Friday, March 30, 2012

Vogtle nuclear plant loan guarantees may not be finalized: NEI

[Commentary: After the sudden collapse of South Texas Project 3&4 Nuclear Power Units due to the pulling of the federal loan guarantee, this event is alarming. The Obama Administration's calculated rates on the loan appear to be excessive. Does this signal the true intentions of the current administration and their position on growth in nuclear power for the United States?]

Georgia Power and its partners may not be able to reach terms with the US Department of Energy on $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to finance the Vogtle nuclear plant expansion, Alex Flint, senior vice president of governmental affairs for the Nuclear Energy Institute, said Thursday.

The conditional guarantees for the two-unit, 2,200-MW Vogtle plant expansion were announced by DOE in 2010 and were said to be a sign of the administration's support for nuclear energy. One of the conditions was that the project sponsors receive a combined construction permit-operating license from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which issued the license February 10.

Southern Co., Georgia Power's parent company, expects to finalize the loan guarantees in the second quarter of the year, spokesman Steve Higginbottom said Thursday.

Betsy Higgins, the CFO of Oglethorpe Power, another of the partners, said March 20 that finalizing the loan guarantees was going more slowly than expected and they might be completed in the third quarter.

DOE has said it is in final negotiations with the applicants to complete the transactions.

David Frantz, acting executive director of DOE's loan programs office, said Wednesday at a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development that he has weekly contact with the Vogtle partners.

"We're in the final negotiations to close the documentation on this project. We have every expectation that it's going to be a great success story in terms of the renaissance of nuclear power in the United States," he said in testimony at the hearing.

Flint did not provide details on why the loan guarantees might not be finalized, but said implementation of the program's regulations has been "painful."

The White House Office of Management and Budget, which helps set certain fees for the loan guarantees, "was not an enthusiastic supporter of the loan guarantee program," Flint said. The way in which regulations were issued "were not conducive to a successful program," he said.

The DOE rules and regulations were not designed for the type of ownership structure used in the Vogtle project, Higgins said during a conference call to discuss financial results.

The Vogtle loans are backed by the full credit of the involved companies, instead of being assumed by a project finance company whose only asset is the new units, Higgins said. As a result, the partners have sought exemptions from some requirements in the loan guarantee program in order for the project's application to move forward, she said.

NEI has said a formula used by OMB to calculate the fees that must be paid by loan guarantee recipients is flawed and as a result fees are too high.


New Hampshire: Nuclear plant faces questions from NRC

SEABROOK — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking Seabrook Station for more information regarding long-term operability concerns raised in an inspection completed early this year.

Seabrook Station, which is seeking a 20-year extension of its operating license slated to expire in 2030, received a letter this week asking it to respond to concerns raised at an April 23 meeting at NRC headquarters in Rockville, Md.

NextEra Energy, which owns the plant, received a letter from Christopher G. Miller, director of nuclear reactor safety with the NRC. Miller said the recent inspection focused on NextEra's work regarding alkali-silica reactions that are affecting concrete structures.

Alkali-silica reaction refers to the impact of groundwater on concrete. The NRC first raised the issue of deterioration of the concrete in below-ground-level structures at Seabrook in a May 2011 report. Inspectors at that time discovered potentially problematic conditions, including a large amount of groundwater infiltration and calcium carbonate deposits, corroded steel supports, base plates and piping, corroded anchor bolts, pooling of water, and cracking and spalling of concrete.

In his letter this week, Miller wrote, "inspectors concluded that these structures can currently perform their safety-related functions despite the observed degradation ... however, the NRC still has concerns associated with long-term operability."

Miller has asked NextEra to provide information at the April meeting including how various characteristics of the concrete may be affected by alkali-silica reaction and the related effects on other elements of the structures, such as rebar.

Alan Griffith, a spokesman for NextEra, said the company is confident that plant operators can manage the concrete degradation issue.

"We're pleased that, once again, the NRC has made clear that it has no immediate safety concerns at Seabrook Station," he said Tuesday. "We have a comprehensive strategy in place to effectively manage (alkali-silica reaction) that includes augmented monitoring, improved analysis techniques and potential ASR mitigation actions if ever needed.

"Most importantly, ASR has not and will not impact our ability to operate our plant safely."


England: Wylfa B nuclear plant: Talks to find new investors

Talks are continuing to find investors after a company which was to build a new nuclear power station on Anglesey pulled out.

E.ON and RWE npower are looking for a new owner for Horizon Nuclear Power, the joint firm to develop Wylfa B.

Experts, politicians and community leaders say they are hopeful a new buyer can be found.

However, opponents to the Wylfa plans say alternatives to nuclear energy should now be found.

The German-owned companies blamed the global economic crisis, developments in the nuclear industry in Germany and what they called the "significant ongoing costs" of running the Horizon joint venture for the decision.

'Switching supplies off'

However, Volker Beckers, chief executive of RWE npower, said Wales was still one of the "most attractive" new nuclear sites across Europe.

"A new investor can effectively leapfrog the queue. In other words, any investor will benefit from the great work the team has done over the last three years," he said.

Nuclear energy expert Malcolm Grimston, a fellow at Chatham House, told BBC Radio Wales said Horizon provided other investors with an "opportunity".

"If we don't build nuclear to replace Wylfa and the other plants as they come off line then we are going to be importing a lot of gas, producing a lot more carbon emissions, and vulnerable to either Russia pushing the price up or switching the supplies off so the argument for continuing nuclear is as strong as it was," he said.

"And I think other companies, maybe existing consortia or others may well reassess the situation and take advantage of this opportunity."

Horizon had planned up to 6,000 megawatts of new nuclear plants in Britain, including Wylfa B, which they saw as more friendly to nuclear energy than other countries.

But the parent companies had been indicating recently that they were concerned about possible cost overruns as seen at other nuclear projects in Europe.

The Welsh government says Anglesey remains the best option in the UK for a nuclear development.

The Wales Green Party welcomed the decision, claiming it would help renewable industries.

Pippa Bartolotti, leader of the Wales Green Party said the costs of "unwanted nuclear sites were always going to be unsupportable".

"Germany and Japan know the price is too high for the environment. With new nuclear going way over budget and with no safe build in sight, we can at last reflect on the wisdom of using this type of energy.

"The intelligent way forward is to invest in renewables such as solar, tide and wind. Green energy will always provide us with more jobs, safer living and greater energy security."

Labour MP Albert Owen said it was a massive blow to the community, regional economy and energy industry.

'Absolutely committed'

Plaid Cymru AM Ieuan Wyn Jones said he would also be working in the efforts to secure another company to take the project forward.

Anglesey council said it remained "absolutely committed to securing new investment and other energy generation schemes".

Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan was also disappointed but said Anglesey's 50 years of experience in the nuclear industry gave her confidence the Wylfa site will be attractive to other investors. ‪ ‪

But groups including People Against Wylfa B (Pawb) who opposed the development have welcomed the decision.

Horizon Nuclear Power had hoped construction of the £8bn project would start towards the end of 2012.

It had been developing options for two to three new reactors next to the existing Magnox station, which had been given permission to operate until 2014.

Wylfa B has been seen as promising an economic lifeline to the people of Anglesey.

According to the proposals, about 5,000 construction jobs would be created while the plant is built, and between 800 and 1,000 people would be employed in the station from 2020.

In March 2011 Horizon said it needed to "take stock" of its plans following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

Plaid Cymru energy spokesperson Alun Ffred Jones told BBC Radio Wales that focusing Anglesey's future development on nuclear power "shows the danger in putting all our eggs in one basket".

"If we are serious about Anglesey as an 'energy island' then we have to invest in other forms of energy production."

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said developing the power plant was "critical" for the "economic future of the island".

He said unless the UK's nuclear infrastructure was "sorted" it would create a "pinch point" in meeting future energy needs.

Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts said the island had been planning its economic future around the power station.

"A lot of their economic development policies are actually based on the whole concept of the energy island," he said.


Beaver Valley Power Station Completes New Emergency Operations Facility

AKRON, Ohio, March 30, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. FE +0.37% , today announced that construction of the Emergency Operations Facility for its Beaver Valley Power Station has been completed.

The new 12,000 square-foot facility supports overall management of activities related to maintaining public health and safety during the unlikely event of an emergency at the plant. The facility also will be used by Beaver Valley's emergency response organization during quarterly training drills and bi-annual exercises evaluated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to ensure preparedness to respond to an emergency.

"FENOC and Beaver Valley view protection of public health and safety as one of our primary responsibilities," said Paul Harden, vice president of Beaver Valley Power Station. "The new Emergency Operations Facility underscores our commitment to the community and ensures that responsibility is fully upheld."

Features of the new state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Facility include: enhanced technologies that aid in timely monitoring and collection of environmental data; a secured, online database for sharing plant conditions and other event information in real time between company, local, county and state emergency responders; updated computer equipment; and diverse telecommunications technology to enhance communications capabilities. In addition, multiple power supplies ensure the facility will not be affected by a loss of offsite power.

Located in Beaver Falls, Pa., the facility replaces an existing Emergency Operations Facility located on site at the Beaver Valley station in Shippingport, Pa.

FirstEnergy is a diversified energy company headquartered in Akron, Ohio. Its FENOC subsidiary also operates the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, and the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Perry, Ohio.


Lithuania signs nuclear power plant deal with Hitachi

Lithuania and the Japanese conglomerate Hitachi concluded today (30 March) a concession agreement for the Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant, paving the way for the next phase of project development of what is seen as one of the most advanced nuclear generation projects in Europe.

Following the successful conclusion of negotiations, a concession agreement relating to Visaginas was initialled at the prime minister’s office by Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, and Energy Ministry official who heads the Concession Tender Commission, and Masaharu Hanyu, Hitachi Ltd.'s vice president, the government announced.

The Visaginas plant is to be built on the site of the Soviet-built Ignalina nuclear station that was shut down in 2009 (see background).

In 2007, Lithuania's parliament adopted a law on building a new nuclear power plant. The law also stipulated creation of a special company, Visagino atominė elektrinė, to seek investments for the new nuclear power plant. In July 2011, Lithuania announced plans to sign a contract with Hitachi as strategic investor.

The concession agreement provides the contractual framework for the Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant including the provision of: rights for the project company to design, construct and operate and, at a later stage, decommission the plant.

Over the coming weeks the agreement will be reviewed and discussed by the government, before being submitted to the Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) for formal approval, probably in June.

"We welcome this important milestone in the project and wish to emphasise our appreciation of the cooperative and supportive spirit in which the project has proceeded to date," Hanyu said.

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius also called the agreement a "milestone".

"The Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant presents Lithuania and the Baltic region with a once in a lifetime opportunity to diversify energy sources and enhance energy security and independence as well as continue our integration into Europe.

"The agreement with Hitachi is also a vote of confidence for what will be the largest foreign direct investment in the history of Lithuania. We are proud to have reached this milestone and to have probably the most developed new nuclear project in Europe," Kubilius said.

The prime ministers of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia expressed their support for the project during a meeting at the Baltic Ministers Council on 7-8 March.

Visaginas will be equipped with an Hitachi-GE Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), described as the only generation III nuclear reactor with a proven operational track record around the world, with an enhanced level of safety.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

San Onofre Power Plant To Remain Shut Down While Feds Investigate

LOS ANGELES -- The troubled San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California will remain shut down until federal regulators can determine why tubes carrying radioactive water in the plant's massive generators are rapidly decaying.

The announcement Tuesday formalized an agreement with operator Southern California Edison on the same day that a report commissioned by an environmental group claimed the utility misled the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about design changes that are the likely culprit in excessive tube wear.

A four-page letter from NRC Regional Administrator Elmo E. Collins laid out a series of steps Edison must take before restarting the seaside reactors located 45 miles north of San Diego.

Elmo wrote that the problems in the generators must be resolved and fixed and "until we are satisfied that has been done, the plant will not be permitted to restart."

The plant's four steam generators each contain nearly 10,000 alloy tubes that carry hot, pressurized water from the reactors. The Unit 3 reactor was shut down as a precaution in January after a tube break, and extensive wear was found on similar tubing in its twin, Unit 2, which has been shut down for maintenance.

Authorities in California have been scrambling to find additional power in case the reactors remain off-line through summer, when energy use typically peaks. That could include restarting retired plants in Huntington Beach in northern Orange County.

The company has found that the tube wear is being caused by vibration and friction with adjacent tubes and bracing, however investigators don't know why that's happening.

The company "has been committed from the beginning to not returning Unit 2 or Unit 3 to service until we are satisfied it is safe to do so," SCE spokeswoman Jennifer Manfre said in a statement.

The problems have raised questions about the integrity and safety of replacement generators the company installed at the two reactors in a multimillion-dollar makeover in 2009 and 2010. Traces of radiation escaped during the January leak, but officials said there was no danger to workers or neighbors.

The report by nuclear consultants Fairewinds Associates warned that a more detailed study is needed on the alloy tubing in the generators before the reactors are restarted.

The study was produced for nuclear watchdog Friends of the Earth and was authored by engineer Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry executive who was a licensed reactor operator.

A series of equipment and design changes to the generators "created a large risk of tube failure at the San Onofre reactors," the report found, citing a review of publicly available records. It said the rapid tube wear can raise the potential for an accident that could release radioactivity.

Among the modifications, the report said the tube alloy was changed, bracing was redesigned and more tubes were added. It said the company never disclosed that such extensive changes were made, instead describing it as an exchange of similar equipment that allowed SCE "to avoid the requisite NRC oversight of a steam generator replacement."

Manfre, the company spokeswoman, said SCE provided "open and transparent information" to the NRC. Agency spokesman Scott Burnell said in a statement that the agency was aware of the design changes.

The company "had to show by analysis that their design was acceptable. All the information available at that time showed the replacement steam generators would meet our requirements for safe operation," Burnell said.

Gundersen, however, said he believed the additional tubes were a way to allow SCE to set the stage to generate more power at San Onofre, while avoiding more scrutiny from regulators that would come with ramping up power.

"They made too many changes. The only thing I can conclude is the ultimate goal was a power upgrade, to squeeze more power out of the plant," Gundersen said.

A team of federal investigators was called in to try to determine the cause of heavy wear.

Following the January leak, tests found that eight tubes that carry radioactive water from the reactor were in danger of rupturing under high pressure in Unit 3.

The company has said a total of 321 tubes will be plugged and taken out of service at the two reactors, well within the margin to allow them to keep operating.

Inside a steam generator, hot pressurized water flowing through bundles of tubes heats a bath of non-radioactive water surrounding them. The resulting steam is used to turn turbines to make electricity.

The tubes are one of the barriers between the radioactive and non-radioactive sides of the plant. If a tube breaks, there is the potential that radioactivity from the system that pumps water through the reactor could escape into the atmosphere.

Serious leaks also can drain cooling water from a reactor.

The steam generators were manufactured by Japan-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, according to company officials.

Fairewinds is a Vermont-based consultant that has worked with groups critical of nuclear power.

TEPCO decides to ask government for $12 billion injection: Kyodo

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is seen in Fukushima prefecture, in this aerial view photo taken by Kyodo March 11, 2012, the day marking the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands and set off a nuclear crisis. REUTERS/Kyodo

TOKYO | Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:22pm EDT

(Reuters) - Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T), troubled operator of the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant, formally decided on Thursday to ask the government to inject 1 trillion yen ($12.06 billion) in tax money to stay afloat, Kyodo news agency said.

The move by the company, known as Tepco, coincides with doubts about the future of Japan's atomic energy policy. Only one of 54 reactors is on stream as the government seeks backing from local authorities to restart units shut for maintenance.

The government is expected to obtain an initial majority stake in Tepco in return for the fund injection. It will have an option to boost the stake to two-thirds if the firm drags its feet on corporate reforms, a source with knowledge of contentious talks on the matter said.

Trade Minister Yukio Edano, who is responsible for approving a public fund injection, has said he wants the government to have a significant say in managing Tepco, but the two sides have been squabbling over how big the government stake should be.

Tepco, which provides electricity to 45 million people in the Tokyo area, is saddled with trillions of yen in compensation and clean-up costs after a huge tsunami in March 2011 triggered a radiation disaster at its Fukushima nuclear plant.

The utility also decided to seek another 850 billion yen from a government-backed bailout body, Kyodo said, to help compensate victims of the nuclear accident, the world's worst in 25 years.

The request paves the way for Tepco and the bailout body to finalize a business plan to be submitted to Edano soon. Submission has been delayed by the search for a new chairman, who will face huge hurdles to restore Tepco's profitability, including doubts over whether it can restart off-line reactors.

Last year's earthquake and tsunami caused reactor meltdowns at Fukushima, triggering a radiation crisis and widespread contamination that prompted mass evacuations.

A Tepco spokesman said there had been a board meeting but could not confirm a decision had been made.

Tepco is likely to include in the business scheme plans to restart reactors at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant in the business year ending March 2014 and to hike electricity rates, according to sources.

But whether these factors, essential to improve profitability, can be implemented smoothly is unclear. Local governments are voicing concerns over reactor restarts, companies are furious about the fee increase and Tepco needs to win government approval to raise household rates.

NextEra Energy's Lew Hay to step down as CEO in 2012, retire in 2013 (INPO Chairman)

JUNO BEACH, Fla. - Lewis 'Lew' Hay, III, today announced that he intends to retire from NextEra Energy, Inc., at the end of 2013 as part of a planned leadership succession process.

Mr. Hay will step down as CEO effective July 1, 2012. The Board of Directors today appointed Mr. Hay to serve as Executive Chairman from July 1, 2012, until his retirement, and appointed James L. Robo, 49, currently President and Chief Operating Officer of NextEra Energy, to succeed Mr. Hay as Chief Executive Officer of the company, effective July 1, 2012. It is anticipated that Mr. Robo will be appointed to the Board of Directors on or about the effective date of his appointment as CEO.

Effective July 1, Mr. Robo will be responsible for the overall strategy and operations of the company, while Mr. Hay, in addition to his duties as Board Chairman, will have direct responsibility for the company's legal, human resources and federal governmental affairs functions and will continue to provide input and counsel on strategy and other matters.

Michael H. Thaman, lead independent director on the NextEra Energy Board of Directors, said, 'The Board of Directors is truly appreciative of Lew Hay's leadership of this company for more than a decade. Lew led the transformation of NextEra Energy into one of the largest, cleanest, most successful players in the electric industry.

As a fitting tribute to his vision and leadership, Fortune Magazine recently named NextEra Energy the most admired company in our industry for an unprecedented sixth consecutive time, reflecting input from the executives, board members and analysts who know the industry better than anyone else. Lew has guided the company through an incredible period of change and growth and has done so with integrity and a sharp focus on creating value for customers, shareholders, employees and other stakeholders.'

Mr. Thaman continued, 'The Board takes its responsibilities regarding CEO succession very seriously. Lew has done a superior job in working closely with the Board to identify and prepare Jim Robo as his successor. We are truly fortunate to have an individual of Jim's caliber, vision and experience to lead NextEra Energy into the future.

Jim is ready for the job. He has been an active partner in determining our strategic direction and delivering our operational success and has the complete endorsement and support of the Board. During his tenure to date, Jim has had an enormously positive impact on the business and we look forward to working closely with him to ensure the continued success and growth of NextEra Energy in the years ahead.'

Mr. Hay joined NextEra Energy as Chief Financial Officer in August 1999. In March 2000, he was appointed President of NextEra Energy Resources, LLC. He was elected CEO of NextEra Energy, Inc., in June 2001 and elected Chairman of the Board in January 2002. Mr. Hay received a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Lehigh University in 1977 and a master of science degree in industrial administration from Carnegie Mellon University in 1982.

Mr. Hay serves on the board of directors of Capital One Financial Corporation and of Harris Corporation. He is a Vice Chairman of the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the association of U.S. shareholder-owned electric companies. He is also a director and past chairman of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which encompasses all U.S. commercial nuclear operating organizations, and he is a director of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). He is a member of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the Business Roundtable.

Mr. Hay was the chief architect of the company's clean energy growth strategy under which the company doubled its generating capacity to 41,000 megawatts during his tenure as CEO, including the addition of wind, solar, nuclear and natural gas generating facilities. The company is now the largest generator in the U.S. of renewable power from the wind and the sun, the third largest nuclear operator in the U.S. and operates one of the largest, cleanest rate-regulated utilities in the country, Florida Power & Light Company.

During Mr. Hay's tenure as CEO to year-end 2011, NextEra Energy has delivered a total shareholder return of more than 200 percent, or more than six times the return of the S&P 500. On a total shareholder return basis, NextEra Energy outperformed more than 80 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 Electric Utilities Index and more than 70 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 Index.

From 2001 through 2011, the company's earnings per share grew at a compound annual rate of approximately 7 percent, compared to approximately 2 percent for the S&P 500 Electric Utilities Index. The company grew dividends per share at a compound annual rate of 7 percent versus about 5 percent for the S&P 500 Electric Utilities Index.

Commenting on the transition, Mr. Hay said, 'I've been extremely blessed and privileged to have had the opportunity to lead NextEra Energy over the past 11 years. I have a deep passion for our company and enormous love and respect for our people. I'm extremely proud of what our team has accomplished during my tenure. Jim Robo has been an invaluable partner and was instrumental in developing and executing on NextEra Energy's clean energy growth strategy over the past decade.

He is an insightful strategist, experienced operator and proven developer of talent. Jim is fully qualified and clearly ready for his new role leading our company. With that in mind, this is the perfect time for our company to start this transition. NextEra Energy is in great shape, both financially and operationally, and we have a great team and an outstanding successor in place who will undoubtedly take this company to even higher levels of performance.'

Mr. Robo joined NextEra Energy as Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy in March 2002. A few months later, he was appointed President of NextEra Energy Resources. He was named to his current role in 2006. Prior to joining NextEra Energy, Mr. Robo served in executive roles with General Electric and Strategic Planning Associates, a management consulting firm. Mr. Robo received his bachelor of arts degree from Harvard College in 1984 and his MBA in 1988 from Harvard Business School. He serves on the board of directors of J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc.

Mr. Robo has been instrumental in the expansion of the company's wind generation fleet, growing it from approximately 1,500 megawatts in mid-2002 to 8,569 at year-end 2011. He also was instrumental in the acquisition of four nuclear reactors at three sites, which contributed to the company becoming the third largest nuclear operator in the U.S. Mr. Robo has been leading the company's solar power expansion, representing more than $ 4 billion in investment and nearly 1,000 megawatts under operation or in construction.

In addition, he has overseen the largest capital investment program in the history of Florida Power & Light. The addition of highly efficient power generation as part of this program is generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year in fuel savings for FPL customers and is an important reason the company's typical residential customer bills are the lowest in the state and 25 percent below the national average.

Mr. Robo said, 'I have been privileged to have worked with and learned from Lew during an incredible decade of growth and I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the company in the years ahead. We have a terrific team of motivated people, a track record of delivering value, and a long-standing commitment to acting with integrity. Like Lew, I will be focused on continuing to grow the business while creating value for our customers, shareholders, employees and other stakeholders.'

Korea to build nuclear plant for Vietnam

By Kim Tae-gyu

A few decades ago, the two countries were on opposite sides in the Cold War era. Now, they are seeking ways for win-win business solutions.

Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy said Wednesday that it had signed an agreement with its Vietnamese counterpart on checking the viability of building a nuclear power plant.

They will initiate studies next month, which are expected to take around a year to conclude.

“Korea has practically clinched the status as preferred bidder to construct a nuclear power plant in Vietnam by agreeing to start feasibility checks for the project,” Deputy Knowledge Economy Minister Moon Jae-do said.

If the Vietnamese government and assembly approve, the Korean side would be able to win the project to operate a pair of nuclear plants there.

The Vietnamese government wants the plants to meet the rising demand for electricity and Korea wants to export its APR 1400 reactors to the Southeast Asian nation.

Late last year, the two nations agreed to cooperate on nuclear energy and this is the first substantive contract under which they would come up with specific plans.

Should Seoul be able to sign an agreement with Hanoi, it would mark a second achievement of the former in its plan to export its nuclear energy technology.

A Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corp. signed an $18.6 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates in late 2009 under which they would build a total of four nuclear reactors there.

After the largest energy deal in the Middle East, Korea has strived to seal follow-up contracts to little avail, particularly in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster in Japan last March.

If the Vietnamese deal fares well, Asia’s No. 4 economy is expected to gain fresh momentum in its long-term goal of raising its status through nuclear energy.

Korea is one of the world’s nuclear powerhouses as the country depends on the energy source to meet around a third of its energy consumption.

Michigan nuclear reactor shut down for 30-plus days

DTE Energy says the reactor of its Fermi 2 nuclear plant in Monroe County has been shut down for refueling and maintenance work.

The Monroe Evening News reports the shutdown is expected to last more than a month.

DTE spokesman Guy Cerullo says more than 1,500 supplemental workers are in town for the work.

It's the 15th refueling and maintenance shutdown at the plant since it began commercial operation in 1988.

DTE officials say they began reducing reactor power Sunday night, and the plant stopped producing electricity early Monday morning.

PSEG, Exelon nuclear plant goes back online

A reactor at a Public Service Enterprise Group Inc. and Exelon Corp. nuclear power plant in New Jersey has returned to service nearly four days after a problem on the non-nuclear side of the plant caused an automatic shutdown.

Officials say the Salem 2 plant started sending out electricity again on Tuesday morning. It initially was operating at 28 percent of its full power output, and was expected to return to full power by late afternoon.

Salem 2 went offline Friday, when an electrical problem caused a turbine trip. The turbine is powered by steam produced from water heated by the nuclear reactor, and the spinning of the turbine produces electricity.

Salem 2 is one of three reactors operated by PSEG Nuclear at its Artificial Island complex in Lower Alloways Creek Township. The other plants were not affected by the turbine problem.

Pakistan: Civilian use of nuclear energy

Ever since the revelation that Abdul Qadeer Khan had been operating a nuclear black market, Pakistan has had to constantly defend its right to be a nuclear power in a way that India — which went nuclear at the same time as us, or Israel, which never officially admitted to its nuclear capability — never had to. The international community continues to worry that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists, a fear that ignores the many changes we made to our nuclear protocols and safety in the last few years. Thus, while Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani’s call for us to be given civil nuclear technology at a nuclear-security summit in Seoul will most likely be rebuffed, perhaps, the time is right to admit Pakistan to the club of responsible nuclear powers.

The benefits of a civil nuclear technology deal to Pakistan are clear. Perhaps, the most important benefit is that it will allow us to harness nuclear energy in service of our energy woes. The rest of the world, particularly the US, might have some reservations but those could be easily addressed. If Pakistan is so keen on a nuclear deal, the US could propose some conditions that allow them to keep a greater watch on our nuclear activities.

For us, the aim is to be treated on parity with India as a nuclear power and find a solution to the power crisis. If we were able to produce nuclear energy, this could also prove beneficial to the US, which because of its enmity with Iran has been trying to throw a spanner in the Iran gas pipeline. Thus, we are within our rights to demand civilian nuclear technology. The greatest fear — that our nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of the Taliban — have always been inflated, since the military itself has been repeatedly attacked by militants and would have no desire to hand over to them a weapon that would make them untouchable.

Having demonstrated our nuclear safety and security, it is time for the world to acknowledge us as a legitimate nuclear power.

Kenya's nuclear energy drive to boost electricity supply

Kenya is gearing up for a revision of its energy policy to establish a regulatory system for overseeing the potential opening of the country's first private-sector nuclear power plant.

Despite warnings that the world's nuclear waste is growing at alarming rates and with most of the current facilities having outlived their usefulness, a director of a government board Monday said several Kenyan scientists were already receiving training.

"The energy policy is being revised and nuclear has been added as part of the revised energy policy," Ochilo Ayacko, a former energy minister who chairs a government board tasked with overseeing the introduction of nuclear technologies.

He said the establishment of the nuclear committee was a first major step. Kenya is eyeing the establishment of a nuclear-powered plant to produce almost 25 percent of the electricity needs out of the 15,000 megawatts capacity dream. Nineteen percent would come from a single nuclear-power plant.

Ayacko said an institution to promote nuclear technologies has been established, meeting a key target required by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) whose inspectors are currently visiting Kenya to determine the level of preparedness.

Thabishile Molea, an IAEA program manager, said Monday the team was visiting to review the level of preparedness and to enhance nuclear safety through an effective regulation system.

She said the regulatory framework for a nuclear project in Kenya was important for IAEA approval.

"We are expected to put in our documents to show that it intends to go nuclear and the institutions that will spearhead the nuclear technologies," Ayacko said during a meeting with IAEA officials.

Kenya has announced the execution of a 2.3 million euros (3.1 million U.S. dollars) training program for nuclear scientists to bolster the ability of local experts to oversee the safe introduction of "peaceful" nuclear program.

"There are components we are working on," Ayacko said, referring to the ongoing efforts to establish a nuclear regulatory system.

Kenya's efforts to shift to nuclear power suffered a big blow after Japan's nuclear disaster in 2011 caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

The 2.3 million euros (3.1 million dollars) will finance a 15-year plan to train nuclear experts. Already, six Kenyan experts are receiving training in South Korea on nuclear technologies.

Even though Kenya plans to employ nuclear energy by 2020 with the first nuclear power plant by 2017 to cut carbon emissions, UN agencies prefer "greener energies."

"There should not be preferred nuclear technologies in Kenya," said Adnan Amin, director-general of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). "Kenya is rich in renewable energy potential."

To meet electricity shortfalls, authorities in Nairobi hope to hit 2,000 MW to deal with the peak demand for electricity in the East African nation.

"We are working to ensure small margins in terms of supply," said Patric Nyoike, permanent secretary at the Kenyan energy ministry.

Nyoike said that while wind powered electricity generation projects are part of the plan, the government has to look at other options.

"We reckon we have a bit of wind," he said.

Kenya's current energy needs total 900 MW against an installed capacity of 1,200 MW but the east African nation hopes to boost electricity generation by 17,000 MW.

"There is hope the installed capacity would have increased by 2030," Nyoike said.

Achim Steiner, the UN Environmental Program executive director, said that instead of focusing on nuclear energy, Kenyan authorities should consider more investments in renewable energy.

"Nuclear energy requires more investment. Renewable energy requires short perspective. Renewable energy makes more economic sense," Steiner said.

UN officials said Kenya should approve public debate on the future of renewable energy before deciding whether it would be appropriate to invest in nuclear power.

Joseph Alcamo, UNEP's chief scientist, said more nuclear plants were ageing and required decommissioning, the nuclear waste generated by these plants would be 10-200 times more than the current levels, proving to be a bigger environmental challenge.

India: L&T upbeat on nuclear power plant component exports

Engineering and construction major Larsen & Toubro Ltd is all set to start supply of nuclear components and sub-assemblies to companies in the US and Europe.

L&T expects to play a larger role in nuclear power generation as a supplier and contractor.

It has bagged orders worth $40 million which include shielded canisters, made by using special steel, used for storage of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

“This brings about a big difference to the overall nuclear roadmap of the country. Once being totally dependent on others for supply of parts for nuclear power plants, we are in a position to make them for supplies within the country and lately for exports,” Mr M.V. Kotwal, President, Heavy Engineering of L&T, said.

Speaking at the Nuclear Fuel Complex here on Monday, the L&T official said that the manufacturing base established at Hazira in Gujarat, with an outlay of about Rs 1,700 crore in a joint venture with the Government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, has immense capabilities to supply parts for nuclear power plants.

This venture is capable of building special steels and ultra heavy forgings of up to 600 tonnes.

“With a large forging capability of up to 600 tonnes using special steels and ultra heavy forgings, we are in a position to play a critical role in supply of equipment for nuclear power plants. In fact, couple of companies based in Europe are keen to partner L&T,” he said.

Over the years, L&T has been focussing on self reliance for equipment required for nuclear power plants. It has also obtained most of the international safety approvals.

The special quality tubes are indigenously manufactured at NFC, which are useful for steam generators in nuclear reactors. “These form the most important element for heat exchange and we do not have to be dependent on other suppliers,” he said.

AEHI Completes Initial Improvements at Proposed Nuclear Power Plant Site Idaho Energy Complex Prepares for Federal Process

BOISE, Idaho, March 28, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. ( ) today announced the company has completed initial site improvements prior to beginning an extensive environmental study, which is expected to begin in the 2nd quarter of this year. ENERCON Services, Inc., one of the nation's leading nuclear engineering firms, was contracted to perform the study as part of the larger Combined Operating License Application (COLA) that will be prepared and submitted to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Some of the site improvements included the installation of a roadway culvert, a recessed entrance gate, a gravel driveway with parking pad, a construction office trailer and additional signage.

When the environmental study begins, the site will also maintain a secure storage container for geotechnical samples and a meteorological tower among other activities. The tower will be used to track and analyze weather data. During that time ENERCON will also perform a number of core borings and other sophisticated geological studies to determine the seismic and geological stability of the site.

"Based on existing data compiled to date, the site appears to be an excellent location for a nuclear power plant, but we must perform a more detailed environmental study to ensure it is fully adequate and to complete the necessary requirements with the NRC," said Don Gillispie.

"As we begin this process, it is comforting to know that the NRC has already seen fit to approve two new reactors in Georgia with Southern Company and likely two more will be on the near horizon in South Carolina. News of this magnitude is critical to companies like ours in moving forward," Gillispie said.

Pictures of the Idaho site are available on the AEHI homepage at .

About Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. ( ) -- Alternate Energy Holdings develops and markets innovative clean energy sources. The company is the nation's only independent nuclear power plant developer seeking to build new power plants in multiple non-nuclear states; Idaho Energy Complex is the lead project. Other business units include Energy Neutral(R), which reduces energy demands for homes and businesses ( ) and Green World Water(TM), which assists developing countries with nuclear reactors for production of potable water, power generation and other suitable applications ( ).

About ENERCON Services, Inc. ( ) -- ENERCON is an industry leader in the resurgence of nuclear power plants in the United States and is in the forefront of developing the licensing, engineering, and environmental aspects of the next generation of power plants. ENERCON was selected to submit four of the lead license applications for the nuclear industry using the new 10CFR Part 52 Combined Operating License Application Process. ENERCON has been an industry leader in developing the approach and methods for implementing the new licensing process and is currently engaged in several new nuclear plant licensing application projects.

Safe Harbor Statement: Statements in this press release which are not purely historical, including statements regarding Alternative Energy Holdings', intentions, hopes, beliefs, expectations, representations, projections, plans or predictions of the future are forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. As such, they are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause our results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. . The forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties including, but not limited to, the risk the company may not raise sufficient money to fund the costs and expenses of the COLA application process, the risk that the company may experience delays in the COLA application process, the risk that the COLA application will not receive regulatory approval and the risk that future data, including that obtained from the environmental study, may not support the planned location for a nuclear power plant.. Our business could be affected by a number of other factors, including the risk factors listed from time to time in the company's SEC reports including, but not limited to, the annual report on Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2010. The company cautions investors not to place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements contained in this press release. Alternate Energy Holdings, Inc. disclaims any obligation, and does not undertake to update or revise any forward-looking statements in this press release.

San Onofre nuclear power plant prohibited from restarting

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, citing serious concerns about equipment failures at the San Onofre nuclear power plant, has prohibited Southern California Edison from restarting the plant until the problems are thoroughly understood and fixed.

The plant has been shut down for two months, the longest in San Onofre's history, after a tube leak in one of the plant's steam generators released a small amount of radioactive steam. Since then, unusual wear has been found on hundreds of tubes that carry radioactive water.

Neither regulators nor Edison have said when they believe the plant will reopen. San Onofre is a major supplier of power for Southern California, producing about 2,200 megawatts of power, or enough electricity to serve 1.4 million households. It is Southern California's only nuclear power plant.

State officials are already working on contingency plans to avoid power outages during the summer months if the plant remains out of commission. They are considering transmission upgrades, bringing back retired generating units at a natural gas plant in Huntington Beach and launching new conservation efforts, including flex-alerts to encourage customers to use less energy.

Until now, the cause of the tube problems had been a mystery. But in a letter federal regulators sent to Edison on Tuesday, officials said tubes were vibrating and rubbing against support structures and adjacent tubes.

According to the NRC, the tubes in Unit 3 were rubbing against each other and against the support structures, while those in Unit 2 were rubbing against the support structure but not against each other. Commission spokeswoman Lara Uselding said the root cause of the issue is still unclear.

The NRC letter prohibits Edison from restarting the plant until regulators believe the problems have been addressed and San Onofre is safe to operate.

"Until we are satisfied that has been done, the plant will not be permitted to restart," NRC Region IV Administrator Elmo E. Collins said in a statement.

Although the NRC had ordered nuclear plants shut down before, the move is considered a significant step that signals the plant is unsafe to operate.

The problems are perplexing because the steam generators were installed within the last two years at a cost of $671 million to be paid by Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric customers through higher rates. The new equipment was intended to last until the plant's license expires in 2022.

Officials said the wear on the tubes was unusual for such new equipment.

The situation posed a safety threat for two reasons. The rupture of tubes can release radiation. Moreover, if many tubes were to rupture at one time, it could compromise the cooling system of the reactor's core.

In Unit 3, a total of eight tubes failed pressure tests in recent weeks. In Unit 2, 192 tubes — about 1% of the unit's total — showed signs of wear and were taken out of service.

Typically, a steam generator can operate at full power with about 8% of its tubes out of service and some have operated with up to 30% out of service, Uselding said.

Under the terms of the letter issued Tuesday, before the plant can return to service, Edison must determine what is causing the tubes in Unit 3 to rub against each other and ensure that the same thing does not happen in Unit 2. It also must complete pressure testing of tubes with possibly excessive wear and take those that show too much deterioration out of service, and it must develop a schedule of added inspections once the plant returns to service.

Edison said it is committed to meeting the NRC's requirements.

"Our No. 1 priority is, and always has been, the health and safety of the public and our employees," said Southern California Edison President Ron Litzinger in a company statement. "The utility will only bring the units on line when we and the NRC are satisfied that it is safe to do so."

Also Tuesday, an advocacy group released a report alleging that design flaws in the newly installed steam generators contributed to the problems.

The report was commissioned by Friends of the Earth and prepared by consultant Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, a former nuclear industry executive who is now a critic of the industry. The report alleges that design changes — including a different alloy used to make the tubes, a change in the flow rate, addition of more tubes and changes in the support structures that hold the tubes in place — probably caused the unexpected wear.

The generators were manufactured by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

One other nuclear plant in the United States, Fort Calhoun Nuclear Generating Station in Nebraska, uses steam generators made by Mitsubishi. But Uselding said the design of the San Onofre generators is unique, and Fort Calhoun has not experienced the same issues.

Patrick Boyle, a spokesman for Mitsubishi, said the company considers the tube wear to be "a serious matter" and is supporting Edison in finding the root cause.

LNG-Soaked Japan Burns Oil as Nuclear Reactors Sit Idle

Japan is consuming the most oil in four years as it runs out of capacity to use liquefied natural gas as a stopgap for idled nuclear-power plants.

Utilities are burning about 400,000 barrels a day, more than at any time since 2008, after more than doubling use of crude last year, according to Deutsche Bank AG. (DBK) LNG can meet about two-thirds of Japan’s electricity needs when all its nuclear reactors are offline, government data and forecasts from the Institute for Energy Economics show.

Japan, turning to alternative sources of energy after last year’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster, is boosting its reliance on oil at a time when supply concerns from Sudan to Iran are already roiling markets. Brent crude has jumped 16 percent this year to trade near a three-year high, stoking speculation governments will be forced to release oil from emergency stockpiles.

“In a global market characterized by supply-side constraints, we think sustained incremental demand of nearly 400,000 barrels a day from Japan would help keep crude prices well supported,” Michael Hsueh, a London-based analyst at Deutsche Bank, said in a report. “These are non-trivial numbers at a global level.”

Japan, the world’s biggest buyer of LNG, has imported record amounts of the fuel in response to the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that wrecked three reactors at the Fukushima plant northeast of Tokyo, triggering the worst radiation leak since Chernobyl in the 1980s. The country relied on nuclear sources for almost 30 percent of its electricity before the disaster.

Record High

LNG prices paid by Japan climbed to a record $16.96 per million British thermal units on Nov. 30 and traded at $16.76 per million Btu at the end of January, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Until the nation completes additional capacity for turning liquefied fuel back into natural gas, the country can’t increase its reliance on LNG, according to Barclays Plc. (BARC)

“Japan’s ability to burn any more incremental gas to meet its power demand this year will be heavily constrained,” said Amrita Sen, an analyst at Barclays in London who forecasts Brent may top $150 a barrel this year amid the tension with Iran. “Oil-fired generation is likely to step up to fill in a large part of Japan’s power shortfall, at least until a decision is made regarding whether to continue with nuclear power.”

Military Conflict

Brent crude closed at $126.22 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange on March 13, near the highs reached in April 2011 and August 2008. Prices have risen this year amid speculation that U.S. and European sanctions on Iran may trigger a military conflict that disrupts supplies in the Middle East. The region is home to more than half the world’s oil reserves.

South Sudan shut oil production in January after accusing its northern neighbor, from which it became independent in July, of stealing its crude. The dispute has removed about 350,000 barrels a day from global markets, according to International Energy Agency estimates.

Japan’s use of crude oil for generating power rose 118 percent to 8.8 million kiloliters in 2011, according to data from the Federation of Electric Power Cos. That was about 135,000 barrels a day in the second half of 2011, almost four times more than a year earlier, Deutsche Bank said. Demand continued to increase at the beginning of 2012, rising 177 percent from a year earlier, the bank said.

Indonesia’s Minas crude, a grade whose low-sulfur content meets Japan’s oil-burning regulations, settled yesterday at $139.58 a barrel, bringing its gain this year to 17 percent. Minas’s premium over Brent was $14.04 a barrel, compared with an average of $9.07 over the last year, Bloomberg data show.

Fuel Oil

Japan is also using more fuel oil. Demand for the refining residue rose 22 percent in the second half of 2011 and was up 50 percent at the start of this year, Deutsche Bank said.

Low-sulfur waxy residual fuel oil, a benchmark grade for Japanese power producers, settled at $132.40 a barrel on March 14 in Singapore, exceeding the previous record of $131.35 on July 15, 2008, according to Bloomberg data. It rose 0.7 percent yesterday to $132.25 a barrel.

The increase in crude and fuel-oil consumption comes as Japan’s LNG processing power falls about one-third short of the 93 million tons it would need to replace all the nation’s nuclear reactors while servicing gas-company customers, according to Bloomberg calculations using a December forecast by the Institute of Energy Economics.

Friday, March 23, 2012

UAE's ENEC hopes to start nuclear plant construction in Q4 -CEO

(Reuters) - The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said on Friday that it hopes to start building the country's first nuclear power plant in the fourth quarter if regulatory approval is given by the third quarter.

The oil-exporting UAE has plans to build four nuclear reactors by 2020 to meet growing domestic energy demand.

Mohamed Al Hammadi, chief executive of ENEC, told Reuters on the sidelines of a nuclear industry event in Seoul that the company hoped to receive regulatory approval for the plant by the third quarter.

The UAE awarded the contract to build the reactors to a consortium of Korean companies led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) in December 2009.


China National Nuclear in Talks With Areva on Uranium Stakes

China National Nuclear Corp. said it’s in talks to buy a stake in uranium mines owned by Areva SA (AREVA) as the world’s biggest energy consumer prepares to resume approval of new reactor construction.

“We are also discussing opportunities with many countries to cooperate in terms of uranium exploration and mining,” Sun Qin, president of China’s biggest atomic power plant operator, said in an interview in Seoul today, without giving a time-frame or details on location.

China National Nuclear, which started operations at its first overseas uranium mine in 2010, is looking to acquire additional assets to meet rising domestic demand, the company said in March last year. Rival China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Co. is offering to buy Australian explorer Extract Resources Ltd. (EXT) for A$2.2 billion ($2.3 billion) to gain access to the world’s fourth-biggest uranium deposit.

“We are preparing to list CNNC Nuclear Power Co.,” as part of our expansion plans, Sun said, without elaborating.

China National Nuclear is also the parent of Hong Kong- listed CNNC International Ltd. (2302), a uranium producer in Niger.

The Chinese government is “very likely” to resume approval of new nuclear projects in 2012 as the government completes a safety review prompted by the Fukushima disaster last year, Sun said on March 5. China, which started operating its first commercial nuclear plant in 1994, is building at least 27 reactors and has 50 more planned, according to the China Nuclear Energy Association.

Nuclear Industry

“Nuclear is going to continue to play a very important role in the future,” Areva Chief Executive Officer Luc Oursel told reporters in Seoul today. “Our estimation is that today we have more or less 400 gigawatts of nuclear plants, and we think this will grow to 600 gigawatts in 2030.”

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March last year crippled Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, causing some countries to suspend or scale back their nuclear plants. Areva, currently building plants in France and Finland, is bidding to provide reactors in China, India, the U.K., Finland and the Czech Republic, Oursel said yesterday in Paris.

“The nuclear renaissance has not been severely impacted by the Fukushima accident,” said Oursel, who was attending the Seoul Nuclear Industry Summit, citing tenders in the Czech Republic, Finland and South Africa.

Areva produced 9,142 metric tons of uranium last year, making it the world’s second-biggest producer of the atomic fuel, according to the company’s website. The Paris-based company has mines in countries including Australia, Canada and Niger.


Energy officials prepare for summer without San Onofre plant

The San Onofre nuclear plant has been shut down since Jan. 31, but when warm summer weather arrives, officials warn, Southern California could face energy shortages.

California energy officials are working to stave off the potential for summer power shortages if the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station remains out of service.

San Onofre has been shut down since Jan. 31, when a tube that carries hot, radioactive water in one of the plant's newly installed steam generators in the Unit 3 reactor sprang a leak. The mishap released a small amount of radioactive steam.

The reactor was taken offline and Southern California Edison, the plant's operator, began pressure-testing 129 tubes that showed excessive wear, while the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission dispatched a team to investigate the issue. Since then, eight tubes have failed pressure stress tests. Meanwhile, in Unit 2, the plant's other working reactor, which had been shut down for routine maintenance since early January, they found excessive wear and tear on 192 more tubes.

Jennifer Manfre, a spokeswoman with Edison, said the company is planning for the possibility that the plant could be offline through the summer.

If that happens, it will be the first time that one of California's two nuclear plants has been shut down for an extended period during the summer months when demand peaks, said Stephanie McCorkle, a spokeswoman with California Independent System Operator, which operates the state's wholesale power grid.

So far, with energy demand low due to mild weather, the plant's shutdown has had no impact on service.

In a report presented to the Independent System Operator board Thursday, staffers said that in a major heat wave or transmission line outage during the peak season, South Orange County and the San Diego and Los Angeles areas could face energy shortages without the 2,200 megawatts of power generated by San Onofre.

To prevent that, officials plan to produce more energy from other sources and convince customers to scale back on demand.

"If, in fact, we do nothing, there could be some potential issues down there," said ISO Chief Executive Stephen Berberich. "We don't intend to do nothing."

Independent System Operator staffers said that the danger of outages could be mitigated by bringing back two retired generating units at a natural gas power plant in Huntington Beach, as well as stepping up transmission upgrades and calling for voluntary conservation through "flex alerts" and other measures.

Manfre said Edison is working with the Independent System Operator and San Diego Gas & Electric, which owns a 20% share in the plant, to plan for the summer. Among other measures, she said the company is accelerating a transmission project that will serve parts of South Orange County, and is in discussions with the California Public Utilities Commission to implement a rate savings incentive program for customers who reduce their usage.

Some observers voiced concerns that officials will use consumers' fear of rolling blackouts to push the plant back into service before the issues are fixed. S. David Freeman, former head of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, wrote a letter to the Independent System Operator chastising officials there for raising the specter of rolling blackouts in previous public statements.

"The problems at San Onofre are serious enough to require the NRC to dispatch a team to the plant site to discover the cause of the problems," he wrote. "They don't need the pressure caused by the fear of rolling blackouts fanned by the spokesman for the ISO."

McCorkle said the power grid operator is most concerned about safety and is not pushing for a quick return to service for San Onofre.


Nuclear power only option despite Fukushima: industry

Almost 200 experts and leaders from 36 states met at an industry summit in Seoul to discuss ways to ensure safety of nuclear energy one year after Fukushima's atomic disaster in Japan.

A top industry leader on Friday defended nuclear power as the only realistic way to reduce global warming despite Japan's atomic disaster last year.

Director-general John Rich, of the World Nuclear Association (WNA), a global nuclear trade group, was speaking at an industry summit in Seoul as a small group of protesters from Asian countries rallied nearby.

Some 200 experts and leaders from 36 countries met to discuss ways to ensure safety and security of nuclear material and atomic power plants and to safeguard sensitive nuclear information from terrorists.

The meeting preceded a Nuclear Security Summit next Monday and Tuesday, also in Seoul, at which top officials from 53 nations will debate ways to counter the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Rich said nuclear power was "uniquely able to deliver on a global scale" both energy security and environmental protection.

Climate change and the danger it foretells need "nothing less than a global clean-energy revolution", he said.

"Those with a mind for real-world solutions know that this transformation can be attained only with nuclear power in a central role," he said in a keynote speech.

He urged governments to give incentives to energy companies to encourage a "generic shift to all clean-energy technologies" by penalising carbon emissions and promoting major clean-energy investment.

"In any such marketplace, nuclear power will thrive, delivering the invaluable benefit of energy and environmental security on a scale exceeding that of any other clean-energy technology," Rich said.

Luc Oursel, chief executive of the French nuclear reactor builder Areva, said while last year's disaster raised concerns about the safety of nuclear power, countries around the world have resumed reactor building.

A total of 60 nuclear power plants are currently being constructed worldwide, the WNA says.

At a nearby Seoul subway station 25 protesters from Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and elsewhere rallied to protest at nuclear power.

They chanted "No Nuclear Asia" and waved banners reading "No to nuclear power plants" and "Fukushima cries out -- Abolish nuclear plants".

The March 2011 Fukushima meltdown was the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Exelon upgrades equipment at Byron nuclear plant

Exelon Corp. says it has finished upgrading equipment at a northern Illinois nuclear plant where a power failure caused a reactor to shut down two months ago.

The company says it has replaced electrical insulators in the switchyards that help move power to and from the reactors at the Byron Generating Station, which is located about 95 miles northwest of Chicago.

In January, an insulator in Unit 2 switchyard failed and interrupted power, causing the reactor to automatically shut down as a precaution.Insulators are protective equipment that helps regulate the flow of electricity.Exelon says Unit 1 was taken offline last week while upgrades were finished, and Unit 2 upgrades were finished over the weekend. Both units are back online at full power and generating electricity.

Russia says near deal on two new Indian reactors

VOLGINSKY, Russia, March 21 (Reuters) - Russia's ability to restart
long-delayed work at India's Kudankulam nuclear plant has paved the way for a
deal with Delhi to build two more atomic reactors in the near future, Russia's
nuclear chief said on Wednesday.
The first two reactors at the plant in the state of Tamil Nadu were meant to
be operational last year, but work by Russian engineers was delayed after
protesters blocked access to the site following Japan's nuclear
Work to launch the reactors restarted on Tuesday, however, after Indian
police arrested dozens of protesters.
"The resolution of the political dispute over the first two reactors paves
the road to sign the agreement on the third and fourth (nuclear) generators,"
Sergei Kiriyenko, the head of Russian state nuclear monopoly Rosatom, told
"The decision (on the third and fourth) reactors was linked to the launch of
the first and second generators."
Kiriyenko said Moscow was ready to sign the agreement with India on the third
and fourth reactors "starting tomorrow," adding he already had initial political
approval for the project despite the fact that talks have dragged on for
However, he ruled out sealing the deal during President Dmitry Medvedev's
visit to India for a summit of the BRICS group of nations.
Russia is keen to cash in on its nuclear know-how and has ambitious plans to
triple nuclear exports to $50 billion a year by 2030. It possesses about 40
percent of the world's uranium enrichment capacity, and exports some $3 billion
worth of fuel a year, offering discounts to clients who buy its
India meanwhile continues to suffer from huge electricity shortages which are
hampering its growth, and is therefore anxious to get more nuclear power
stations built as quickly as possible.
Kiriyenko hailed the Indian authorities' decision to press ahead despite
domestic opposition to the project, saying the plant more than complied with
stricter safety rules brought in after the Fukushima crisis.
"There is nothing safer that this project compared to other plants across the
globe," Kiriyenko told Reuters.
Rosatom has argued that the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl more than 20 years
ago helped it hone its safety technology.
Kiriyenko did not say when the first two reactors at Kudankulam could go
online, stressing that the halt in construction meant additional checks would be
"We need to carry out an inspection of the equipment that has been idle,"
Kiriyenko said. "This of course may take some time because we have put all the
equipment in storage."
India plans to add 64 gigawatts of nuclear power to its power generating
capacity by building 30 reactors by 2032. (Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk;
Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Andrew Osborn)

Switzerland - Ministry appeals Mühleberg nuclear plant ruling

The energy and environment ministry, which licences Mühleberg nuclear plant,
is to appeal a Federal Administrative Court decision to close the plant next

The move follows last week’s announcement by the Bern plant’s operator BKW Energy
that it intended to appeal the ruling “in order to obtain the legal certainty
required for a decision on investments”.

On Wednesday the ministry said the judgment had called into question the
delineation of roles and responsibilities between itself and the Swiss Federal
Nuclear Safety Inspectorate, despite the fact that the two “administer their
tasks independently from each other and ensure a strict separation of their
competences”. “The swift and definitive resolution of these questions is
in the interests of Swiss energy policy and the public,” the ministry statement
said. The 1972 Mühleberg plant, one of five in Switzerland, supplies
five per cent of the country’s energy needs.

The court said on March 7 its licence should be taken away in June 2013 on safety grounds, after local opponents had lodged a complaint about the indefinite extension of the licence
granted by the environment ministry at the end of 2009. Switzerland’s
heavy reliance on nuclear energy came under intense pressure in the wake of
Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster a year ago, with the government ultimately
pledging to abandon nuclear power by 2034.

Belarus to Cut Russian Gas Imports After Nuclear Plant Begins

Belarus plans to cut Russian natural-gas imports after starting its first nuclear power plant in 2017. The former Soviet republic will need to burn only half the amount of gas it does now for electricity, saving 5 billion cubic meters of the fuel annually or almost a quarter of imports, Deputy Energy Minister Mikhail Mikhadiuk said today during a conference on nuclear energy in the capital, Minsk.

Belarus imports about 22 billion cubic meters of gas a year, of which half is used to produce electricity, he said. Belarus expects its first nuclear power plant to become fully operational in 2018 or 2019, First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said at the conference. “The first unit of the nuclear facility will be started in 2017, the second unit one or two years later.”

Russia agreed to provide Belarus with a $10 billion export loan, covering 85 percent of the generator’s total cost, Semashko said. The two countries, which formed a customs union with Kazakhstan, will allocate $170 million this year to complete the initial phase of construction, he said.

Areva Says It Will Bid With EDF to Build Polish Nuclear Plant

Areva SA (AREVA) Chief Executive Officer Luc Oursel said the nuclear reactor maker will make a joint bid with French power utility Electricite de France SA to build an atomic plant in Poland. “For the construction of the plant, we’ll bid with EDF,”the CEO of the Paris-based nuclear company said at a senate hearing in the French capital today. “It’s possible that the Polish utility will ask EDF or others to invest in the plant and bring their operational experience.”

PGE SA (PGE), Poland’s largest utility, wants to start a tender within the next two months for a technology provider for a planned nuclear power plant, Chief Financial Officer Wojciech Ostrowski said March 14. Areva is bidding to provide nuclear reactors in China, India, the U.K., Finland and the Czech Republic, and is currently building plants in France, Finland and China, said Oursel.

The company has said it expects use of atomic power to increase, helped by the need to cut reliance on fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

U.S. Needs New Nuclear Plants to Retain Expertise, Browner Says

Carol Browner, who resigned as the White House’s top adviser on climate change last year, said the U.S. needs to build new nuclear power plants to retain the technical knowledge.
“I’m concerned that if we don’t build new nuclear plants we’ll lose the engineers, scientists and construction workers with the know-how,” Browner said today in an interview at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York.
“We tried to jumpstart the process and get more people interested in nuclear to improve the technology and reduce costs,” she said. Browner is now senior counselor at Albright Stonebridge Group.
Southern Co. (SO), based in Atlanta, received approval in February to build two new reactors at its Vogtle plant. The $14 billion project is the first to receive a license to build from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission since before the partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island facility in 1979.

Israel to phase out civilian atomic reactor by 2018

By Dan Williams
SOREQ, Israel, March 20 (Reuters) - Israel is phasing out a civilian nuclear reactor to which it has admitted foreign inspectors while keeping a second reactor, widely believed to have produced atom bombs, off-limits, officials said on Tuesday.
The small facility at Soreq, which began operations in 1960 with a one-time stock of uranium fuel from the United States, will be replaced by 2017 or 2018 by a particle accelerator fulfilling many of the same research and medical functions.
A short drive from Tel Aviv, Soreq has served as a showcase for cooperation with international counter-proliferation efforts, though Israel remains outside a voluntary 1970 treaty that would require it forswear nuclear weapons and open up its larger, secretive reactor in the southern desert town of Dimona.
"Israel has not signed the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) and so, by definition, when Soreq is closed the inspections will no longer take place," said David Danieli, deputy director of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, in an on-site briefing.
He said Israel would pursue "continued and wide-ranging" involvement with the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and forums such as next week's South Korean-hosted Nuclear Security Summit.
Israel is reputed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal but neither confirms nor denies this under a "strategic ambiguity" policy to deter Arab and Iranian adversaries.
But it is keen to cast itself as a responsible nuclear player while world powers step up scrutiny of Iran's disputed nuclear energy programme, which Western officials suspect is covertly designed to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies this.
Along with Arab states, Iran has long tried to shift international censure towards Israel's nuclear conduct and will not attend the Seoul summit.
Danieli described Soreq's decommissioning as an outcome of its age and the fact that its highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel is running out. As an NPT outsider, Israel is barred from importing new HEU, a primary ingredient in nuclear warheads.
Soreq director Hanoch Hirschfeld rued the HEU curbs, saying that if resupplied the reactor could potentially operate for another 30 years.
"We could use more fuel, but if the decision is to make do with the alternative, then that is the way it will be," he said, referring to the particle accelerator being built in a boxy complex a stone's throw away from the reactor.
With dimensions akin to a small cathedral and a staff of 15, Soreq has provided services including medical isotopes and neutron radiography, an enhanced form of X-ray.
Its modest energy output makes comparing it with a traditional nuclear power reactor "like likening a kettle to a steam engine", according to one Israeli official.
Husbanding HEU stocks, which U.N. inspectors tally twice a year to ensure none was diverted for military use, appears to have helped reduce Soreq operations to one or two days a week.
The reactor's schedule has been further trimmed by the occasional surge of fighting in Gaza, with Palestinians there launching rockets that can reach Tel Aviv's outskirts.
"Whenever things start falling out of the sky, we close up," Hirschfeld said. (Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Kudankulam nuclear power project cleared, govt steps on throttle

CHENNAI: A day after the state cabinet cleared the controversial Kudankulam nuclear power project in Tirunelveli, the government began moving ahead at full throttle to have the plant up and running by August.
As part of its strategy to hasten work while avoiding a confrontation with activists protesting against the project - which the government now sees as vital to dealing with its energy crisis - police contingents have been deployed on all approaches to the site. Section 144 of the CrPC has been clamped to prohibit protesters from rallying, and checkposts have been set up in surrounding villages. Police teams have been stationed at Thomas Mandapam, from where the Kudankulam main road branches off to Idinthakkarai, 2km from the plant and the focal point of the protests, to cut off the village. At Idinthakkarai, 15 protesters, including People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy coordinator S P Udayakumar and convener M Pushparayan, have started a hunger strike since noon on Monday. The protesters, who have gathered in the village, are aware that the police are waiting for them to make a mistake. "Please do not stray out of the village as the police are waiting for us to venture out," an activist announced as villagers queued up for a frugal meal of dal and rice. The police are playing a waiting game, cordoning off the plant and counting on the summer heat to drain the resolve of the protestors. Senior police officers said the protest fast would not pose a threat to activity at the plant. "As long as the hunger fasts remain peaceful, we will have no problem," said additional director-general of police (law and order) S George, who visited Kudankulam on Tuesday. Sources said the authorities are carrying out a propaganda campaign to create a rift between the local people and frontline protesters. South zone IG Rajesh Das told mediapersons that he had information that villagers were getting restive and were likely to ask outsiders to leave their villages. The police have so far arrested only protesters who tried to obstruct workers from entering the plant. The government is obviously keen to avoid a showdown with the fishing community. "Any police action against fishermen can quickly spiral out of control," said another police officer. Udayakumar said people are moving into Idinthakkarai by boat despite the curfew. "But there could be public health problems and food shortage in a few days here in Idinthakkarai," he said.

BERN, Switzerland—The Swiss operator of one of Europe's oldest commercial nuclear reactors says it plans to shut the plant by 2022.
BKW Energie AG said Tuesday that the Muehleberg plant will continue to provide electricity for ten years despite a Swiss court ruling earlier this month that the reactor's license should expire at the end of June 2013.
The company has said it will challenge the ruling at Switzerland's supreme court.
Muehleberg began operation in 1972.
Earlier this year, it was temporarily shut down after routine maintenance caused a feedwater cooling system to stop working. No radioactivity was released.
Switzerland gets about 40 percent of its power from five nuclear reactors. The country plans to phase out nuclear power by 2034.

Regulators plan another Neb. nuclear plant meeting

BLAIR, Neb. — Federal regulators want another update on the Omaha Public Power District's efforts to improve the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant and preparations to restart it.The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will meet with OPPD officials in Blair on April 4. The meeting at Blair High School will begin at 6 p.m. Fort Calhoun is about 20 miles north of Omaha.Fort Calhoun has been shut down since last spring's refueling. Flooding along the Missouri River forced it to remain closed last summer.Now OPPD is working to repair flood damage and address concerns about Fort Calhoun's operations.Regulators are watching Fort Calhoun closely because several problems were found at the plant over the past couple years unrelated to last summer's flooding.

Exelon upgrades equipment at Byron nuclear plant.

BYRON — Exelon Energy says it has finished upgrading equipment at a northern Illinois nuclear plant where a power failure caused a reactor to shut down two months ago.
The company said it has replaced electrical insulators in the switchyards that help move power to and from the reactors at the Byron Generating Station, which is located about 95 miles northwest of Chicago.
In January, an insulator in Unit 2 switchyard failed and interrupted power, causing the reactor to automatically shut down as a precaution. Insulators are protective equipment that helps regulate the flow of electricity. Exelon said Unit 1 was taken offline last week while upgrades were finished, and Unit 2 upgrades were finished over the weekend. Both units are back online at full power and generating electricity.
BYRON — Exelon Energy says it has finished upgrading equipment at a northern Illinois nuclear plant where a power failure caused a reactor to shut down two months ago. The company said it has replaced electrical insulators in the switchyards that help move power to and from the reactors at the Byron Generating Station, which is located about 95 miles northwest of Chicago. In January, an insulator in Unit 2 switchyard failed and interrupted power, causing the reactor to automatically shut down as a precaution. Insulators are protective equipment that helps regulate the flow of electricity. Exelon said Unit 1 was taken offline last week while upgrades were finished, and Unit 2 upgrades were finished over the weekend. Both units are back online at full power and generating electricity.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Graham Corporation Awarded $9.5 Million in New Orders for Nuclear Energy and Oil Sands Markets

BATAVIA, N.Y.--(EON: Enhanced Online News)--Graham Corporation (NYSE Amex: GHM), a designer and manufacturer of critical equipment for the oil refining, petrochemical and power industries, including the supply of components and raw materials to nuclear energy facilities, today announced that it has been awarded $9.5 million in orders for nuclear energy facilities and an oil sands upgrader.

The two orders received from Westinghouse Electric Company were awarded to Graham’s wholly-owned subsidiary Energy Steel. Energy Steel will supply structural supports and assemblies for two nuclear power plant sites in the Southeastern United States where four AP1000® pressurized water reactor units are under construction. The equipment is planned to be delivered throughout fiscal years 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The second order is for replacement parts for an ejector system originally supplied by Graham that is operating at an oil sands upgrader in Alberta. The parts are planned to be delivered in the first quarter of fiscal year 2013.