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What to read about nuclear energy online

How to avoid information overload on the Internet

By Dan Yurman

 One thing I learned in the five years that I published my nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat is that there can be too much nuclear information.  This lesson was brought home with the mind-crushing rush of information that hit the wires during the height of the Fukushima crisis.  But what about keeping up with the news on the nuclear industry in ordinary times?

If your employer can afford it, your firm subscribes to one or more of the specialty newsletters that tap in at $2,000 or more per year for a subscription.  In return, readers get detailed, expert news and analysis that would never, ever show up in the mainstream news media.  I worked for such a specialty newsletter for five years and remain grateful for subscriber support since it meant the difference, metaphorically speaking, between a having a roof over my head and sleeping under a bridge.

However, because of copyright restrictions, most of these newsletters contain web beacons or other electronic devices that are designed to stop a firm from buying one subscription and then emailing each issue to its employees.  While there is the copy machine dodge, that is so 20th century.  Plus, waiting for the inter-office mail to deliver a bootleg copy puts you one day behind your electronically wired-in colleagues.

So, what’s a nuclear pro to do to stay current without shelling out the equivalent of a new car lease down payment?  The answer is there are a number of free news services available on the Internet that can go a long way to keep your mental inbox full of interesting stuff.  Here’s a short list of free sources.

Online services

Nuclear Town Hall – This is a seven-day-a-week, and twice-a-day on weekdays, summary of links to business and political news about nuclear energy.  Based in Washington, DC, it has a global perspective and also a special section on nuclear energy OP EDs and opinion pieces.  Resolutely pro-nuclear in every respect it even cites nuclear bloggers when it sees something of interest.  You can read the updates on the website or subscribe to it by email.

World Nuclear News – This is a five-day-a-week service that publishes short news reports about the global nuclear industry.  Based on London, it is available on the website, or via email delivery by the time U.S. readers are pouring their second cup of coffee.  A searchable archive allows readers to dig into the background of breaking news.

NEI Smartbrief – Sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute, it picks up news clips from the mainstream media and posts a brief summary of about half a dozen of them a day with links to the original source online.  The brief is published weekdays except major holidays.

Nuclear Power Daily – Like NEI Smartbrief, this daily nuclear news summary relies on wire services and other sources.  Like NEI Smartbrief, it is an advertising supported service.

Google News – Google News allow you to search by keywords and to set up news alerts based on them.  You can set up as many alerts as you want and have the alerts delivered by email or RSS feed.  You can select instant delivery or once a day.

Nuclear Energy blogs are a great source of information often posting news in specialized developments days or weeks ahead of the mainstream news media.  A great starting place is the blog roll list of links here on ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Books

There is another “what to read” issue, and that is how to answer questions from in-laws, friends, and the occasional non-nuclear colleagues who genuinely want to know more about nuclear energy.  Here’s a reading list that you can clip and save.  All of these books are in print and most can be found in a public library or through interlibrary loan.  The major online book selling services stock these volumes.

Three must reads – Start here

The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, by Gwyneth Cravens

Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Energy Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey, by William Tucker

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by Stewart Brand

Further reading for generalists

Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Charles D. Ferguson

Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, by Ian Hore-Lacy

The Reporter’s Handbook on Nuclear Materials, Energy, and Waste Management, by Michael Greenberg et.al

Histories

Nuclear Firsts: Milestone on the Road to Nuclear Power Development, by Gail Marcus

The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference, by Ted Rockwell

Plentiful Energy: The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor, by Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang

Nuclear Silk Road: The Koreanization of Nuclear Power Technology, by Byung-Koo Kim

Nonproliferation

Physics for Future Presidents, by Richard A. Muller

The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, by Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz

Single Issues

Radiation and Reason, by Wade Allison

Nuclear Reactions: The Politics of Opening a Radioactive Waste Disposal Site, by Chuck McCutcheon

Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World, by Tom Zoellner

Sustainable Development / Climate Change

Storms of my Grandchildren, by James Hansen

The GeoPolitics of Energy: Achieving a Just and Sustainable Energy Distribution by 2040, by Judith Wright and James Conca

Sustainable Energy – Without The Hot Air, by David JC MacKay

General Reference

Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia - a single volume - by Steven B. Krivit (Editor), Thomas B. Kingery (Editor), Jay H. Lehr (Series Editor)

& & &

If you have a favorite news source, or best book on nuclear energy, please post your suggestions in the comments.

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Dan Yurman published the nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat from 2007 to 2012.

2012 ~ The year that was in nuclear energy

Plus a few pointers to what’s in store for 2013

By Dan Yurman

Former NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo

On a global scale the nuclear industry had its share of pluses and minuses in 2012. Japan’s Fukushima crisis continues to dominate any list of the top ten nuclear energy issues for the year. (See more below on Japan’s mighty mission at Fukushima.)

In the United States, while the first new nuclear reactor licenses in three decades were issued to four reactors, the regulatory agency that approved them had a management meltdown that resulted in the noisy departure of Gregory Jazcko, its presidentially appointed chairman. His erratic tenure at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cast doubt on its effectiveness and tarnished its reputation as one of the best places to work in the federal government.

Iran continues its uranium enrichment efforts

The year also started with another bang, and not the good kind, as new attacks on nuclear scientists in Iran brought death by car bombs. In July, western powers enacted new sanctions on Iran over its uranium enrichment program. Since 2011, economic sanctions have reduced Iran’s oil exports by 40 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In late November, the U.S. Senate approved a measure expanding the economic sanctions that have reduced Iran’s export earnings from oil production. Despite the renewed effort to convince Iran to stop its uranium enrichment effort, the country is pressing ahead with it. Talks between Iran and the United States and western European nations have not made any progress.

Nukes on Mars

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is a scientific and engineering triumph.

Peaceful uses of the atom were highlighted by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, which executed a flawless landing on the red planet in August with a nuclear heartbeat to power its science mission. Data sent to Earth from its travels across the red planet will help determine whether or not Mars ever had conditions that would support life.

SMRs are us

The U.S. government dangled an opportunity for funding of innovative small modular reactors, e.g., with electrical power ratings of less than 300 MW. Despite vigorous competition, only one vendor, B&W, was successful in grabbing a brass ring worth up to $452 million over five years.

The firm immediately demonstrated the economic value of the government cost-sharing partnership by placing an order for long lead time components. Lehigh Heavy Forge and B&W plan to jointly participate in the fabrication and qualification of large forgings for nuclear reactor components that are intended to be used in the manufacture of B&W mPower SMRs.

Lehigh Forge at work

The Department of Energy said that it might offer a second round funding challenge, but given the federal government’s overall dire financial condition, the agency may have problems even meeting its commitments in the first round.

As of December 1, negotiations between the White House and Congress over the so-called “fiscal cliff” were deadlocked. Congress created this mess, so one would expect that they could fix it.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if Congress doesn’t avert the fiscal cliff, the economy might slip into recession next year and boost the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with 7.9 percent now. Even record low natural gas prices and a boom in oil production won’t make much of a difference if there is no agreement by January 1, 2013.

Japan’s mighty mission at Fukushima

Japan’s major challenges are unprecedented for a democratically elected government. It must decontaminate and decommission the Fukushima site, home to six nuclear reactors, four of which suffered catastrophic internal and external damage from a giant tsunami and record shattering earthquake. The technical challenges of cleanup are daunting and the price tag, already in the range of tens of billions of dollars, keeps rising with a completion date now at least several decades in the future.

Map of radiation releases from Fukushima reported in April 2011

  • Japan is mobilizing a new nuclear regulatory agency that has the responsibility to say whether the rest of Japan’s nuclear fleet can be restarted safely. While the government appointed highly regarded technical specialists to lead the effort, about 400 staff came over from the old Nuclear Industry Safety Agency that was found to be deficient as a deeply compromised oversight body. The new agency will struggle to prove itself an independent and effective regulator of nuclear safety.
  •  Japan has restarted two reactors and approved continued construction work at several more that are partially complete. Local politics will weigh heavily on the outlook for each power station with the “pro” forces emphasizing jobs and tax base and the anti-nuclear factions encouraged by widespread public distrust of the government and of the nation’s nuclear utilities.
  • Despite calls for a phase out of all nuclear reactors in Japan, the country will continue to generate electric power from them for at least the next 30–40 years.
  • Like the United States, Japan has no deep geologic site for spent fuel. Unlike the United States, Japan has been attempting to build and operate a spent fuel reprocessing facility. Plagued by technical missteps and rising costs, Japan may consider offers from the United Kingdom and France to reprocess its spent fuel and with such a program relieve itself of the plutonium in it.

U.S. nuclear renaissance stops at six

The pretty picture of a favorable future for the nuclear fuel cycle in 2007 turned to hard reality in 2012.

In 2007, the combined value of more than two dozen license applications for new nuclear reactors weighed in with an estimated value of over $120 billion. By 2012, just six reactors were under construction. Few will follow soon in their footsteps due to record low prices of natural gas and the hard effects of one of the nation’s deepest and longest economic recessions.

The NRC approved licenses for two new reactors at Southern’s Vogtle site in Georgia and two more at Scana’s V.C. Summer Station in South Carolina. Both utilities chose the Westinghouse AP1000 design and will benefit from lessons learned by the vendor that is building four of them in China. In late November, Southern’s contractors, which are building the plants, said that both of the reactors would enter revenue service a year late. For its part, Southern said that it hasn’t agreed to a new schedule.

The Tennessee Valley Authority recalibrated its efforts to complete Watts Bar II, adding a three-year delay and over $2 billion in cost escalation. TVA’s board told the utility’s executives that construction work to complete Unit 1 at the Bellefonte site cannot begin until fuel is loaded in Watts Bar.

The huge increase in the supply of natural gas, resulting in record low prices for it in the United States, led Exelon Chairman John Rowe to state that it would be “inconceivable” for a nuclear utility in a deregulated state to build new reactors.

Four reactors in dire straights

In January, Southern California Edison (SCE) safety shut down two 1100-MW reactors at its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) due to excessive wear found in the nearly new steam generators at both reactors.

SCE submitted a restart plan to the NRC for Unit 2 in November. The review, according to the agency, could take months. SCE removed the fuel from Unit 3 last August, a signal that the restart of that reactor will be farther in the future owing to the greater extent of the damage to the tubes its steam generator.

The NRC said that a key cause of the damage to the tubes was a faulty computer program used by Mitsubishi, the steam generator vendor, in its design of the units. The rate of steam, pressure, and water content were key factors along with the design and placement of brackets to hold the tubes in place.

Flood waters surround Ft. Calhoun NPP June 2011

Elsewhere, in Nebraska the flood stricken Ft. Calhoun reactor owned and operated by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), postponed its restart to sometime in 2013.

It shut down in April 2011 for a scheduled fuel outage. Rising flood waters along the Missouri River in June damaged in the plant site though the reactor and switch yard remained dry.

The Ft. Calhoun plant must fulfill a long list of safety requirements before the NRC will let it power back up. To speed things along, OPPD hired Exelon to operate the plant. In February 2012, OPPD cancelled plans for a power uprate, also citing the multiple safety issues facing the plant.

In Florida, the newly merged Duke and Progress Energy firm wrestled with a big decision about what to do with the shutdown Crystal River reactor. Repairing the damaged containment structure could cost half again as much as an entirely new reactor. With license renewal coming up in 2016, Florida’s Public Counsel thinks that Duke will decommission the unit and replace it with a combined cycle natural gas plant. Separately, Duke Chairman Jim Rogers said that he will resign at the end of 2013.

China restarts nuclear construction

After a long reconsideration (following the Fukushima crisis) of its aggressive plans to build new nuclear reactors, China’s top level government officials agreed to allow new construction starts, but only with Gen III+ designs.

China has about two dozen Gen II reactors under construction. It will be 40–60 years before the older technology is off the grid. China also reduced its outlook for completed reactors from an estimate of 80 GWe by 2020 to about 55–60 GWe. Plans for a massive $26-billion nuclear energy IPO (initial public offering) still have not made it to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.  No reason has been made public about the delay.

India advances at Kudanlulam

India loaded fuel at Kudankulam where two Russian built 1000-MW VVER reactors are ready for revenue service. The Indian government overcame widespread political protests in its southern state of Tamil Nadu. India’s Prime Minister Singh blamed the protests on international NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

One of the key factors that helped the government overcome the political opposition is that Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited told the provincial government that it could allocate half of all the electricity generated by the plants to local rate payers. Officials in Tamil Nadu will decide who gets power. India suffered two massive electrical blackouts in 2012, the second of which stranded over 600 million people without electricity for up to a week.

Also, India said that it would proceed with construction of two 1600-MW Areva EPRs at Jaitapur on its west coast south of Mumbai and launched efforts for construction of up to 20 GWe of domestic reactors.

India’s draconian supplier liability law continues to be an effective firewall in keeping American firms out of its nuclear market.

UK has new builder at Horizon

The United Kingdom suffered a setback in its nuclear new build as two German utilities backed out of the construction of up to 6 Gwe of new reactors at two sites. Japan’s Hitachi successfully bid to take over the project. A plan for a Chinese state-owned firm to bid on the Horizon project in collaboration with Areva never materialized.

Also in the UK, General Electric pursued an encouraging dialog with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to build two of its 300-MW PRISM fast reactors to burn off surplus plutonium stocks at Sellafield. The PRISM design benefits from the technical legacy of the Integral Fast Reactor developed at Argonne West in Idaho.

You can’t make this stuff up

In July, three anti-war activitists breached multiple high-tech security barriers at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Y-12 highly enriched uranium facility in Tennessee. The elderly trio, two men on the dark side of 55 and a woman in her 80s, were equipped with ordinary wire cutters and flashlights.

Y-12 Signs state the obvious

The intruders roamed the site undetected for several hours in the darkness of the early morning and spray painted political slogans on the side of one of the buildings. They were looking for new artistic venues when a lone security guard finally stopped their travels through the plant.

The government said that the unprecedented security breach was no laughing matter, firing the guards on duty at the time and the contractor they worked for. Several civil servants “retired.” The activists, if convicted, face serious jail time.

None of the HEU stored at the site was compromised, but subsequent investigations by the Department of Energy found a lack of security awareness, broken equipment, and an unsettling version of the “it can’t happen here” attitude by the guards that initially mistook the intruders for construction workers.

The protest effort brought publicity to the activists’ cause far beyond their wildest dreams and produced the predictable uproar in Congress. The DOE’s civilian fig leaf covering the nation’s nuclear weapons program was once again in tatters.

So long Chu

Given the incident at Y-12, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who came to government from the quiet life of scientific inquiry, must have asked himself once again why he ever accepted the job in Washington in the first place.

DOE Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Chu is expected to leave Washington. That he’s lasted this long is something of a miracle since the Obama White House tried to give him the heave ho this time last year after the Solyndra loan guarantee debacle, in which charges of political influence peddling by White House aides colored a half a billion dollar default on a DOE loan by a California solar energy company.

The predictable upswing in rumors of who might be appointed to replace him oozed into energy trade press and political saloons of the nation’s capital.

Leading candidates are former members of Congress, former governors, or just  about anyone with the experience and political know how to take on the job of running one of the federal government’s biggest cabinet agencies. It’s a short list of people who really can do the job and a long list of wannabes. With shale gas and oil production on the rise, having a background in fossil fuels will likely help prospective candidates.

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Dan Yurman published the nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat from 2007–2012.

China restarts approvals of new nuclear reactor construction projects

A second nuclear IPO also is announced

By Dan Yurman

Chinese nuclear reactor under construction

The Chinese State Council has unfrozen approvals of construction of new nuclear reactors after stopping them in 2011 following the Fukushimna crisis in Japan. China will build new reactors at a slower place, however, and only at coastal locations, and only Gen III+ designs. No date has been given for the first new approval decision.

According to the China Daily for October 25, two programs—the national plans for nuclear power security—were approved for the period 2011–2020 at an executive meeting of the State Council chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. The Council also approved a national energy development program through 2015 that addresses fossil and renewable energy sources.

Nuclear energy expert He Jiankun, at Tsinghua University, said the decision to restart approval of new nuclear reactor construction strikes a balance between increasing energy production and the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. China is the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases and is believed to significantly under-report its output of them.

Gen III+ Designs to be built

Sun Qin, chairman of the state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC), told wire services in Beijing on November 8 that the publication of new safety guidelines in late October has opened the door to construction of new reactors similar in design to the 1150-MW Westinghouse AP1000.

Four such reactors are under construction in China. Two more based on Gen III+ design features, which are Areva 1600-MW EPRs, are also under construction in China. It is unlikely that any new starts based on the CPR1000, a Gen II design, will be approved by the government.

The changes in policy regarding new starts will reduce completion of new nuclear power generating capacity from 80 GW by 2020 to about 50—60 GW. Even these numbers may be ambitious despite assurances from CNNC.

While Chinese state-owned nuclear energy firms have significant experience building and operating the current fleet of about 12 GWe of nuclear power, all of the units are based on the older CPR1000, Russian VVER, or Canadian CANDU designs. New starts will require learning from the current construction experiences with Gen III+ designs.

The reason that coastal sites have been selected is to facilitate delivery of large components. One of China’s challenges for new reactors at inland locations is that it lacks the transportation infrastructure to ship systems like reactor pressure vessels, steam generators, and power turbines long distances over land.

The thaw in approvals of new construction projects will boost employment not only at the sites themselves, but also in China’s domestic supply chain. Contracts with Shanghai Electric and Dongfang Electric will resume stepping up manufacturing at their plants.

Long-term safety issues

China has 15 operating reactors and another 26 under construction. Only six of the 26 under construction are Gen III+ designs. This means that by 2020 there will be 35 operating reactors with Gen II designs. The numbers work out to a long-term commitment to safety issues related to Gen II designs.

One of the long term safety issues for China is the variety of reactor designs it will live with for the next 40–60 years. It complicates the nuclear safety regulatory effort. China is still under invested in nuclear safety oversight and regulation.

The Environmental Ministry, which issued the new safety regulations in October, said that the government might phase out older reactor designs sooner. The reason is that they lack the passive safety features of the AP1000 and the EPR.

To get to its goal of 55-58 GWe, it will have to complete a minimum of 15 Gen III+ design reactors. Many of the new Gen III+ units won’t be completed by 2020 when the first group of units in the original group of 15 start to be decommissioned. This scenario suggests that coal and other fossil sources, such as natural gas, will continue to dominate China’s energy supply as fuel sources.

Second IPO

China Nuclear Engineering Co. (CNEC) announced on November 2 that it is planning the country’s second initial public offering (IPO). The firm will issue 525 million shares on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, raising the equivalent of $288 million. The IPO was initially slated to be released in early 2011, but was shelved as a result of the Fukushima crisis in Japan.

The first IPO for new nuclear construction, said to be worth up to $27 billion, was announced by the China National Nuclear Power Co. (CNNP) last June, but it has not yet been released to investors.

Reasons for the first IPO

Andy Mulkerin, managing partner at the Nicobar Group, a consulting firm with offices in Shanghai and New York, said in a statement last June that the CNNC IPO announcement is exciting news for both the Chinese and global nuclear power markets.

“While other Chinese nuclear power manufacturers and uranium mining subsidiaries are already listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, this IPO represents China’s first for a nuclear plant operator and could be China’s largest IPO to date,” he said.

“Our opinion is that this is a sign of China’s continued dedication to nuclear power, despite the delay in new construction starts, and the country’s long-term vision that nuclear power will play a major role in fulfilling its growing energy needs. More importantly, it is a milestone event in the beginning of a period where we see more and more Chinese outbound activity in global nuclear markets.”

Asked why the IPO is being developed at this time, Mulkerin said that there are several possible considerations contributing to the decision for CNNC’s IPO, the strongest of which likely includes international branding and raising capital.

“An IPO will allow CNNC to project more accountability and transparency as they look at more international opportunities. CNNC’s IPO may be a way to demonstrate that they are on par with [State Nuclear Power Technology Corp., SNPTC] and [China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, CGNPC] in terms of their international prowess, as they have lagged behind both since the introduction of 3G plants in China,” he said.

Another issue is that during China’s long suspension of new starts, the projects that will be funded by the IPO have seen cost escalation. Nicobar’s analysts say the IPO should help them to ease the financing of these plants in completing the projects. They also observe that having assured funding will attract the kind of management expertise needed to bring the projects in on time and within budget.

“Secondary reasons for IPO may include attracting and retaining top internationally experienced management, seen in the appointment of Qian Zhimin as general manager, who was formerly at CGNPC, [the World Association of Nuclear Operators, WANO], and [the Nuclear Energy Agency, NEA], and other financial motivations such as facilitating acquisitions and creating various investment opportunities, i.e. convertible debt and equity offerings,” Mulkerin said.

No bid for Horizon

The State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. (SNPTC), which is a separate entity from state owned firms authorized to build and operate domestic nuclear power plants, was at one time in talks to invest $10 billion in the United Kingdom’s Horizon nuclear power project.

The funds that would have been made available are not associated with the $27 billion IPO announced by CNNC. However, SNPTC did not submit a bid for the Horizon project, which was purchased by Japan’s Hitachi Corp. The Chinese firm did not issue a statement explaining why it chose not to bid on the project.

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Dan Yurman is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

San Onofre reactors face divergent paths to restart

Southern California Edison submits a plan to the NRC for Unit 2

By Dan Yurman

 The twin 1100-MW nuclear reactors (Units 2 & 3) at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) that have been shut down since January 2012 will take different paths to a decision to restart each of them.

On October 3, Southern California Edison submitted a response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s confirmatory letter, and a restart plan for Unit 2.

The utility said, however, that it won’t submit a similar response and restart plan for Unit 3 until mid-2013.  In late August SCE said it would remove the fuel from Unit 3, a clear signal that any restart plan for it is well down the road.

(The documents submitted by the utility to the NRC are online at http://www.songscommunity.com )

No timetable for review

The NRC said in response that there is no timetable for review of the restart plan for Unit 2. NRC Chairperson Allison Macfarlane told Reuters on October 4, “Our inspections and review will be painstaking, thorough, and will not be rushed.”

NRC Regional Administrator Elmo Collins said on October 9 that the restart plan could require an amendment to the Unit 2 reactor operating license, a process that could last months or even years.

Anti-nuclear groups have pressed the NRC to address the restart plan with a license amendment. The groups claim that the utility should have asked for the license amendment in the first place when it installed the steam generators.

NRC’s Collins also said that the NRC is still considering penalties against SCE over the generator issues.

Costs of shutdown considered serious

Three weeks after the technical response to regulators proposing to restart one of the reactors, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to consider whether or not ratepayers should pay for repair costs and the additional costs of replacement power.

The review could take several years. By the time the PUC makes up its mind, mid-to-late 2014, both reactors could be back in revenue service.

PUC Chairman Mike Florio said that prior rate reviews are not predictors of how the agency will deal with SCE. He said that “serious errors” have been made by the utility, and he added that the PUC might take preliminary action to reduce rates and/or order refunds sometime in early 2013.

SCE said last July that restart of Unit 2 would cost $25 million in addition to the $48 million it had spent since January on inspections and repairs. Also, it had, as of July, paid out another $117 million to buy replacement power while the reactors were out of service.

These costs have increased since then. The LA Times reported on October 4 that replacement power costs had climbed to $142 million.

SCE has said that it will seek to recover the costs of the prolonged outage from insurance and from Mitsubishi, which supplied the steam generators used at San Onofre. The Japanese firm has denied that a computer error in the design phase of the steam generators was to blame for excessive tube wear.

Computer model and tube wear

Both reactors were safely shut down in January 2012 after excessive wear was discovered on the tubes in the almost-new steam generators.

SCE said in its response to the NRC Oct 3 that the tube wear was caused by a phenomenon called “fluid elastic instability”, a combination of high-steam velocity and low-moisture conditions in specific locations, combined with the impacts of ineffective tube supports at the same locations.

The damage to the tubes in the steam generator at Unit 3 was more extensive than at Unit 2.

One of the root causes of the troubles with the steam generators is that a computer model developed and used by Mitsubishi significantly underestimated key factors involving the flow of steam through the units.

SCE said on its website, “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) determined that computer modeling used during the design phase by the manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, under-predicted the thermal hydraulic conditions in the steam generators which contributed to the unstable tube vibration. The unstable tube vibration caused the unexpected wear in the steam generators.”

Elements of Unit 2 restart plan

SCE’s restart plan for Unit 2 calls for the utility to operate it at 70 percent power, which SCE says will prevent the vibration-causing environment by decreasing steam velocity and increasing moisture content. After five months, SCE will shut down Unit 2 to inspect the steam generator tubes, to confirm that this solution is working as anticipated.

SCE Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich told the Associated Press on October 4 that the restart plan “is not an experiment.” He said the utility has conducted 170,000 tube inspections and has held technical reviews with independent experts to evaluate the situation.

With regard to Unit 3, Dietrich said that Unit 3 has significantly more of the excessive wear on its steam generator tubes. He told the LA Times that it would be “next summer” before SCE is ready to propose a restart plan for it.

Anti-nuclear groups oppose restart

Anti-nuclear groups were divided about SCE’s restart plan for Unit 2. Arnie Gundersen, who has been working as a consultant to Friends of the Earth, said that the group thinks the restart plan isn’t credible. And S. David Freeman, also a consultant to Friends of the Earth, said, “Both reactors are alike and neither is safe to operate.”

David Lochbaum, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was less strident, however, in expressing his opinion. He said that although he is not convinced that the 70 percent power level for Unit 2 is the right number, he recognized that SCE planned to install better monitoring equipment.

On October 10, the NRC’s Collins rejected Gundersen’s harsh characterization of the restart plan. He said, “It is far from a done deal. We will take the time we need. We do not experiment with safety.”

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Dan Yurman is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

UK nuclear new build faces new landscape of vendors

Areva and Chinese partner pull out of bidding for Horizon

By Dan Yurman

When two German utilities, RWE and E.on, dropped their plans to develop the Horizon project—6 Gwe of nuclear power at two new sites in the United Kingdom —disappointment in their departure was tempered by the appearance of three bid teams seeking to acquire the joint venture. Yet, when the bids were opened, a widely anticipated joint proposal from Areva and the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPG) was not among them.

Areva’s decision to drop out just three months after making a media splash with its announcement to proceed with a bid left nuclear industry analysts scratching their heads over the about-face. Neither Areva nor CGNPG gave any reasons for it.

The joint French-Chinese effort was widely expected to offer Areva’s 1600-MW EPR design similar to the units now under construction in Finland, France, and China. Chinese financial backing from a state sovereign wealth fund would have provided the upfront money needed to acquire the Horizon project.

The withdrawal by Areva leaves two other bid teams in place. One is a consortium led by Japan’s Hitachi and the other is a group headed by Westinghouse, which also had reportedly been in talks with China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Group. Westinghouse, which is owned by Japan’s Toshiba Corp., came forward with a bid without Chinese backing, however.

This month Toshiba bought back a 20-percent stake in Westinghouse from The Shaw Group, which is slated to merge with Chicago Bridge & Iron. Industry observers feel that Toshiba will eventually offer that stake to new investors to free up the capital.

The current situation favors Westinghouse, which has completed most of the steps required to obtain the necessary safety certification from the government to build its AP1000 design in the UK.

Areva has also pursued safety certification of its EPR design in the UK, but reportedly has a list of issues to be resolved with the regulatory agency that has responsibility for nuclear reactor safety. In December 2011, the UK’s Office of Nuclear Regulation issued an “interim approval” of both the EPR and the AP1000. Neither Westinghouse nor Areva wants to move forward to complete the costly regulatory process without a firm order in hand from a UK customer.

That said, Areva is still further along by several years than Hitachi, which hasn’t even started the process. It is expected, as part of its bid for the Horizon project, to offer the new 1500-MW ESBWR design. Hitachi is teamed with Canada’s SNC-Lavalin, which now owns the reactor division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Another option might be a CANDU design. Like the ESBWR, however, it would be starting from scratch to obtain a safety certification in the UK.

China’s entry into the UK nuclear market wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms. Compounding security fears about the UK becoming dependent on Chinese financing were reports that Russia’s Rosatom might try to enter the UK nuclear market as well. While neither country has a place at the table at this time, public and government perceptions of their respective roles would result in stepped up scrutiny on two entities that have a long history of resisting that kind of transparency.

EDF has also reportedly been in talks with Chinese state-owned firms with an eye toward getting them to take a 20-percent stake in two other nuclear power stations. These deals would likely involve Areva EPR reactor designs and financing from Chinese and UK sources.

The question of the extent of Chinese financial interest in the UK nuclear new build may turn on recent news that China will restart its domestic nuclear new build by the end of 2012. China at one time was said to be committed to build upwards of 80 GWe of new nuclear electrical generation capacity, but now it may build far less. Demand for coal-fired electrical power has fallen due to a cooling off of China’s economy. Also, China’s top leaders may be rethinking how many of the older CPR-1000 units to build relative to the safety features of the Westinghouse AP1000.

China has a long-term goal of becoming an exporter of nuclear technology, based on a 1400-MW version of the Westinghouse AP1000. That design won’t be ready for another few years, but cash infusions in Western projects would display China’s growing desire to be a player in the global nuclear market. How much money China would put up remains to be seen, especially if balanced against domestic energy needs.

Czech CEZ rejects Areva for Temelin

While Areva was pulling out of bidding on the Horizon project in the UK,  it suffered an unexpected setback in its effort to win the bid to build two new reactors at Temlin. The deal is expected to be worth about $10 billion.

CEZ, the Czech state-owned electric utility that operates Temelin, said on October 5 that it was disqualifying Areva from the bid process. The utility said that it took the action based on the failure of Areva’s bid to meet “legislative and commercial” requirements.

CEZ did not provide details of what was deficient in the Areva bid, only that there were “fundamental shortcomings” in it.

Areva said that it would appeal the decision, stating that it firmly believes that it has met all the conditions of the tender.

The action by CEZ, if upheld, would leave two other bidders for Temelin. They are Russia’s Rosatom and Toshiba’s Westinghouse.

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Dan Yurman is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Japan launches nuclear safety agency

Restart of the nation’s nuclear reactors will be guided by its actions

By Dan Yurman

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman, Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority.

A new and independent nuclear safety agency—the Nuclear Regulation
Authority (NRA)—began operating in Japan on September 19, but its future is already clouded by controversy. Approval of the five members of the NRA’s governing commission was not obtained by the central government of the Diet, the Japanese parliament. The NRA’s chairman, Shunichi Tanka, has placed it on the tracks in the face of an oncoming locomotive.

Tanka said that none of Japan’s shut down nuclear reactors would restart until the NRA issued its own set of safety rules and applied them to restart decisions, a process that could take up to a year or longer.

Two weeks ago, Japan’s cabinet backed down from a decision by Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda to phase out all nuclear reactors by 2030. The reason was the implacable opposition to the loss of reliable electric power by Japan’s largest business federation, composed of heavy industry manufacturing operations. These firms, which are also among Japan’s largest employers, have threatened to take their operations offshore if the government doesn’t authorize restart of the reactors.

Tanaka, who has long experience in the nation’s nuclear industry, must know what he’s doing. He formerly was vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. Plus, he has marching orders straight from the prime minister’s office.

Goshi Hoshono, who heads the environmental ministry in which the nuclear safety operation is housed, told Tanaka that he expects the NRA to operate independently of influence from the industry that it will regulate.

Previously, the nuclear safety function in the government was housed in the trade ministry where its functions were routinely compromised by industry influence. It was ineffective, however, in getting the Tokyo Electric Power Company to build a higher seawall at Fukushima, which led to the March 11, 2011, disaster in which a tsunami destroyed six of Japan’s 54 reactors.

Profile of the agency

The NRA will be responsible for developing and enforcing nuclear safety regulations, oversight of the physical security of sites, nuclear materials safeguards, radiation monitoring, and regulation of the use of radioisotopes in fields like medicine, construction, and food processing.

It will have a staff composed mostly of people transferred from the old Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency—about 400–500 people—and an annual budget reported to be in the range of $600 million.

The five people on the commission include its chairman Tanaka and four others:

  • Kenzo Oshima, former Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
  • Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus of seismology at the University of Tokyo
  • Kayoko Nakamura, Ph.D, a nuclear medicine specialist
  • Toyoshi Fuketa, a senior manager from the Fuel Safety Research Laboratory, Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute

Tanaka, speaking for his colleagues, said that the NRA has to regain the trust of the Japanese public for nuclear power. It is unlikely that local government officials will agree to the restart of reactors without the oversight and assurances of the NRA.

Nuclear politics marches on

Yukio Edano, now the Japan Trade Minister, was the chief spokesman for former prime minister Naoto Kan during the Fukushima crisis.

While Tanaka was organizing his new agency, METI Minister Yukio Edano
wasted no time mounting a new attack on restart of the reactors. In a new book published this week, he called for the government to nationalize the reactors and to immediately begin decommissioning them. The reactors are owned by publicly traded utility companies. Nationalization would cost the debt-ridden government billions of dollars that it does not have. The likelihood of that option seeing the light of day seems to be very remote.

But Edano’s book isn’t meant to be practical. It is designed to whip up public opinion and to keep the anti-nuclear pot boiling. Trading on widespread public distrust of the nuclear utilities, Edano said that the government must take the lead in creating a nuclear-free society.

Edano also said that nine nuclear reactors that are planned to be built will be halted. He called for utility companies to take “voluntary measures” to stop the projects and he threatened legislative actions if they don’t. This threat also seems somewhat hollow since government seizure of privately owned assets would require compensation.

The projects that would be affected include No. 3 and 4 units at the Tsuruga Power Station in Fukui Prefecture and the No. 1 and 2 units at the Kaminoseki Power Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Earlier, Edano said that three reactors already under construction could be completed. One of them, the 1383-MW Ohma plant being built by Japan Electric Power, is 40-percent complete. It is expected to be completed in 2014. By then, presumably the NRA will have rolled out its new safety regulations.

Fuel reprocessing center faces new delays

One of the problems with METI Minister Edano’s clarion calls for decommissioning the nation’s nuclear reactors is that Japan has no deep geologic repository for disposing of nuclear waste or spent fuel in a once-through cycle.

For years Japan has been developing a spent fuel reprocessing plant. It would produce mixed oxide from recyclable materials and put the rest of the waste in ceramic canisters. The plant, being developed by Japan Nuclear Fuel, Ltd., is not complete and has encountered a series of technical mishaps that have delayed start of production operations.

Japan is storing 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel at the site, which is in Rokkasho in the Aomori Prefecture. There, political leaders are nominally pro-nuclear because of the jobs and tax base that come from the plant and from several commercial reactors. Their agreement would still be necessary to begin to reprocess fuel on a full-time basis.

However, Kazui Sakai, a senior executive with Japan Fuels, told the Wall Street Journal on September 19 that there is no planned date to start operations other than sometime in 2013. The vitrification process, which Japan acquired from Areva in France, has been significantly scaled up and modified to meet local requirements. It hasn’t worked so far despite assurances from Japan Fuel that the company has solutions in the works for various technical hurdles.

Critics of the plant have tried several times to stop its development. It has survived these efforts for the same reason that Japan will likely restart many of its reactors within the next 12 months. The country has no other economically feasible sources of baseload electricity.

In the long term, Japan cannot hope to compete on global markets with China for supplies of oil and natural gas. Japan will have to live with its “plutonium economy” for at least a few more decades while it experiments with geothermal and renewable sources, or it will have to come to terms with a future that includes nuclear energy as a mainstay of its economy.

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Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy, and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Japan’s Non-nuclear decision

Implementation of the energy policy announced last week will keep reactors running well into the second half of the 21st century.

By Dan Yurman

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Japan Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda announced on September 14 that his nation will end reliance on nuclear power by 2040. On paper it looks like a replay of Germany’s decision to scrap its reactors by 2022. In reality, it isn’t anything like that, plus the government plans to complete several reactors that are already under construction.

Unlike Germany, which immediately closed half of its aging fleet, Japan has already restarted two of its reactors shuttered following the Fukushima crisis and will like restart many of them by the end of 2013. The most urgent effort is Tokyo Electric Power Company’s work to restart the seven reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

The launch of an independent nuclear safety agency this month is expected to add credibility to the government’s plan to keep the lights on with nuclear energy.

The political motivation for Noda’s decision includes an obvious reading of the overwhelmingly anti-nuclear mood of the Japanese electorate that has lost the traditional trust of the government and the nuclear utilities that run the reactors. Elections expected to take place this fall, or certainly by early 2013, center on two issues–nuclear power and taxes. Pulling the teeth on one of them, the fate of the reactors, is seen as a tactic designed to improve the chances of Noda’s party to stay in power.

Noda’s party may still lose the election. The reason is that many in Japan see the decision to move away from nuclear energy as a smokescreen. Noda’s Democratic Party is, in any case, deeply unpopular, which suggests that the late arrival of the policy of appearing to pull the plug on the reactors may have little lasting political effect.

The policy leaves decades of time for future political decisions that would undo Noda’s policy. And there are plenty of reasons why that might happen.

Take for instance the views of Japan’s biggest corporations represented by the Keidanren business federation. It insists that the cost of replacement fossil fuels are crippling the country’s economy and forcing its members to consider moving their heavy industrial manufacturing operations offshore to countries like Vietnam.

There the government has committed itself to building eight new nuclear reactors to provide reliable electric power. Intel has opened a $1-billion computer chip manufacturing center, one of the largest of its kind, based on Vietnam’s reliable electricity and cheap labor.

And the United States isn’t happy either about Japan’s decision. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman said on September 14 that dropping reliance on nuclear energy in Japan could have negative impacts on fossil fuel markets, particularly regarding the current cheap prices for natural gas.

According to the Japan Times, Poneman told Japanese political leader Seiji Maehara that if Japan starts “snapping up” fossil fuels, energy prices will rise dramatically over the short term. Poneman is reported to have urged Japan to “exercise caution” in moving too quickly to shut down its reactors.

The energy policy announced by Maehar’s boss, Prime Minister Noda, calls for reactors to operate to the end of their 40 year life, but it offers a loophole to operate them for another 20 years if it can be proven they can do so safely. That loophole would allow a reactor that loads fuel for the first time in 2015 to have a decommissioning date of 2075.

Reactors already under construction will be completed, says Yukio Edano, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry trade minister. They are the No. 3 reactor at the Shimane plant (94- percent complete) in Matsue, capital of the Shimane Prefecture, which is operated by Chugoku Electric; a reactor at the Oma plant (38 percent complete) in Aomori Prefecture, which is operated by Electric Power Development; and, No. 1 reactor (10 percent complete) at the Higashidori plant also in Aomori Prefecture.

It should come as no surprise that Edano made his remarks in Aomori Prefecture. There provincial officials have also told the government that unless it starts up and operates a spent fuel reprocessing center located there, they will send the material back to wherever it came from. Japan has no deep geologic repository for spent fuel, nor a national interim storage site.

Edano’s other problem is what to do about Japan’s heavy industries that export nuclear components. The firms include Japan Steel Works, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi. On September 3, Edano noted that he does not see a contradiction between ending reliance on nuclear power at home and exporting the technology overseas. The problem with that policy is that Japan’s nuclear exports have always relied on a robust domestic market. Take that away and there might not be enough business for some manufacturing operations to stay open.

Paradoxically, Japan is slated to build the second pair of Vietnam’s nuclear reactors. In doing so, it may enable the creation of exactly the conditions (reliable power) Japan’s current manufacturing firms, e.g., autos, electronics, and other durable goods, need to survive in a global market. An offshoring trend for these firms will add rising unemployment to Japan’s economic woes.

Proponents of the closure of nuclear plants argue that renewables such as wind and solar can make up the difference. This is delusional thinking. The intermittent nature of wind and solar requires baseload sources to keep the national grid stable.

But wait, Japan doesn’t have a national grid. Each electric utility has its own. Plus, Japan will have to build new natural gas plants to replace the power from shuttered reactors. Higher demand from Japan could push up gas prices and add to the cost of keeping renewable projects online.

Japan made it through a hot summer with no blackouts and just two reactors online. However, with an economy in the doldrums, electric power demand from industry was down which may have allowed the country to skip a seasonal energy crisis.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power for 30 percent of its energy and had plans to boost that number to 50 percent. Prime Minister Noda’s politically expedient decision to drive forward with a zero power option for nuclear energy throws cold water on any rational plans for the future of rational energy plans in his country.

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Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy, and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Questions raised about India’s Nuclear Safety Agency

Government auditor cites lack of regulatory independence and says overall effectiveness is weak

By Dan Yurman

R. Bhattacharya is head of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board

In a report to India’s Parliament, India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) writes that the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) lacks independence, has no power to make safety or radiation protection rules, does not require decommissioning plans for nuclear power plants, nor does it have the authority to enforce safety standards, and does not have a role in responding to nuclear energy facility emergencies.

The far-reaching report is expected to stimulate action by Parliament to reorganize the nuclear safety function within the government.

The CAG said that it prepared the report based on India’s plans to expand its reliance on nuclear energy for electricity generation from about 5 GWe to 20 GWe. India’s expansion plans include a mix of Russian 1000-MW VVERs, Areva 1600-MW EPRs, and its own 700-MW PHWR design.

The Russians have completed two VVERs at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu and are in the process of commissioning Unit 1 this week with its first fuel loading. Areva is expected to start work on two EPRs at Jaitapur in Maharashtra by December.

Elsewhere, Nuclear Power Corp India Ltd is moving ahead with plans to build multiple reactors around the country to deal with the nation’s crippling energy shortages. In August, two back-to-back power outages lasting several days each denied electricity to over 600 million people.

The CAG said that based on the nation’s ambitious plans to build new nuclear power stations, “There is an urgent need for the government to bolster the status of the AERB.”

Perhaps more serious is the review of the AERB’s overall performance. The CAG says that the agency has been slow to adopt international standards for nuclear safety and has not accepted the need for a peer review by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The report noted that the AERB has no enforcement powers nor the ability to take legal action when it finds safety lapses at nuclear plants.

“The AERB has no direct role in radiological surveillance of nuclear power plants to ensure the safety of workers or in emergency-preparedness,” the report said.

The CAG report found that the AERB still has no formally adopted safety policy and that dozens of the safety manuals it was chartered to prepare in 1983 are not complete.

“It is evident that the AERB is on very tenuous ground if it is to be judged in terms of the benchmarks of what is expected from an independent regulator,” the report said.

The CAG said that by comparison, many western nations, including the United States and the United Kingdom, have strong independent nuclear safety regulatory agencies.

The CAG warned that unless the functions of the AERB were made independent, and the performance of the agency was brought up to meet International Atomic Energy Agency standards, a nuclear disaster would likely occur at one of India’s power stations.

In defense of the agency, AERB Secretary R. Bhattacharya told the Indian news media that while it is true there is no radiation safety policy document, the agency does have “detailed codes and guides on managing radiation.”

In 2001, a court decision ordered the AERB to set up a program of control for radioactive materials used in medicine and industry. However, the CAG said in its report that little progress has been made in this area.

In April 2010, a nuclear medicine device containing cobalt-60 was mistakenly sent to a metal scrapyard where one worker was killed from radiation exposure and seven others hospitalized with injuries.

IAEA pushes global nuclear safety regime

In late August, the 75 member states that belong to the Convention on Nuclear Safety met in Vienna, Austria, to address the aftermath of the Fukushima accident.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that the convention has made progress in several areas including assessment of safety vulnerabilities of power stations, improving the IAEA’s peer review process, and upgrading methods for emergency preparedness and response.

Vietnam plans investment in nuclear safety

More support is being requested from the IAEA by Vietnam as it plans to build eight new nuclear reactors. Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan said that the country lacks a proper legal framework and has a shortage of trained nuclear engineers to staff an independent safety agency.

The first two reactors are to be built in Ninh Thuan Province by Rosatom, which will supply 1000-MW VVER reactors for the power station.

Electricity from the plants is expected to support development of a domestic finished goods aluminum industry based on the country’s bauxite deposits. Thereafter, Vietnam is reportedly in discussions with Japan to build the next two reactors, but no formal contract for them is in place at this time.

US NRC issues post-Fukushima safety requirements

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued Interim Staff Guidance to U.S. nuclear power plants to guide implementation of three orders issued in March 2012 based on lessons learned from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident.

The first order requires reactor operators to have better protection for portable safety equipment. The second order applies only to Mark I or Mark II containment designs. It calls for improved venting systems in the event of an accident. The third order calls for enhanced equipment to monitor the water levels in spent fuel pools.

Reactor operators have until December 2016 to meet all the requirements in the new safety orders.

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Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy, and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

119th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 119th weekly Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up at Yes Vermont Yankee

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

# # #

118th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

Mettallic Butterfly ~ photo by: Margaret Harding

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

This week’s Carnival

Mothra – a fantastic fantasy creature created in 1961 by Japanese film makers in response to public fears of the radiation effects of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the South Pacific.
Image: http://godzilla.wikia.com/wiki/Mothra

Media reports of radiation-induced mutations of butterflies near Fukushima in Japan produced a lot of head scratching over their significance.

Unlike the 1961 Japanese horror film Mothra, a giant, radiation-mutated insect did not destroy Tokyo nor did it do battle with other film fantasy creatures like Godzilla.

Here are three reports from nuclear bloggers which address the “so what” question.

Nuclear DinerRadioactive Mutant Butterflies – Really?

Susan Voss points out some weaknesses in the much-publicized study of damaged butterflies from the Fukushima area. Sample sizes are too small to be analyzed statistically or extrapolated, and it’s not clear why the authors of the study chose to emphasize the parameters that they did and ignored others.

NEI Nuclear Notes – Eric McErlain

Keeping a level head about nuclear butterflies

Ralph Andersen, NEI’s chief health physicist. Here’s what he had to say about the study:

“Please note that there are species of plants, insects and animals that are particularly sensitive to changes in environmental conditions, including radiation. The pale grass butterfly is among the most sensitive, which is why it was selected for study following the accident at Fukushima Daiichi.”

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams

Butterflies are not human analogs

Radiation was not the only mutagen released in Fukushima by the tsunami. At first Rod was ready to yawn and say, “So what?” The headlines seemed almost tailor-made for tabloids or TV news – “Radiation from Fukushima power plant meltdown ‘triggers genetic mutations in butterflies’.

Then he realized that the story had some legs and deserved a response – after taking time to read the full paper and reviewing the reactions of other experts.

& & &

News about the ANS Utility Working Conference garnered two blog posts including a radio show.

Atomic Show #188 – Rod Adams

Wheeler and Harding discuss ANS Utility Working Conference ~ John Wheeler and Margaret Harding joined Rod Adams to share their impressions and take aways from the 2012 ANS Utility Working Conference.

Four Factor Consulting – Margaret Harding

Margaret Harding has another installment on the Utility Working Group Conference organized by the American Nuclear Society. This time she reviews a session where Bill Borchardt, EDO of the NRC, presented the NRC’s view of the status of the Industry.

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin

Black Start, BlackOut and Diesels: Some Clarity is needed. Intervenors are getting set to intervene against Vermont Yankee acquiring a new diesel because Vernon Dam will no longer be a “black start” plant on the New England grid.  After an initial reaction of “huh?” Meredith Angwin investigates what this means. In this post, she explains the three shades of black: 1) grid blackout, 2) black start, and 3)station blackout. Conclusion: the new diesel should be no big deal.

Hiroshima Syndrome – Les Corrice

Tepco/Tokyo executives considered full F. Daiichi abandonment It now seems that Tepco/Tokyo may have actually deliberated full abandonment of F. Daiichi during the accident. Tepco teleconferencing during March 14, 2011, reveals that the possibility was discussed among some Tokyo executives. This shows that Tepco’s incessant denial of considering abandonment has been less than forthright.

Thorium MSR – Rick Maltese

Why Canada should look at LFTR or DMSR ~ Rick just happens to be rooting for molten salt reactors but there are other reactors that provide process heat for industrial use. Canada is getting pressure to reduce their CO2 emissions. The industry in question is the oil sands of Alberta. If we have to live with it then process heat can reduce the environmental damage. How it does this is thought for another article. The conference July 18/19 in Washington DC features Dr. Tim Birtch, John Kutsch and Bob Prince all discussing their own non LWR methods of of making useful energy in small modular reactors.

Atomic Power Review – Will Davis

Will Davis continues the story of Sylvania-Corning Nuclear Corporation’s progress in the late 50′s through the eyes of a former employee, using the wonderful collection of papers now here at APR.

ANS Nuclear Cafe – Paul Bowersox

Anomalies detected in a reactor vessel at the Doel nuclear power station in Belgium may be tiny cracks, prompting further investigation. Will Davis at the ANS Nuclear Cafe provides background and analysis, and possible significance for other reactors.

Dan Yurman writes that competition for Turkey’s second and third nuclear power stations has heated up, but it isn’t clear whether any deals will be signed soon. China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, and Russia all want to supply the plants, which are expected to be about three-to-five GWe each depending on how many reactors are built at each site.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

Offshore wind turbines are 2.5 to 3 times more inefficient than onshore wind in terms of usage of concrete and steel needed to generate the same level of power. Wind turbines use about 10 times more steel and 5 times more concrete to generate the same amount of power as a nuclear power plant. One thousand 3 megawatt wind turbines are needed to equal one 1 GW nuclear power plant. The wind turbines have about 30% capacity factor. Those wind turbines would be 60 stories tall.

The Navy is funding EMC2 (inertial electrostatic fusion project) an additional $5.3 million over next 2 years to work on the problem of pumping electrons into the Polywell. Big new pulsed power supply to support the electron guns (100+A, 10kV). WB-8 has been operating at 0.8 Tesla (8 times stronger magnetic field than any previous version). There was a review done of the work and the recommendations were to continue and expand the effort.

& & &

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

# # #

Carving up Turkey’s nuclear energy market

The question is how big is the bird and will any of the proposed deals fly?

By Dan Yurman

Competition for Turkey’s second and third nuclear power stations has heated up, but it isn’t clear whether any deals will be signed soon. China, South Korea, Japan, Canada, and Russia all want to supply the plants, which are expected to be about three-to-five GWe each depending on how many reactors are built at each site.

Turkey’s goal in pursuing a nuclear energy strategy is to gain energy independence from imported oil and natural gas and to boost export earnings through sales of electricity to other countries in the region.

The second plant is slated to be built at Sinop on Turkey’s Black Sea coast. The third plant would be placed north of the Bosporus channel along the Black Sea coast, but within spitting distance, as the crow flies, of Bulgaria’s border with Turkey.

Russia’s contract at Akkuyu

In May 2010, Turkey signed a contract with Rosatom to build Turkey’s first nuclear power site—4.8 Gwe of nuclear-powered electrical generating capacity at Akkuyu in Mersin on the country’s Mediterranean coast. The deal hinged on Russia’s financing and building four 1,200-MW VVER type reactors and operating them for 15 years, after which Rosatom expects to cash out to Turkish investors. The reactors are slated to be completed in 2019.

Rosatom was the sole bidder on the Akkuyu project after three western consortiums withdrew from responding to the tender over roller coaster disputes about protection of intellectual property and guaranteed rates. For its part, after a long-tangled process, Turkey agreed to guarantee rates to the Russian plant.

Now the Russians want to build the second and third nuclear power stations, but they have competition. There is another reason why Rosatom is not a slam dunk for the second and third power stations. The price has gone up on the first one.

On July 12, Interfax, a Russian wire service, reported that Vladimir Ivanovskiy, Russia’s ambassador to Ankara, said that the Akkuyu nuclear power plant might cost Turkey more than planned.

“Inititally its cost was estimated at $20 billion, but I think it will be much more—about $25 billion,” he told Russian journalists in Moscow. That’s not going to make the Turkish government willing to give the Russians an unconditional green light for either of the next two projects.

South Korea pulls out of Sinop

South Korea, which inked a $20-billion contract with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in December 2009 to build four 1,400-MW reactors, is still interested in doing business with Turkey. Despite two rounds of negotiations, however, the two side still hadn’t come close to signing a contract, as in late 2010, South Korea and Turkey were at loggerheads over whether the Turkish government would guarantee financing from South Korea.

The South Korean government, which is already deeply committed to the UAE deal, may have looked at its books and decided it didn’t have the ability to do another project of that size. Since then, South Korea has been exploring international financing without much success.

Playing the China card

China also has shown interest in the Turkish deal, and clearly has the money to pay to play. China, however, does not have a reactor design of its own to offer for export and no experience in financing reactor deals in global markets.

These drawbacks didn’t stop Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan from leading a trade mission to China in February 2012 to talk nuts and bolts about a nuclear energy deal.

Babacan reportedly told the Chinese that the second nuclear power station at Sinop on the southern Black Sea coast was pretty much a toss-up between Russia and Japan. He added, however, that the third site, near Turkey’s border with Bulgaria, was fair game. China has not asked for financial guarantees for a nuclear power station, which has been a sticking point with South Korea.

By the time Turkey is ready to build that plant, probably around 2015, China is expected to have its own 1,400-MW version of the Westinghouse AP1000 ready for export. China’s state-owned nuclear power firms—China National Nuclear Corporation and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation—have growing ambitions to play in the global nuclear export markets especially for nations like Turkey.

The February 2012 trade mission was followed by an official state visit to Beijing in April by Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation on nuclear energy with his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao.

In a change from the February meeting, Erdogan noted that plans for Turkey’s second power station, originally slated to be built by Japan or South Korea, were in flux.

Japan tries to re-enter the market

Japan originally proposed a team composed of Toshiba and the Tokyo Electric Power Company. With the collapse of TEPCO’s finances due to the Fukushima crisis, however, that consortium pulled out of the Turkey venture.

In October 2011, Mitsubishi said that it would explore bidding on the contract for the Synop project in cooperation with Japanese utility Kansai Electric Power Company. Construction would be handled by GDF Suez, a French multinational construction company. Japan’s government has also supported Hitachi’s plans to build nuclear reactors in Vietnam. It isn’t clear, however, whether or not Japan has put forward a solid proposal to Turkey.

Can Canada succeed with Candu?

Meanwhile, SNC Lavalin, a Canada-based company and owner of the reactor division of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, approached Turkey in April 2012 with a proposal to build 3 Gwe, the equivalent of four Candu-6 pressurized heavy-water reactors, at Sinop. At an energy conference held in Istanbul, Turkey’s energy minister Taner Yildiz said that SNC-Lavalin had six months to prepare a feasibility study as part of its proposal.

What’s interesting about this deal is that SNC Lavalin vice president Ala Alizadeh told the Anatolia News Agency, a Turkish wire service, on April 20 that financing would be provided by Chinese investors, which means state-owned nuclear firms.

The future is still unknown

Turkey has a history of mercurial negotiations with reactor vendors. It doesn’t have the capital to finance the units, which is why the Russian and Chinese offers look promising right now.

Russia’s cost increase at Akkuyu, however, and the lack of a market-ready reactor for export from China, complicate what appears to be a choice of one or the other that could be made solely on available capital.

Japan’s bid seems like a long shot because it isn’t offering financing as part of its proposal.

An option by a Chinese state-owned nuclear organization to finance Candu-6 reactors could be the wild card in the Turkey nuclear market.

_____________________

Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

117th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 117th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up at Next Big Future

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

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116th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 116th Carnival is up at Idaho Samizdat.

It’s a busy week as usual with a focus on the continuing ire of Sen. Harry Reid, as well as unrelated nonproliferation issues over nuclear fuel.

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

# # #

Revisiting Reprocessing in South Korea

The U.S. doesn’t want to hear about it

By Dan Yurman

The Cold War is over and North Korea has another nut job for a political leader, this time it is an untested youth still shy of his 30th birthday. Claims by the United States that South Korea must not pursue uranium enrichment and reprocessing because of the unpredictability of its northern neighbor are getting little traction in Seoul these days. The reason is that South Korea is a major user and exporter of civilian nuclear energy. It wants energy security and to recover the energy value in a growing inventory of spent fuel from its reactors.

According to World Nuclear News, South Korea is now a major nuclear energy country. It won a $20-billion contract to supply four nuclear reactors to the United Arab Emirates. Within the past two months, the UAE nuclear safety agency approved a license for the first unit and construction is underway at a remote site on the shores of the Persian Gulf. Three more South Korean reactors will be built there by 2020.

Today, 23 reactors provide one-third of South Korea’s electricity from 20.7 GWe of plant. The government says it intends to provide 59 percent of electricity from 40 units by 2030.

Nuclear energy remains a strategic priority for South Korea, and capacity is planned to increase by 56 percent to 27.3 GWe by 2020, and then to 43 GWe by 2030.

Revising a 40 year old treaty

Comes now the request by the South Korean government, first aired in October 2010, to revise the bilateral cooperation treaty with the U.S. It has been in place for more than 40 years and it is a cornerstone of U.S./South Korean diplomatic relations.

Many specialists in the field of nonproliferation see a “hard and fast” policy against any expansion of uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing as a key to stopping states like North Korea from pursuing these activities. That strategy hasn’t worked and, as a result, South Korea wants relief from the restriction in the now-decades-old treaty.

Negotiations over changes to the treaty have been going on since last December, but appear to be stalemated around a key set of issues. It is a delicate dance, as diplomats like to say, because if the U.S. leans too heavily on South Korea, it could sour relations between the two countries and spawn nationalist sentiment that might lead to a nuclear weapons program. Since the 1950s, South Korea has depended on the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a shield against aggression from its neighbor to the north.

Spent fuel with no place to put it?

But South Korea doesn’t appear to want its own weapons. Instead, what it has told the U.S. is that it wants to reprocess fuel from its growing commercial fleet and to create fuel for new reactors. The country has more than 10,000 tonnes of spent fuel stored at its civilian reactors. It is producing 700 tonnes per year of spent fuel and expects to run out of space by 2016. A geologic repository in the densely populated country seems out of the question.

The trouble is that the current treaty inked in 1972 allows South Korea to import nuclear reactor technology in return for a ban on enrichment and reprocessing. South Korea’s first commercial nuclear reactor entered revenue service in 1978 and the latest in 2012.

The big issue on the reprocessing side is what will be done with the plutonium extracted from the spent fuel. U.S. nonproliferation experts claim that its mere presence in South Korea, regardless of international controls and inspections, will inflame relations with North Korea. South Korean government officials call this reasoning nonsense, since North Korea has already been producing plutonium and has its own uranium enrichment capabilities.

Gary Samore, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism

The current position of the U.S. government, as expressed by its chief negotiator Gary Samore, is that it does not want to change the treaty.

Instead, the U.S. wants South Korea to continue to get its nuclear fuel from France or the U.S. The country gets up to 30 percent per year of its nuclear fuel from the U.S. and the rest from France.

What’s good for the goose?

For its part, South Korea calls this position hypocritical, pointing out that Japan enriches uranium and reprocesses spent fuel. Even more to this point, South Korea says that the U.S., for strategic reasons, supported India’s request to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group even though India conducted nuclear weapons tests in 1974 and 1988. In short, South Korea is not buying what it calls a “double standard” from the U.S.

In response, U.S. diplomats have let slip to South Korean news media that they harbor a “deep distrust” of South Korea’s intentions due to a clandestine weapons effort that briefly operated in the 1970s under then President Park Jung-hee.

A face-saving plan offered in principle by the U.S. is for South Korea to adopt a so-called “proliferation resistant” technology for reprocessing fuel called pyroprocessing. The method does not initially separate plutonium in a way that allows it to be refined for use in a nuclear weapon. The U.S. has offered South Korea financial assistance to conduct tests on the technology. Critics call this a diplomatic fig leaf, saying that eventually weapons grade material could be extracted if the country really wants it.

For South Korea, the objectives for change are clear. What the U.S. will need are iron clad agreements that the South Korean government will never pursue “nuclear sovereignty,” and agree to international oversight and inspections.

Even with these measures, U.S. diplomats see enrichment and reprocessing in South Korea as “incentives” for North Korea to increase its investment in nuclear weapons. Nonproliferation experts remain divided about whether or not limiting South Korea’s access to enrichment and reprocessing will have any useful effect on its neighbor to the north.

Samore says that the U.S. hopes to ink a new treaty by 2014. He’s got his work cut out for him.

______________________

Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

115th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 115th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up
at
Atomic Power Review.

carnival maskThe Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

Past editions have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.
If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wangat Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

Put this Widget on your Blog!

This widget code will link to the ANS Nuclear Café’s latest pointer to the most current Carnival.

<p><a href=”http://ansnuclearcafe.org/category/carnival-of-nuclear-bloggers/ ”><img src=”https://sites.google.com/site/djysrv/carnival%20mask.jpg” height=”135″ width=”180″ align=”center” /></a><br/><a href=”http://ansnuclearcafe.org/category/carnival-of-nuclear-bloggers/ “>
Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers</a></p>

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