Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thorium reactors could hold the key to safer cheaper nuclear power

It goes without saying that business needs energy to run. The wheels of industry have to turn and the power that drives them has to be generated. Moreover, business needs energy to be affordable and safe and by safe we mean both safe from a Fukushima type incident, and safe from a Chernobyl type incident. So business has a vested interest in energy generation and particularly in new types of energy generation that hold out the prospect of plentiful cheap energy.

In an earlier blog, I looked at the ITER molten plasma fusion reactor which uses deuterium and tritium as fuel. The first real, near commercial scale fusion reactor is currently being built by a consortium of nations in the south of France. Of course, offshore wind or massive desert based solar power plants are the option of choice as far as renewable energy sources are concerned. But while alternative renewable energy sources are clean, they are certainly not cheap. In fact they would be a non starter without subsidies. The subsidies can be justified relatively easily by setting their cost against the likely costs of runaway global warming, or against the potential for a rise in catastrophic weather events like hurricanes and typhoons. However, offsetting, or rather, justifying, costs in this manner is not the same thing as finding a new source of plentiful, relatively cheap energy.

Somewhat surprisingly, while not new, an alternative, and much less dangerous, approach to generating nuclear energy has been around since the 1950s. Thorium, a naturally occurring radioactive chemical element, is around four times more abundant than uranium in the earth's crust and has the inestimable advantage over uranium of not being suitable for the production of weapons grade material for nuclear bombs. Moreover the use of thorium in what is called a "molten salts reactor" (MSR) poses absolutely no risk of a "melt down" of the core, such as we saw at Fukushima and Chernobyl. MSR research was championed by Alvin Weinberg, the director of the main US nuclear research laboratory at Oak Ridge Tennessee in the 1950s. The project, by all accounts, was successful and the MSR reactor ran for thousands of hours before Richard Nixon cut off funding and shut the project down in the 1960s in order to redirect research into reactors that were capable of breeding plutonium for nuclear bombs. Great thinking from Tricky Dickie, which basically set the world back 50 years as far as thorium reactors are concerned. Nixon also brilliantly fired Weinberg and installed his own man who had no interest in MSR, as director of Oak Ridge. (It's true - the idiocy of a US president really can have a profound long term impact on the world business operates in.)

Why does this matter? One simple example. If we had an established base of operating MSR reactors based on thorium, there would be a very viable alternative nuclear road for Iran to go down, and one that would not have Israel threatening to start a major war in the Middle East in order to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Thorium reactors are extremely bad at breeding weapons grade uranium. Even now the US could offer to swap out Iran's current nuclear programme for one based on thorium MSR reactor technology, thus defusing the situation should Iran accept, but unfortunately, no one has thought of this - yet...


Conn. nuclear power plant back at full service 13 days after unit closed with too-warm water

WATERFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s nuclear power plant has returned to full service nearly two weeks after one of its two units was forced to shut down because seawater used to cool it down was too warm.

Millstone Power Station spokesman Ken Holt said Monday that Unit 2 returned to 100 percent power Saturday. It shuttered Aug. 12 after record heat in July contributed to overheated water from Long Island Sound.


San Onofre Power Plant To Empty Radioactive Fuel From One Reactor

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. -- The operator of the San Onofre nuclear power plant is preparing to empty the radioactive fuel from one of its twin reactors, a federal official said Monday, another sign the plant won't be operating at full capacity anytime soon, if ever.

Tons of fuel inside the disabled Unit 3 reactor will be moved into storage in mid-September, Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspector Gregory Warnick told The Associated Press on Monday.

The plant located between Los Angeles and San Diego has been shut down since January, after a break in a tube that carries radioactive water. Investigators later found unusual wear on scores of tubes inside the plant's four steam generators, and Southern California Edison has been trying for months to determine how to fix it.

Edison has previously said it's focusing on repairing the Unit 2 reactor, which had been taken offline earlier in January for maintenance, and that "the Unit 3 reactor will not be operating for some time."
Damage to the tubes in Unit 2 is less widespread, but there's no timetable for its possible restart.
Unit 3 "is clearly not the focus right now in terms of correcting the steam generator issues," said Warnick, the NRC's senior resident inspector at San Onofre. "Unit 3 is going to take more work."

Dave Lochbaum, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' nuclear safety project, said placing the radioactive fuel in storage puts the reactor in a condition "requiring the least amount of safety equipment to be operable, and therefore the fewest number of tests and inspections to be performed."
Coming shortly after Edison announced plans to cut its workforce, "reducing the scope of required work at the jobsite is a good thing to do before discharging workers," Lochbaum said.


IAEA Report Finds Fukushima Didn't Cripple Nuclear Future

Less than 18 months after the meltdown accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) finds that nuclear power is still doing surprisingly well worldwide.

That’s the assessment offered by IAEA’s Nuclear Safety Review for the Year 2012, a 68-page document released in July.

The report notes that China, India, the Republic of Korea, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Vietnam continue to look to nuclear energy to meet ever growing needs for clean energy. Other countries are even accelerating additions to their nuclear power fleet.

“For example, France is building its first advanced reactor, with plans for a second already being drawn up; the Russian Federation seeks to double its nuclear energy output by 2020, with several reactors around the country currently under construction; and, the United Kingdom has plans to build additional reactor units,” IAEA said.

“However, some countries, including Belgium, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, have decided to phase out and discontinue the use of nuclear power, partly as a consequence of lack of public support and in some cases—public opposition,” IAEA said in the report.

Several other countries, such as Austria, Denmark, Greece and New Zealand, remain opposed to nuclear power, the agency said.

With over 14,792 reactor-years of commercial operation in 33 countries, the operational level of nuclear power plant safety around the world remains high, the agency said. The total number of unplanned reactor shutdowns, or scrams, has shown steady improvement in recent years, “although there is room for further improvement,” IAEA said.

Calvert Cliffs-3 Reactor License Denied; NRC Licensing Board Rules In Favor Of Intervenors, Says Atomic Energy Act

[Commentary:  The Barack Obama Administration is clearly anti-Nulcear.  This board is his way of stopping nuclear power.  This will force the U.S. to be dependent on older, less efficient, less safe, and less power producing plants.]

TAKOMA PARK, Md., Aug. 30, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A three judge Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) today denied a license for the proposed Calvert Cliffs-3 nuclear reactor on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.

In a 29-page decision, the ASLB agreed with intervenors that the Calvert Cliffs-3 project would be in violation of the Atomic Energy Act's prohibition against foreign ownership, control or domination, and that the project's owner, UniStar Nuclear, is eligible neither to receive a license nor to even apply for a license. UniStar is 100% owned by the French government's Electricite de France.

Said the ASLB, "For the aforementioned reasons, the Board grants summary disposition in favor of Joint Intervenors as to Contention 1 and finds Applicants currently ineligible to apply for or obtain a license. The license cannot be granted as long as the current ownership arrangement is in effect."

This is only the second time in history a reactor license has been denied by an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. The first was the license application for the Byron reactor in Illinois in 1984, which was briefly denied because of quality assurance problems at the site. But that decision was quickly overturned on appeal as the utility already had initiated a program to correct the problems.

In this case, the ASLB is giving UniStar 60 more days to find a U.S. partner that might enable it to meet the foreign ownership restrictions before the ASLB declares the proceeding concluded. The decision noted that UniStar already has had nearly two years since it became solely owned by EDF to find a partner, and has not shown any progress toward that. UniStar can appeal this decision to the NRC Commissioners.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Opinion: Nuclear power is the key to slowing global warming

Although the U.S. has cut its carbon emissions more than any other country, it’s not enough. Natural gas alone won’t work. We need more carbon-free nuclear power and renewable sources.

What is it going to take to deal forthrightly with climate change? Apparently, evidence that higher temperatures are melting the arctic permafrost isn’t enough. Extreme weather, reflected in an increase in tornadoes, isn’t enough. Nor is the combination of drought and beetle infestations linked to climate change that are killing millions of trees and making forests more flammable.

And now, the brutal heat wave that has ruined crops in much of the country and led to higher food prices won’t be enough. Those who reject efforts to scale back the use of fossil fuels ignore that every major national science academy in the world has reported that human-induced global warming is real.

The United States can and should do something bold about global climate change without waiting for other countries, but in a way that gets them to follow. The key to a successful climate strategy is to assure access to reliable and affordable low-carbon alternatives, increased demand-side management and other energy-efficiency improvements, increased natural gas supplies, advanced nuclear power and renewable technologies.

Timing is the key. Many economic studies show the need to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse-gas emissions right now and not to wait for decades. Action to slow climate change should not be delayed indefinitely. The potential cost from runaway atmospheric warming or rising sea levels and floods could be astronomical. Policies based on proven technology and sound economics implemented today to reduce emissions would be prudent insurance against the possibility of irreversible climate change that could trigger disasters.

The good news is that the United States has cut its carbon emissions more than any country in the world in recent years — 7.7 percent since 2006. What’s also worth noting is that U.S. emissions declined nearly 2 percent last year and are projected to drop 2 percent again this year, putting us back at 1996 levels. We still have a way to go before reaching the goal set by President Obama — a 17 percent decline (from 2005 levels) by 2020 — but that goal now seems achievable. But make no mistake: Reducing emissions to acceptable levels will require an 80 percent reduction by mid-century, and that’s going to require the adoption of a comprehensive and practical national energy policy.

How did the cut in carbon emissions happen? One reason is the dramatic drop in oil dependence. Energy efficiency expert Ralph Cavanagh says that while the economy has almost tripled in size over the past 40 years, oil use is up by only 1 percent. Credit goes to dramatic gains in fuel economy and the emergence of alternative fuels.

Looking ahead, Cavanagh says that higher fuel economy standards already adopted for cars and light trucks will be saving the equivalent of 2 million barrels of oil a day by 2025. That’s comparable to what we currently import from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela combined.

Almost half of the emissions reductions have come from power plants, particularly the switch away from coal in electricity generation. Coal’s share is forecast to fall below 40 percent for the year, down from 54 percent just four years ago, and by the end of this decade, it’s likely to be near 30 percent. The principal replacement source has been natural gas, which has less than 50 percent of coal’s carbon content. Had the switch been to nuclear power, which produces zero emissions, the decline would have been far greater. And nuclear power would be far better for public health, since it doesn’t pollute the air.


Autumn nuclear power refueling seen up 5 percent year per year

(Reuters) - About 20,874 megawatts of nuclear power capacity is expected to be out of service in the United States in the upcoming autumn refueling season, according to Reuters data On Thursday.

That is roughly 4.9 percent, or 974 MW, above the 19,900 MW of nuclear capacity that was shut last year during mid-October, the height of the autumn refueling season, the data showed.

The data assumes units currently on extended outages -- like the San Onofre reactors in California and the Crystal River reactor in Florida -- will still be shut in mid-October.

Southern California Edison, the unit of California power company Edison International that operates San Onofre, said Unit 3 will not refuel as scheduled in October.

Due to the damage in Unit 3's steam generators, fuel will be removed from the reactor for the foreseeable future, SCE said in a filing.

"The current plan for Unit 3 is to de-fuel the reactor and place appropriate systems in a layup condition while analysis and testing continue given the uncertain timing of the likely repairs and restart," the company said.

A spokeswoman said a schedule to remove the fuel had not been determined. Nuclear fuel in Unit 2 was removed earlier this year. Unit 2 shut in January for refueling and inspections which revealed damage to its steam generators.

Neither San Onofre unit can return to service without the approval of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. SCE is planning to cut staff at the plant before the end of the year.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

San Onofre layoffs raise questions about nuclear plant's future

More than six months after a leaking steam generator tube prompted a complete shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, Southern California Edison officials announced plans to lay off nearly one-third of its workforce, leading many to wonder if the troubled plant would ever fully reopen.

The company announced Monday a planned reduction of about 730 employees that will bring down staffing at the plant in northern San Diego County to 1,500. Details of the cuts will be worked out later this year, officials said.

Rochelle Becker, executive director of the watchdog group Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility, said she believes the layoffs show Edison is being disingenuous about its plans for the plant.

"You can't lay off 700 people when you're trying to restart a plant — you hire more people when you have problems," Becker said. "I think the utility is being unfair to the ratepayers. I think they're being unfair to the workforce. I think if they're not going to operate this plant, they should come out and say they're not going to operate the plant."

On Jan. 31, one of the plant's steam generator tubes leaked, releasing a small amount of radioactive steam. The leak led to a complete shutdown of the plant and the eventual discovery of excessive wear on hundreds more tubes in the newly replaced steam generators.

Company officials have said that they hope to submit a restart plan for Unit 2 to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the end of the year, but have backed off from making any projections about if or when Unit 3 might return to service.


Nuclear power plant construction costs approved by Georgia PSC

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) on August 21 in a 5-0 vote approved Georgia Power's spending on Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 for the period including July 1, 2011 through Dec. 31, 2011. The construction costs of Vogtle units 3 and 4 are monitored by the PSC via monthly filings and construction monitoring reports that are filed every six months.

At the Vogtle site where two 1,100 MW Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are being built, work has been done on turbine islands, cooling towers and nuclear islands. Over the next several months, Georgia Power said, progress will continue to be made in the nuclear island, turbine building and module assemblies.

Major components will begin arriving to the site later this year and early 2013, the first of which will be the reactor vessel for Unit 3. The Unit 3 condensers have arrived from South Korea, where they were manufactured.

The facility provides $2.2 billion more value to customers than the next best available technology, including natural gas generation, according to PSC staff. Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO), said it is in position to provide customers with up to $2 billion in potential benefits in the form of savings related to recovering financing costs during construction, Department of Energy loan guarantee, production tax credits, lower-than-forecast interest rates and lower-than-forecast commodity costs.


China Supports Nuclear Power IPO

BEIJING—China National Nuclear Power Co. said it has received final approval from the Ministry of Environmental Protection to move forward with its planned initial public offering.

The move is in line with China's long-term ambitions for nuclear power, which include building as many as 100 reactors over the next two decades to help shift away from coal as a fuel source.

The state-owned nuclear power operator said in June that it had received preliminary approval from the ministry to move ahead with an IPO to finance five power projects valued at 173.5 billion yuan ($27.3 billion).

At the time, analysts said the deal could raise as much as $5.4 billion for the Chinese government.
The ministry's approval is a necessary step before China National Nuclear can file for a listing with the China Securities Regulatory Commission. It isn't clear when the company will officially file for an IPO, which could still be months or even years away.

"The [environmental] ministry hasn't found anything that violates nuclear safety regulations and hasn't found any unsuitable behavior for us not to give approval for environmental protection compliance for the company's plan to get listed," China National Nuclear said on its website Friday.


Nuclear plant at Monticello back up to full power

Seven days after two of Minnesota's three nuclear reactors were shut down, Xcel Energy's nuclear power plant at Monticello is operating at full power - but Unit 1 of the twin-reactor at Prairie Island's plant is still ramping up.

Both shutdowns happened Aug. 14 but were unrelated.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports Tuesday ( that the Monticello plant began operating at full power Monday after workers repaired a leaking gasket on a structure that houses the reactor.


Read more here:

Progress Is Cited on New Reactor in North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — While the region’s attention has remained focused on whether the new North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, can consolidate his power, his country has been making significant progress in the construction of a new reactor widely seen as a cover for making more fuel for nuclear weapons, analyst say, citing satellite imagery of the building site.

The analysts have released their assessments this month, with the latest one coming Tuesday from an expert at IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

The experimental light-water reactor under construction — and North Korea’s efforts to enrich uranium — could eventually provide the country with a means to increase its nuclear stockpile significantly, experts have warned. 

After its negotiations with the United States collapsed in 2009, North Korea announced that it would build an indigenously designed light-water reactor as a pilot project for a nuclear power industry, and that it would also enrich uranium to fuel that reactor. The government unveiled in 2010 a centrifuge plant for enrichment in Yongbyon, its main nuclear complex. But experts say North Korea may also use the plant to produce highly enriched uranium, a type of fuel for nuclear bombs. 

The reactor under construction in Yongbyon could be designed to allow engineers to turn its spent fuel into plutonium, another fuel for nuclear arms. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

India: Madras Atomic Power Station to restart after shutdown

Chennai : Two reactors of the Nuclear Power Corporation Ltd's (NPCIL) Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) that shut down after a power supply breaker tripped leading to a power cut early Sunday would restart generation around Aug 23, said a senior official here Monday.

"Around 1.15 a.m. Sunday, a breaker in 230 KV switchyard tripped resulting in power supply failure. The reactor's automatic shutdown process was triggered. Both reactors shut down their operations. Both units would come back to operation by Aug 22 or Aug 23," K. Ramamurthy, station director, MAPS, told IANS.
According to him, four standby diesel generators got into operation immediately when the main power supply failed.

"There was no sudden surge in power generation or supply that resulted in the breaker to fail," Ramamurthy said.

He said that the breaker that failed is one of the old ones, all of which MAPS is replacing.

"We have 11 such breakers and have replaced six units. Each component costs about Rs.20 lakh," Ramamurthy said.

"The moment the power failure happened the turbines tripped. We came to know of the incident immediately as the sirens sounded out," Ramamurthy said.

Located in Kalpakkam around 70 km from here, MAPS has two reactors of 220 MW each, but they have been functioning below their rated capacity owing to paucity of fuel.

"The fuel supply situation is improving. The first unit was generating 180 MW and the second around 160 MW. By the end of this year we expect the power generation to touch full capacity at both the units," Ramamurthy said.

The shutting down of the two reactors did not affect the fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) and the mini reactor Kamini located at Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR).

A breeder reactor is one that breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes. Power supply to IGCAR comes from MAPS.


Nuclear power project in Canada receives site preparation license

The Joint Review Panel (JRP) of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on August 17 said it will issue a Nuclear Power Reactor Site Preparation License to Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG) for its new nuclear power plant project at the Darlington nuclear site for a period of 10 years. The license will be valid from Aug. 17, 2012 to Aug. 17, 2022.

In June 2012, OPG announced it had signed agreements with Westinghouse and SNC-Lavalin/Candu Energy Inc., to prepare detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for two potential nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear site.

During a 17-day public hearing held March 21 to April 8, 2011 in Courtice, Ontario, the JRP received and considered submissions from OPG and 264 interveners, as well as 14 government departments, including the CNSC.

“This decision is an important milestone in Canada’s nuclear history,” said Alan Graham, chair of the JRP.
The JRP said it is satisfied that the licensee meets the requirements of section 24 of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, that OPG is qualified to carry out the activities that will be permitted under the license, and that the health and safety of people and the environment will be protected.


Nuclear Energy Institute Report on Japan's Nuclear Reactors, August 20, 2012

IAEA Reports Progress in Global Nuclear Safety Framework
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency says its member nations have reported “significant progress” in nuclear safety in the past year, including assessments of safety vulnerabilities at nuclear energy facilities, emergency preparedness and response, and enhanced communications among member nations, international organizations and the public. The IAEA’s assessment comes in a progress report on the agency’s Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, which was unanimously endorsed last September as a follow-up to the Fukushima nuclear accident. The report will be presented at the organization’s annual General Conference in Vienna next month.
  • A bipartisan group of U.S. foreign policy experts that includes former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has released a report saying the United States and Japan should continue to cooperate in promoting nuclear energy technology. The paper welcomes Japan’s decision to partially resume nuclear energy generation following the Fukushima disaster, adding, “Safe, clean, responsibly developed and utilized nuclear power constitutes an essential element in Japan’s comprehensive security.”
Media Highlights
  • The Washington Post reports that the residents of Minamisoma town, 14 miles north of Fukushima Daiichi, have been found to have very low levels of radiation contamination. In the first study of internal radiation dose since the accident, measurements were taken of the full-body contamination from cesium exposure of about 10,000 residents who had elected to stay in the town between September 2011 and March 2012. The study found that two-thirds of the residents had no detectable levels of cesium. Of the rest, only one received an equivalent dose more than 100 millirem. The results were published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (subscription required).


Saturday, August 18, 2012

World Emerging Nuclear Power Countries Market Analysis & Forecasts 2030

India: Powerless power in the age of nuclear renaissance

On July 31, 2012 for the second consecutive day, three of India’s five power grids collapsed, depriving 50% of the world’s second most populated country of electricity. The failure of the northern, eastern and north-eastern grids caused a blackout for 700 million consumers. Around 500 trains were stranded, water treatment plants were shut down and hospitals failed to operate. Airports however kept operating by swiftly switching over to alternative sources of power.

Power blackouts are certainly not new in India. The country even has its own pet term for power outages – “load shedding”, i.e., when the demand for electricity is higher than the available supply, the circuit sheds the load by rationing power for a while. For a country trying to meet its energy needs by wooing the nuclear industry without attending to its own shaky infrastructure, the July 2012 blackout is indeed a slap on the face. However, as is the case with every debacle in India, the government has not wasted much time in turning thick-skinned and commencing a blame game, apparently its favourite sport after cricket.

The three states accused of overdrawing power from the northern grid, namely, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, had been drawing power in excess of their allotted quota well throughout June in order to meet the high power needs for sowing during the low-monsoon paddy season. According to the Economic Timesreport, both the grid operator and the regulator were well-aware of this but did nothing substantial to prevent it. On July 30, 2012 when the northern grid failed the first time, 385 million consumers were deprived of power for 12 hours. Sushil Shinde, the Minister of Power, boasted of how effectively power was restored within six hours. The next day when the northern grid collapsed again, the power ministry permitted the withdrawing of power from the eastern and the north-eastern grids, thereby collapsing the latter two as well. The Central Government in New Delhi accused the State Electricity Boards of responsibility for the crisis without addressing the inaction of the centrally-owned Power Grid Corporation when overdrawals of power were initially detected.

According to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2012 released last month, notwithstanding the Fukushima incident, one-third of nuclear countries generated their “historic maximum” of nuclear power in 2011, which included India, South Korea, China, Russia and Brazil amongst others. Three-quarters of nuclear plants currently under construction are concentrated only in three countries – China, Russia and India - and these along with South Korea are the only ones in the world where multi-plant construction is going on at present.

India’s self-proclaimed nuclear renaissance foresees itself meeting 25% of its own energy needs through nuclear energy by 2050. This Indian nuclear renaissance certainly has its own problems. However, what must be noted is that even if the Department of Atomic Energy accomplishes the miracle of meeting its own target of electricity production (which it so far has never done), the absence of a regulatory authority or an Automatic Demand Management System in the power grid can still plunge the nation into darkness and literally blackout India’s energy future.


Great Britain: EDF Energy stops nuclear reactor for planned work

Aug 18 (Reuters) - Britain's largest nuclear power producer, EDF Energy, stopped its 500-megawatt (MW) Hunterston B-7 nuclear reactor on Friday for a planned outage, a spokesman for the company said.

"Unit 3 at Hunterston B power station is on a planned statutory outage which commenced on Friday 17 August 2012," he said.

Nuclear reactors are regularly taken offline to undergo inspection and maintenance work.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Scientists question basic conclusion of A-bomb survivors study

The latest Life Span Study (LSS-Report 14) of A-bomb survivors by Dr Kotaro Ozasa, Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), and others, published in Radiation Research Journal this year, noted that the risk of all causes of death among the survivors increased with radiation dose over the entire range of doses with no threshold observed. The RERF study supported the Linear No Threshold (LNT) concept which is basic to radiation protection.

This means that harmful effects of radiation increase with radiation dose and even small radiation doses can cause some finite harm. Some scientists challenge the validity of LNT concept.

Writing in Radiation Research (on-line July 20, 2012) Mohan Doss, Brian L. Egleston and Samuel Litwin, Fox Chase Cancer Centre, Philadelphia argued that the functional forms the RERF authors chose for dose dependence, were not flexible enough and might have led them to the conclusion of a zero-dose threshold.
They showed that there is too much variability in the data used by the RERF authors to suggest that the threshold for the harmful effect of radiation is zero.

RERF researchers observed that the radiation risk estimates for intermediate doses were lower than those for the linear model. Professor Doss argued that this observation is consistent with radiation hormesis or ‘beneficial’ effect of radiation (Dose-Response, 2012).

He noted that RERF’s formalism ignored the potential for a large systematic bias in the measured baseline cancer mortality rate. He showed that if we correct the bias, the excess relative risk for intermediate doses can lower to negative values.

Whether low dose of radiation will cause harm or not remains controversial. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences and The French Academy of Sciences do not agree on the matter.

The Answers

The biological mechanisms of repair at dose levels of a few mSv proposed by scientists appear to be at best a guess work. So how can we rely on the theory that cellular repair will be absolutely error free?

“A presumption in such a concern is that but for the low dose radiation we would be fine, and would not have any cellular damage. This presumption is far from the truth, as the natural cellular processes do lead to a certain amount of cellular damage all the time,” wrote Prof Doss in his email. 

“The increased defences triggered by the low dose radiation not only repairs the damage from the low dose radiation, but also prevents damage that would have occurred naturally in the subsequent period, while the defences are elevated. 

Thus, the total damage that occurs (from low dose radiation and from endogenous causes) is much less than what would have occurred from endogenous causes alone.” 

But if a few mis-repaired or un-repaired cells survive, can they not develop into a clone of malignant cells? Is there any conclusive evidence that it will not happen? 
“Low dose radiation boosts the defences and would get rid of many more of the naturally transformed cells compared to no radiation. Thus, the net result is reduced mutations from low dose radiation,” he noted.
The most importantly, the radiation dose below which one need not have any concern about (harmful) radiation effects is not clear. 

For instance, the report of the French Academy of Sciences stated that “on the basis of our present knowledge, it is not possible to define the threshold level (between 5 and 50 mSv) or to provide the evidence for it.”

“Based on the atomic bomb survivor data, I would not be concerned below ~300mGy instantaneous dose.
The threshold for increased cancer is probably at about 600 mGy) or higher for instantaneous dose, so that leaves plenty of margin.

(mGy and mSv are the same for x rays, gamma rays and electrons),” he stressed. “If the dose is given gradually over a period of time, the threshold would be much higher.” 

But followers of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) may shudder at this response as ICRP dose limit is 20mSv per year averaged over five years with no dose in any year exceeding 50 mSv.

Professor Doss conceded that the dose limits for radiation protection to be enforced by regulators will need to be set based on further study. 

Former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Toshiba Seeking Buyers for a Stake in Westinghouse

Japanese newspapers have reported that Toshiba Corporation is interested in selling a 16 percent stake in U.S. nuclear power-plant company Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC as it looks to prioritize its nuclear business in emerging markets.

Toshiba currently holds 67 percent of Westinghouse and will look to sell the stake to nuclear technology companies that have strong links to emerging markets, the news report said.

Toshiba is possibly looking to partner with firms that possess reactor-related technologies to help it get overseas orders.

Middle East nuclear fuel cycles: an open rather than closed case?

By on

As Middle East and North African nations seek to build nuclear fleets they could theoretically choose from open or closed fuel cycles. But note the emphasis on ‘theoretically’.

There was a time when if you wanted nuclear power then you essentially got an open fuel cycle. With plenty of uranium to go around, this was the non-proliferation-friendly route to atomic energy favoured by nuclear pioneers, such as the United States, Canada, Sweden or Spain.
Now, though, the case is not so clear-cut. Not all the countries that want to join the nuclear club have ready access to uranium reserves. And some that do, such as Jordan, see them as a valuable export commodity.
India, for one, has built its entire long-term nuclear strategy around a thorium-based closed fuel cycle as a way of overcoming a relative dearth in uranium reserves. Meanwhile, the business case for closed-cycle reactors is also beginning to look potentially more attractive.
Dr Charles Forsberg, executive director for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says: “Right now closed fuel cycles cost more than open fuel cycles; that is subject to change.
Our initial analysis is a fast reactor on a once-through fuel cycle would have about the same fuel-cycle economics as a light-water reactor. It looks like, because of new technical developments, that is possible. Right now it’s uneconomic, but that may change with time.”
If it looks like fast reactors could ultimately be as cost-effective as light-water (LWR) variants, then would it not make sense for emerging nuclear nations to opt for closed-cycle technologies?
Political forces
For the Middle East, North Africa and many other developing nuclear markets, the answer is that this is not just about what makes economic sense; there are very strong political forces at play, too.
In the Middle East and North Africa, in particular, there is an overwhelming need to defer to international non-proliferation concerns.
That is why the United Arab Emirates, the most advanced of the region’s nuclear hopefuls, has unequivocally plumped for open-fuel cycle technologies with LWRs supplied by the Korea Electric Power Corporation.
It has not stopped Jordan, however, from making a stand over its desire to enrich uranium.
While stressing that enrichment was not a near-term goal for its nuclear programme, Khaled Toukan, the chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission, was clear about keeping the option open for “10 or 15 years down the road” in comments reported earlier this year.
US diplomacy
The stance was a test for US diplomacy in the region, says Kevin Massy, assistant director of the Brookings Institution’s Energy Security Initiative, because it created a risk of American firms being shut out of bids and of contracts going to countries over which the USA had no sway.
“The US had gone very enthusiastically into the agreement with the United Arab Emirates, setting it up as a gold standard,” he says. “They’ve had pushback for that from many other nations in the region.”
In January, the US Deputy Energy Secretary, Daniel Poneman, and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Ellen Tauscher, wrote to members of the American House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees to propose a different tack.
“There has been a realisation that this is going to imperil the ability of US companies to do business,” Massy says. “So there was an indication the US was going to take things on a case-by-case basis. Jordan and Vietnam were mentioned.”
However, a go-softly approach towards some requests to allow enrichment is hardly the same as a carte-blanche benediction of closed fuel cycles. Right now, says Massy: “The US position with regards to Jordan is unclear.”
And Hugh Chalmers, nuclear research analyst for the Royal United Services Institute in the UK, says that in Jordan: “I cannot imagine they would have any success in pursuing a closed nuclear fuel cycle.
Nuclear proliferation
“They will be getting most of their technology either from South Korea or from France.”
These or any other countries that could offer assistance are unlikely to espouse closed-fuel cycles because of concerns over nuclear proliferation, he adds; “if they want to get help from anyone who knows what they are doing, they will not be allowed reprocessing.”
There is an additional challenge for Jordan’s position, which is that its nuclear effort is beginning to look shaky as far as international observers are concerned.
Massy says: “They have narrowed the field to two vendors but it is difficult to overestimate the level of dissatisfaction and opposition to nuclear power. Large parts of the country are mobilised against it and the regulator has been starved of funding. I can’t see that they are going to be able to bring through their programme.”
Beyond Jordan, the next likely contender for nuclear power in the region is Turkey, which has already selected open-cycle reactors from Rosatom. So best not to hold your breath over a closed-cycle programme in the Middle East or North Africa in the near future.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

UK may give Hinkley Point nuclear OK by year-end

Aug 14 (Reuters) - Britain's nuclear regulator said it may resolve all its issues regarding plans for a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C by the end of the year.

The Office of Nuclear Regulation said on Tuesday that two Generic Design Assessment (GDA) issues had been closed. The regulator had raised them earlier this year with French energy companies EDF and Areva with regards to the design of a third-generation nuclear reactor at Hinkley Point Somerset, England.

The issues included concerns about monitoring of irradiation damage to material and evidence that concrete used at the reactor provided adequate shielding to ensure that workers and the public would be protected from radiation.

The regulator said work was ongoing with EDF, Areva and Centrica's joint venture company, NNB Generation Company, on improvements that would increase confidence it would be able to safely operate the new plant.

"If EDF and AREVA sustain these improvements for the significant number of submissions that are still to be delivered, and if they remain responsive to any questions that we raise, then we believe that the programmes that are set out in the revised resolution plans can be achieved," the Office of Nuclear Regulation said.

"In that case, and if we are satisfied by the safety, security and environmental arguments that they put forward, we might be able to close all of the remaining GDA Issues by the end of the year," it added.


A Few Insights Regarding Today’s Nuclear Situation

The issue of nuclear electricity is a complex one. In this post, I offer a few insights into the nuclear electric situation based on recent reports and statistical data.

Nuclear Electric Production Is Already Declining

Figure 1. World nuclear electric production split by major producing countries, based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy. FSU is Former Soviet Union.
According to BP’s Statistical Review of World Energy, the highest year of nuclear electric production was 2006.
There are really two trends taking place, however.
1. The countries that adopted nuclear first, that is the United States, Europe, Japan, and Russia, have been experiencing flat to declining nuclear electricity production. The countries with actual declines in generation are Japan and some of the countries in Europe outside of France.
2. The countries that began adopting nuclear later, particularly the developing countries, are continuing to show growth. China and India in particular are adding nuclear production.
The long-term trend depends on how these two opposite trends balance out. There may also be new facilities built, and some “uprates” of old facilities, among existing large users of nuclear. Russia, in particular, has been mentioned as being interested in adding more nuclear.

Role of Nuclear in World Electricity

Nuclear provides a significant share of world electricity production, far more than any new alternative, making a change from nuclear to wind or solar PV difficult. If nuclear electricity use is reduced, the most likely outcome would seem to be a reduction in overall electricity supply or an increase in fossil fuel usage.
Figure 2. Based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy
Nuclear is the largest source of world electricity after fossil fuels and hydroelectric, comprising about 12% of total world electricity. Wind amounts to about 2% of world electric supply, and solar (which is not visible on Figure 2) amounts to one-quarter of one percent (0.25%). “Other renewable” includes electricity from a variety of sources, including geothermal and wood burned to produce electricity. These can’t be scaled up very far, either.
Note that even with the growth of renewables, there is still very substantial growth in fossil fuel use in recent years. If nuclear electricity use is reduced, fossil fuel use may grow by even a greater amount.
Role of Nuclear in Countries that Use Nuclear
The world situation shown in Figure 1 includes many countries that do not use nuclear at all, so the countries that do use nuclear tend to generate more than 12% of their electricity from nuclear. This means that if a decision is made to move away from nuclear, an even larger share of electricity must be replaced (or “be done without”).
Figure 3. Based on BP’s 2012 Statistical Review of World Energy.
For example, in the Untied States (Figure 3), nuclear now amounts to about 19% of US electricity production, and is second only to fossil fuels as an electricity source. US nuclear production tends to be concentrated in the Eastern part of the US, so that nuclear amounts to 30% to 35% of electric production along the US East Coast. This would be very difficult to replace by generation from another source, other than possibly fossil fuels.
For countries that are planning to reduce their nuclear generation, nuclear electricity as a percentage of total electric production in 2010  are as follows:
  • Germany, 22%;
  • Switzerland, 37%;
  • Belgium, 52%; and
  • Japan 25%.
Unless these countries can count on imports from elsewhere, it will be difficult to make up the entire amount of electricity lost through demand reduction, or through a shift to renewables.

Nuclear Electric Plants that are “Paid for” Generate Electricity Very Cheaply

Nuclear power plants for which the capital costs are already “sunk” are very inexpensive to operate, with operating costs estimated at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Any kind of change away from nuclear is likely to require the substitution of more expensive generation of some other type.
The electrical rates in place today in Europe and the United States today take into account the favorable cost structure for nuclear, and thus help keep electrical rates low, especially for commercial users (since they usually get the best rates).
If new generation is added to substitute for the paid off nuclear, it almost certainly will raise electricity rates. These higher rates will be considered by businesses in their decisions regarding where to locate new facilities, and perhaps result in more of a shift in manufacturing to developing nations.

Generator failures at nuclear power plant ‘very troubling’

According to Xcel Energy, operators at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant, in Minnesota, were forced to shut down one of two nuclear reactors early Tuesday morning when two diesel generators were determined to be inoperable during a monthly test. The unit is being shut down until the generators can be repaired. These generators are part of the safety systems in place to help maintain plant function in the event of a loss of offsite electricity.

"To have not just one, but both of the back-up diesel generators fail is very troubling,” said Johnny Johnson, tribal council president of the Prairie Island Indian Community, in a press statement. The twin nuclear reactors and 29 large steel nuclear waste storage casks sit just 600 yards from Prairie Island tribal homes. “We have been in touch with both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Xcel Energy and have been assured that today's forced shutdown of the Unit One reactor is not expected to result in any radiation releases.

“Despite these assurances, today's unplanned shutdown - and the unusual white steam clouds released throughout the day during the reactor shutdown - are ominous reminders of the fact that the 40-year old Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant operating a half-mile from our homes relies on aging technology.


Monday, August 13, 2012

India: Kudankulam nuclear power plant gets nod for loading fuel

CHENNAI: The Kudankulam nuclear power plant is likely become operational by month-end with the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) giving its approval for loading fuel in the 1,000MW first unit. The green signal for loading fuel, the last step before the reactor starts producing power, came after a meeting of the regulatory board on Thursday evening.

"The board in principle gave its clearance for loading fuel after reviewing the progress of Unit 1. An official communication is being sent to the Nuclear Power Corporation Limited (NPCIL) and the plant authorities in this regard," AERB chairman S S Bajaj told TOI. Once the first of the two 1,000MW units becomes operational, Tamil Nadu will get around 450MW and the rest will be shared between Kerala, Puducherry and the central grid.

Fuel loading is likely to begin in another 10 days and power production by the end of this month, said an NPCIL official. "The fuel assemblies are ready, which are open to inspections by officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Fuel loading will happen in the presence of IAEA officials," the official said. Russia, which has provided the two VVER-type reactors, has also provided the fuel to last till the lifetime of the reactors (35 years).


Hungary: Government commits to nuclear energy expansion

Hungary intends to increase the share of nuclear energy in its total power supply from 40% to 60% by 2030. The government has recently established a commission to consider strategic issues related to the construction of new power blocks in the Paks nuclear plant, and has ranked the expansion as a "high-priority project for the national economy" in recognition of nuclear power's strategic role in Hungary's electricity supply and energy security. The commission has until the end of November 2012 to work out the details of the project.
Expansion plans
The 2,000-megawatt electrical (MWe) plant comprises four type VVER-440/V-213 units built between 1982 and 1987. The power output of each unit was enhanced to 500 MWe between 2006 and 2009 by several technological upgrades. In 2009 Parliament agreed in principle to preparatory work on possible new nuclear units. At the same time, the operational lifecycle of the four existing units was extended by another 20 years.
The current proposals are for the construction of two new power blocks, each with a pressurised water reactor with an output of between 1,000 MWe and 1,600 MWe. The preparatory works are due to be finished by 2017, with the new units coming into operation between 2023 and 2030. The old units are expected to be shut down between 2032 and 2037, meaning that they will run in parallel with the new blocks for several years.
The state-owned energy company MVM intends to establish a project company for the expansion, with itself as the sole shareholder. The tendering process is expected to start later in 2012 and will be open to all companies that can provide the relevant technology. Paks's chief executive officer expects at least five bidders, although only Russia's Rosatom and Kepco of South Korea - both state enterprises - have declared an interest so far.
Next steps for government
The new decisions for 2012 call for the government to:
  • review the procedural and substantial laws regarding the preparation, construction and operation of nuclear facilities;
  • take steps to ensure that the construction of the new power blocks is designated as a priority project;
  • clarify the connection between possible investment methods and the regulations on public procurement;
  • ensure that the competent authorities are ready for the licensing of the new blocks;
  • appoint an independent expert to clarifying the financial parameters of the project and its wider effect on Hungary's economic recovery;
  • issue proposals on the two planned 1,000 MWe to 1,600 MWe units regarding:
    • unit type;
    • factors to consider when drafting an international tender for the project;
    • possible methods of project delivery, including financing options; and
    • the set-up of one or two units (and, in the latter case, the interval between the construction of the units);
  • examine the possibility of state aid for the project, particularly in the form of a state guarantee;
  • examine ways in which Hungarian undertakings could play a greater part in the project, and the job creation benefits of them doing so;
  • ensure that the nuclear waste treatment strategy complies with the proposed National Nuclear Waste Programme, based on the relevant EU directive;
  • start R&D programmes and develop higher educational training in order to ensure that enough skilled professionals are available for the set-up and operation of the new blocks; and
  • examine the possibility of building a fourth-generation nuclear research reactor in Hungary, which could be conducted as preparatory work for Hungarian undertakings that wish to participate in the Paks expansion project.

Palisades nuclear power plant removed from service to repair minor water leak

Palisades nuclear power plant in Covert Township, Michigan was removed from service on Aug. 12, 2012 to repair a small cooling water leak. No radioactive materials were released.

The leak is being repaired inside a containment building and is considered a conservative measure for nuclear safety. The plant needs to be shutdown so that radiation levels drop inside the containment building allowing workers to safely repair the leak. When repairs are completed the plant will be returned to service.

Palisades voluntarily shutdown on June 12 due to a one year old leak in a water storage tank. That leak was apparently dumping gallons of water into the reactor’s control room. The leak was not released into the environment and posed no threat to the public.


Green movement needs to embrace nuclear energy

The ideological bias against nuclear power is hard to overcome but it is clean and cheap and has tiny emissions

NUCLEAR POWER has long been a contentious issue, and debate about it has intensified following the second worst nuclear accident in history, at Fukushima in Japan — an accident that has claimed no lives, and in all likelihood never will.

In Ireland, opposition to nuclear energy is nothing new; almost four decades ago, in the wake of the 1973 energy crisis, the ESB planned to build a nuclear plant at Carnsore Point. A public backlash resulted in the nuclear option being dropped and instead a coal plant was built at Moneypoint. This was and still is heralded as a victory by Green activists. But if this was a victory, it was a deeply pyrrhic one. Coal is undoubtedly the most hazardous and polluting fuel there is. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than 1.3 million people a year die from respiratory problems caused by solid fuel.

Coal is also the most polluting. Since its inception, Moneypoint spewed millions of tons of CO2 into the air. Contrast that with nuclear, which kills approximately zero people a year, has negligible CO2 emissions and produces vastly more energy. One wonders what exactly these protests achieved. Of course, the worst nuclear accident in history did claim lives and debates about nuclear seem to constantly return to the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. So what exactly was the impact on health? The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (Unscear) dealing with Chernobyl is the product of 25 years of research by medical and scientific teams, including the WHO, and answers that question.

A total of 28 workers died from acute radiation syndrome; and there were 15 fatal thyroid cancers in children. Those who imbued radioiodine immediately after the disaster are at elevated risk of thyroid cancer, which is treatable with a 92 per cent 30-year survival rate. Zero increase has been observed in solid cancers or birth defects.

That this toll is considerably less than people might expect does not diminish the scale of the calamity or change the fact that the response by the Soviet authorities was lamentable. While Iodine 131 is dangerous, it has a half life of just eight days and had proper action been taken the death toll could have been reduced. Hundreds more could have been saved from exposure to potentially detrimental levels of radioiodine.
Moreover, the scale of disruption caused by the incident was enormous. Unscear estimates that 115,000 people were evacuated by the authorities from areas surrounding the reactor in 1986; and subsequently about 220,000 people from Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine were relocated.

“The accident caused serious social and psychological disruption in the lives of those affected and vast economic losses over the entire region,” its report on Chernobyl states.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to compare the fallout from Chernobyl with that of the Banquio hydroelectric dam failure in China in 1975. This killed 26,000 directly and 145,000 from the resulting famine and epidemics, as well as destroying almost six million homes and buildings, affecting 11 million people.
Yet just as this failure doesn’t denigrate hydroelectric power, Chernobyl isn’t a trump card against nuclear energy. All forms of energy production have inherent risk and it is foolish to dismiss any out of hand.
Intriguingly, Unscear concludes that the greatest threat to survivors is the risk to mental health from exaggerated fears about radiation.

“Designation of the affected population as ‘victims’ rather than ‘survivors’ has led them to perceive themselves as helpless, weak and lacking control over their future. This . . . has led either to overcautious behaviour and exaggerated health concerns, or to reckless conduct,” it states.

This raises the distinct possibility that the hyperbole of anti-nuclear activists about Chernobyl may cause far more harm than good to the survivors. Similarly, our fixation with Fukushima has blinded us to the fact that it was a natural disaster rather than a nuclear one that cost thousands of lives last year. The earthquake and tsunami that triggered a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant killed 19,000.


Calvert Cliffs nuclear reactor shut down

Operators of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Southern Maryland have shut down one of the two reactors there because a control rod unexpectedly dropped into the reactor core, causing a reduction in power generation, a plant spokesman said Monday.

The incident happened Sunday afternoon, prompting the plant's staff to shut the reactor down to find and fix the cause of the malfunction, according to Kory Raftery, spokesman for Constellation Energy Nuclear Group. Control rods are used in a reactor to limit the fission taking place among the reactor's enriched-uranium fuel rods.

An unplanned insertion of a control rod into a reactor core can "create an imbalance in the fissioning and pose challenges for reactor operators," according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He described it as an infrequent occurrence among U.S. nuclear plants.

The plant spokesman said there was no risk to the public from the control-rod problem, noting the plant's redundant safety systems. But he said that "the safe and prudent decision was to shut the unit down" until inspections and maintenance could be performed.

Raftery could not predict when Unit 1 would be back in operation, but noted that Unit 2 is still running at full power at the plant, which is 70 miles south of Baltimore.


Cooling Stymies Reactor

Dominion Resources Inc. D -0.50% was forced to shut down a nuclear-power generator at a plant in Connecticut after the water in nearby Long Island Sound, used to cool various pieces of equipment, got too warm to use.

Dominion pulled the plug on a unit at its Millstone Power Station on Sunday after temperatures in the sound reached above 75 degrees Fahrenheit—a limit set by federal regulators. The water cools equipment supporting the nuclear reactor, but it doesn't cool the reactor itself.

The outage isn't expected to affect power consumers, Dominion spokesman Ken Hunt said. The local power grid is capable of supplying enough electricity to make up for the loss.

The Millstone unit is 37 years old and capable of generating 880 megawatts of electricity. A second, newer unit at the plant continues to operate. The newer unit can draw water from deeper depths of the sound, where temperatures are below 75 degrees.

This is the first time Dominion has had to shut down a nuclear-power unit at Millstone because of warm water, Mr. Hunt said. He said Dominion won't restart the unit until it has confidence the water temperatures will stay below the threshold.

July was the hottest month on record for the contiguous U.S., reaching an average temperature of 77.6 degrees.

Dominion had been aware of warming temperatures in the sound for several days. Hoping to avoid a shutdown, Dominion received permission to average the readings of three temperature gauges, rather than rely on the highest reading to determine whether a shutdown was necessary. But eventually the average readings on all three gauges rose above 75 degrees.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

New nuclear power plants provide clean energy

Long-lived transuranic waste from the production of nuclear weapons is stored at a deep-geologic repository in southeastern New Mexico, but there is no comparable permanent, or even temporary, repository for civilian high-level nuclear waste from electricity production.

President Barack Obama directed the Department of Energy to abandon the Yucca Mountain project after $12 billion and 30 years had been spent on site preparation and mining engineering. It had become clear that Nevadans did not want and would not accept the repository.

As DOE prepares to begin its search for an alternative to the Yucca Mountain site, it is worth exploring the possibility that the consent-based approach that was used so successfully in building public acceptance of the defense waste repository in New Mexico can be replicated.

The answer will determine whether a permanent disposal site can be found for the thousands of tons of spent fuel now stored at New York power plant sites.

Recently, a blue-ribbon commission on nuclear waste lauded the bottoms-up approach used in New Mexico to build the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, popularly known as WIPP. WIPP’s construction and operation have gone without incident. Since 1999, there have been more than 10,000 shipments by railroad and truck carrying steel drums loaded with transuranic waste — primarily machinery, tools, gloves and clothes with small amounts of plutonium and other nuclear materials. Some of the shipments originate at nuclear installations and national laboratories more than 1,000 miles away.

The unloaded steel drums are lowered into the repository, which is located in a salt bed a half-mile beneath the desert floor. The waste shipments are expected to continue for another 25 to 35 years, at which time the repository will be covered in soil and concrete. And within 75 years, the salt will have filled in any cracks or fissures and sealed in the repository essentially forever.

WIPP is located 26 miles outside of Carlsbad. This city of 25,000 has benefited economically from WIPP seems obvious. WIPP has created 1,300 permanent jobs, including many for scientists and engineers engaged in research on nuclear waste management, and just as many support jobs.


Great Britain: Wylfa nuclear station to generate for two more years

The Wylfa nuclear power station on Anglesey will be able to produce electricity for another two years after it was given permission to move fuel.

The station already had a licence to generate power, but the fuel was in Reactor 2 instead of Reactor 1.
It means the it can continue generating electricity until the fuel runs out or September 2014, whichever comes first.

The station is due to close after that date and plans for Wylfa B are on hold.

Fuel has to be moved within the site as it is no longer manufactured.

This move, based on comprehensive safety assessments, is good for our energy security”
Charles Hendry MP Energy Minister.
Last month it was announced the Areva group and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) group were to bid for the Horizon project, which includes Wylfa B.


Hitachi, GE in talks to combine nuclear power JVs: Nikkei

Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) and General Electric Co (GE.N) are considering combining their two nuclear power joint ventures under a single entity which may end up under Hitachi's control, the Nikkei business daily said.

The move comes after a dip in demand for new nuclear plants in the context of a sharp rise in shale gas production in North America and the meltdown of Japan's Fukushima reactor last year, the paper said.

GE is one of the world's top power generation engineering companies and, together with Japan's largest industrial electronics maker Hitachi, is active in designing and building nuclear reactors.

The two had, in 2007, decided to set up two joint ventures, one in Japan and one in the United States, to tap the domestic and global markets, the daily said.


Asia: No active faults found under 5 nuclear plants

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has concluded five nuclear power plants have no active faults below their building sites.

NISA, the nuclear watchdog of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, is looking into whether active faults exist below the sites of nuclear power plants nationwide. In a hearing of four experts held on Friday, the conclusion was reached that the five plants in question had no active faults below them, it said.

The five plants are: Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture and Genkai plant in Saga Prefecture; Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture; Japan Atomic Power Co.'s Tokai No. 2 plant in Ibaraki Prefecture; and Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Onagawa plant in Miyagi Prefecture.

The experts examined whether faults below each plant's buildings could be subject to the following scenarios:

-- Cause quakes just below nuclear reactors.
-- Be pulled by active faults near the compounds and cause ground movement.
-- Cause ground movement from an earthquake that occurs in a distant place.

Based on past excavation survey results and other data, the experts concluded the five plants' sites are not susceptible to any of the three possible scenarios.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Southern California Edison prepares for possible power outages

San Diego Gas and Electric officials warned residents in San Juan that meeting power demand during the upcoming months will be much tougher without the San Onofre Nuclear Plant that has been offline since January.

During Tuesday's City Council Meeting, Duane Cave, the external relations manager for SDG&E, said the loss of SONGS will negatively impact Southern California.

While the plant is operated by Southern California Edison, SDG&E owns a 20 percent stake in the plant that generated 16 percent of their company's power output when it was online.

"Without SONGS it is going to be very difficult," Cave said.

SDG&E provides power to San Diego County and South Orange County.

Cave said the months of August and September are the hottest in Southern California leading to late summer peak days in which the power grid is tested.

Peak demand is estimated at 46,352 megawatts statewide while the total instate generation of power is just 48,091 megawatts (without SONGS), according to SDG&E officials.


UK's Dungeness B21 nuclear unit returns to grid

EDF Energy can confirm that Unit 21 at Dungeness B power station has returned to service. The Unit was resynchronised to the national grid at 17:46 hours (BST) of August 7 after a short outage. The Unit came off-line at 01.30 hours on Saturday morning after an automatic, unplanned shutdown," a spokeswoman said.


Nuclear power plant in Canada closer to commercial operation

Bruce Power on August 3 said Unit 1 of the Bruce A nuclear power plant in Ontario, Canada, is operating as its progresses through the final stages of commissioning and testing in preparation of raising power and synchronizing to Ontario’s electricity grid. The 750 MW Unit 1 is on track to achieve commercial operation in the third quarter of 2012. Bruce Power said it continues to make progress with the return to service of Bruce A Units 1 and 2, while making ongoing investments in Units 3 and 4.

Work is also underway to ensure Unit 2 will soon be generating electricity following a non-nuclear issue that occurred within an hour of synchronization to Ontario’s electricity grid in May. This work program is expected to be complete and Unit 2 generating electricity in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Bruce Power will also begin an expanded outage investment program on Unit 4 immediately, in support of extending the life of the unit to the end of decade. The planned maintenance outage will align the lifespan of Unit 4 to that of Unit 3, which recently underwent a $300 million investment project that extended its life by up to an additional 10 years.


Britain Gives Nuclear a 2nd Chance

HINKLEY POINT, ENGLAND — Along an old Roman road called Green Lane, purple thistles and scarlet poppies wave in the breeze. If things go according to the plans of EDF Energy, the British subsidiary of the French state-owned utility EDF, this verdant hillside overlooking the Bristol Channel in southwest England will be the site of two gigantic nuclear power stations — the first to be built in Britain since the mid-1990s.

In a turnabout from the late 20th century, the British government is courting the nuclear industry. It wants low-carbon power to aid its goal, enshrined in law, of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050. About 18 percent of Britain’s power now comes from nuclear sources, but several of those aging plants are scheduled to be retired in the next few years along with pollution- belching coal-fired generators. 

The government has identified eight sites, all with existing nuclear facilities, where new ones might go. The Hinkley Point reactors would provide about 6 percent of Britain’s power supply — enough for five million homes. 

A visit to Hinkley Point makes one think EDF is serious. Workers in yellow uniforms and hard hats are starting preparations for the construction, which would take nine years, as they wait for a final go-ahead from the company and the government. 

“I’ve bet my career on it, so I think that it is pretty high,” Nigel Cann, Hinkley Point’s manager, said of the probability that the plants will be built. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

NRC Freezes All Nuclear Reactor Construction & Operating Licenses In U.S.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- Decision Follows 24 Groups' June Petition in Wake of Major Waste Confidence Rule Decision; Most Reactor Projects Already Stymied by Bad Economics and Cheaper Fuel Alternatives 

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) acted today to put a hold on at least 19 final reactor licensing decisions - nine construction & operating licenses (COLS), eight license renewals, one operating license, and one early site permit - in response to the landmark Waste Confidence Rule decision of June 8th by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. 

The NRC action was sought in a June 18, 2012 petition filed by 24 groups urging the NRC to respond to the court ruling by freezing final licensing decisions until it has completed a rulemaking action on the environmental impacts of highly radioactive nuclear waste in the form of spent, or 'used', reactor fuel storage and disposal. 

*** COMMENTARY  *** 

As Harry Reid holds up Yucca Mountain, a perfectly dry and geologically inactive site, the nation will begin to suffer the inability to continue nuclear power operations.  The results will be runaway energy costs, reduced production capabilities, jobs losses, and an overall lowered standard of living for the people of the United States.

The Barack Obama Administration has purposely put in NRC Chairpersons that are anti-nuclear power and have thwarted the zero emission operations of our nuclear power fleet.

The halting of these new plants is a huge blunder as they create far more power, are less expensive, have far less waste, use far less fuel, are highly efficient, and exceedingly safe.

It is a shame when politics trumps common sense and intelligence.

Nine Mile Nuclear Plant begins dry runs with new spent fuel storage method

SCRIBA, N.Y. -- It's a question that is becoming more difficult to answer over time: Where can the radioactive byproduct of nuclear power, known as spent fuel, be stored?

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Public Affairs Officer Neil Sheehan says there isn't a simple answer to that question.

"We don't have a national depository, nothing on the horizon indicating we're gonna have one and we don't do recycling in this country," Sheehan said.

Meaning there's simply no place to put the nuclear waste. Initially, Olympic size pools were constructed at each nuclear plant to hold the spent fuel, but that was meant to be only a temporary solution while the federal government searched for a place to store it permanently. Decades later, a spot has not been found, so plants like Nine Mile have turned to storing the waste in on-site outdoor concrete storage modules.

"We are moving spent fuel from our spent pools inside the plant and we will be moving it out here to safely store it in dry cask storage facility," said Constellation Energy Nuclear Group Spokesperson Jill Lyon.

Nuclear plants throughout the country started using these types of storage facilities in the early 90s when the earliest constructed spent fuel pools began to fill up. But before the move can begin, staff are undergoing intense training and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will be closely monitoring the dry runs, set to begin this week.


Several days of heat and humidity come as SoCal Edison's San Onofre Nuclear Reactor Remains Offline.

High heat and increasing humidity are expected to continue to scald Southern California on Tuesday, bringing temperatures as high as 116 in the low deserts and possibly straining the region's energy supplies.

Both Southern California Edison and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which supplies electricity to the city of L.A., have said that they believe they have access to enough energy to meet the region’s needs.

But a prolonged heat wave could challenge assumptions about how much energy is needed to keep Southern California homes and offices running smoothly. In a worst-case scenario, aging equipment could become overloaded, or - less likely - energy supplies could fall short.

With the massive San Onofre nuclear power plant likely to be shuttered for at least another several months, and aging infrastructure in DWP territory in need of upgrades, officials at both utilities are asking consumers to cut back their energy usage during the anticipated heat wave.


Pakistan - KCCI demands energy security plan

KARACHI: Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has demanded the government to formulate a 20 years energy security plan.

It should be based on 40 percent on nuclear, 40 percent on Thar Coal and 20 percent on hydal and alternate energy to overcome perennial issue of acute power shortage problem.

At a diplomatic corps, consul generals, commercial counsellors and consuls meeting, Mian Abrar Ahmad, President KCCI said United Arab Emirates has embarked upon ambitious 560 megawatt energy programme from four nuclear power plants with the assistance of Korea.

Pakistan being a nuclear country is being pressurised not to generate energy from nuclear.

Likewise, India is now having civil nuclear energy arrangements with USA and even Australia has agreed to supply uranium to India for its power plants.


EDF Starts Penly-2 Nuclear Reactor

Electricite de France SA started its Penly-2 nuclear power plant yesterday after an unplanned halt, according to data on the website of grid operator Reseau de Transport d’Electricite.

EDF plans to start its Cruas-1 and Chooz B-2 nuclear power plants on Aug. 13, RTE data show. The company’s 1,300-megawatt Cattenom-4 unit was scheduled to start on Aug. 5 after an unplanned halt on May 29. The reactor was not generating at 12 p.m. Paris time, RTE data show.

EDF, the world’s biggest nuclear power plant operator, has 39 reactors online, representing 67 percent of available nuclear capacity, RTE data show. EDF’s 58 atomic plants generate about 78 percent of the country’s power.


Smart Grids look to be a bright idea when the lights go out: SBI Energy


Source: SBI

Recent blackouts in India and parts of the United States are fresh reminders that grid infrastructure revitalization and improvement are truly global challenges. Service disruptions are another stressor to the global economy, as they produce economic losses through lost business and added costs to energy. According to market analysts at research publisher SBI Energy, responses to grid instability the world over are anticipated to include Smart Grid technologies as less costly complements to additional power plants, and transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure expansions and rejuvenation.

The Smart Grid's domain is necessarily broad, as its flexible deployment is envisioned to tackle regional, national and continental grid problems around the world. The causes of grid instability may differ -- voracious leaps in energy demand from developing countries, insufficient transmission and distribution (T&D) investment in deregulated markets of developed countries -- but they share a common solution in the concept of the Smart Grid. Voltage disruptions, blackouts and brownouts are perennial problems because contemporary grid systems remain inherently disjointed. In India, energy demand is outpacing available generation. Transmission line congestion and regional bottlenecks in the United States' patchwork grid have been implicated in grid disruptions; some major blackouts have been sourced to the malfunction or loss of one substation or switchyard.
Prospects for the U.S. smart grid market are provided by PennEnergy's Research area.

Smart Grid strategies do not address grid instability through system redundancies or improvements to the physical integrity of a grid; instead, they enable the dynamic deployment of system resources (load shaving, additional generation [power plants, storage, etc.], voltage regulation) and provide added system flexibility through real-time, two-way communications. For instance, the loss of a transmission line or the malfunction of a transmission-to-distribution substation could be addressed by a microgrid, one Smart Grid feature, used to effectively "island" a distribution network. The microgrid is able to manage its own generators and consumption loads independent of an unstable or downed centralized grid.

"This ability [of microgrids] to improve energy security and reliability respective to the centralized grid has caught the attention of the market," notes SBI Energy analyst Bernie Galing, "with commercial districts, campuses, healthcare facilities, military bases and neighborhoods alike making notable forays in microgrid development." Galing appraises the market for microgrid projects related to greater Smart Grid development at 5% of the total Smart Grid market.

More than any other technology, smart meters seem to capture the essence of the Smart Grid. Through smart meters, individual ratepayers can monitor their real-time electricity use and current rates. Smart meters also provide utilities with tremendous volumes of data for analytics that can later be used to model programs incentivizing lower electricity usage during peak loads, but also demand response (DR) programs using two-way communications to directly cut or reduce individual loads in a household, business or factory. Nascent deployment of smart meters in India has been motivated by a desire to reduce electricity theft, but these Smart Grid components also form the foundation for the long-term development of DR programs that could prevent blackouts during exceptional loads in the growing country.

In the end, Smart Grid technologies represent a value proposition. In the United States alone, the cost of service interruptions is estimated to reach $71 billion by 2020 (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2012). The U.S. Smart Grid market by that year will represent less than 10% of that cost and an excellent investment over more costly grid infrastructure replacements or expansions.