The Monticello nuclear power plant will have a decade of front-end nuclear fuel services provided by Areva after a $500 million deal.
|Monticello (Xcel Energy)
Areva announced the deal with Monticello's owner Xcel Energy yesterday. Beginning in 2015 the French national nuclear company will supply all the goods and services for Monticello's single reactor to be refuelled six times, which corresponds to "a decade of fuel supply," it said.
The contract also covers certain engineering work to enable the 600 MWe GE-designed boiling water reactor to use Areva's Atrium 10XM fuel design. These changes are part of an uprate plan that should see Monticello's output increase from 600 MWe today to 829 MWe.
Such an integrated fuel deal is uncommon because utility fuel buyers usually prefer to purchase fuel services from a market served by a range of suppliers.
Several stages are involved in the production of reactor fuel: mining uranium, converting to gas for enrichment, the enrichment itself, and the final manufacture of ceramic fuel pellets and finished fuel assemblies. Collectively these are known as the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, as contrasted with the back-end of used fuel storage, reprocessing, recycling and disposal.
With very predictable operation, the refuelling of nuclear power plants can be planned over long timescales. This gives utility fuel buyers the option to hold stocks of the various forms of uranium and maintain a market for fuel services by using separate companies at each stage. Furthermore, the supply chain can be globally diverse because the quantities of uranium involved are small compared to any other fuel.
For these reasons, the Xcel-Areva deal is highly unusual. Areva said it was the first such integrated fuel contract from a US utility in "several decades." Xcel's chief nuclear officer Dennis Koehl said it would "benefit customers by controlling fuel costs."
Monticello started operation in 1971 and is licensed to work until 2030. Xcel said the power produced at the plant is among the cheapest from its fleet, which includes the 1100 MWe Prairie Island nuclear plant as well as 7180 MWe of coal, 7162 MWe of gas, 317 MWe of hydro, and 327 MWe of wind.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News