for one of the grid operator's advisory groups.

    For quite a while, my blog has had the subtitle "A blog about Vermont energy issues and in support of Vermont Yankee". I ended up with that topic: you will have a similar of topic, right off the bat, without all the angst!

    Congratulations on your MANY new ventures and adventures!

  2. This is the special risk of nuclear plant construction - that any branch of government, at any time, feels able to throw roadblocks in the way, stop all activity, add new requirements, revisit decided issues, renege on commitments, and generally behave badly.