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The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

The decline of the South Carolina Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication (MOX) Nuclear Reprocessing Facility

MOXHalf-Built Nuclear Fuel Plant in South Carolina Faces Test on Its Future, NYT, By JAMES RISEN FEB. 8, 2016 WASHINGTON — Time may finally be running out on the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, a multibillion-dollar, over-budget federal project that has been hard to kill.

The Energy Department has already spent about $4.5 billion on the half-built plant near Aiken, S.C., designed to make commercial reactor fuel out of plutonium from nuclear bombs. New estimates place the ultimate cost of the facility at between $9.4 billion and $21 billion, and the outlay for the overall program, including related costs, could go as high as $30 billion.

Officials warn that the delays in the so-called MOX program are so bad that the plant may not be ready to turn the first warhead into fuel until 2040.

So in the budget that the Obama administration will present on Tuesday, the Energy Department proposes abandoning it. Energy officials want to spend only the money necessary to wind down the MOX program while the government shifts to a different method of disposing of the plutonium……..

The struggle is a case study in the difficulty of cutting unnecessary or wasteful federal programs, with the added twist that proponents of keeping the plant include some of the Republican Party’s most determined opponents of government spending, like Representative Joe Wilson, a South Carolina Republican whose district includes Aiken……..

Two companies involved with the plant’s construction are among Mr. Wilson’s biggest contributors, according to campaign records. Chicago Bridge and Iron, one of the two companies that own the main contractor for the facility, gave $10,000 to Mr. Wilson’s 2014 re-election campaign, and the other owner, Areva Group, donated $8,000, according to campaign records.

“Programs like this stay in the budget when they become jobs programs, and then senior members of Congress try to protect them, even if they have no redeeming value,” said David Hobson, a former Republican congressman from Ohio who said he tried and failed to kill the MOX program while he was in the House. “Where are all the budget hawks on this?”……..

The Obama administration has wanted to get rid of the program for years. In a budget request three years ago, it said the idea of making reactor fuel “may be unaffordable.” But Congress has repeatedly restored funding.

The plant is being built to comply with an agreement with Russia in 2000, when both countries said they would eliminate 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium from their nuclear arsenals. Construction started during the George W. Bush administration, but has been plagued by long delays, cost overruns and little interest from commercial nuclear plants in buying the fuel that the plant was designed to produce.

Even proponents of the program have long said the Energy Department badly managed it………..

Giving up on the plant means the administration will abandon plans to turn the weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors, and will instead switch to a process that dilutes the plutonium into nuclear waste.

The Energy Department would like to move that nuclear waste to a facility near Carlsbad, N.M., where it would be stored deep underground in salt formations. The administration says it can get rid of the weapons material under the alternative approach for about $300 million to $400 million a year, compared with $800 million to $1 billion a year under MOX………. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/us/politics/half-built-nuclear-fuel-plant-in-south-carolina-faces-test-on-its-future.html?_r=0

February 10, 2016 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Nuclear waste repositary still needed: reprocessing is no answer to radioactive trash problem

EU paints challenging picture of Europe’s nuclear future, Energy  Post. February 2, 2016 by  “……….Limited prospects for recycling nuclear fuel

France is the only country in Europe that is still working towards a fully closed fuel cycle with fast neutron reactors and advanced reprocessing technology. Other countries use open cycles.

France will be the only country to operate reprocessing facilities after 2018 (when those in the UK are shut down). The partially closed cycle that technology currently permits “is not expected to give a major reduction of the final disposal solution footprint in comparison to an open cycle”.

The future of recycled nuclear fuel is limited by the lack of fast-breeder reactors, more safety requirements, a higher risk of proliferation, lower competitiveness, and the fact that it still requires a final waste depository……. http://www.energypost.eu/exclusive-eu-paints-challenging-picture-europes-nuclear-future/

nuclear-chain-not-cycle

February 3, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, reprocessing | Leave a comment

For China,nuclear reprocessing is both too costly and too dangerous

While reprocessing reduces the level of radioactivity in nuclear waste, The Union of Concerned Scientists – an advocacy group that was founded by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – says it does not reduce the need for storage and secure disposal of waste.

Some within China’s own nuclear establishment are also questioning the merits of reprocessing as the nation mulls huge capital investments in the sector, U.S.-based experts say.

China is an important market for the world’s nuclear industry giants, including the United States. The U.S. last year eased restrictions on its civilian nuclear cooperation with China to allow the reprocessing of fuel from U.S.-designed reactors

Book Cost of Reprocessing in ChinaChina faces nuclear energy choice: reprocess or not? WT, By MATTHEW PENNINGTON – Associated Press – Thursday, January 14, 2016 WASHINGTON (AP) – China is coming to a crossroads as it hurriedly increases nuclear power production to cope with rising electricity demand and cut carbon emissions: Should it reprocess its nuclear waste or store it?

Nonproliferation advocates warn that recycling waste would generate weapons-usable plutonium, posing a security risk and potentially stirring a nuclear rivalry in East Asia. A new Harvard University study, co-authored by a senior Chinese nuclear engineer, gives another reason against reprocessing – it doesn’t make economic sense. Continue reading

January 15, 2016 Posted by | China, reprocessing | Leave a comment

28 years later Japan’s costly nuclear recycling complex is still not working

Rokkkasho-reprocessing-planJapan’s $25 Billion Nuclear Recycling Quest Enters 28th Year, Bloomberg   sstapczynski  January 5, 2016 It’s designed to recycle spent uranium from Japan’s nuclear power plants, consists of more than three dozen buildings spread over 740 hectares (1,829 acres), costs almost $25 billion and has been under construction for nearly three decades. Amount of fuel successfully reprocessed for commercial use: zero.

Under construction since the late 1980s, the complex is designed to turn nuclear waste into fuel by separating out plutonium and usable uranium. The start date of the project has now been pushed back for the 23rd time, with operations set to commence in 2018.

The money continuing to pour into the Rokkasho reprocessing complex in a northeast corner of Japan’s main island of Honshu is raising speculation that attention is being diverted from more-promising avenues of energy development, including renewables.

 “Reprocessing is an idea that seemed good to many in the nuclear industry when it was first proposed, but with time and experience has proven to be uneconomical,” M. V. Ramana, a professor at Princeton University’s Nuclear Futures Laboratory, said by e-mail. “There is a lot of sense in the idea that Japan should just cut its losses and stop trying to get this plant to operate.”……..

Construction on Rokkasho, the heart of the endeavor, was supposed to be completed by 1997. Delays due to technical and safety issues have kept it from operating commercially while costs ballooned to an estimated 2.94 trillion yen ($24.6 billion), according to Japan Nuclear Fuel. The Japanese government and the country’s power industry view fuel reprocessing generally, and Rokkasho specifically, as one of the only ways to lower import dependence and find a home for thousands of tons of highly radioactive spent fuel. Japan has about 17,000 metric tons of spent fuel, almost 3,000 tons of which are stored at Rokkasho.
The facility was originally intended to separate plutonium from spent fuel for use in so-called fast-breeder reactors — plants that produce more fuel than they consume.

While the nation’s first prototype fast-breeder reactor has remained closed due to its own technical issues, Rokkasho expanded construction to include a facility that processes plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide fuel, known as MOX, that can be used in some of Japan’s existing reactors…… http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-04/japan-s-25-billion-nuclear-recycling-quest-enters-28th-year

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Unpalatable news for nuclear industry: reprocessing may be found to be ‘wasteful spending’

flag-japanJapan may review spending on plutonium fuel cycle http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-may-review-spending-on-plutonium-fuel-cycle By Aaron Sheldrick and Linda Sieg DEC. 11, 2015  TOKYO —

Japan may review spending on reprocessing plutonium for use in nuclear reactors, a minister appointed to identify wasteful spending told Reuters, following years of government outlays on the controversial program that has yielded no results.

The minister’s comments come after the operator of Japan’s fast breeder reactor, designed to use plutonium extracted from spent reactor fuel, was declared unfit following decades of accidents, missteps and falsification of documents.

fast-breeder-MonjuCosts for the Monju breeder reactor have ballooned to about 1 trillion yen ($8 billion) while Japan’s public debt is the highest among industrialized nations. Taro Kono, a ruling Liberal Democratic Party member who is a critic of the Monju facility and the nuclear industry in general, was appointed to examine government spending in a recent cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

While Kono emphasized he cannot overturn government policy, he can review public projects and said Abe had told the cabinet that wasteful spending had to be taken “out of the budget.”

He has been reviewing part of the government budget request of 102 trillion yen for the fiscal year starting March, including a little-used ship carrying nuclear fuel and subsidies to towns that host nuclear power plants. “In my portfolio, I can ask them if the money is spent wisely and that’s what I have been doing and the nuclear fuel cycle is no exception,” the U.S.-educated Kono said.

He said next year’s review could be widened to include all government spending on nuclear projects, something that might resonate with voters after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 turned the public against atomic power. “If they are not doing a good job, the review next year will be all nuclear, maybe,” Kono said.

His comments could have implications for another costly nuclear project that is mostly in private hands but has strong government support and receives some public funds. The Rokkasho plutonium reprocessing facility in northern Japan is meant to provide fuel for Monju and some of Japan’s nuclear reactors, but completion was delayed for a 23rd time last month.

The plant has been beset with problems since the first concrete was laid in 1993 and costs have ballooned to 2.2 trillion yen ($18 billion) from 760 billion yen.

text-wise-owlMeanwhile, Japan’s plutonium stockpile has expanded to nearly 50 tons, with stocks held in Britain and France as well as in Japan. Recently, a group of 31 scientists wrote to Abe urging him to abandon reprocessing.

With all but two of Japan’s reactors shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and no immediate use for the plutonium, there is little meaning to the costly exercise of extracting more from spent fuel, critics say.

“The PM’s directive is very clear. If we point out any items that are not spent well it has to be out of the budget,” Kono said. “That’s why a few ministers are not speaking to me right now,” he added, with a laugh.

December 12, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, Japan, politics, reprocessing | Leave a comment

PRISM (Power Reactor Innovative Small Module) and MOX much touted, but nuclear waste burial is best

Another option on the table is PRISM. Developed by GE Hitachi (GEH), PRISM is a sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses a metallic fuel alloy of zirconium, uranium, and plutonium. GEH claims PRISM would reduce the plutonium stockpile quicker than MOX and be the most efficient solution for the UK. The problem is, despite being based on established technology, a PRISM reactor has yet to be built, and the UK is understandably a little reluctant to commit in this direction. Seen as something of a gamble, it remains in the running alongside the currently more favoured MOX option.

Amid all the uncertainty, one thing is for sure. Regardless of what decision is taken, a proportion of the plutonium will end up as waste and will need to be safely disposed of.

Nuclear-Wizards


waste-burialUnlike MOX and PRISM, immobilisation has no prominent industry backers. In comparison to exploiting the plutonium for our energy needs, there is no great fortune to be made from disposing of it safely. But immobilising the entire plutonium stockpile may in fact be a more economically sound approach than reprocessing

Sellafield plutonium a multi-layered problem, The Engineer UK,   6 November 2015 | By Andrew Wade   “……..It takes somewhere in the region of 5-10kg of plutonium to make a nuclear weapon, so 140 tons is a slightly worrying amount to have sitting in a concrete shed in Cumbria. While everyone at the press conference was at pains to point out that there are no major safety concerns with the current storage, it is widely accepted that a long-term plan needs to be formulated. This, however, is where things get tricky. The potential energy of the plutonium if converted to nuclear fuel is massive, but there are several competing technologies vying for endorsement, none of which are well proven as financially viable.

Top of the list – and the government’s current preference – is for some application that uses mixed oxide fuel, or MOX. MOX is made by blending plutonium with natural or depleted uranium to create a fuel that is similar, but not identical, to the low-enriched uranium used in most nuclear plants today. MOX can be – and in several European countries is – used in thermal reactors alongside uranium. But despite past concerns, there is in reality no shortage of uranium today, so no huge need to supplement it with MOX in current reactors. Where MOX could in fact lead to greater efficiencies is in fast reactors, but these are costly and difficult to operate, and would not make economic sense unless the cost of uranium fell.

To complicate matters further, developing MOX is by no means a straightforward process. Continue reading

November 9, 2015 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, UK, wastes | Leave a comment

Japan’s nuclear reprocessing boondoggle – Monju reactor still in trouble

NRA’s ‘new management’ call for Monju reactor proves divisive, Japan Times, BY  OSAKA, 6 Nov 15,  – Two decades after a sodium leak and fire shut it down and nearly six decades after it was first conceived, the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, suffered another blow Wednesday when the Nuclear Regulation Authority called for it to be turned over to another operator.

To date, over ¥1 trillion has been poured into Monju — a plant that has never produced commercial electricity. Despite remaining inactive, safety measures alone cost ¥50 million a day.

Sellafield-reprocessing

Anti-nuclear activists have hailed the NRA’s unusually critical language as an important step toward scrapping the reactor, which was supposed to burn plutonium mixed with uranium.

Fukui politicians who heavily support Monju, including the prefecture’s governor and the mayor of Tsuruga, doubt that another operator can be found. They also worry that scrapping it would create local concerns as well as safety issues.

“What does it mean when the NRA says that it can’t leave Monju’s operations to the (government-backed) Japan Atomic Energy Agency? There aren’t any other organizations it can be left to,” Tsuruga Mayor Takanobu Fuchikami told reporters after the decision…….

Monju, conceived in the 1950s, has faced nothing but technical trouble, domestic and international controversies, and scandals.

Originally slated to go live in 1970, monju did not reach criticality until 1994. It was shut down following a December 1995 leak and fire involving liquid sodium. The incident was at that time Japan’s worst nuclear-related accident.

Further delays and scandals meant that by 2005, when Monju was taken over by JAEA after its predecessor organization was disbanded, officials hoped it would be commercially viable by around 2050.

But after it was revealed in 2012 that JAEA had failed to inspect nearly 10,000 reactor components in and after 2010, the NRA ordered Monju not to engage in preparatory work until it was satisfied safety had been improved…..

Activists are urging the government to give up on the project.

“Monju should be permanently shut down. If the Japanese government is capable of immediately and permanently scrapping Monju, we can gain some trust that it intends to have a logical, functional basic energy policy,” said Aileen Mioko Smith, executive director of Kyoto-based anti-nuclear group Green Action. “If it continues the status quo by flogging a horse that has been dead for 20 years, it bodes badly for Japan’s energy future.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/11/05/national/nras-new-management-call-monju-reactor-proves-divisive/#.Vj0CA9IrLGj

November 7, 2015 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Japan’s Monju nuclear reprocessing reactor, plagued by safety errors, offline for most of 20 years

text-relevantErrors found in safety management of Monju reactor http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150903_28.html Sep. 3, 2015 Japan’s nuclear regulators have found fresh faults with the safety management of the country’s fast-breeder reactor, which is currently offline. They say they have found thousands of errors in safety classifications of the equipment and devices at the Monju reactor.

The operator of the prototype reactor in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, has been banned from conducting test runs since 2013 following discoveries of a large number of safety inspection oversights.

fast-breeder-Monju

The Nuclear Regulation Authority says it has recently found at least 3,000 mistakes with safety classifications of equipment and devices at the reactor during its regular inspections which are conducted 4 times a year. Its officials say, equipment and devices with high importance were, in some cases, classified in lower ranks in the 3-level system, which suggest the operator might have failed to carry out necessary inspections for them.

The errors found recently include those going as far back as 2007. The fact suggests that government inspectors have also overlooked the operator’s mistakes. The operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, built the Monju fast-breeder reactor in the early 1990s to reuse the spent nuclear fuel MOX, a mixture of plutonium extracted from spent fuel and uranium.

But it has been offline for most of the period after it underwent a fire from a leak of sodium, the reactor’s coolant, in 1995.
The operator aims to conduct the reactor’s test run by next March. But it is uncertain when the ban by the authority will be lifted. The plant’s director, Kazumi Aoto, says he will take the government’s report seriously. An NRA inspector, Yutaka Miyawaki, says the regulators will try to identify the actual effects of the errors.

September 5, 2015 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing, safety | Leave a comment

Disposal of plutonium; burial is cheaper than MOX processing

MOXFlag-USAflag-UKnuClear news No.77, September 20156. Plutonium Conundrum A US Energy Department-commissioned study, which has been leaked to the Union of Concerned Scientists, concludes that it would be cheaper and far less risky to dispose of 34 metric tons of U.S. surplus plutonium at a federal nuclear waste repository in New Mexico than convert it into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for commercial nuclear power plants at the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina.

The unreleased report describes in detail the delays and massive cost overruns at the half-built MOX facility, located at the federal Savannah River Site. High staff turnover, the need to replace improperly installed equipment, and an antagonistic relationship between the local federal project director and the contractor are only some of the factors undermining the project. The new report also notes that there are “no obvious silver bullets” to reduce the life-cycle cost of the MOX approach.

According to UCS, a better alternative to turning the surplus plutonium into commercial nuclear fuel would be to “downblend” it, a method the Energy Department has already used to dispose of several metric tons of plutonium. It involves diluting the plutonium with an inert, nonradioactive material and then sending it to the nuclear waste site in New Mexico, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), for burial. The new report’s analysis supports that assessment. …….

The US report is bound to have a negative impact of the UK Government’s preferred management option for its plutonium stockpile which is to convert it into Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel. (See ‘Slow Progress on Plutonium Stockpiles’ Nuclear News No.76).
Don Hancock of the Albuquerque-based Southwest Information and Research Center, which closely monitors WIPP, also opposes the MOX project. But he’s sceptical about WIPP as a viable alternative and said the Energy Department should review other options, including storing the plutonium at the Savannah River Site or the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, Texas, where thousands of plutonium pits are already warehoused. He said: “The [DoE and] the Union of Concerned Scientists may be confident that WIPP will reopen in a few years, but I don’t see any real basis for that,” Hancock said. “Going from one bad idea to another bad idea is not the solution to this problem.” (3) http://www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo77.pdf

August 29, 2015 Posted by | - plutonium, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Disposal of nuclear waste turning out to be half the cost of reprocessing with MOX fuel

MOXDisposal beats MOX in US comparison  http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Disposal-beats-MOX-in-US-comparison-2108151.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter  21 August 2015

America is reconsidering how it will dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium as the previous plan involving a MOX plant has been said to be twice as costly as a dilution and disposal option in a leaked Department of Energy (DOE) report.

The plutonium arises from a June 2000 nuclear weapons reduction agreement with Russia under which both countries would put 34 tonnes of plutonium beyond military use. Russia opted to use its plutonium as fuel for fast reactors generating power at Beloyarsk.

The USA, meanwhile, decided to build a mixed-oxide (MOX) nuclear fuel plant at Savannah River, where the plutonium would be mixed with uranium and made into fuel for light-water reactors. The design is similar to Areva’s Melox facility at Marcoule, but modified to handle metal plutonium ‘pits’ from US weapons and their conversion from metal to plutonium oxide. It is this part of the process that has been problematic. Construction started in 2007 with an estimated cost of $4.9 billion but work ran into serious trouble before being ‘zeroed’ in the DOE’s 2014 budget, putting development on ice.

The Union of Concerned Scientists yesterday published what it said was an unreleased DOE report that compared the cost of completing the MOX plant to other options. Use in fast reactors was considered briefly, but with this technology not readily available in the near term, the prime comparison was against a ‘dilution and disposal’ option which would see the plutonium mixed with inert materials and disposed of in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, or WIPP, in New Mexico.

Despite being 60% built, the MOX plant still needs some 15 years of construction work, said the leaked report, and then about three years of commissioning. Once in operation the plant would work through the plutonium over about 10 years with this 28-year program to cost $700-800 million per year – a total of $19.6-22.4 billion on top of what has already been spent. Not only is the price tag very high, but the timescale is too long: the report said this would not meet the disposal timeframe agreed with Russia.

The cost of the MOX plant could not be mitigated by income from sales of the MOX fuel because the regulatory process to gain approval to use MOX would be too burdensome for a commercial utility. The report said “it may be unlikely” that even a utility in a regulated market where fuel costs are passed on to consumers would “bear the risk of MOX fuel even if it is free”.

Dilution and disposal would cost $400 million per year, said the report, “over a similar duration” as MOX, working out at close to half the cost. Other advantages for dilution and disposal are that it requires no new facilities to be created or decommissioned after use, although the increase in WIPP disposal means “it may eventually become desirable to explore expansion of WIPP’s capacity” beyond currently legislated limits. This unique geologic disposal facility was said to be of “tremendous value to both DOE and the State of New Mexico”.

August 24, 2015 Posted by | Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Savannah River Site’s MOX project needs $800 million a year

Review: MOX needs $800M a year http://www.aikenstandard.com/article/20150820/AIK0101/150829974/1121

Aug 20 2015  A highly-anticipated review of the Savannah River Site’s MOX project states that funding for the project will require up to $800 million a year if MOX is to be successful.

Earlier this year, the Department of Energy commissioned the Red Team, a group led by Thom Mason, the director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to evaluate cost projections and alternatives to the MOX method of plutonium disposition. The method includes the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility under construction at SRS.

The project is part of a nonproliferation agreement with Russia to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium.

 The review, dated Aug. 13, was delivered to DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday and states that the current $400 million  funding level for MOX is inadequate.

“The Red Team concluded that if the MOX pathway is to be successful, then annual funding for the whole program would have to increase from the current $400 million per year to $700 to 800 million per year over the next 2-3 years, and then remain at $700 to $800 million until all 34 metric tons are dispositioned,” officials wrote.

The Aiken Standard will have more on the MOX review in Friday’s paper.

August 23, 2015 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

21 years after shutdown, USA’s Experimental Breeder Nuclear Reactor-II (EBR-II) is entombed

USA’s Experimental Breeder Reactor-II now permanently entombed, World Nuclear News
01 July 2015 
The main clean-up contractor at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho Site, has entombed an historic nuclear reactor in place and treated the reactor’s remaining sodium coolant….CH2M-WG, Idaho, LLC (CWI) said yesterday that crews with the Decontamination and Decommissioning (D&D) Program recently completed pouring more than 3400 cubic yards of concrete grout into the basement of the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) building to fill in any remaining void spaces and effectively entomb the reactor.

Workers also removed and treated the last of the sodium coolant from the reactor’s nine heat exchangers. The exchangers were used to cool the liquid metal and direct the steam to a generating turbine to produce electricity when the reactor was operating.

The EBR-II was the basis of the US Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) program…….. The reactor was shut down in 1994 and its fuel was removed and transported to another site facility for safe storage.

The DOE grouted the reactor in place instead of removing it to protect workers from industrial hazards and radiological risks, CWI said. Crews filled the reactor vessel with grout over two years ago and recently completed the remainder of grouting at the facility under CWI’s contract.

July 18, 2015 Posted by | decommission reactor, Reference, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

Japan will now allow India to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from Japanese-made reactors

Japan eases fuel rules for India nuclear deal, Japan Times  KYODO, JUN 19, 2015 Japan has given in to India’s demand that it be allowed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from Japanese-made reactors, negotiation sources said, marking a major shift in Japan’s stance against proliferation.

India, a nuclear power that conducted its first weapons test in 1974 using reprocessed plutonium, has not joined the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Japan has been seeking measures to guarantee India will not divert extracted plutonium — which could be used to build nuclear weapons — for military use, but no agreement has been reached on the issue, the sources said Thursday…..http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/19/national/japan-eases-fuel-rules-for-india-nuclear-deal/#.VYSSFfmqpHw

June 20, 2015 Posted by | India, Japan, politics international, reprocessing | Leave a comment

The deceptive hype about nuclear reprocessing

Nuclear Reprocessing Pay more, risk more, get little,
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 21 May 15  Hui Zhang
“……
 Lately, advocates for fast neutron reactors have been arguing that breeders and reprocessing can reduce the long-term hazards associated with burial of high-level waste. But these long-term benefits are offset by short-term risks and costs.

Sellafield-reprocessing

For example, breeder advocates argue that the risks surrounding leakage in geological repositories could be reduced if all the long-lived isotopes of plutonium and other transuranics contained in spent fuel were transmuted (or fissioned), thus significantly reducing the doses of radioactivity that could escape due to any leakage. But studies show that long-lived fission and activation products in spent fuel—not isotopes that could be fissioned through breeders and reprocessing—dominate the radioactivity doses that leakage could release.

Plutonium, in fact, is quite insoluble in deep underground water. So, reprocessing delivers no obvious long-term benefits in reducing leaked doses of radioactivity—but it does involve routine releases of long-lived radioactive gases from spent fuel. Reprocessing also increases the risk that tanks for high-level liquid waste might explode.

(In a similar vein, advocates for fast neutron reactors argue that reprocessing, by reducing the need to mine uranium, can reduce human radiation exposure. But any such benefit is canceled out because plutonium reprocessing and recycling themselves expose workers and the public to radiation. In short, the net effects may well be negative.)

Meanwhile, all reprocessing and fast neutron reactor programs currently under consideration significantly increase the economic costs of nuclear energy. This means that nuclear decision makers must choose between achieving rather insignificant reductions in the long-term hazards associated with nuclear waste—and achieving short-term gains in the areas of safety, security, human health, and the environment.

The choice seems rather clear-cut. The US National Academy of Sciences concluded in 1996, based on a review of the costs and benefits of reprocessing and fast neutron reactor programs, that “none of the dose reductions seem large enough to warrant the expense and additional operational risk of transmutation.” That assessment remains valid today…….http://thebulletin.org/reprocessing-poised-growth-or-deaths-door/pay-more-risk-more-get-little

May 22, 2015 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Areva’s nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague in crisis- shunned by clients

areva-medusa1Crisis for Areva’s La Hague plant as clients shun nuclear, News Daily  May 6, 2015 EMMANUEL JARRY FOR REUTERS BEAUMONT-HAGUE, France – Areva’s nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in La Hague needs to cut costs as its international customers disappear following the Fukushima disaster, and its sole remaining big customer, fellow state-owned French utility EDF, pressures it to cut prices.

Located at the westernmost tip of Normandy, La Hague reprocesses spent nuclear fuel for reuse in nuclear reactors and is a key part in Areva’s production chain, which spans uranium mining to fuel recycling.

Its valuation and outlook are crucial for the troubled French nuclear group, which is racing to find an equity parter after four years of losses have virtually wiped out its capital……….

One of the world’s biggest nuclear waste storage facilities, La Hague’s four pools hold the equivalent of about 50 reactor cores under four meters of water.

Protected by 1.5 meter thick anti-radiation concrete walls, employees in space suits cut up spent nuclear fuel rods, extract uranium and about one percent of plutonium, and melt the remaining waste into glass for eventual deep storage.

Areva says reprocessing reduces natural uranium needs by 25 percent but opponents say that separating plutonium from spent nuclear fuel increases the risk of nuclear proliferation.

The United States does not reprocess its nuclear fuel, but Britain has a large reprocessing plant in Sellafield. A planned recycling plant in Rokkasho, Japan – modeled on La Hague – has been plagued by problems and is years behind schedule.

Since the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Areva’s reprocessing unit has lost nearly all of its international customers.

The company’s “back-end” sales – which include reprocessing, logistics and decommissioning – have fallen to 1.53 billion euros in 2014, 18 percent of Areva’s turnover, from 2 billion euros, 30 percent of nuclear revenue, in 2004.

EDF SQUEEZE

In the past decades, more than 32,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel has been reprocessed at La Hague, of which nearly 70 percent for EDF, 17 percent for German utilities, nine percent for Japanese utilities and the rest for Swiss, Belgian, Dutch and Italian clients.

This year, La Hague expects to treat 1,205 tonnes of spent fuel, of which just 25 tonnes will come from abroad. That leaves Areva with EDF virtually as its sole customer, and although both firms are state-owned – Areva 87 percent, EDF 85 percent – EDF has played hardball in contract negotiations.

La Hague extracts plutonium from used nuclear fuel, which it then sends to Areva’s Melox plant in southeast France, which produces MOX fuel – a mixture of plutonium and spent uranium – for 22 (soon 24) of EDF’s 58 reactors.

The arrival of new management at both companies since the start of the year has ended years of hostility between France’s two nuclear champions, but a 6.5 billion euro contract to treat and recycle 1,100 tonnes per year of EDF’s spent fuel for the 2013-2020 period has still not been signed…………http://newsdaily.com/2015/05/crisis-for-arevas-la-hague-plant-as-clients-shun-nuclear/

May 8, 2015 Posted by | business and costs, France, reprocessing | Leave a comment

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