Westinghouse assumes management of UK fuel plant

25 March 2010

Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse is to assume the long-term management of the Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing site in the UK under an agreement with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).


Springfields (Image: NDA)
The Springfields site (Image: NDA)
The NDA said that the agreement transfers responsibility for the commercial fuel manufacturing business and the workforce to Westinghouse. In addition, the NDA land at the site will be leased to Westinghouse. The new arrangements "will give Westinghouse the freedom to invest in the site and develop long-term employment opportunities," according to the NDA.


In April 2005, as part of the UK government's restructuring of the nuclear industry, the newly-created NDA took over responsibility for the assets and liabilities of Springfields, near Preston in northwest England. The Springfields Fuels Limited site licence company (SLC) was formed to operate the site and Westinghouse was awarded the site management and operation (M&O) contract, which is due to expire at the end of March 2010.


No financial details have been released of the new agreement, negotiations on which began in 2009.


A direction amending the Energy Act Designating Directions for the Springfields site has been laid before parliament, NDA said. This will allow the site to undertake fuel manufacturing activities associated with new civil nuclear power reactors, it noted.


The 83 hectare (205 acre) site was established in 1946 and fuel production activities there were taken over in 1971 by BNFL, which later took full ownership of the site in 1994. Westinghouse, which was then a subsidiary of BNFL, remained as the site manager when the Springfields site transferred to the NDA in 2005. Westinghouse was acquired by Toshiba in 2006.


Energy minister Lord Hunt said in a written statement to ministers, "In addition to providing an income stream for the NDA, the new arrangements and plans for the site are expected to significantly reduce NDA's decommissioning liabilities, representing excellent value for the UK taxpayer." He added, "We welcome and fully support the agreement, which is expected to protect and enhance the site’s long term commercial sustainability through investment and expansion of existing fuel operations."


New joint venture



Toshiba considers TWR
Following a flurry of media reports that Toshiba is considering partnering with TerraPower, a company largely funded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, to develop the Travelling Wave Reactor, Toshiba has confirmed that it has held preliminary discussions with the company.
“We have just entered the stage of exchanging information and have yet to decide on future development or investment plans, a Toshiba official was quoted as saying by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
Gates and senior TerraPower officials reportedly sought Toshiba’s cooperation in November 2009 after visiting a Toshiba factory in Japan. Then, in December, the two companies signed a confidentiality agreement to protect each other’s trade secrets and began talks of a possible collaboration on the TWR.
Unlike conventional reactors, the TWR would run on depleted uranium. In a 'wave' that moves through the core at only one centimetre per year, the U-238 is bred into Pu-239, which is the actual fuel and undergoes fission. The reaction requires a small amount of enriched uranium to get started and could run for decades without refuelling.

At the same time, Toshiba and Westinghouse have announced the formation of a new UK-based joint venture, Advance Uranium Asset Management Ltd (AUAM), to undertake uranium-related transactions in the front end of the nuclear fuel cycle. The company, based at Springfields, is 60% owned by Toshiba and 40% by Westinghouse. With some 30 employees, AUAM will focus on four main business areas: the marketing and sales of uranium supplies, innovative fuel leasing options, spot market trades and the commercial transport business. It will build on the capabilities of Uranium Asset Management Ltd (UAM), the Westinghouse UK fuel subsidiary.


In a statement, Toshiba said: "Acting through the joint venture, Toshiba will be instrumental in securing uranium supply for Japanese utilities, and will leverage this capability to support utility companies worldwide. In particular, this joint venture will allow Toshiba to initiate uranium transactions for its investment interests in Kazakhstan uranium mines." It added, "The new joint venture allows Westinghouse to explore innovative ways to coalesce fuel technology with Toshiba’s uranium interests to existing and new customers."


Yasuharu Igarashi, president and CEO of the Power Systems Company of Toshiba, commented: "This joint venture expands Toshiba's interest in the nuclear fuel cycle at a time when utilities are pursuing new builds, and it extends our ability to provide the nuclear energy industry with holistic solutions."


Westinghouse president and CEO Aris Candris said, "By establishing Advance Uranium Asset Management Ltd, we are more closely aligning Toshiba and Westinghouse's activities in the front-end business."


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News