Future Of Nuclear Industry Takes Yet Another Hit http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Future-Of-Nuclear-Industry-Takes-Yet-Another-Hit.html By Charles Kennedy, 28 April 2015
Despite the rough patch that the nuclear industry has experienced in recent years, its future remains bright, the industry insists. That is because the next generation of nuclear reactors will provide significant safety and economic benefits over current reactors.
But what if the new designs are actually not all that much better than the current fleet?
That is the provocative conclusion that France’s nuclear watchdog came to in a new report. Published on April 27, the IRSN said that the so-called “generation IV” reactors of the future may not be able to offer major upgrades in safety (most of the reactors running today are generation II – built in the 1960’s and 1970’s – and the newer designs that are currently under construction today are considered to be generation III).
The IRSN report reviewed six of the most promising generation IV reactor designs: sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFR); very high-temperature reactors (VHTR); gas-cooled fast reactors (GFR); lead-cooled fast reactors (LFR); molten salt reactors (MSR); and SuperCritical water reactors (SCWR).
Out of all of those, ISRN found that only the sodium-cooled fast reactor is close enough to maturity. SFRs have been trumpeted as an exciting concept – they can burn nuclear waste, reducing the need to build long-term spent fuel storage.
But after looking into the technology ISRN says it’s hard to say whether or not SFRs would be better. “While it seems possible for SFR technology to guarantee a safety level at least equivalent” to generation III reactors, “IRSN is unable to determine whether it could significantly exceed this level,” the report concluded. That is because liquid sodium can explode if exposed to water. IRSN also questioned the extent to which SFRs could actually burn through dangerous nuclear waste.
The report amounts to a big rebuke for generation IV reactors, the first significant criticism of a nuclear dream that has been hailed as the key to solving energy and climate change challenges.
However, ISRN also ultimately said that the devil will be in the details. The reactor designs could solve some of their drawbacks as the specifics are fleshed out. But unless generation IV designs can prove to be much safer than generation III designs, the nuclear renaissance may not be as bright as many had hoped.
LePage’s plan to negate rule on nuclear power plants could be radioactive. Observers wonder why his attention to the issue begins with an attempt to disempower Maine voters. 26 Apr. BY BILL NEMITZ COLUMNIST firstname.lastname@example.org | @BillNemitz Consider yourselves warned, fellow citizens. Gov. Paul LePage is fiddling around with Maine’s nuclear hot button.
“We anticipated this might provoke a conversation,” noted Patrick Woodcock, director of the Governor’s Energy Office, in an interview on Friday.
Under LePage’s new plan, scheduled for a hearing Wednesday at 1 p.m. before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee, voters would no longer have a say on the creation of nuclear power plants with generating capacities of 500 megawatts or less.
(Just so you know, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’s Unit 1 reactor – one of three destroyed by Japan’s apocalyptic tsunami in 2011 – had a generating capacity of 460 megawatts.)
Let’s back up a little.
Considering the complexity and controversy bound to greet any talk of dusting off nuclear generation in Maine, why start with a bill that effectively tells voters they’re being cut out of the process?
Or, as longtime anti-nuclear activist Ray Shadis of Edgecomb put it on Friday, “You don’t start a conversation by throwing a hand grenade in the room.”
Shadis, who currently represents the lone remaining intervenor in the proposed relicensing of New Hampshire’s Seabrook nuclear plant, sees this week’s hearing as “the kind of rudeness we’ve come to expect from Gov. LePage.”
He also thinks the governor is dreaming if he thinks small modular reactors – the brainchildren of a new generation of nuclear engineers working mostly out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – can attract the investment capital needed to put them on the energy radar here in Maine or anywhere else, for that matter.
“The most rabid anti-nuclear crowd are the investors in the market,” Shadis noted. “It takes a long time to realize any return at all. And the entirety of what you invest can turn from an asset to a liability overnight. Why bother risking your money? So they don’t.”
Thus, he said, LePage’s bill at best “is impractical, it’s silly. Out there in the energy world, where people are really trading on this stuff, it will make Maine the laughingstock. It will make us look like patsies.”
Nuclear watchdog seeks re-check of Olkiluoto 3 reactor yle 18 Apr 15 The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) is demanding that energy utility TVO carry out new tests of the durability of the pressure vessel planned for the Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor. This follows a recent discovery by French officials of inconsistencies in the mechanical toughness of a vessel made for a similar reactor, also being built by the French company Areva.
The third unit for the Flamanville, France reactor was built by Areva in France, while the one to be used in the Finnish reactor has been assembled in Japan. Both units are of the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) type.
“There are inconsistencies in the material that the reactor vessel is made of,” Tapani Virolainen, Deputy Director of STUK’s Nuclear Reactor Regulation Department, confirmed to Yle…….Virolainen explains that anomalies were found in both the reactor vessel head and reactor vessel bottom head. He says STUK will ask TVO to re-check the reactor vessel’s manufacturing process…….http://yle.fi/uutiset/nuclear_watchdog_seeks_re-check_of_olkiluoto_3_reactor/7937448
Tritium Traffic: Deadly Dividends for Nuclear Industry, Peace Magazine By David H MartinIn February, 1934, the British journal, New Scientist, published an article by Tom Wilkie, “Old Age Can Kill the Bomb.” It was an ingenious solution to the arms control nightmare of verification; controlling not only the number of weapons, but the strategic materials that fuel them — mainly plutonium, enriched uranium and tritium. Wilkie focused on tritium, because it turns into non-radioactive helium at a rate of 5.5 per cent per year. A halt of tritium production would rapidly cripple all nuclear arsenals. Thus, attention was rivetted on Ontario Hydro’s plan to produce about 57 kilograms of tritium by 2006. A one megaton thermonuclear warhead (equivalent to one million tons of TN”) may contain as little as one gram of tritium.
Tritium (H3) (a form of hydrogen that emits beta radiation), is a major radioactive pollutant from Canada’s CANDU nuclear power reactors. Unlike American reactor systems, the CANDU uses heavy water as a moderator and coolant. The moderator and the heavy water coolant slows down the neutron release from the uranium fuel in the reactor so that a chain reaction can take place. The active ingredient in heavy water is deuterium, another form of hydrogen. When the deuterium picks up a neutron, some of it is transformed into tritium. The concentration of tritium in the heavy water increases with the age of the reactor.
The CANDU reactor system produces 2400 times as much tritium as the American light water reactor. Continue reading
Reprocessing in China: A long, risky journey, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 15 Hui Zhang“………Should China continue pursuing its plans for fast breeder reactors and commercialized reprocessing? Good reasons exist for avoiding this course of action. First, because most of China’s power reactors are newly built, Beijing will face little pressure over the next two decades to reduce its spent fuel burden. And spent fuel can be stored safely, at low cost, in dry casks—or disposed of safely in a deep geological repository.
Second, China faces no shortage of uranium resources for the foreseeable future. The nation’s identified resources more than tripled between 2003 and 2012, to 265,500 metric tons from 77,000 metric tons. China’s potential uranium reserves amount to more than 2 million tons. Beijing in recent times has also secured huge overseas uranium resources—about three times as large as its own identified uranium reserves. More such reserves could easily be added.
In any event, the cost of uranium accounts for only a small percentage of the cost of power that reactors generate. Simply put, the cost of uranium will not increase in the foreseeable future to levels that would justify the cost of reprocessing and breeder reactors. To the extent that China is concerned about potential disruptions in its uranium supply, it could easily and inexpensively establish a “strategic” uranium stockpile.
China should carefully examine the experiences of nations that have launched large reprocessing programs and built demonstration breeder reactors in the expectation that the commercialization of these reactors would follow. Commercialization did not follow in those countries—but huge expenses were incurred for cleaning up reprocessing sites and disposing of separated plutonium. For China, there is no urgent need to go down this risky road.
Plutonium recycling is much more expensive, and much less safe and secure, than operating light water reactors with a once-through fuel cycle. As for nuclear waste, dry cask storage is a safe, flexible, and low-cost option that can postpone for decades the need either to reprocess spent fuel or to dispose of it directly—allowing time for technology to develop. China has no convincing rationale for rushing to build commercial-scale reprocessing facilities or plutonium breeder reactors. http://thebulletin.org/reprocessing-poised-growth-or-deaths-door8185
Reprocessing in China: A long, risky journey, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Hui Zhang , April 15 Since 1983, a closed fuel cycle has been an official element of China’s nuclear energy policy. According to proponents, plutonium reprocessing and breeder reactors will allow full utilization of China’s uranium resources, drastically reduce the volume of radioactive waste that must be stored in an underground repository, and establish a way to dispense with the spent fuel accumulating in China’s reactor pools.
But Beijing’s attempts to develop commercially viable reprocessing facilities and breeder reactors have been afflicted with technological difficulties, serious delays, and cost overruns. At this point—especially taking into account China’s ample uranium resources and its easy access to additional resources abroad—it appears very doubtful that reprocessing and fast reactors are the proper way forward for China’s nuclear energy sector.
Not according to plan………..
Parallel with development of the pilot reprocessing plant, China has been working to establish commercially viable plutonium breeder reactors. According to a plan in place until 2013, development of breeder reactors was to be a three-stage process. The first stage was to complete a project known as the China Experimental Fast Reactor. The second stage would involve building, by about 2020, a few demonstration fast reactors. Finally, commercialized fast reactors would be deployed around 2030. Progress always ran far behind schedule.
The China Experimental Fast Reactor is a sodium-cooled experimental fast reactor using technology developed for Russia’s BN-600 reactor. The project, with a planned capacity of 20 megawatts, was approved in 1995. Construction began in 2000. As with the pilot reprocessing plant, the experimental fast reactor encountered many difficulties during construction. Capital cost estimates had to adjusted twice, with each estimate double the previous one. The reactor went critical in July 2010 and, by July 2011, 40 percent of its full power was incorporated into the grid. The reactor, however, was online for only 26 hours during the remainder of 2011, and it produced the equivalent of just one full power-hour. Not until December 2014 did the reactor manage to operate at full capacity for 72 hours. So 19 years passed between project approval and operation at full capacity.
As for the second stage of the pre-2013 plan, CNNC in 2009 signed an agreement with Russia’s Rosatom to jointly construct two copies of Russia’s BN-800 fast neutron reactor in China. But Beijing has not officially approved the project. As with the French reprocessing plant, Chinese experts complain that Russia is demanding too high a price. It is not clear when or if the project will go forward. Instead, CNNC in 2013 began focusing on the development of the indigenous 600-megawatt China Fast Reactor (CFR-600). The start of construction is envisioned for 2017, with operations to commence in 2023—but the government has not approved the project yet.
Experts from CNNC have also, since 2013, urged the development of China’s first commercial fast reactor—a 1,000-megawatt reactor based on experience gained from the CFR-600. But CNNC expert Gu Zhongmao—an advocate of the closed fuel cycle—said at a recent workshop on nuclear energy in East Asia that “China needs at least another 20 to 30 years of effort before commercialization of fast reactor energy systems, and there are so many uncertainties ahead. It is beyond our ability to draw a clear picture 20 years ahead.”…………. http://thebulletin.org/reprocessing-poised-growth-or-deaths-door8185
Will Energy Secretary Moniz benefit France in MOX nuclear boondoggle deal? Or make AREVA accountable?
$30+billion Plutonium (Pu) Fuel Project, Good for France; Bad for America: AREVA-MOX Ça Pue! Pe-yoo! Minimg Awareness, 5 Apr 15 [Recall that Areva is 89.9% French State owned and would be long gone if it weren’t for French taxpayers keeping it afloat. Furthermore, Areva has been under police investigation for years in France due to what is known as the Uramin scandal. After the French State the largest shareholder is Kuwait (Kuwait Investment Authority at 4.8%.]
From Savannah River Site Watch:
“Now, we’re being told the real reason for continuing construction of the $12.7 MOX plant at SRS – “it’s good for France!” Part of DOE’s foreign aid program fostered by Senator MOX….
“French ambassador impressed with MOX”
Aiken Standard, March 17, 2015,
We all know that with the gracious assistance of big-spender Senator Lindsey Graham that the bankrupt company AREVA has thrived on the transfer of US tax payer money into their coffers and are getting desperate as their plans for reprocessing of commercial spent fuel in the US have gone down the drain.
“We want to save the jobs in South Carolina because it’s good for the state, he (Wilson) believes it’s good for the U.S. and to me, it’s good for France,” Araud said. (Gerard Araud, France’s Ambassador to the United States)
“The MOX facility is being designed by AREVA, a French company that is also the parent company to the MOX contractor, CB&I-AREVA MOX Services. Gilles Rousseau, the chief operating officer for the contractor, expressed his gratitude for having Araud on site.”
“Business at its Ugly Usual at DOE: As of April 4, 2015, there is No Accountability to the Tax-Paying Public for the U.S. DOE’s Grossly Mismanaged $30+-billion Plutonium Fuel (MOX) Project, a Textbook Case of Big Government’s Inability to Manage a Costly, Complex Project. When will Secretary of Energy Moniz and Congress act to hold those responsible accountable?
As DOE spins out of control in its management of large projects, the MOX coverup drags on and on and on. When will there be any accountability for the failed MOX project?
SRS Watch requested in a letter hand delivered to US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz on July 29, 2014 that he “Take immediate steps to hold managers in DOE, NNSA and Shaw AREVA MOX Services accountable for the massive cost overruns and schedule delays associated with MOX project.”.http://www.srswatch.org/uploads/2/7/5/8/27584045/letter_to_moniz_from_srs_watch_july_28_2014.pdf
Will Secretary Moniz act responsibly and fulfill his obligations as a public servant? Will he hold specific individuals accountable and make sure that their glaringly inadequate abilities in managing the MOX boondoggle are not used elsewhere in DOE? Let us know who you think must be held accountable: email@example.com https:// ……….miningawareness.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/30billion-plutonium-pu-fuel-project-good-for-france-bad-for-america-areva-mox-ca-pue-pe-yoo/
City opts to withdraw from nuclear power project, keep options open, St George News by Mori Kessler March 27, 2015 ST. GEORGE – City officials discussed the city’s future power generations needs during a City Council meeting Thursday. The city wants to keep its options open as far as those needs are concerned, and for the time being, is backing away from an experimental nuclear power option.
City staff recommended that the City Council hold off on committing to a project by NuScale Power. Based out of Oregon, NuScale proposes to build compact nuclear reactors that would be housed in a power plant built near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The compact reactors are designed to produce 40-50 megawatts of power.
A permit application for the proposed project is slated to be sent into the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for review, and could take until 2018 or longer to be approved. If approved, the power plant could be built and operational by 2024…….
Though St. George is one of UAMPS biggest utilities, city staff have recommended against committing to any binding agreements, saying they want the city to maintain flexibility over where it gets its power. The cost of being involved could run into the millions of dollars, said Laurie Mangum, the city’s energy services director……
Other sources of potential energy the city could tap into in the future include solar power or hydroelectric power generated along the Lake Powell Pipeline. Also, through its existing contracts and city-owned power-generation facilities, the city has 70 percent of its base load power needs covered up to around 2024-25, Esplin said.
“We’re in pretty good shape for the next eight-nine years,” Esplin said…….https://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2015/03/27/mgk-city-opts-withdraw-nuclear-power-project-keep-options-open/#.VRXGyvyUcnk
Nuclear power measures face questions CrossCut WEDNESDAY 25, MARCH 2015 by John Stang The big topic at the House Technology & Economic Development Committee hearing was whether Washington should find a place to build small modular reactors, which would be produced for utility customers. Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, is sponsoring this proposal and the two other nuclear-related bills that the committee examined. The Senate passed the small modular reactor bill 27-21, mostly along party lines.Tri-Cities leaders envision a Boeing-style assembly plant to build small modular reactors. This is a long-range plan and is predicted to take several years to develop……
The concept is still on the drawing board. No one has built a commercial small modular reactor yet……
At the hearing, critics cited the lack of any track record on cost or safety for small modular reactors, plus concerns over the nation’s lack of a permanent place to store used nuclear fuel.
“Small nuclear reactors are still in the prototype stage. … The prototype has never been tested in power production yet,” said Thomas Buchanan of Physicians for Social Responsibility.
“I don’t think that the Department of Commerce should work on this until it has a design that passes the NRC,” said Chuck Johnson of the same organization.
Johnson argued that a single small-modular reactor would not generate enough electricity to efficiently recover its construction and operating costs…..
Deborah Wolpoff of Olympia pointed to the cancelation of the nation’s proposed nuclear fuel repository inside Yucca Mountain, with no replacement lined up. “I think it is irresponsible to promote this technology that produces this waste that we have no solution for,” Wolpoff said.
Committee member Rep. Gael Tarleton, D-Seattle, wondered why the Legislature should support a new nuclear industry while Hanford’s Cold War nuclear wastes are decades from being cleaned up….
Another Brown bill, which the Senate passed 44-5, would create an education program aimed at providing nuclear science lessons to students in the eighth through 12th grades. Qualified American Nuclear Society members would be brought in for classroom sessions. Also, science teachers would receive instruction on nuclear science in order to teach the subject in the classrooms…….
Mary Hanson of Physicians Social Responsibility argued that the bill would give the nuclear industry influence over students, while other energy industries would not have the same access. She said American Nuclear Society members might be less versed in nuclear power’s health issues than its technical ones.
The third Brown bill, which the Senate passed 29-20, would add nuclear power to the list of alternative power sources that certain utilities can use to meet a state requirement to offer their customers voluntary participation in alternative energy purchases. The current list of green sources includes wind, solar, geothermal and biomass energy….
Physicians for Social Responsibility opposed it, contending nuclear energy is not a renewable power source….
SMRs face major challenges before they can ever be deployed, including an apparent lack of private sector interest and the potential for unforeseen problems and cost overruns when building a factory to mass produce the technology
The failure to find investors caused two NuScale competitors, Generation mPower and Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC, to cut back on their SMR programs.
Obama executive order tags small modular reactors as clean energy https://www.snl.com/Interactivex/article.aspx?CdId=A-31794585-10540 By Matthew Bandyk 26 Mar 15 A new executive order issued by President Barack Obama to cut greenhouse gas emissions from federal government agencies could benefit what has become a pet project of the administration: small modular reactors. The in-development technology is the only form of nuclear energy to qualify as clean energy under the order.
The order, announced March 19, requires federal agencies to ensure that increasing amounts of the electric and thermal energy they consume come from low-carbon dioxide-emitting “alternative energy” sources. At least 10% of their energy must come from these sources starting in 2016, all the way up to 25% by 2025.
The definition of alternative energy in the order does not include “nuclear power” in general but specifically “small modular nuclear reactor technologies,” a term used to refer to a number of proposed designs for portable reactors typically under 300 MW, which are much smaller and potentially cheaper and easier to build than conventional nuclear reactors.
With the order, the Obama administration is pushing policies in support of small modular reactors, or SMRs, which are similar to proposals being contemplated at the state level. The Washington state senate, for example, recently passed a bill that would count SMRs among wind and solar as “qualified alternative energy resources” in the state’s voluntary alternative energy purchase program for utilities. Continue reading
More errors with Monju nuclear reactor maintenance found, Mainichi, 27 Mar 15 Several more maintenance problems have been discovered at the Monju fast-breeder reactor facility in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, which has been banned from operation following the discovery of over 10,000 cases of maintenance errors in 2013, it has been learned.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) secretariat revealed on March 25 that the newly discovered maintenance errors — which involve the facility’s piping system — mean that Monju operator Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) may have violated safety regulations……..http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150326p2a00m0na007000c.html
NuScale, which is looking to make a small-scale nuclear power plant, wants the NRC to allow for full commercialization of its nuclear power technology…….
NuScale is backed by Fluor Corp. (NYSE: FLR) and U.S. Department of Energy grants. It has more than 600 employees and is working to develop its factory-built nuclear power system, which will be submitted to government regulators for approval in 2016. Its system consists of modules each producing 50 megawatts of electricity.
It expects to deploy the first working model to a coalition of Western states that will station a power plant in Idaho, possibly near the Idaho National Energy Laboratory.http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/sbo/2015/03/oregons-nuclear-startup-adds-execs-to-prepare-for.html
NuScale targets 2016 to apply for NRC approval for its nuclear power system Portland Business Journal
It will submit the document in late 2016 and expects the NRC to take 39 months to review, putting it on track for a 2020 commercial launch……. The 570MWe complex of 12 units will be sited in Idaho, potentially near the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho national Laboratory Site near Idaho Falls. The deal makes UAMPS NuScale’s first official customer, subject to NRC certification of the system……. NuScale also benefits from Congress’s recent move to extend renewable energy tax incentives through the end of 2014, putting nuclear on equal footing with its carbon-free rivals…….
Due to Fukushima, Japan now must choose to go in one of two directions that are largely exclusive: either towards a reactor restart choice that leads to a minimalist phase-out of separated plutonium over time; or towards a maximalist reliance on separated plutonium over time in a closed fuel cycle………
Should Japan opt to start enough reactors to justify reactivating the plutonium fuel cycle, then the implications for nuclear terrorism would be substantial. The train of logic for maximum spent fuel arising from a closed nuclear fuel cycle is radically different to that for the once-through fuel cycle. In this trajectory, the following would occur:
- Japan starts many more light water reactors, sooner rather than later, and extends reactor lifetimes beyond forty years, and constructs new reactors
- This choice enables far more MOx fuel fabrication and recycling of MOx fuel to these reactors than in the once-through fuel cycle usage; this choice would either slowly reduce or rapidly increase the stockpile of separated plutonium that would be supplemented (if the central state is willing to subsidize heavily the utilities for using MOx fuel) by reprocessing the spent fuel from the operation of the light water reactors
- Thereby generating a new stream of separated and un-separated plutonium in Japan to store and secure, and available for diversion or attack.
Although it does not follow automatically, this vision of the revived closed fuel cycle also implies that:
- The fast reactor is developed in order to burn actinides to reduce the waste disposal problem (whether it would do so is debatable)
- The fast reactor would be developed to breed plutonium based on the argument that doing so makes Japan more independent from external nuclear fuel supply.
All the steps in this second path which maximizes separated fuel involves more transport, more bulk processing and storage, and creates more opportunity for non-state actors to divert fissile material or to attack directly the spent fuel stocks in pools or other nuclear materials process sites in the envisioned “closed” fuel cycle. In short, this trajectory maximizes the nuclear terrorist threat, directly and indirectly, over the next thirty years, especially when the demonstration effect on other states to follow suit are taken into account. For exactly this reason, the United States has reaffirmed recently that it does not favor MOx use and breeder activity in Japan or elsewhere……..http://nautilus.org/napsnet/napsnet-special-reports/nuclear-terrorism-risks-in-northeast-asia-japans-reactor-restart-and-spent-fuel/
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