Monday, January 28, 2013

Bulgarians vote for new nuclear power

Those (few)Bulgarians who made it to the polls in Sunday’s referendum on nuclear power have voted in favour of further development.

The vote was a political exercise which is unlikely to lead to the building of new atomic plants any time soon. But it was an unusual show of support for the much-criticised industry. How many other European Union countries would have voted in favour?

Initial reports suggested that 60 per cent voted in favour of a new nuclear power plant (NPP), but that turnout was just over 20 per cent, meaning that the vote will be non-binding.

The referendum was forced by the opposition Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) after the right-wing government of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov scrapped the construction of the 2000MWBelene NPP on the Danube last year.

Belene, which has been planned since the 1970s, was already partly constructed, but Borisov pulled the plug citing high costs. Estimates suggested that the plant would require €10bn investment – around a quarter of Bulgaria’s GDP. Furthermore, the project was being developed by Russian state-owned company Rosatom, leading to concerns about Moscow’s influence in the energy sector in Bulgaria, already heavily dependent on Russian gas.

Construction had started under the previous BSP-led government, and the Socialists, struggling to gain traction in the polls, have rallied round the project. Borisov and his GERB party had urged a “no” vote, and the prime minister said that the meagre turnout had confirmed that Belene was a non-starter.


FirstEnergy's Perry nuclear power plant is back on line

PERRY -- The Perry nuclear power plant is making electricity again, following a five-day shutdown because of an electrical problem on the non-nuclear side of the plant.

Operators synchronized the reactor to the high-voltage grid late Sunday afternoon.  The reator is expected to reach full power later this week.

Perry automatically shut itself down early Tuesday morning after a blown fuse in the nearby turbine building cut power to pumps that push water into the boiling water reactor as needed when the reactor is operating. When this "feedwater" is interrupted, the plant automatically shuts downs, said Jennifer Young, spokeswoman for the FirstEnergy-owned reactor.

Engineers determined that the fuse had blown because of the cold temperatures in parts of the turbine building near a very large overhead door.  Maintenance teams have installed electric heaters in the area of the door while engineers figure whether a  more permanent solution is necessary.


Friday, January 25, 2013

If You Care About the Environment, You Should Support Nuclear Power

A good, politically charged documentary often seizes on what the audience already believes and throws fuel on the fire (see, e.g., the work of Michael Moore). A better such documentary tries to convince its audience that what it takes for granted is flat-out wrong. Pandora’s Promise, which premiered at Sundance, does just that. It makes the utterly convincing case that anyone who considers themselves an environmentalist or takes climate change seriously should favor more nuclear power.

In the 1980s, nuclear power, never truly popular, contracted an image problem to rival Lance Armstrong or even Penn State football. Chernobyl and Three Mile Island were so downright terrifying that the public immediately lost its appetite for the stuff. Invisible, cancerous, deadly: Radioactivity hits all of our deepest fears. Hiroshima, Fukushima, Silkwood—the words themselves seem to poison the air.

But our fears may be way out of proportion to the actual risks, Pandora’s Promise says. Truth is, no one has actually died in the United States as a consequence of a nuclear power accident, while coal kills more than 14,000 people a year (mainly through particulate pollution). In terms of worldwide mortality rates, nuclear is scary, but it kills fewer people per watt of power than coal, oil, and even solar. (People fall off rooftops when installing solar panels.) Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident in history, though it killed many people at the time, has had surprisingly limited long-term effects, according to scientists. Perhaps, like many people, I picture Chernobyl as Hell on earth—but animals and people are actually living there again, and the radiation is at merely background levels.

It’s a question of alternatives. The film centers on a new breed of scientists and environmental activists who were once ardent foes of nuclear power, but now think there is no better option. Greens are all against fossil fuels, but the new breed think that pinning our our hopes entirely on wind and solar actually increases our dependence of such environmentally devastating energy sources. Everyone loves the idea that we could just install more efficient light bulbs and live off windmills and solar panels, but that’s a dangerous fantasy, one that makes us blind to the hard choices we face.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

NRC Convenes Oversight Panel to Evaluate SONGS Unit 2 Restart

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has convened a panel of technical experts to evaluate Southern California Edison's proposal to restart a reactor at its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Both units at the plant were kept out of service a year ago following the discovery of premature steam generator tube wear. SCE wants to bring unit 2 to partial power for 5 months, then shut it down again to further inspect its steam generators. On Tuesday, the NRC released a document outlining the formation of a panel of 12 experts from within the agency to provide a recommendation on the restart of unit 2.

The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted a panel member as saying that recommendation could come as soon as March.

Polish nuclear site contract awarded

WorleyParsons is to carry out site characterisation, licensing and permitting services for Poland's first nuclear power plant, Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA (PGE) has announced.

PGE EJ1, an entity of the Polish state-owned energy group set up to build and run the plant, has awarded PLN 252 million ($81.5 million) the contract to a consortium of WorleyParsons Nuclear Services, WorleyParsons International Inc and WorleyParsons Group Inc following a public tender procedure. PGE EJ1 president Aleksander Grad described the selection of the site characterisation contractor as critical to the project's progress. "Characterisation activities ... will inform one of the most significant decisions, that is the selection of the final site for Poland's first nuclear power plant," he said.

PGE plans to install around 3000 MWe of nuclear capacity, with its first unit coming online by 2025. The site characterisation phase will include over two years of site and environmental surveys, covering a range of issues from geological conditions and the natural environment to logistics and infrastructure. Three potential sites are under consideration: Choczewo, Gaski and Zarnowiec. Work began on four Russian VVER-440 units at Zarnowiec in the 1980s, but the units were cancelled in 1990 and the components sold. No reactor vendor has yet been selected for the current project, although PGE has signed non-exclusive agreements with vendors to investigate EPR, ABWR and ESBWR technology.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Entergy: Pilgrim nuclear power plant back online

A spokesman for Entergy, Pilgrim’s owner, said early today that the 685-megawatt plant was reconnected to the region’s power grid shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Engineers and crews manually shut down the plant’s reactors Jan. 10 when Pilgrim’s two large water recirculation pumps automatically shut off.

That problem was caused by the failure of an electrical relay. Entergy spokesman Rob Williams said. Entergy extended Pilgrim’s offline time to perform routine maintenance that can’t be done when the reactors are working.

Pilgrim was shut down in December for scheduled maintenance.


India close to signing commercial pact with Areva

NEW DELHI: India may sign a commercial pact with French power major Areva for building two nuclear power reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra during the visit of French President Francois Hollande here next month.

"We have set our objective that before the French President's visit we should come to a good converging situation.I hope we are close to that," Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Ratan Kumar Sinha said when asked about talks with Areva.

He said the deal with Areva was one of the drivers for quick action in the relations with France.

"There have been plenty of discussions already, mainly on the techno-commercial offer and there seems to be reasonable hope of convergence," Sinha said.

He said lot of attempts have also been made by the French side and meetings have already taken place between the top officials of the nuclear establishments of both the countries.


China wants more nuclear plants than anyone else. Will it build them safely?

EARLIER this month work began at a big construction site in Shandong province, south-east of Beijing. In a country overflowing with infrastructure projects, that seems unremarkable. Except the workers are restarting construction of a nuclear plant using a radical new design developed by Beijing’s Tsinghua University. This showcase of “indigenous innovation” is the clearest signal yet that China’s nuclear power is about to take off again.

Before 2011 China’s leaders were dead keen on it, hoping to raise nuclear’s share of the country’s electricity mix from less than 2%. They saw it as central to energy and climate strategy, and a future export platform. Official plans called for expanding from just 10 gigawatts of capacity in 2010 to as much as 200 gigawatts by 2030.

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