Thursday, September 06, 2007

Atmea Joint Venture to Develop New Reactor

World Nuclear News recently reported a significant announcement by AREVA and Mitsubishi concerning their joint venture:

Areva of France and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan announced that their newly-created joint venture will be known as Atmea. The joint venture will develop an "advanced Generation-III" nuclear power reactor, the Atmea 1.

... the Atmea joint venture will develop, market, license and sell an 1100 MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR), which will combine technologies of both companies. The reactor would be marketed at emerging countries wishing to begin nuclear power programs, as well as established markets such as the USA and Europe.
I found this announcement fascinating for three reasons. First, until now, the strategy of reactor suppliers has been to devote all available resources to developing and licensing a single flagship design. The Atmea joint venture indicates that the market for new reactors has matured to the point that vendors now see a need to provide multiple designs to meet the needs of different customers.

Second, the size of the Atmea 1 indicates that it is intended to for head-to-head competition with Westinghouse's AP-1000. That means that Atmea sees a market that is big enough for two suppliers, or perhaps that the needs of utilities have evolved enough that a new design for a medium-sized reactor is needed.

Third, design certification for the Atmea 1 will come years after the certification of the EPR, AP-1000, ABWR, and ESBWR. That suggests that there is significant interest by utilities in a second wave of new plants, beyond the early site permits we have heard about to date.

It will be interesting to see how the Atmea 1 stacks up against the AP-1000 -- not only in features, but eventually in market share as well.

6 comments:

Left Atomics said...

It will be interesting indeed, to see what the stated price per KW will be. Westinghouse is arguing down to $1200/KW installed. We'll see if the generally higher priced European reactors can meet this.

David Walters

Rod Adams said...

What I found most interesting in the announcement was the fact that Areva and Mitsubishi think that a facility that can produce enough electricity for about a million customers is a "mid-sized" unit.

Anonymous said...

When Toshiba took over Westinghouse, Westinghouse had to cut its ties with MHI. In an effort to get a portion of the US market, MHI has to compete with rather than cooperate with Westinghouse. Since most serious PWR buyers are going with the AP1000, and since Areva does not have an 1100 MW passive offering (or a 1600 MW passive offering - EPR is not "passive"), MHI and Areva can split the development costs of a competing passive reactor.

Left Atomics said...

True. On the other hand, Westinghouse doesn't want to touch, it seems, the larger-size 1500+ market, either. It seems that the 1,100 size is becoming the standard. I think this has more to do however, with flexibility and grid conditions. Having a 1100MW unit is easier on the system than having a 1700MW unit trip.

I was on the board the day PG&E decide to double-trip Diablo Canyon and made 2400 MWs go to 0 MWs in a second. Our generator got 'bumbed' (300 miles to the north) and we go all sorts of vibration alarms.

I believe there is going to be a market for smaller and smaller units as time goes by.

David

Anonymous said...

The main issue that Areva faces is the fact that their evolutionary EPR design has requires a substantially larger amount of construction material and equipment than the new passive LWR designs offered by Westinghouse and GE, so Areva will have a difficult time competing with the EPR. The figures for the new Areva/Mitsubishi 1100 MW reactor show only a single containment shell, so it looks like one of the major goals may be to reduce costs relative to the EPR.

Anonymous said...

The reason that the AP-1000 is only 1150 MW is because their decay heat removal occurs through the containment shell, and this is the maximum that they can get without increasing the building size to be much larger. The GE ESBWR has no constraint on size (they just add a few more PCCS modules), which is why the ESBWR is at 1550 MW and is likely less expensive than the AP 1000.