Taipower launches overseas reprocessing tender

19 February 2015

Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) has launched a tender for a contract worth up to TWD 11.26 billion ($356 million) for the shipment and reprocessing of used nuclear fuel abroad.

The summary tender notice, published on 17 February on the Public Construction Commission's website, says: "This procurement plans to reprocess 1200 bundles (480 for the Chinshan power station and 720 bundles for the Kuosheng power station) of used fuel abroad. The scope includes transport casks delivery, loading used fuel into the casks, transport and shipment of the loaded transport casks, reprocessing of the used fuel, management and retransfer of the materials arising from the reprocessing of the used fuel."

The deadline for bids is 16 March. The contract will be awarded to the lowest bidder, according to the summary tender notice.

Taipower spokesman Lin Te-fu was reported by the Taipei Times as saying that if the contract is successfully awarded following the tender, the company plans to send the first batch of 300 fuel assemblies by the end of this year.

"In accordance with the provisions of radioactive waste management policy, Taipower is seeking to promote the feasibility of overseas reprocessing of used nuclear fuel and by validating the feasibility of reprocessing abroad through a small-scale trial, hopes to provide more diverse choices and flexibility to the domestic strategy for long-term used nuclear fuel management," Taipower said in a 17 February statement.

The company noted that after reprocessing, the reusable uranium and plutonium would not immediately be returned to Taiwan. It said that only about one-fifth of the original volume of material would be shipped back to Taiwan, in the form of vitrified waste, within 20 years for final disposal.

Taipower noted that countries including Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and Switzerland have already sent their used fuel abroad for reprocessing.

"Used nuclear fuel is a pre-existing problem - it needs to be treated regardless of whether nuclear power is continued to be used in the future, nuclear power plants are decommissioned or their operation extended. Overseas reprocessing has a minimal impact on the environment, international transport is a common practice, but, if not addressed, leaves this problem for the next generation to solve," the company said.

According to figures from the Taiwanese nuclear safety regulator, the Atomic Energy Council, used fuel storage at the Chinshan and Kuosheng plants - both featuring boiling water reactors - is approaching capacity. Chinshan's two units have capacity for 3083 used fuel assemblies, but, as of last month, there were 2982 assemblies in storage at unit 1 and 2972 assemblies at unit 2. At the Kuosheng plant, where both units have capacity for 4398 assemblies, there were 4180 and 4252 assemblies in storage at units 1 and 2, respectively.

In October 2014, a government task force recommended that used fuel from Chinshan and Kuosheng be sent abroad for reprocessing.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News