Category Archives: India

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.

Post #2 from Mumbai: The Indo-US Nuclear Safety Summit

Margaret Harding is blogging from the ANS–sponsored Indo–US Nuclear Safety Summit in Mumbai, India.

By Margaret Harding

I had hoped to keep more material coming, but technical difficulties and jet lag have limited me some. More on day 1 of the conference. The pictures are from the exhibit hall and the front entrance.

One of the speakers spent a little time talking about the regulatory environment. His words were important for all countries to heed. Regulation must remain science based. Diverse knowledge should inform regulation, no single technology or group should dominate. A regulator with solid technical knowledge can be responsive to new technology and new ideas without creating excess burdens on the developers and still maintain safety and oversight. [Aside from Margaret: Points we should certainly listen to in the United States as well. Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulation is frequently too technology specific and the ability to keep up with new developments has stretched the NRC’s staff at times.]

Another great comment focused on the impact of our words. While conservatism in our design processes is important, when excess conservatism is applied to emergency situations, we can create fear where no risk exists and impose significant restrictions on a population far in excess of the actual risk. Such evacuations and lengthy abandonments of home and business create burdens on the population that do far more harm than the original risk we were trying to protect against. The Fukushima aftermath is an example of such impacts.

After lunch, there was a session for those of us who have not had much (any?) business dealings in India to learn a little more about the United States’ trade relationship with India and the status of any nuclear opportunities that might exist. Judy Reinke, minister-counselor for commercial affairs for the US embassy in India, gave us some really interesting information. India is growing quickly and the middle class is growing even faster. The workforce is generally young and very entrepreneurial. India is looking for ways to continue to grow. The government is very focused on inclusive growth that brings benefits to those who are deeply improverished as well as to the middle class. India’s parliamentary government is currently such a very weak coalition, however, that coming to a decision can be very difficult because all the partners in the coalition must agree before moving forward. This has had some impact on regulatory reforms that are needed for full engagement by outside businesses.

India’s economy has been growing at 8 percent until the last few years, when growth slowed to 6–7 percent. Slower economic growth added to continued population growth has made the goal of inclusive growth a very difficult goal for India. The need for infrastructure and energy to get the economy growing again has become a strong driver. This need benefits the nuclear industry, because getting reliable electricity to businesses and manufacturers is critical to a successful growth of the economy. Businesses that do not have power do not need workers. Workers who don’t work don’t get paid, which results in continued poverty.

Finally, India really only opened up to global trade in 1991. The government has continued to reform laws and regulations to make global markets more accessible both for export and import. But, again, a weak government makes such reform more difficult.

That’s it for tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll post a summary of Dr. Patrick Moore’s speech and subsequent journalist interviews, as well as more information about the session I participated in regarding public communications and what both countries can do better.

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Harding

Margaret Harding has almost 30 years of experience in the nuclear industry in technical design, licensing, and quality issues.  She worked for GE-Hitachi for 27 years with positions of increasing responsibility, leading to vice president of Engineering Quality. Two years ago, she left GE-Hitachi to start her own consulting business to help companies with business ventures in the nuclear industry. She is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Update from Mumbai: The Indo-US Nuclear Safety Summit

Margaret Harding is blogging from the ANS–sponsored Indo–US Nuclear Safety Summit in Mumbai, India.

By Margaret Harding

I’m taking some time out from the summit to write a few words for the ANS Nuclear Cafe. This is my first trip to India, and Mumbai has been an exciting and interesting city. The trip started out with some difficulties: suitcase malfunctions, flight delays and rerouting, and lost luggage. But I arrived in India early Wednesday morning ready to see more of and learn more about India and, in particular, its nuclear programs.

First, I had to buy some clothes, as I wasn’t sure when, or if, my suitcase would ever catch up with me. It turns out it got here about 24 hours after I did, spending a day in Heathrow Airport, in England, before traveling on to catch up with me. I didn’t get it in time for the conference start, however, so native dress was my uniform for the day. See the picture below with Don Hoffman, vice-president/president elect of the American Nuclear Society.

The morning session was a welcoming plenary, with speakers mostly from India telling us about India’s energy needs, and the history of nuclear energy in India. Dr. Alok Mishra, secretary of the ANS India Section, opened the session followed by Shri SK Sharma, INS president, and then by Don Hoffman. I particularly noted Don’s comments to the India Institute of Technology (IIT-Bombay) students in the room, i.e., we must all continue to learn. Learn from events like Fukushima, learn from each other’s countries and cultures where we can do better and be more effective.

There is a traditional (and literal) lighting of the lamp ceremony. Red and gold flowers surround a brass lamp where each of several dignitaries take turns lighting the candles in the lamp. The lamp stays lighted, by tradition, for the conference. Of course, safety precautions meant that it didn’t really stay lit, but it was a fun tradition to observe.

The next speakers—Prof. Khakhar, director of IIT-Bombay, and Dr. Kakodkar former AEC chairman—helped put the Indian nuclear industry in some perspective. India is focused on safety and education in its nuclear program. Regaining access to more information from the United States helps improve the safety of existing Indian nuclear power plants.

There were some really interesting and important discussions of why India has sought out nuclear energy production and why it must continue to use nuclear to generate electricity. Many in India have no electricity for 8–10 hours every day. This includes residences, businesses, and manufacturers. The sheer lack of reliable power takes an enormous toll on the population and the economy. India has few natural energy resources of its own. No coal, oil, or natural gas. Relying on other countries for basic energy needs leaves countries unacceptably vulnerable. India has uranium (and thorium) and can generate power without reliance on any other country.

Currently, India’s per capita access to electricity is about one-third to one-half of other developed nations. The enormous need to increase access to reliable electricity makes nuclear an important part of the path forward. This huge energy need means that India is pursuing all sources—wind, solar, and nuclear. The sheer density of nuclear energy becomes an important part of bringing energy to the population. India does not have large amounts of land that can be dedicated to energy production, making both wind and solar more difficult to install.

In order to bring other countries into a cooperation, however, India must keep clear and bright lines separating military nuclear programs from their commercial nuclear programs.

Despite the fact that uranium production in India is expensive compared with the rest of the world, its internally developed PHWR produces electricity at competitive costs.

There’s more, but I need to get back to what’s happening. I’ll post again later!

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Harding

Margaret Harding has almost 30 years of experience in the nuclear industry in technical design, licensing, and quality issues.  She worked for GE-Hitachi for 27 years with positions of increasing responsibility, leading to vice president of Engineering Quality. Two years ago, she left GE-Hitachi to start her own consulting business to help companies with business ventures in the nuclear industry. She is a guest contributor to the 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.

Smoke but no fire in nuclear news from India

Really very little has changed

By Dan Yurman

A flurry of media stories last week about Westinghouse having a nuclear reactor deal at Gujarat is insubstantial proof that there is any change in opportunities for American firms to enter India’s energy markets. Things got rolling with a press release on June 13 from Westinghouse that it had agreed to negotiate an “Early Works Agreement” supporting construction of up to six 1,150-MW AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Mithivirdi site in Gujarat. Work scope includes preliminary licensing and site development activities.

AP1000 Nuclear Reactor concept image

Separately, Areva announced last week it would sign a contract by December to build the first two of six planned 1,650-MW EPR reactors for Nuclear Power Company of India Ltd. (NPCIL) at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

Then on June 15 in Washington, D.C., with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna standing next to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the media headlines followed saying that the AP1000 deal represents “a significant step toward the fulfillment of the landmark U.S. India agreement.”

Under questioning from the DC press corps, Clinton acknowledged that “there was still a lot of work to be done.”

The sticking point, which has been evident all along, is India’s nuclear liability law that was passed by parliament in 2010. Its assignment of supplier liability, long after components have been installed and are operating in a plant, creates unreasonable risks for U.S. firms. Really nothing has changed because it is politically impossible for Indian Prime Minister Singh to revise the liability law.

India has signed the IAEA Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, but the international agreement is not in force for diplomatic and legal reasons. The U.S. government has since complained that India’s nuclear liability law is not compliant with the IAEA convention. The U.S. is said to have held its fire on further criticism of the Indian statute in hopes that implementation measures domestically can be developed that will open the door to U.S. firms. Sequestering U.S. built reactors in NPCIL special “nuclear parks” may be part of the answer.

Westinghouse dreams of success at Gujarat

On June 13, Westinghouse and NPCIL signed a memorandum of understanding that sets up a process to negotiate an Early Works Agreement supporting future construction of multiple 1,150-MW AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Mithivirdi site in Gujarat. The statement goes on to say that the agreement will include licensing and site development work.

Westinghouse spokesman Scott Shaw told the Pittsburgh Tribune that work could begin as early as this fall. He also cautioned, however, that the U.S. and Indian governments must address the current supplier liability law that is an impediment to an agreement to build a nuclear reactor. As a result, this agreement cannot be interpreted as a deal to deliver a reactor.

The announcement got a fair amount of press coverage in the U.S. and India. Anyone who has followed development of India’s nuclear program, however, knows that some of the pieces are already in place. The site in Gujarat has been on NPCIL’s list for some time, with the process of acquiring the land for the reactor started last March.

The announcement, however positive it may sound, is, in effect, an agreement to develop an agreement. It is not a breakthrough in the civil liability law impasse. It could be at least a decade before a U.S.-made reactor powers the Indian electrical grid.

While Westinghouse was promoting its latest dialog with NPCIL, G.E. Hitachi (GEH) told Platts on June 13 that it was also negotiating a similar Early Works Agreement with NPCIL for a nuclear plant near Kovvada in Andhra Praqdesh. GEH said that the site would eventually host six of its 1,500-MW ESBWR reactors. Like the Westinghouse announcement, this one has been in the works for a while. One change is the reference to the larger ESBWR rather than the 1,350-MW ABWR that G.E. Hitachi has built for other customers.

The Westinghouse reactor received its safety certification from the NRC in December 2011. The ESBWR is still in the process of completing that milestone. The Areva EPR is also in the process of fulfilling the requirements for NRC safety certification.  The NRC regularly updates the schedule for projected completion of these activities. Other nations look to the NRC review as a de facto “gold standard” for review which is why it is so important to vendors.

Areva advances at Jaitapur

French state-owned nuclear giant Areva said on June 14 that it hopes to sign a contract in December for two of a planned six pack of 1,600-MW EPR nuclear reactors to be built at Jaitapur in Maharashtra on India’s western coastline. It has been the site of contentious anti-nuclear demonstrations, but not solely over safety issues. Displaced farmers are demanding supplemental compensation for being relocated from the reactor site. The government has promised to address their claims.

Arthur Montalembert, the head of Areva’s Indian operations, told financial wire services that if the contract is signed by the end of 2012, the first reactor could enter revenue service as soon as 2020 and the second one a year later.

Areva itself is unlikely to provide the capital to build the plant. Montalembert said that the firm would approach French banks for financing. Last December, Areva slashed capital spending as part of a global review of its commitments in various markets, most notably in uranium enrichment.

India’s nuclear market reconsidered

India does a lot to promote new nuclear construction. The government buys the land, does the initial site environmental assessments, and prepares the site for construction. Once a plant is built, the reactor operator sells electricity to NPCIL at government rates and not market-driven prices relative to other fuels, e.g., coal. That said, NPCIL also manages all aspects of nuclear plant development and determines the allocation of electricity in each state.

Between now and 2022, India plans to build 39 reactors for a total of 45 Gwe. U.S. firms may wind up building about 10-12 GWe of the market in that timeframe as part of India’s massive new build.

The market will be divided up between U.S. firms, Areva, Russia’s Rosatom, and India’s drive to technology self-sufficiency with a 700-MW PHWR. Also, India claims it will start work in 2013 on two 500-MW fast reactors.

There are conflicting reports that India’s targets by 2022 have been reduced to as little as 14 Gwe. The economy is slowing down. India’s bureaucratic government, endemic corruption, and localized opposition could present huge frustrations, and costs, to American firms. Whether the market share they seek will be worth the price remains to be seen.

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

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ANS delegation to India

India is fast emerging as a leading world power in nuclear science and technology. In this video interview, American Nuclear Society President Eric Loewen discusses the recent delegation he led to help foster U.S.–India nuclear cooperation to benefit both countries.

For more background and information, see this ANS Nuclear Cafe article on the ANS delegation to India.

Global nuclear markets regaining momentum

More starts than stops

By Dan Yurman

Futuristic nuclear plant Image World Nuclear news

The global nuclear energy market is not a monolith. The truth of this assertion is seen in several recent developments taking place during March. While there were some setbacks, including two German utilities pulling out of the U.K. new build, there are more new starts and even a faster pace at one high profile project.

U.K. takes a step back

Two of Germany’s biggest nuclear utilities slated to build Westinghouse 1100-MW AP1000 nuclear reactors at several sites in the United Kingdom have packed up and gone home. E.ON and RWE announced on March 29 that they will not be carrying out business plans worth an estimated $24 billion to build nuclear power stations in the U.K.

The companies said in a joint statement that the “accelerated nuclear phase-out” in Germany has led to a decision to pull back from a number of international investments.

Last year Germany closed eight of its oldest nuclear reactors and scheduled to close the remaining nine by 2022. The two utilities are hard hit by these moves as the reactors were essentially depreciated cash cows that would have provided money for international expansion projects. E.On said in its financial statements that it suffered a 50-percent decrease in profits due to the closure of the older reactors.

UAE nuclear project speeds up

The South Korean consortium building the first of four new nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates has trimmed four months off the construction schedule. Assuming all goes well with the regulatory agencies, it plans to pour its first concrete in July 2012 and complete the unit in January 2017.

The speed up in schedule is being facilitated by the pre-positioning of equipment, supplies, and people at the site, which is a remote desert location some 186 miles west of Abu Dhabi. Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) is leading the $30 billion effort. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) manages it for the UAE government.

Of interest is that the original contract was for $20 billion, but the price has shot up by a third. Financing will involve a mix of cash, and bonds sold to investors, from the UAE, and export credits from South Korea.

In a domestic development in South Korea, Kim Joong-Kyum, chief executive officer of KEPCO, was quoted in late March by wire services as saying that his firm was in talks with ENEC for a new deal to build four additional reactors. ENEC said on April 5, however, in response to these press reports that it is ruling out any new contracts beyond what it already has in place, which are four 1400-MW units.

Saudi Arabia plans electricity exports

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) plans to build 16 nuclear reactors over the next 20 years, spending an estimated $7 billion on each plant. The $112-billion investment, which includes capacity to become a regional exporter of electricity, will provide one-fifth of the Kingdom’s electricity for industrial and residential use and, critically, for desalinization of sea water.

In February, top energy officials in KSA told the Bloomberg wire service that domestic needs for electricity are growing at the rate of 2 Gwe/year. State-owned Saudi Electricity Co. sees seven percent growth, but with the construction of new nuclear reactors, it will be able to export electricity to its neighbors as part of the multi-year development cycle.

The plan is to bring the first two reactors by 2020 and then two more a year until the plan is complete. KSA has nuclear cooperation agreements with a number of countries, but has not yet signed a 1-2-3 agreement with the United States.

Despite the pending nature of the significant and sensitive diplomatic relationship, The Shaw Group and Exelon have signed on to a joint initiative through Japan’s Toshiba to build two nuclear power plants. It is likely that KSA will select several types of reactors and designs to avoid putting all its eggs in one basket.

India fast tracks next round of reactors

With the Kudankulam twin VVERs back on track, India’s NPCIL is clearing the decks to begin development of what eventually will be a 10-GWe power station at Kovvada Matsyalesam. The first stage is to develop a baseline of environmental data for the site. Land acquisition will begin later this year and earth will be moved by the end of 2012.

NPCIL says that each of the reactors planned for the site will be in the range of 1300-1500 MW. The first plant will be completed within 54 months of breaking ground or by mid-2017.

Also, NPCIL is working on a joint venture with the state-owned aluminum company Nalco to set up a second nuclear reactor at one of three potential sites. Nalco would have a 49-percent equity stake in the 1500-MW project, which would supply electricity for its metal smelters and also make it an independent power producer in the region.

South Africa gets ready for nuclear

The South African government is conducting an “Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review” as a parallel process to its announcement of an upcoming tender for 9.6 Gwe of new reactors. It is assessing the government’s capacity to conduct oversight of construction and regulatory control of safe operations of the new plants.

Energy minister Dipuo Peters said that the exercise has the objective, among other things, to communicate clear signals about the government’s intent to proceed with the new build.

At the same time, the government is considering rebuilding its uranium enrichment and conversion facilities that were dismantled 40 years ago. According to a Reuters report for March 2, the country wants to use its domestic uranium deposits to supply an estimated 465 metric tonnes of enriched uranium a year to fuel the new reactors.

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

Kudankulam hot start within reach

Tamil Nadu provincial government support pulls rug out from under protest groups

By Dan Yurman

Tamil Nadu map

The long running controversy over the start of NPCIL’s Russian-built twin 1,000-MW VVER reactors at Kudankulam, in India, may be coming to an end.

The provincial government of Tamil Nadu, India’s southern-most state, said on March 20 that it was dropping its opposition to hot start and also withdrawing support from local anti-nuclear protests.  The decision follows more than six months of fence sitting despite pleas for support from the protest groups and counter pressure from the central government.

In return for supporting the nuclear plant, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha wants political air cover, and she named as her price the control of distribution of 100 percent of the electrical power from the plant. She’s not likely to get all of it and she knows it.

Jayalalitha’s demand carries political weight with the locals, however. It helps  preserve her position that is newly energized as a purveyor of political patronage in the form of access to electricity.  The region is ravaged by electricity shortages, so having some to allocate puts the Tamil Nadu government in a much more influential position than hanging with the protest groups.

Work resumes at reactor

What has happened as a result of the new-found support in Tamil Nadu is that work has resumed at the plant that is 95-percent complete. More than 1,000 local Indian workers and about 100 Russian technical staff re-entered the plant. The combined action of restart of work at the plant and the provincial government’s acceptance of a hot start date to take place in about two months generated spontaneous protest demonstrations of about 500 people on March 23, of which several hundred were arrested by police.  The protests then fizzled out, however.

The central Indian government had said in February that the protests were coming from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) funded by supporters in the United States. The BBC reported on March 23, however, that among those arrested was the leader of a Tamil nationalist political party.

While it may be that separatist political groups had seized upon the reactor issue as a way to mobilize support for their causes, there is no way to assess how much of an influence they really have. In the world of politics, however, even the appearance of influence can have consequences.

The central government’s crackdown on the protest started within a few weeks of an official notice by the Russians that they were not happy with the delay of the start of the Kudankulam plants. Success there is the key to new deals and the credibility generally of Rosatom’s export program.

Handing out the juice

The transition of the Tamil Nadu central government from a position of neutrality regarding the protests to becoming a supporter of the reactors may have as much to do with political self-preservation as it does with political reality.

As it turns out, Tamil Nadu, like many other places, suffers from severe power shortages with frequent blackouts, with some areas having no electrical power. Nationwide, about 40 percent of the Indian population has no access to it, which is why the Indian government is committed to building about 20 Gwe of new nuclear power generating capacity over the next 15–20 years.

Having control over who gets the new electricity from the plant is a huge source of leverage relative to keeping political allies in line and is an effective method for demonstrating the lack of political power of the protesters and any separatist movement. This light bulb appears to be the one that lit up in the minds of the provincial government leadership, which is why they climbed down off their “neutral” position and endorsed the reactors over the protests of many of their constituents.

The Indian government’s Union Minister of State for Power K.C. Venugopal said on April 2 that a policy with regard to sharing of power from nuclear energy was in place and that the agency would not change it.

The minister’s response came as a result of media questions over Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha’s staking claim to the entire projected generation of 2,000 MW power from Kudankulam nuclear plant.

Venugopal said that there is a policy in which 50 percent of power from these plants would go to the home state where it is located. These norms have not been changed so far, he said.

As it turns out, NPCIL has already allocated 925 MW of power from the two reactors to Tamil Nadu. In the meantime, the central government has continued its crackdown on leaders of the anti-nuclear groups. The intensification of the government’s action came as the protests themselves were winding down and life was returning to normal.

Protests over but crackdown continues

The Indian government is furious with the delays of the hot start of the two reactors. NPCIL told the Hindustan Times on March 12 that the fact that the two units were postponed from hot start last August has cost the government US$50,000/day in lost revenue from new rate payers. While this may not seem like a lot of money to American eyes, in a developing nation like India, $50,000 a day in losses is more than enough to give government officials high blood pressure. It also sends them looking for someone to blame.

On April 2, the home ministry in the national government demanded that one of the leading organizers of the Tamil Nadu protests surrender his passport. S.P. Udayakumar, of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), told the Times of India that he will not do so despite the government’s assertion that there are charges pending against him and his organization for misappropriation of NGO funds to pay for the anti-nuclear protests.

The home ministry also raided two more NGOs alleged to have diverted funds from education and rural development programs to fuel the protests over the past six months. Subsequently, the government dropped charges against 178 people, while opposing bail for another 30 of those arrested. The government still has not revealed the names of the U.S. NGOs alleged to have provided funds to the protest groups.

Confidence building for India’s nuclear markets

As these developments were unfolding the government announced, perhaps buoyed with new confidence at having “defeated” the protests, that it planned to ink a deal with the Russians for two more 1000-MW reactors at Kudankulam. Overall, India plans to add 64 Gwe of power to its grid by 2032 to reduce the gap in rural electrification.

The United States remains locked out of the market by a supplier liability law that is orbiting in a kind of political limbo. The law is in the books, but the central government has so far not issued implementing regulations to give it operational status.

The Indian nuclear reactor market is said to be worth $150 billion. So far, the only firms making inroads are the Russians with projects at Kudankulam and the French with two planned reactors at Jaitapur, south of Mumbai on the country’s west coast.

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Yurman

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

Indian PM Singh claims anti-nuclear protests funded by U.S. NGOs

Kundankulam nuclear project jammed in new controversies

By Dan Yurman

PM Singh & Pres. Obama during state visit in New Delhi ~ Nov 2010

Months of protests have significantly delayed the hot start of twin Russian-built 1000-MW VVER nuclear reactors in Kudankulam (KKNPP 1-2), located in Tamil Nadu, India’s southern-most state. The protests are being paid for by funds from foreign anti-nuclear groups.

That’s the fiery and spectacular allegation made by India’s sitting prime minister Mammohan Singh this week, who got a pat on the back for his remarks from none other than Russia’s ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin.

Singh also alleged that the funds came from non-government organizations (NGOs) based in the United States and Scandinavia. This charge of interference with India’s nuclear program produced a quick response in the form of a denial from U.S. Embassy charge d’Affaires Peter Burleigh, who said that the United States supports India’s nuclear energy program.

Singh’s remarks appeared in the Indian press one day after the Russian and Indian foreign ministers had met in New Delhi. For their part, at that meeting Russians officials reportedly expressed impatience with the lack of progress in getting the Kudankulam reactors up and running. The Russians have built two 1000-MW VVERs there. They want to build more, but can’t unless these first two enter revenue service.

Kudankulam nuclear reactors

What has given PM Singh’s claims a high profile, credibility, and international exposure is that he aired them as part of an interview in the February 2012 issue of the AAAS magazine ‘Science‘.

“The atomic energy program has gone into difficulties because these NGOs, mostly I think based in the U.S., don’t appreciate the need for our country to increase the energy supply… there are controversies.

“There are NGOs, often funded by the U.S. and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces. But we are a democracy, we are not like China,” PM Singh said. { The full text is behind a pay wall }

Singh also froze the bank accounts of four of the 15 Indian groups involved in the protests and revoked their licenses to operate. He has yet to publicly name the U.S. NGOs, however, that he says are paying for local protests.

V. Naryanasamy, adviser to India PM Singh

V. Naryanasamy, a spokesman in the prime minister’s office, told the BBC on February 28, “there is clear evidence the protests are obviously being engineered.”

On February 27, the Indian government deported a 49-year-old male German national from Tamil Nadu after claiming his confiscated laptop files and cell phone records proved that he has been a conduit for NGO funds to anti-nuclear protest groups. (Indian TV video report)

The TV news report notes that Sonntag Rainer Hermann was hustled out of the country in the dead of night with no notification of the German embassy nor were any charges brought against him under Indian law. The government said that the deportation order was issued based on violations of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

Source of protests suspect

The protests erupted last fall in Kundankulam as the commissioning dates for the reactors became public. Local fishermen claimed that the hot water discharged by the reactors would harm the environment and their fish catch.

Later, the fishermen, joined by local groups, mounted a hunger strike that intensified the protests in December. The local groups also claimed that the reactors were not safe, citing the Fukushima nuclear crisis as the basis for their fears. It is unclear why the fishermen and local protest groups waited nine months after Fukushima to make the connection to KKNPP.

Catholic church charity singled out

Singh’s office named four local groups working in Tamil Nadi including NGOs associated with the Tuticorin Diocese Association (TDA) and the Tuticorin Multipurpose Social Service Society. Singh’s office also named a group from Sweden said to be providing funds to Indian protest groups.

The prime minister’s office said that the Catholic church groups used the equivalent of 550,000 Indian rupees ($11,123) to fuel the protests. The government said that the NGOs provided food and booze to protesters based on a stipend equivalent to 500 Rupees/day ($10).

Tuticorin church leader Bishop Yvon Ambroise, who has been outspoken in opposition to the nuclear plant, denied the government’s allegations. For its part, the government has not published documents backing its claims or has showed to the press any proof that the church had diverted funds to protests from accounts assigned to relief and medical programs.

S.P. Udayakumar, Head of PMANE

The evidence may come out in trials of the NGOs against whom the government has now filed criminal charges.

S. P. Udayakumar, head of the Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), lived in the United States for a period of time and returned to lead the protest movement. He tells the local news media that the charges by the Indian government are “totally false.”

He also denied that PMANE received any financial support from the Catholic church.

Government seeks to recover from protests

The government, caught off guard by the sudden and vehement outbreak of the protests, sent a high-level group of scientists to review the plant’s safety and to meet with protest leaders. Despite a series of public meetings, however, distrust of the government was not diminished and the visiting scientists appear to have had little effect on the enthusiasm and energy of the protest groups.

Srikumar Banerjee, India Atomic Energy Commission

In another twist in an increasingly strange turn of events, Srikumar Banerjee, director of the India Atomic Energy Commission , told an international meeting being held in New Dehli, sponsored by the World Nuclear Association, that start-up of the Kudankulam reactors would take place in about six weeks.

The official, whose remarks were reported in The Hindu on February 22, said that the commissioning process would take about four months. About 3000 people are reportedly working at the plant, which is about 95-percent finished and needs to be maintained while the government addresses local concerns. There have been conflicting media reports about the effects of the protests on plant staffing.

A Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) spokesman said separately that the protests would be contained by a four-member team set up by the Tamil Nadu provincial government. This may be wishful thinking. That panel met this past week with the lead protest group, PMANE.

J. Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu state chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, who has been caught between the central government and the protestors, pressed her four-man panel to complete a safety inspection of the plant and to meet with local villagers.

According to a report on NDTV, that meeting, which took place on February  20, was “cordial,” but apparently little progress was made. PMANE’s intense distrust of the government, and demand that the government appoint “experts” of its choosing also have equal standing, has kept the dialog at loggerheads.

The four-man team submitted a report to the provincial government saying that the plant is safe, but their efforts made little if any impression on PMANE or other protest organizations. For their part, the protest groups issued inflammatory statements objecting to PM Singh’s charges that their funds came from U.S. NGOs.

Local protest groups also claimed that the allegations about the NGOs were an attempt to distract people from their issues about plant safety. Despite this antagonistic atmosphere, the Tamil Nadu provincial government has not contradicted the allegations made by Singh’s office about foreign funds being funneled to local NGOs.

India needs foreign nuclear technology

India’s nuclear energy program depends on imports of technology from Russia and France. In addition to future projects at the same site in Tamil Nadu, French state-owned nuclear giant Areva has an agreement with NPCIL to build at least two and as many as six nuclear reactors.

The site for the first two EPRs is in Jaitapur south of Mumbai. Protests there erupted when local farmers objected to the loss of their land for the reactor site. They demanded increased compensation for relocation and new farmland. However, the intensity there of protests was not nearly on the same scale as what’s happening in Kundankulam.

The United States has been shut out of the Indian nuclear energy market by a tough supplier liability law. While it was passed by Parliament, however, implementing regulations have not been published, leaving the situation in somewhat of a state of limbo.

U.S. sources in India familiar with the matter declined to be quoted for this article on the outlook of the liability law, citing the sensitivity of the Indian government to anything perceived as interference its domestic affairs.

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Yurman

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

Protests delay India’s nuclear renaissance

Projects in Koodankulam and Jaitapur will be set back

By Dan Yurman

Protest at Jaitapur over planned construction of two new nuclear reactors.

A series of protests that began in October have delayed the hot start of two Russian 1000- MW VVER reactors in the Tamil Nadu state on India’s southernmost coastline. Additional protests, some of them violent, have set back the start of construction of two French 1650-MW EPR reactors in the Maharashtra state on India’s west coast some 400 km (250 miles) south of Mumbai.

In Koodankulam in Tamil Nadu, the provincial governor has supported protests by local villagers over perceived safety issues following the Fukushima crisis in Japan and also focused on the hot water discharge from the plant into shoreline fishing waters. In Jaitapur, area villagers have complained about what they say is inadequate compensation for land to be taken for the plant and displacement of their farms without having a new way to make a living.

In both locations, minority political parties have made common cause with the protesting villagers. The national government, however, has charged that anti-nuclear organizers from Greenpeace have been seen in Tamil Nadu.

Hot start-up stopped

The net effect of the protests is that all work has stopped on hot startup of the two Russian VVERs. Both reactors were to have entered revenue service in December 2011. Now the Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. (NPCIL) says that the startup will be postponed to March 2012. At Jaitapur, the commissioning date for the first of two Areva EPRs has been set back by at least a year, to 2019.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who is the Indian government spokesman for dealing with protests over construction of new nuclear reactors at Koondankulam.

The national government has been caught by surprise by the protests. In early November, it engaged former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who is from Tamil Nadu and is a former defense official, to meet with the provincial governor and representatives of protest groups. Kalam toured the Russian built plant site and pronounced it safe, much to the disappointment of the protest groups.

The chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, Srikumar Banerjee, said that the local protests would not be resolved with scientific facts. He said that one-on-one contacts between nuclear officials and the villagers were needed to calm everyone down.

Whatever gains might have been derived from the confidence building effort from Kalam’s public relations tour were dashed, however, when India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board called for additional safety measures for the two reactors.

The agency head, Shri S.S. Bajaj, said that based on review of events that took place at Fukushima last March, the board wants the two VVERs to have a better system to deal with loss of external electrical power and a larger supply of fresh water for emergency cooling.

A typical emergency diesel generator at a nuclear power plant.

While this announcement might have provided new political fuel for the protests, the NPCIL plant project manager, Kashinath Balaji, said that it was a no brainer to acquire more emergency diesel generators and to arrange for more fresh water supplies.

Meanwhile, the lead Russian engineer at the plant said that the protests would require some of the commissioning work to be redone. Kvasa Alexander told NDTV (video) on November 13 that the water in the core was now stagnant and would have to be replaced and that all the electrical circuits and pipe valves would have to be checked to make sure that they are in the right configuration. Also, he complained that Indian technicians who were working on the plant had gone home and refused to return until the protests ended.  Update 11/17/11:  Mr. Kvasa clarifies some of the media coverage in a comment below.

What we have here is a failure to communicate

Another element that has roiled protestors in Tamil Nadu is an evacuation drill that was perceived as a real emergency. The Indian Express newspaper reported on October 29 that the drill produced panic among the locals because they heard sirens and saw plant personnel streaming out of the site. Apparently, it never occurred to the Russians to consult with local authorities before running the drill.

German nationals participating in anti-nuclear protests at Koondankulam.

NPCIL Chief S.K. Jain said that the uproar on October 29 was made worse by foreign nationals who were stirring up trouble. He told the Indian Express newspaper that “greens from the U.S., Finland, France, Australia, and Germany are backing the local protests.”

And in Jaitapur, a senior provincial government official, Prithviraj Chevan, told the newspaper that “foreign powers,” including people from Greenpeace in Finland, were working with local protest groups. For their part, the protest groups at both Jaitapur and Kudankalm denied the allegations.

Pro-and-con views of India’s nuclear future

The former chief of India’s Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), Anil Kalodkar, said on November 13 that the government and the media “were reading too much into the situation at Koodankulam.”

He went on to observe that the Russian reactors are safe and are a victim of “hysteria” related to Fukushima.

And there’s more commentary from India’s nuclear establishment. Annaswamy Prasad, the former head of BARC, told the blog of the science journal Nature on October 6 that India should halt all imports of foreign reactor technology and build out 60 GWe of electrical generating capacity with an indigenous design, a 700-MW PHWR based on AECL’s CANDU design.

Schematic of a proposed Russian-designed sodium cooled fast breeder reactor for India.

He also called for speeding up development of fast breeder reactors to make nuclear fuel and to convert thorium into U-233.

This development, he said, would eliminate the need for India to be dependent on world supplies of uranium.  Russia is working with India to develop a fast reactor that uses the thorium fuel cycle.

This provoked a response from Subhas Sukhatme, the former chairman of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, that this vision, and a parallel call for more investment in renewable energy, was an unrealistic path.

In the end it is likely that both the Russian reactors at Koodankulam and the French units at Jaitapur will be built. C. Uday Bhaskar, a New Dehli energy security expert, told the Bloomberg wire service that while some delays “are inevitable” due to the protests, “India cannot afford to abandon its nuclear energy program.”

He added that “neither can it afford to ignore the public mood.”

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Yurman

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

“Waste Management” in Nuclear News

The November issue of Nuclear News magazine, which contains a special section on waste management, is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center). The special section contains the following stories:

  • What will we do with it all? by Ed Batts
  • Coupling repositories with fuel cycles, by Charles Forsberg
  • What does 1 million years mean to a regulator? by Edward D. Blandford, Robert J. Budnitz, and Rodney C. Ewing
  • Robert Sindelar: Extended spent fuel storage, interview by Rick Michal

The issue also contains a feature article on the inaugural ANS “live” webinar, with Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko as guest; and a report on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 55th General Conference.

Other news in the November issue: A Government Accountability Office report states that United States has limited ability to secure nuclear material overseas; the world’s largest open-air nuclear storage pool moves toward decommissioning; a site is chosen for Finland’s seventh power reactor; startup testing for Argentina’s Atucha-2 power reactor. is launched; Vietnam awards contract for power reactor feasibility study to Japan Atomic Power Company; Fluor, GE Hitachi sign memorandum of understanding for proposed power reactors in Poland; Cameco signs mining, milling deal; Areva’s Eagle Rock enrichment plant receives NRC license; the Department of Energy gives grants for nuclear-related university research and development, infrastructure.; Areva launches “learning tour” for partner and customer company employees; NRC commissioners conduct mandatory hearing for Vogtle-3 and -4; spent fuel pool instrumentation, Mark II containment venting added to NRC staff’s near-term post-Fukushima actions; NRC finds no vital quake damage at North Anna, but shutdown continues; public support for nuclear power lower than before Fukushima, but a majority still in favor; foreign control contention added to South Texas-3 and -4 hearing process; and more.

Past issues of Nuclear News are available here.

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You are being served at Vermont Yankee plant

By Howard Shaffer

On Sunday, October 30, Meredith Angwin and I arrived in Washington, DC, to attend the American Nuclear Society Winter Meeting. At the meeting, we presented the biannual Green Bag Lunch talk, titled “Political Activism in Vermont.”

Meanwhile, the SAGE Alliance was holding a demonstration at the entrance road to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Meredith and I looked forward to reports from the demonstration, particularly because of changes that the organizers had made in preparing for this event.

(photo courtesy Brattleboro Reformer)

Background

The SAGE Alliance is a new organization. A study of its website, however, shows it to be a grouping of “the usual suspects.” We have found, over the years, that there is a certain hard core of people in the New England area who are passionately opposed to nuclear power. They support every anti-nuclear activity in the region, and have formed several different groups. Forming yet another new group gives the impression that the number of nuclear opponents is expanding, while in reality the number of opponents seems to remain about the same.

We first heard of plans for this demonstration while attending a talk by Indian anti-nuclear activist Vaishali Patil at the Vermont Law School. Participants for training in non-violent demonstration techniques were recruited at the Patil meeting, and announcements were made that the SAGE Alliance event would feature “Puppet Theater” and a presentation of a “Trojan Cow” to the Vermont Yankee plant. The event was announced on the Clamshell Alliance website on October 10 (see Meredith’s post at Yes Vermont Yankee).

Two small demonstrations were soon held at the plant, which we learned of only afterward because there were no press releases and no press reports. Arrests were made, and court appearances were reported in the media. Vermont’s new state’s attorney has decided to prosecute these cases, unlike the previous office holder who did not want to waste the court’s time while providing a forum for the protesters (arrests at the plant years ago were prosecuted, but continuously trying cases of trespass without damage was found to be unproductive).

On September 20, however, there was an arson attack on Vermont Yankee’s offsite offices, and it is possible that this arson attack influenced the state’s attorney’s decision to press charges.

The October 30 event

On October 25, in an article in the Rutland Herald newspaper (unfortunately behind a paywall), Bob Bady of the Safe and Green Campaign was quoted as saying that information from pro-nuclear groups that the SAGE Alliance’s demonstration was being organized by the Clamshell Alliance was not true. Shortly thereafter, the SAGE Alliance’s website announced the demonstration, and non-violence was stressed. There were no words about civil disobedience, so it appears that the planning underwent some changes as events unfolded.

The event, when it took place, was reported by the local Brattleboro Reformer newspaper, which has consistently covered plant news. It was reported that the event drew 150 protesters from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Similarly, an outing called the “Vigil for All Victims” was held earlier this year outside the Vermont Yankee plant for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and it had an attendance of 250 or more people from the same region. The “Vigil” was anti-nuclear (to no one’s surprise). The Reformer article also noted that a pro-nuclear rally held a week earlier at the plant had an attendance of only 30. This was true at the beginning of the rally, but the number grew to 60 people when local residents joined in.

The purpose

The announced purpose of the SAGE Alliance’s October 30 anti-nuclear event was to “Put the Plant on Notice” that it will be forced to shut down at the end of its original 40-year license. At the event, protestors held signs showing the number of days remaining until March 21 next year, when the current license expires. Since the event, one or two people have shown up every day at the plant with a sign showing the number of days until the license ends.

What are the demonstrators trying to accomplish? To make a moral statement? To intimidate the plant’s owners and staff? To persuade the state government? To persuade the federal court?

As always, they are trying to get media attention. Also, as always, they need to keep their faithful energized. But for what?

The Clamshell Alliance, which has recently reemerged, was formed in the 1970s to oppose the Seabrook nuclear power plants. The group occupied the site during early construction and many protestors were arrested. By the end of construction, and while waiting for an operating license (which took four years—another story), the group staged “fence climbs” that resulted in arrests. The media would show up, the fence would be climbed by a few designated individuals, they would be arrested as agreed upon with the police, the media would have their footage, and all would go home unharmed. Eventually, the Clamshell Alliance wound up with a contempt of court citation, and went underground. The group offered training at Vermont Law School in non-violent civil disobedience and direct action tactics . So, when would these tactics be used? Is this the reason that the SAGE Alliance has been formed, and the reason that Bady said it was “not true” that the Clamshell Alliance was organizing the October 30 demonstration?

One stated SAGE Alliance objective is to force the Vermont Yankee plant to stop operating when the original 40-year license is up. Could the group be planning to block the road to the plant with hundreds of sitting protesters? Hundreds were arrested at the Seabrook plant 30 years ago, and this jammed up the legal system. On the other hand, the SAGE Alliance seems to be distancing itself from the Clamshell Alliance, and perhaps from the Clamshell tactics.

Stay tuned.

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Shaffer

Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 35 years. He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS committees, national meeting staffs, and his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow. He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults in nuclear public outreach. He is coordinator for the Vermont Pilot Project. Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

A Nuclear Opponent from Half a World Away

By Howard Shaffer

Vermont Law School (a private institution) is known as a leader in environmental law.  Students at the school have an Environmental Law Society and an International Law Society, and on September 30 these societies hosted a public meeting that featured Vaishali Patil, a woman from India who is an “environmental activist” and nuclear power opponent.

Meredith Crafton, a student, introduced Patil. I first encountered Crafton a few years ago when members of the Safe and Green marched during a winter campaign to Montpelier, Vermont’s capital, and stopped at the law school for the night. I stopped by the law school that night to take in the activities and met Crafton.

During the September 30 meeting that featured Patil, everyone in attendance introduced themselves, and Crafton said that she had come to the law school to work against the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. I also was at the meeting and introduced myself, as I always do at anti-nuclear gatherings, to eliminate the possibility of a charge of “industry spying.”

The Speaker

Patil

Patil, a compelling presence, spoke for the entire hour in the classroom that had been provided at the law school. She spoke right up until the time that students for the next class in that same room arrived, allowing no time for questions. Speaking from notes on a piece of paper the size of an index card, she gave “red meat” to the audience of about 30 students and three or four older people. Her talk was similar to her speech on this YouTube presentation from earlier this year.

Patil’s topic was the Jaitapur nuclear plant in India, which will consist of six 1650-MWe Areva plants. There are also 18 fossil power plants proposed for the same area. The region is heavily dependent on agriculture and fishing, and the land for the power plants was originally farmed, but had to be taken by eminent domain. Patil told a long and compelling story about the process of land taken for public use, and the many levels of appeal and the struggle to get compensation.

The Indian farmers in the area are against the use of coal, so the government said, “Look at the United States as an example, with its many nuclear plants.” To prepare themselves to battle the Jaitapur project, local opponents traveled to the site of India’s first nuclear plants at Tarapur (two boiling water reactors, 150 MWe each, commercial start in 1969) and talked to local residents about the effects of the plants. According to Patil, the travelers heard horror stories from the residents about accidents that are kept secret, high infertility, aborted births, use of contract workers only, contaminated seawater preventing fishing, and radioactivity in a 200-km radius.

There have been contentious public hearings about the Jaitapur plants. With the help of nuclear activists from abroad, the local opponents—characterized as “farmers”—filed more than 1000 objections. Generally, she said, there is public fear of radiation in India, with special concern over its effect on the mango crop, which is an important economic export. There had been a previous bad experience for farmers and mangos from the use of pesticides, and so they don’t want the same thing happening with nuclear.

Whether nuclear power is good or bad is another issue, Patil said. She claimed that the world is trying to turn India into a uranium market for foreign uranium. “The U.S. people are against nuclear power,” she said. In addition, she charged that approval for the plants in India was signed quickly when President Sarkozy of France visited the country. “We feel like guinea pigs,” she said in closing.

The Follow-On

After the talk, the audience gathered in the hallway for refreshments and conversation. Then the older people and four or five students went to a lounge adjacent to the classrooms. In the lounge, one of the older people invoked the mass marches against the Seabrook nuclear plant a generation ago. Patil said, “We have to go to the streets at some point” and she passed around a clipboard for signatures for those who want training for the street demonstrations, or to be “legal observers.” She also announced that there would be a demonstration at the Vermont Yankee plant on October 13, complete with puppets and the presentation of a “Trojan Cow.”

Stay tuned!

Shaffer

Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 35 years. He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS committees, national meeting staffs, and his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow. He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults in nuclear public outreach. He is coordinator for the Vermont Pilot Project. Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Loewen leads U.S. nuclear energy mission to India

ANS President Eric Loewen speaking at press conference in Mumbai, India, 9/28/11

A high-powered nuclear energy delegation from the United States, led by American Nuclear Society President Eric Loewen, is visiting India this week to participate in the Indo–U.S. Nuclear Energy Safety Summit being held here on September 30.

Explaining the objective ahead of his first ever visit to India, Loewen said, “Twenty of my ANS colleagues, who come from academia, the government, and industry will join me in seeing first-hand how India develops nuclear energy to provide safe, clean, and affordable electricity to a growing population and economy.”

Loewen added, “Of course, as a nuclear engineer, I am particularly eager to visit some of India’s leading nuclear sites.” Loewen’s delegation will tour the Indira Gandhi Atomic Research Centre and the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) government sites, and will meet with government and industry officials in both Chennai and Mumbai. ANS last led a mission to India in 2007.

Anil Kakodkar, former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, India

Loewen will present an ANS Presidential Citation to Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission and secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy, for his critical leadership role in successfully negotiating the Indo–U.S. civil nuclear agreement.

Loewen will also present opening remarks at the Indo–U.S. Summit and will discuss the safety advantages of fast breeder reactors, a technology that he manages at General Electric, and that is part of India’s three-stage plan for civil nuclear energy.

Presenting along with Loewen will be R.K. Sinha, director of the BARC, on the safety advantages of the advanced heavy water reactor being developed by India to take advantage of vast thorium reserves.

U.S. representatives of four lightwater reactor suppliers will also make presentations:

  • Westinghouse on the AP-1000 pressurized light-water reactor
  • GE-Hitachi on the ESBWR boiling water reactor
  • NuScale Power on the lightwater pressurized small modular reactor
  • Areva USA on the EPR pressurized light-water reactor

The presenters will describe the safety advantages of their reactors for India. U.S. government speakers from the State Department, Embassy New Delhi, Department of Commerce, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will address the summit on the mutual benefits of the Indo–U.S. civil nuclear agreement, signed nearly three year ago on October 8, 2008.

Other U.S. presenters will discuss the safety advantages of technology from the following companies: USEC, Transco, Holtec, and Rosemont Nuclear.

A U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Pavilion at the India Nuclear Exposition (INE), certified by the U.S. Department of Commerce will feature the organizations mentioned above plus the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization, Urenco USA, Curtiss Wright, Bechtel, mPower, Milbank, and the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. The INE, India’s largest nuclear exposition, will run September 29–October 1 at the Bombay Exposition Centre in Goregaon, Mumbai.

On Saturday, October 1, IIT-Bombay and the ANS India Section will host a Framework on Nuclear Education Cooperation featuring students and professors from more than a dozen Indian and U.S. universities. All events are open to the public.

“The goal of the mission, summit, pavilion, and education outreach activities are to promote cooperation between nuclear professionals of our two countries,” said Corey McDaniel, president of the ANS India Section.

“The theme of these activities is a discussion on the public safety advantages for India and the U.S. as a result of Indo–U.S. civil nuclear cooperation,” McDaniel added.

Chartered on February 11, 2011, the ANS India Section is the ninth international section of ANS. The India Section was formed as the implementing organization of a memorandum of agreement with the Indian Nuclear Society signed on the second anniversary of the Indo–U.S. civil nuclear agreement, on October 8, 2010.

For more information about the Indo–U.S. Nuclear Energy Safety Summit, the U.S. Pavilion, the mission, and the education symposium, please click here.

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September 2011 Nuclear News is online

The September issue of Nuclear News is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center). The issue contains a variety of features, including:

  • An interview with Cliff Hamal, of Navigant Economics, on the expected cost increase in the coming decades of storing spent nuclear fuel at retired reactor sites.
  • A look at the Blue Ribbon Commission’s draft recommendations for spent fuel management.
  • Insights from the Fukushima Daiichi accident: Comments on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s near-term task force report.
  • An in-depth review of ANS’s 2011 annual meeting, which was held in Hollywood, Fla.

Hanford workers load a mixed LLW container onto a shipping platform.

Other news items in the September issue deal with: an NRC staff memo that addresses small modular reactor staffing issues; the summer heat that led to power level reductions at nuclear power plants; the commercial start of Watts Bar-2 being officially delayed until 2013; the NRC’s extending the time to apply for NFPA 805 amendments; the seismic studies scheduled for Diablo Canyon’s license renewal; the draft environmental impact statement issued for Seabrook’s renewal; U.S. Department of Homeland Security, European Commission teaming up to enhance security; first applications submitted for new reactor construction in United Kingdom; U.K. energy market reforms aim to attract nuclear investment; Sellafield MOX fuel plant closing as demand dips; Japan’s prime minister’s call for a nuclear phaseout; the arrival of the world’s first AP1000 reactor pressure vessel in China; the tsunami countermeasures planned for Japan’s Hamaoka nuclear station; India’s signing of a cooperation agreement with South Korea; the completion of a retubing project at South Korea’s Wolsong-1; the Department of Energy beating of deadlines for dealing with transuranic and mixed waste at the Hanford Site; investors extend deadline for USEC to obtain a DOE loan guarantee for the American Centrifuge Plant; the DOE awards $39 million for university-led nuclear R&D; and more.

Past issues of Nuclear News are available here.

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