GE Steam Power expects "stable demand" for nuclear power generation over the next 10 years as "the only powerful source of electricity without carbon dioxide emissions", its CEO, Michael Keroullé, said in an interview this week with Strana Rosatom, the newspaper of the Russian state nuclear corporation.

Michael Keroullé, GE Steam Power CEO (Image: Strana Rosatom)

"That's why our partnership with Rosatom is extremely important; joint work and innovations will allow us to offer our customers the most promising technologies and solutions in the field of nuclear energy," he said in the interview.

GE Steam Power is a unit of GE Power, the US energy technology company that is owned by General Electric. It sells equipment to conventional islands for nuclear plants.

In 2007, General Electric and Atomenergomash (AEM) - Rosatom's mechanical engineering division - established a joint venture company, AAEM Turbine Technology, to supply equipment for the conventional islands of VVER nuclear power plants. In June this year, they announced the start of manufacturing work in Belfort, in north-eastern France, of the Arabelle steam turbine for Turkey's first nuclear power plant. GE Steam Power is supplying the four nuclear turbine generator sets for the Akkuyu plant under a contract awarded to AAEM. These include the Arabelle half-speed steam turbine, Gigatop 4-poles generator and condenser vacuum pumps.

Keroullé, who became head of GE Steam Power on 1 July, has described the 12-year history of AAEM as "visionary, especially while the nuclear industry went through the toughest moments after 2013".

"Now the total capacity of the units built in the framework of joint projects exceeds 13 gigawatts," he said. "We’re talking about new units being built in Finland, Turkey, Hungary and Egypt. Given the large amount of work, as well as the presence of cultural and legislative peculiarities in each of the countries where we cooperate, it's obvious that successful implementation of such large-scale and diverse projects is not an easy task. In these circumstances, the word 'partner' becomes particularly important."

The joint venture is building "invaluable" experience and technical skills, he added, "solving complex problems at the global level with the support of two global companies". GE Steam Power has installed 50% of the world's steam turbines for nuclear power plants, he said, and "partnership with Rosatom helps us maintain our leading position". In turn, Rosatom has acquired GE know-how, including of its Arabelle technology adapted for all types of reactors based on low-speed steam turbines with a power range of 1000-1800 MWe, he added.

The partnership is also active in Russia, where AAEM has a project to localise the production of all heat exchange equipment for nuclear power plant machine rooms, he said. Condensers, high- and low-pressure heaters, separators, superheaters, feed water supply tanks and de-aerators are being manufactured by Rosatom subsidiary ZiO-Podolsk.

"All these components will be manufactured on the basis of GE technologies using world-class quality standards," Keroullé said.

AAEM and GE will provide technical support for the production of this equipment at ZiO-Podolsk facilities. "As part of our joint projects, more than 50% of machine room equipment will be produced in Russia. In addition, the qualification procedure we are currently conducting will allow GE to include a number of Rosatom enterprises in its global production chain," he said.

An example of this is Energomashspetsstal (EMSS), which is manufacturing components for the high- and medium-pressure rotors of the turbine for the Akkuyu project. EMSS is a Ukrainian manufacturer of forgings and is majority-owned by AEM. Once certified to do so, EMSS will be able to participate in GE projects around the world, and not only in those that it implements together with Rosatom, he said.

"This means that our cooperation is really mutually beneficial: GE will expand the list of suppliers, and the companies included in Rosatom, and Atomenergomash will have export opportunities."

It is "already obvious", he said, that digital technologies will play a significant role in transforming the lifecycle management of energy assets, optimising the energy system, providing comprehensive customer service and providing individual services to them. GE has developed Predix, a cloud platform for the industrial Internet that enables the processing of large amounts of data to improve the efficiency of power plants.

The AAEM joint venture is using digital solutions, he said, such as through a "unified information environment" for the management of project stages, from preparation of technical proposals for potential projects to commercial operation. This process includes a digital model of machine room equipment with reference to the project implementation schedule.

"This allows you to effectively manage the configuration at all stages of the project, and refine technical solutions to meet the requirements of the customer and the regulatory framework, and quickly solve problems," he said.

Conventional and renewable energy sources are complementary, he said. "Production of electricity from renewable energy sources does not have the necessary stability and should be insured around-the-clock with more reliable thermal energy: coal, gas or nuclear. Today, electricity generation, both traditional and on the basis of renewable energy sources, faces complex challenges: the production of electricity must simultaneously both meet environmental standards and be highly efficient. It should be added that nuclear energy is the only absolutely stable (and always available) source of electricity without carbon emissions. Therefore, we hear more and more voices, including from environmentalists, who claim that nuclear energy should play a more important role in the future energy mix. Personally, I am certain of this."

AAEM's new equipment manufacturing projects for the Hanhikivi nuclear power plant in Finland, Akkuyu in Turkey, Paks II in Hungary and Al-Dabaa in Egypt all serve as proof that attention is turning increasingly to nuclear power as a low-carbon and sustainable source of electricity, he said. There is also interest in nuclear power generation in other countries, including Saudi Arabia, India and South Africa, he added.

"In this regard, I should note that the new trend in the nuclear power industry is growing demand for low-capacity power units of up to 300 megawatts, especially in countries that have insufficient financial resources or simply do not require traditional, large-scale nuclear power generation," he said. Small nuclear power plants thus compete with renewable sources of energy in terms of the global development of distributed electricity generation, he added.

GE Steam Power sees opportunities for further cooperation with Rosatom, in the development of low-power nuclear power generation, he said, noting the corporation’s launch of the floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov.

Over the next decade, the volume of orders for new capacity is expected to be about 3500 GWe, he said, with about two-thirds of them coming from renewable energy sources, 19% from natural gas, 8% from coal generation and 4% from nuclear. On average, this is about 12 GWe of new capacity annually, he added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 01 August 2019
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