The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

From the archives – for December 16 – a look back at nuclear history

text-from-the-archivesToday, journalism is in  a sorry mess. Yet still, there are courageous examples of investigative journalism –  such as the McClatchy report on nuclear workers’ health.   All too often, revealing and informative reports on nuclear matters are forgotten, as celebrity sex scandals and sport dominate the mass media.

This month we will remember and refresh stories from our archives.  It’s important that, while we look at current events, these events are illuminated by knowledge of their history.  Especially today, as the nuclear industry struggles desperately to survive – and to portray itself as “clean, green and of course, peaceful”, the truth of its dirty history must be remembered.



November 26, 2016 Posted by | Christina's themes, history | Leave a comment

France’s aging nuclear reactors and EDF’s debt crisis

EDF faces a seemingly impossible financial equation. It has colossal debt of €37 billion; it must deal with the complex €2.5 billion takeover of Areva; and find the money to extend the life of its 58 reactors at costs estimated between €60 and €100 billion up to 2030. (8)

Meanwhile EDF has been accused by Greenpeace France of grossly underestimating the cost of nuclear electricity.

Greenpeace claimed that if EDF disclosed the true cost of running its fleet of reactors in France while financing two new ones in the UK, it would be declared bankrupt.

“In summary, the French nuclear fleet is at the end of its course, dilapidated and dotted with deficient parts. At the same time, the finances of EDF are in such a deplorable state that the company could soon join Areva in bankruptcy, and is in any case unable to properly maintain its reactors.”

AREVA EDF crumblingNuClear News No 90 , 26 Nov 16  Problems discovered at Areva’s metal forge at Le Creusot have been growing over the past six months and are now even threatening to derail EDF’s takeover of Areva’s reactor business.

Last spring when Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron visited to tell the workers at Le Creusot that he had every confidence in the nuclear sector, despite the difficulties, 400 files which were being examined for suspected “anomalies” had to be hastily moved out of the meeting room. Now, six months later a crane has been moving prefabricated office buildings into position so that 6,000 records concerning nuclear components – 2.4 million pages – forged at Le Creusot over the last 60 years can be re-examined. Areva has had to accept that the original 400 suspicious files are just the tip of an iceberg and not the only ones containing “irregularities”. 50 people are now trawling through the paperwork and as many more are being recruited for a job that will take at least another eighteen months.

EDF’s CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy says if Le Creusot’s “problems prove insurmountable, the acquisition will not happen”. (1)

With potentially more than half of France’s 58 reactors affected by the “carbon segregation” problem the French nuclear watchdog, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN) has ordered preventative measures to be taken immediately to ensure public safety. ASN confirmed that, as of late October, 20 reactors were offline and more could be shut down over coming weeks.

Questionable Materials and Documentation

At the heart of France’s nuclear crisis are two problems. One concerns the carbon content of the steel used in critical reactor components, steam heat exchangers, and other components manufactured or supplied by AREVA SA, the French state-owned nuclear engineering firm and global producer of nuclear reactors. The second problem concerns forged, falsified, or incomplete quality control reports about the critical components themselves. Excessive levels of carbon in the steel parts could make them more brittle and subject to sudden fracture or tearing under sustained high pressure, which is obviously unacceptable.

Steam generators from 18 reactors have carbon levels that are above the acceptable level. Some of these were forged at Le Creusot, but others were forged in Japan by JCFC, a subcontractor of Areva. Twelve reactors equipped with JCFC steel are still at a standstill and will be in December while inspections are carried out.

The massive outages are draining power from all over Europe. In the event of severe cold weather this winter, there could be blackouts. Worse, new questions continue to swirl about both the safety and integrity of EDF’s nuclear fleet, as well as the quality of some French- and Japanese-made components that EDF is using in various high-profile nuclear projects around the world.

In October EDF was forced to reduce its 2016 generation targets from 395–400 TWh to 380– 390 TWh, while estimates for nuclear output in 2017 have also been lowered to between 390 TWh and 400 TWh. For perspective, annual nuclear production averaged 417 TWh in the period 2005–2015.


The problem was originally discovered at the Flamanville EPR project in 2014. Since then an internal probe at Le Creusot where many of the components in question were manufactured, has uncovered new anomalies. AREVA is now reported to be reviewing all 9,000 manufacturing records at the forge dating back as far as 1943, including files from more than 6,000 nuclear components.

This autumn there have been almost weekly revelations resulting in plant shutdowns, extended outages, reduced generation, and lots more questions. According to ASN there are now a significant number of reactors offline, with more to be inspected in the next few weeks. “We are now finding carbon segregation problems from components coming from both Le Creusot and [the Kitakyushu-based Japan Casting & Forging Corp.] JCFC plant. As for now, there [are] 20 EDF reactors offline,” the official said, noting that the number will fluctuate as inspections take place.

The analyses performed by EDF thus far have found that since 2015 certain channel heads of the steam generators manufactured by Le Creusot and JCFC “contain a significant carbon concentration zone which could lead to lower than expected mechanical properties,” according to ASN. The Japan Times reports that the JCFC is now also under scrutiny by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Shaun Burnie for Greenpeace said “As a result of substandard manufacturing in Japan, citizens in France have been unknowingly exposed to the risk of catastrophic failure of critical reactor components which could result in a reactor core meltdown. Japanese-supplied steel is now at the centre of France’s unprecedented nuclear crisis the scale of which has never been seen in any country. All 12 reactors supplied by JCFC are either in forced shutdown or about to be. It lacks all credibility that the Japanese nuclear industry would claim that there are no implications for the safety of their own nuclear reactors. The steel production records released in France did not reveal the scale of excess carbon, which was only found after physical testing. There are currently no plans for such tests in Japan. That is wholly unacceptable. There are many urgent questions that need to be answered by the industry and the NRA, and with full public disclosure and transparency.” (2)

Energy traders and analysts warn that the French market needs to prepare for longer maintenance periods in coming years given the age of the nuclear fleet and the continuing design flaw revelations. With the average French reactor now more than 30 years old, equipment will need to be replaced more frequently, and increasingly stringent safety requirements will mean that components could be delayed, especially as ASN imposes additional checks. The safety inspections and other reviews “will lead in particular to extensions of certain planned outages,” EDF said in a press release.

 Erring on the Side of Safety?

Despite the outages and findings from the carbon quality investigations, EDF continues to downplay the risk. “The safety margins are very large and the carbon content does not undermine integrity or security, even in the case of an accident,” an EDF spokesperson told Le Monde newspaper. But questions about quality control practices at Le Creusot continue to grow. Indeed, the greater the scrutiny, the more problems are being discovered. The number of components affected by irregularities and already installed in operating reactors increased from 33 known issues in April to 83 by the end of September. Startlingly, irregularities affecting just the Flamanville EPR project increased from two to 20 during the same period.

While EDF and AREVA are dealing with costly damage control, ASN and other agencies are erring on the side of caution. Indeed, the ASN representative said, “We take no risks. That is the rule. If we don’t know the dangers of the carbon segregation, then we must take the reactors offline until we know what the situation is and [can confirm that] it’s not dangerous.”

ASN revealed that AREVA has now identified at least 87 irregularities concerning EDF reactors in operation, including vessels, steam generators, and main primary system piping, plus the 20 issues for parts intended for Flamanville 3, and one more affecting a steam generator planned for installation in Gravelines 5. Inspectors have also found four irregularities affecting transport packaging for radioactive substances. ASN said that whatever the outcome of these investigations, the irregularities “reveal unacceptable practices.”

External Parties Push for Answers

After the discovery of anomalies in the composition of steel in certain zones of the vessel closure head and the vessel bottom head of the EPR reactor being built at Flamanville in 2014, an internal audit was carried out and released in April 2015, suggesting the existence of many more anomalies. These were initially downplayed by ASN and AREVA. But in September 2015 an independent evaluation conducted by Large and Associates for Greenpeace France really set the cat amongst the pigeons. “The nature of the flaw in the steel, an excess of carbon, reduces steel toughness and renders the components vulnerable to fast fracture,” said the report’s author, John Large. The Greenpeace report, “Amplified the questions ASN already had,” said an ASN representative.

12 reactors have been identified by ASN to have carbon problems in replacement steam generators forged by JCFC. In these reactors initial surface tests were followed by more invasive studies. The first reactors to enter scheduled refuelling outages for a more thorough examination were Tricastin 1 and 3. The early nondestructive inspection results for the JCFC bottom channel heads at these reactors revealed an alarming 0.39% level of carbon present, almost 100% greater than the maximum permissible level. That finding, with its associated reduction in material toughness, rendered the component vulnerable to fast fracture, reported Greenpeace in a late October update. ASN decided to order the shutdown of all but one of these reactors and these shutdowns will remain in force until EDF can demonstrate each reactor is safe to re-enter service.

Uncertainty Remains

At a French parliamentary hearing into the situation on October 25, ASN said it would need another year or two to examine the thousands of documents at the Le Creusot foundry and more anomalies and irregularities will probably be discovered. (3

As of late October 2016 ASN has confirmed the following:

  • Six reactors have been granted approval to restart and are operating normally: Blayais 1, Chinon 1 and 2, Dampierre 2 and 4, and Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux B2.
  • Seven reactos are in planned outages and have been, or are being, inspected. They are: Bugey 4, Civaux 2, Dampierre 3, Gravelines 2, Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux B1, and Tricastin 1 and 3. (4) The Times reports that the re-start of Civaux 2 and Dampierre 3 has been delayed until 31st December.

(5) · Five reactors have been ordered by ASN to be taken offline to conduct checks before 18th January 2017. They are: Civaux 1, Fessenheim 1, Gravelines 4, and Tricastin 2 and 4. (6)

  • Three reactors are currently scheduled to remain unavailable throughout the winter months. They are: Bugey 5, Gravelines 5, and Paluel 2.
  • One reactor has been ordered by ASN to shut down following the detection of an irregularity in the lower shell of the steam generator. That unit is Fessenheim 2.
  • Incidentally, Paluel 2 has been offline since May 2015. Its maintenance period is continuing, following an incident on March 31, 2016, in which a 465-ton steam generator tipped over during removal. (7)

EDF’s Debts

EDF faces a seemingly impossible financial equation. It has colossal debt of €37 billion; it must deal with the complex €2.5 billion takeover of Areva; and find the money to extend the life of its 58 reactors at costs estimated between €60 and €100 billion up to 2030. (8)

Meanwhile EDF has been accused by Greenpeace France of grossly underestimating the cost of nuclear electricity.

Greenpeace claimed that if EDF disclosed the true cost of running its fleet of reactors in France while financing two new ones in the UK, it would be declared bankrupt. Greenpeace commissioned an audit by AlphaValue, the equity research company. The French government has agreed to inject €3 billion into the group this year and has renounced dividend payments until next year. Shares in EDF, 85% of which are owned by the French state, have lost almost a third of their value in the past year and the company is no longer listed on the Paris blue-chip index.

The AlphaValue report described EDF as an “uncompetitive firm – incapable of reacting rapidly and efficiently to the variations in electricity needs and the changes created by the liberalisation of European markets”. It said that EDF’s rivals had written down the value of their nuclear plants because of the move to renewable energy and the fall in electricity prices and that EDF had failed to follow suit. Juan Camilo Rodriguez, author of the report, said the company might have to close 17 of its 58 French reactors to meet the government’s requirement that nuclear power should provide 50 per cent of the nation’s electricity in 2025, down from 75 per cent now.

“The provisions to safeguard the burden of financing the decommissioning of the French reactors are far from sufficient. [If 17 are closed], the group should increase its provisions by more than €20 billion.” Mr Rodriguez said the cost of handling nuclear waste added at least €33.5 billion to that figure. “Whatever scenario is retained, an adjustment of the nuclear provisions . . . would lead to the bankruptcy of EDF from an accountancy point of view,” he added. The report said that EDF would need to find a further €165 billion during the next decade to finance projects such as Hinkley Point and the renovation of reactors in France. EDF says it will spend €51 billion renovating its reactors and £12 billion on Hinkley Point. A spokesman for EDF accused AlphaValue of making erroneous calculations that failed to take account of long-term electricity price movements and differences between France and other European markets. (9) Greenpeace filed a complaint against EDF and its CEO, Jean-Bernard Lévy, for “stock trading offences” at the end of November and EDF responded by suing the group for making “false allegations”.

Greenpeace has asked the public prosecutor “to open a preliminary investigation or to appoint an investigating judge”, saying that “shareholders, investors but also French citizens are being misled by EDF and its CEO”. (10)

According to Stéphane L’homme, Directeur de l’Observatoire du nucléaire: “In summary, the French nuclear fleet is at the end of its course, dilapidated and dotted with deficient parts. At the same time, the finances of EDF are in such a deplorable state that the company could soon join Areva in bankruptcy, and is in any case unable to properly maintain its reactors.”

November 26, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, France, Reference, safety, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Nuclear power to fix climate change? The numbers don’t stack up.

NuClearNews No 90 3. 26 Nov 16 

cartoon-climate-conThe kind of analysis pioneered by No2NuclearPower in 2005 on the contribution nuclear power might make to tackling climate change (1) has been updated by Fairewinds Associates.

The World Nuclear Association industry trade group estimates that an additional 1.1 Gigatonnes of CO2 would have been created in 2015 if natural gas plants supplied the electricity instead of 438 nuclear stations. That’s 1.1 additional Gt out of 36 Gt – only a 3% difference. Put another way, each of the 438 individual nuclear plants contribute less than seven thousandths of one percent to CO2 reduction. (2)

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) has a plan to build 1,000 new nuclear plants by 2050 (1,000GW) – that means commissioning a new plant on average every 12 days for the next 33 years. It says this is what we need to mitigate global warming. MIT says annual emissions will increase to 64Gt per year by 2050 even if Paris is implemented successfully.

If we build 1,000GW of nuclear capacity we could decrease CO2 emissions by 6.15%

For humanity the $8.2 trillion represents an opportunity cost. Precious time and money wasted. CO2 concentrations will grow by 34ppm in the atmosphere by 2050 while we’re waiting for those nuclear plants to come on line. The 6.15% offset will never be enough to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by 34ppm. Solar costs have dropped from about 7c/kWh to 3c/kWh since 2013. Electricity from Hinkley Point C will cost about 12c/kWh

Constructing these reactor would cost $8,200,000,000,000 = $8.2 trillion

For humanity the $8.2 trillion represents an opportunity cost. Precious time and money wasted. CO2 concentrations will grow by 34ppm in the atmosphere by 2050 while we’re waiting for those nuclear plants to come on line. The 6.15% offset will never be enough to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by 34ppm.

Solar costs have dropped from about 7c/kWh to 3c/kWh since 2013. Electricity from Hinkley Point C will cost about 12c/kWh

Lazard Financial Advisory and Asset Management, with no dog in the fight, says the $8.2 TRILLION could be better spent on less expensive alternatives to get more bang for the buck! Lazard also estimates that solar or wind would be 80% less expensive for the equivalent amount of peak electric output. (3)

November 26, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference | Leave a comment

Global irreversible climate change could be set off by rapid Arctic ice melt

The report, billed as the first comprehensive study of ecosystems and societies in the region, found: “The potential effects of Arctic regime shifts [or tipping points] on the rest of the world are substantial, yet poorly understood. Human-driven climate change greatly increases the risk of Arctic regime shifts, so reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to reducing this risk.”

ice-sheets-meltingArctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at global level
Scientists warn increasingly rapid melting could trigger polar ‘tipping points’ with catastrophic consequences felt as far away as the Indian Ocean,
Guardian,  , 25 Nov 16Arctic scientists have warned that the increasingly rapid melting of the ice cap risks triggering 19 “tipping points” in the region that could have catastrophic consequences around the globe.

The Arctic Resilience Report found that the effects of Arctic warming could be felt as far away as the Indian Ocean, in a stark warning that changes in the region could cause uncontrollable climate change at a global level.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently about 20C above what would be expected for the time of year, which scientists describe as “off the charts”. Sea ice is at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year.

“The warning signals are getting louder,” said Marcus Carson of the Stockholm Environment Institute and one of the lead authors of the report. “[These developments] also make the potential for triggering [tipping points] and feedback loops much larger.”

Climate tipping points occur when a natural system, such as the polar ice cap, undergoes sudden or overwhelming change that has a profound effect on surrounding ecosystems, often irreversible

In the Arctic, the tipping points identified in the new report, published on Friday, include: growth in vegetation on tundra, which replaces reflective snow and ice with darker vegetation, thus absorbing more heat; higher releases of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the tundra as it warms; shifts in snow distribution that warm the ocean, resulting in altered climate patterns as far away as Asia, where the monsoon could be effected; and the collapse of some key Arctic fisheries, with knock-on effects on ocean ecosystems around the globe.

The research, compiled by 11 organisations including the Arctic Council and six universities, comes at a critical time, not only because of the current Arctic temperature rises but in political terms.

Aides to the US president-elect, Donald Trump, this week unveiled plans to remove the budget for climate change science currently used by Nasa and other US federal agencies for projects such as examining Arctic changes, and to spend it instead on space exploration.

“That would be a huge mistake,” said Carson, noting that much more research needs to be done on polar tipping points before we can understand the true dangers, let alone hope to tackle them. “It would be like ripping out the aeroplane’s cockpit instruments while you are in mid-flight.”

He added: “These are very serious problems, very serious changes are happening, but they are still poorly understood. We need more research to understand them. A lot of the major science is done by the US.”

Scientists have speculated for some years that so-called feedback mechanisms – by which the warming of one area or type of landscape has knock-on effects for whole ecosystems – could suddenly take hold and change the dynamics of Arctic ice melting from a relatively slow to a fast-moving phenomenon with unpredictable and potentially irreversible consequences for global warming. For instance, when sea ice shrinks it leaves areas of dark ocean that absorb more heat than the reflective ice, which in turn causes further shrinkage, and so on in a spiral.

The Arctic ice cap helps to cool sea and air temperatures, by reflecting much of the sun’s radiation back into space, and acting as a global cooler when winds and ocean currents swirl over and under it. It has long been known to play a key part of the global climate system, but the difficulty and expense of close monitoring have meant that scientists have only in recent years been able to make detailed assessments.

The report, billed as the first comprehensive study of ecosystems and societies in the region, found: “The potential effects of Arctic regime shifts [or tipping points] on the rest of the world are substantial, yet poorly understood. Human-driven climate change greatly increases the risk of Arctic regime shifts, so reducing global greenhouse gas emissions is crucial to reducing this risk.”

The authors also warned that people living in and near the Arctic would be badly affected, and called for communities to be provided with equipment and skills to survive. They took evidence from a variety of settlements in the region, finding many signs of stark changes already under way.

Joel Clement, co-chair of the project and director of the office of policy analysis at the US Department of the Interior, said: “This groundbreaking report is an unprecedented effort to gain insight from what is happening on the ground. The findings are foundational to a more informed, coordinated response to building resilience across the region.”

November 26, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

South Africa’s unsafe nuclear power plans – new report

safety-symbol-Smflag-S.AfricaSouth Africa’s Proposed Nuclear Power Plant Unsafe: Study  VOA News, 25 Nov 16 JOHANNESBURG — 

South African power provider Eskom has proposed building a nuclear power station on a site that may be at risk of surge storms and tsunamis, a geological report suggests, but the state-owned utility disputes the findings.

South Africa has the continent’s only nuclear power station and plans to expand nuclear power generation to meet growing electricity demand in Africa’s most industrialized country.

The report by Maarten de Wit, a professor at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and director of the Africa Earth Observatory Network, a research institute, says canyons in the bedrock would need to be secured.

“If you are going to build anything on that, it’s pretty prone to storms, sea level rises and tsunamis,” De Wit told Reuters on Friday.

The site at Thyspunt, near Port Elizabeth in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality, is on the Indian Ocean coastline.

The report also showed seismic activity along dormant fault lines near the site that could trigger submarine landslides. Any such activity “is likely to generate a large submarine slump, and a possible significant local tsunami that would affect the coastal region, including Thyspunt,” the report said, warning that a plant at Thyspunt could be at risk of devastation similar that in Fukushima in Japan in 2011…….

November 26, 2016 Posted by | safety, South Africa | Leave a comment

The AP1000 Nuclear Reactor Design is not fit for purpose: several safety flaws

The AP1000 advanced passive nuclear reactor design has a weaker containment, and fewer back-up safety systems than current reactor designs..

The AP1000 appears to be vulnerable to a very large release of radioactivity following an accident if there were just a small failure in the steel containment vessel, because the gasses would be sucked out the hole in the top of the AP1000 Shield Building due to the chimney effect.

 Recent experience with existing reactors suggests that containment corrosion, cracking, and leakage is more common than previously thought, and AP1000s are more vulnerable to containment corrosion than conventional reactors.

In addition the AP1000 shield building lacks flexibility and so could crack in the event of an earthquake or aircraft impact.

The AP1000 reactor design is not fit for purpose and so should be refused a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and Statement of Design Acceptability (SDA). 

flag-UKNuClear News No 90 26 Nov 16  The AP1000 Reactor Design

NuGen, a consortium of Toshiba and Engie (formerly GDF Suez), is proposing to build three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in Cumbria – a site adjacent to Sellafield. These three reactors together would have a capacity of up to 3.8GW.


The AP1000 reactor is a pressurised water reactor (PWR) designed and sold by Westinghouse Electric Company, now majority owned by Toshiba. But unlike other PWR designs it is what is called an advanced passive design. The idea behind advanced passive design is that it shouldn’t require operator actions or electronic feedback in order to shut it down safely in the event of a loss of coolant accident (LOCA). Such reactors rely more on natural processes such as natural convection for cooling and gravity rather than motor-driven pumps to provide a backup water supply. Westinghouse claims that AP1000 plant safety systems are able to automatically establish and maintain cooling of the reactor core and maintain the integrity of the containment which holds in the radioactive contents indefinitely following design-basis accidents.

The nuclear regulators – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and Environment Agency – have been carrying out a new process called ‘Generic Design Assessment’ (GDA), which looks at the safety, security and environmental implications of new reactor designs before an application is made to build that design at a particular site. Initially the GDA for the AP1000 was expected to be completed around spring 2011, when the regulators would have issued a statement about the acceptability of the design. By the end of 2010 it was clear that the ONR would only be able to issue “interim” approvals for the Areva EPR and Westinghouse AP1000 reactor designs at the end of the generic design assessment (GDA) in June 2011. Construction could only occur after any outstanding “GDA issues” had been resolved.

Eventually on 14th December 2011 the Regulators granted interim Design Acceptance Confirmations (iDACs) and interim Statements of Design Acceptability (iSoDAs) for the UK EPR and the AP1000 reactor designs. The Regulators also confirmed that they are satisfied with how EDF and Westinghouse plan to resolve the GDA issues identified during the process.

ONR’s interim approval for the AP1000 contained 51 GDA Issues. At this point Westinghouse decided to request a pause in the GDA process for the AP1000 pending customer input to finalizing it. Westinghouse has since become part of the NuGen consortium with its parent company Toshiba taking a 60% stake, the process for AP1000 has resumed, and is scheduled to be completed by March 2017 with issuance of DAC and SODA. By March 2016, the cost of the GDA for the AP1000 had reached £30 million. (5)

The GDA process is being carried out in, what is described as, an open and transparent manner, designed to facilitate the involvement of the public, who are able to view and comment on design information published on the web. Questions and comments can be submitted electronically via the Westinghouse website, or direct to the UK regulators. The deadline for making a comment on the AP1000 plant, as part of the GDA process is 30th November 2016. (6)

Edinburgh Energy and Environment Consultancy was commissioned by Radiation Free Lakeland to write a report on the AP1000 reactor design to submit to this consultation.

(Available here )

The report came to the following conclusions:

The AP1000 advanced passive nuclear reactor design has a weaker containment, and fewer back-up safety systems than current reactor designs. Conventional reactors rely on defence-indepth made up of layers of redundancy and diversity – this is where, say, two valves are fitted instead of one (redundancy) or where the function may be achieved by one of two entirely different means (diversity). In contrast advanced passive designs rely much more on natural processes such as natural convection for cooling and gravity rather than motor-driven pumps to provide a backup water supply.

The AP1000 appears to be vulnerable to a very large release of radioactivity following an accident if there were just a small failure in the steel containment vessel, because the gasses would be sucked out the hole in the top of the AP1000 Shield Building due to the chimney effect.

Recent experience with existing reactors suggests that containment corrosion, cracking, and leakage is more common than previously thought, and AP1000s are more vulnerable to containment corrosion than conventional reactors.

In addition the AP1000 shield building lacks flexibility and so could crack in the event of an earthquake or aircraft impact.

A thorough review of the AP1000 design in the light of the Japanese accident at Fukushima has shown that:

  • Ongoing nuclear fission after a reactor has supposedly been shutdown continues to be the source of significant pressure inside the containment. The AP1000 containment is extraordinarily close to exceeding its peak post accident design pressure which means post accident pressure increases could easily lead to a breach of the containment.
  • At least seven ways in which an AP1000 reactor design might lose the ability to cool the reactors in an emergency have been identified. These include damage to the water tank which sits on top of the shield building and some sort of disruption to the air flow around the steel containment.
  • The accidents at Fukushima, especially the overheating and the hydrogen explosions in the Unit 4 Spent Fuel Pool showed that the calculations and assumptions about the AP1000 Spent Fuel Pond design were wholly inadequate.
  • Fukushima showed that when several reactors share a site an accident at one reactor could damage other reactors. In the AP1000 the water tank on top of the reactor, and the shield building could be vulnerable to damage.
  • Westinghouse assumes that there is zero probability of an AP1000 containment breach. But the accidents at Fukushima have shown that there is a high, probability of Containment System failure resulting in significant releases of radioactivity directly into the environment.

The AP1000 reactor design is not fit for purpose and so should be refused a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and Statement of Design Acceptability (SDA).

November 26, 2016 Posted by | Reference, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Diplomatic outreach from Trump. Xi and Putin could persuade North Korea to give up nuclear weapons expansion

diplomacy-not-bombsflag-N-KoreaUnder Trump, America can defuse the Korean nuclear crisis – with help from China and Russia

Charles K. Armstrong and John Barry Kotch say North Korea may well be willing to give up its nuclear plans if both Xi and Putin can be convinced to add their weight to the diplomatic outreach   Charles Armstrong John Barry Kotch, 24 November, 2016,  US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said recently at a Council on Foreign Relations forum that dissuading North Korea from continuing its nuclear development was “a lost cause”. The remark is itself a cause for alarm. North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and increasing delivery capability could render East Asian stability itself a lost cause, substantially raising the risks of regional nuclear proliferation and disarray in America’s alliances with Japan and South Korea – as well as posing a direct threat to the US homeland. It is a principal reason that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought an early meeting with President-elect Donald Trump last week.

Throughout most of its tenure, the Obama administration has put its stock into increasingly intrusive sanctions based on a strategy of so-called “strategic patience”, but this has not brought a resolution of the North Korean nuclear crisis any closer. On the contrary, Pyongyang has tested nuclear weapons and missiles at an ever-increasing rate.

What has been lacking is a diplomatic component as a complement to the pressure of sanctions. Resolving the issue requires not just outreach conducted at the ambassadorial level by a coordinator, but a high-level diplomatic initiative, the only kind that has succeeded in the past.

Had Hillary Clinton been elected president, one could envisage such an initiative led by two former US presidents – Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – who have negotiated or held substantive discussions with North Korea’s leader himself or at the top leadership echelon. And while previous agreements reached with Kim Jong-un may have rejected the agreements his father and grandfather made in the 1990s, avowing not to go down the nuclear path via plutonium reprocessing or uranium enrichment, one thing the younger Kim could not have done was spurn the legacy of his father and grandfather in meeting with two former US presidents.

Carter’s negotiations with Kim Il-sung in 1994 led to a shutdown of the nuclear plant at Yongbyon for eight years and the resumption of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. A bilateral framework established the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation, with the goal of providing light-water reactors to meet Pyongyang’s energy needs. Unfortunately, the agreement fell apart during the first George W. Bush administration.

Towards the end of the Clinton administration, the US moved towards recognising North Korea as a legitimate state actor. The momentum towards diplomatic recognition was symbolised in 2000 by the visit of North Korea’s Marshall Jo Myong-rok to the White House and secretary of state Madeline Albright’s meeting with Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. The two sides discussed a missile agreement, to be finalised by a presidential visit to North Korea.

Trump now has an opportunity, at the start of a new relationship with Xi Jinping ( 習近平 ) and Vladimir Putin respectively, to work with China and Russia in making clear to Kim Jong-un that a North Korean nuclear capability is incompatible with the stability of Northeast Asia. As Stanford University professor Siegfried Hecker has noted, the North’s strategy has evolved from a nuclear deterrent as a bargaining chip to a strategic force, and a 2020 reality of a fully fledged intercontinental ballistic missile capability.

And what of the argument, according to Clapper, that North Korea will never give up this capability, which it views as the sole guarantor of its survival? In effect, this is a false choice – unless one accepts Pyongyang’s proposition that it is faced with an existential threat from the US, making a nuclear deterrent essential for its security. Just the reverse is true: North Korea’s nuclear capability itself puts the country’s survival at risk, because no American president can tolerate the threat a nuclear-armed North Korea would pose to the US homeland.

Given the above, now is the time for China and Russia, both neighbouring states that would be directly affected by a potential US pre-emptive strike on North Korea, to embrace high-level “pincer” diplomacy vis-à-vis North Korea. To date, Beijing has argued that squeezing too hard would force a North Korean collapse, which is China’s worst-case scenario. But clearly the sanctions that China has enforced have been insufficient to deter North Korea. A non-nuclear North Korea would offer Beijing the best of both worlds: a buffer on its eastern border that is not a rogue nuclear state or a threat to regional stability.

President Xi has said to President-elect Trump that “facts have shown that cooperation is the only correct choice” for the United States and China. To gain Beijing’s acquiescence to a diplomatic approach, the first step would be for the US to delay the deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) system in South Korea. THAAD was to be deployed in response to Pyongyang’s testing an intermediate-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead into space, on a trajectory that could reach Guam or the Aleutian Islands. China has been adamantly opposed to THAAD; dropping or delaying the deployment of the system opens the door to a positive diplomatic role for China, to complement sanctions-based coercive diplomacy. Once the North Korean threat was removed, there would be no need or justification for THAAD.

Russia, similarly, has a vested interest in the denuclearisation of North Korea. Engaging Moscow in resolving the nuclear impasse is both logical, given the Soviet role in providing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor, the principal driver of Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, and would take advantage of the political leverage enjoyed by Putin, the only current leader to have successfully engaged with a North Korean leader, in persuading Kim Jong-il to observe a three-year missile moratorium in 1999. He has similarly agreed with Trump to “normalise relations and pursue constructive cooperation on the broadest possible range of issues”. The upside for Putin is an opportunity to bolster his standing in the West by making an important contribution to international peace and security.

Trump will have the opportunity for a fresh diplomatic approach to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue with the cooperation of the most important nuclear powers in the region – an opportunity that should be grasped sooner rather than later. The test for both Putin and Xi will be their willingness, with the full backing of Trump, to intercede directly with the North Korean leader.

Charles K. Armstrong is professor of Korean Studies at Columbia University and John Barry Kotch is a research scholar and Columbia PhD in political science

November 26, 2016 Posted by | North Korea, politics international | 1 Comment

New sanctions on North Korea, agreed on by China and USA. Russia delays

China, U.S. agree on new sanctions to punish North Korea for nuclear test, but Russia ‘trying to hold it up’, National Post Michelle Nichols, Reuters | November 24, 2016 UNITED NATIONS — The United States and China have agreed on new U.N. sanctions to impose on North Korea over the nuclear test it conducted in September, but Russia is delaying action on a draft resolution, a senior Security Council diplomat said on Wednesday.

The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, believed China could persuade Russia to agree to the new sanctions and that the 15-member Security Council could vote on the draft resolution as early as next week.

Since North Korea’s fifth and largest nuclear test on Sept. 9, the United States and China, a close ally of North Korea, have been negotiating a new draft Security Council resolution to punish Pyongyang.

That draft text was recently given to the remaining three permanent council veto powers, Britain, France and Russia.

“The (permanent five members) are getting very close to agreement on a draft resolution,” the diplomat said. “The key thing is that China and the U.S., who have led this, have got to a position that they agree on. So the issue now is Russia…….

November 26, 2016 Posted by | China, North Korea, politics international, Russia, UK | Leave a comment

What chance for nuclear disarmament in these turbulent times?

world-disarmament-1Seeking Nuclear Disarmament in Dangerous Times [IDN-InDepthNews – 22 November 2016]By Alice Slater Alice Slater is the UN NGO Representative for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War.

NEW YORK – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has championed efforts for nations to make good on their pledges to abolish nuclear weapons. In 2009 he published a five-point proposal for nuclear disarmament, urging nuclear weapons states in particular to fulfill their promises under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to negotiate for the total elimination of nuclear weapons as well as other complementary steps to that end such as banning missiles and space weapons.

At the end of his term this year, there have been some stunning new developments after years of global gridlock and blocked efforts. At the UN General Assembly First Committee for Disarmament, 123 nations voted this October to support negotiations in 2017 to prohibit and ban nuclear weapons, just as the world has already done for biological and chemical weapons.

The most remarkable upset in the vote was a breach in what had always been a solid single-minded phalanx of 5 nuclear weapons states recognized in the NPT, signed 46 years ago in 1970 – the US, Russia, UK, France, and China. For the first time, China broke ranks by voting with a group of 16 nations to abstain, along with India and Pakistan, non-NPT nuclear weapons states. And to the great surprise of all, North Korea actually voted YES in support of negotiations going forward to outlaw nuclear weapons.

The ninth nuclear weapons state, Israel, voted against the resolution with 38 other countries including those in nuclear alliances with the United States such as the NATO states as well as Australia, South Korea, and, most surprisingly, Japan, the only country ever attacked with nuclear bombs. Only the Netherlands broke ranks with NATO’s unified opposition to ban treaty talks, as the sole NATO member to abstain on the vote, after grassroots pressure on its Parliament.

All nine nuclear-weapon states had boycotted a special UN Open Ended Working Group for Nuclear Disarmament last summer, which followed three conferences in Norway, Mexico, and Austria with civil-society and governments to examine the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, thus opening a new pathway for how we think and speak about the bomb.

This new “humanitarian initiative” has shifted the conversation from the military’s traditional examination and explanations of deterrence, policy, and strategic security to an understanding of the overwhelming deaths and devastation people would suffer from the use of nuclear weapons.

Today there are still almost 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, with nearly 15,000 of them in the United States and Russia, now in an increasingly hostile relationship, with NATO troops patrolling on Russia’s borders, and the Russian Emergencies Ministry actually launching a sweeping nationwide civil-defense drill involving 40 million people. The US, under President Obama, has proposed a $1 trillion program for new nuclear-bomb factories, warheads, and delivery systems, and Russia and other nuclear-weapon states are engaged in modernizing their nuclear arsenals as well.

Perhaps one additional way to break the log jam for nuclear disarmament and find a silver lining in the crumbling neo-liberal agenda for globalization evidenced by the Brexit event and the shocking and unanticipated election of Donald Trump in the US, is to encourage Trump’s repeated statements that the US should make “a deal” with Putin and join with Russia to fight terrorists.

Trump has criticized the NATO alliance, the expansion of which has been very provocative to Russia and was the reason Russia gave, together with the US walking out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and installing a new missile base in Romania, for putting a halt to further US-Russian agreements for nuclear disarmament.

Trump, who promotes himself as a “deal maker” has also suggested that he would have no difficulty in sitting down and talking with North Korea. These efforts should be encouraged, as North Korea has actually shown it is willing to enter into negotiations to ban the bomb, which is more than the other eight nuclear weapons states have been willing to support.

Furthermore, North Korea has been seeking an official end to the Korean War of 1953, during which time the US continues to station about 28,000 troops on its borders while trying to starve North Korea out with drastic sanctions all these many years.

Perhaps Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can leave his office with an important victory at the end of his term by seizing this opportunity and encouraging the “deal maker” in Trump to move forward with a US-Russia rapprochement, clearing a pathway for the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as putting an end to the hostilities on the Korean peninsula.

November 26, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Russian Senator Senator Klintsevich claims that NATO expansion would be met with nuclear response

Russian senator promises nuclear response to NATO expansion Nov, 2016 In response to NATO’s efforts to enlist new member-countries, a member of the defense and security committee for Russia’s Upper House has said that Russia will target any sites it considers to be a threat with nuclear weapons.

In reply to NATO’s aggressive actions, to the alliance’s attempts to draw more and more nations into their orbit, there will be a harsh and unambiguous response from Russia’s side. We will aim our weapons, including the nuclear ones, at any of the alliance’s site that would threaten us, wherever these sites are placed,” RIA Novosti quoted Senator Franz Klintsevich as saying. The senator also explained that by nuclear weapons he meant both stationary land-based systems, and mobile weapons, including sea- and air-based systems.

Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Friday that Klintsevich’s position was understandable, but also warned against jumping to hasty conclusions.

Russian lawmakers have the right for own opinion, they are vividly reacting to international events, to NATO’s expansion towards Russian borders, and to the expansion of NATO’s military infrastructure. This makes their position understandable,” Peskov said. At the same time, he noted that, according to the Russian Constitution, lawmakers cannot determine the country’s foreign policy, as that is solely the president’s prerogative.

In late October of this year, Senator Klintsevich told Norwegian television TV2 that Russia was concerned about US plans to deploy marines at a Norwegian base which he sees as part of its Prompt Global Strike doctrine. The implementation of this plan would force Russia to target sites in Norway with strategic weapons, which it has never had to do before.

November 26, 2016 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Renewables – the cheapest way for Britain decarbonise

NucClear News No 90 , 26 Nov 16   A new report from a think-tank called E3G, which aims to accelerate the transition to a lowcarbon economy, says the Government needs to deliver new low carbon generation capacity as cheaply as possible. The UK will need new capacity capable of producing around 150TWh (terawatt hours = 1,000 million kWh) per year of electricity by 2030 – around half of all current output. All plausible scenarios imply that this can only be achieved by deploying a significantly increased volume of renewable generation – likely to be around 50GW, predominantly from a combination of onshore and offshore wind and solar PV.

The E3G report says there is an increasing body of evidence that the system integration costs of renewable generation are low and that the power system can operate securely and at least cost with more than 50% of electricity demand being met from variable renewable sources. System integration costs are predicted to remain less than £10/MWh which means that not only is it possible to securely operate the power system with high levels of renewable generation, but it also represents the cheapest option. E3G shows that under the current trajectory onshore wind will be at least 22% cheaper than nuclear with offshore wind and solar PV providing savings in excess of 4% and 8% respectively, and savings will probably be even greater as the flexibility of the electricity system improves.

The important conclusion from this E3G study is that the cheapest way to decarbonise the power system involves large volumes of variable renewable generation even when taking system integration costs into account. (1)

Renewable costs keep falling


In fact researchers at Citi, a global investment bank, think that paying for energy could soon become a thing of the past. Cheaper storage and smart data analytics may soon make solar and wind energy available to consumers in some parts of the world – completely for free. (2)

Even the government now expects solar and wind power to be cheaper than new nuclear power by the time Hinkley Point C is completed. And Business Secretary, Greg Clark, has admitted that fears that intermittent renewables would jeopardise Britain’s ability to keep the lights on have been overblown. (3) An unpublished report by the energy department shows that it expects onshore wind power and large-scale solar to cost around £50-75 per megawatt hour (MWh) of power generated in 2025. New nuclear is anticipated to be around £85-125/MWh, in line with the guaranteed price of £92.50/MWh that the government has offered Hinkley’s developer, EDF. On previous forecasts, made in 2010 and 2013, the two renewable technologies were expected to be more expensive than nuclear or around the same cost. This is the first time the government has shown it expects them to be a cheaper option. The figures were revealed in a National Audit Office (NAO) report on nuclear in July. “The [energy] department’s forecasts for the levelised cost of electricity of wind and solar in 2025 have decreased since 2010. The cost forecast for gas has not changed, while for nuclear it has increased,” the NAO said. (4)

Growth of clean energy in 2015 was dominated by solar PVs and wind.(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco, FILE)Onshore Wind Costs

In Europe onshore wind has become one of the most competitive sources of new electricity. Mott MacDonald estimated in 2011 that costs would fall to around £52-55/MWh by 2040 compared with £83-90/MWh in 2011. (5) But according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) new onshore windfarms were the cheapest way for a power company to produce electricity in Britain by 2015 with costs dropping to £55/MWh. (6) The trade body, Scottish Renewables, has shown that costs could be cut by a further 20% if government, industry and regulators work together to make sure we can use the latest generation of turbines on suitable sites, reduce grid charges, and deploy energy storage technologies. (7)

Rooftop solar system in Edinburgh (Image: Emtec Energy)Solar Power

Sustainability expert, Chris Goodall, author of new book called “The Switch” (8), says cheap solar panels and advances in storage technology are about to transform the world. By 2030 or 2040 solar will be the cheapest way to generate electricity, indeed any form of energy EVERYWHERE. At the rate of growth that we are seeing at the moment of 35-45% per year solar will grow from providing 2% of global electricity to at least 50% by 2030. We can see the cost of batteries coming down in price dramatically. Turning surplus solar electricity generating during the summer into something we can put into natural gas networks is what we should be looking at in the UK. Generating hydrogen from water and, using microbes, combining it with carbon dioxide to form methane is the simplest way to do this. The era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close. (9)

Offshore wind farm (MorgueFile image)Offshore wind

Earlier this year DONG Energy of Denmark, the world’s largest offshore wind company, won a bid to build two wind farms 22 kilometres off the Dutch coast. The company says power will be produced for less than any other offshore scheme to date. It is estimated that when the scheme is fully operational, electricity will cost €72.70 per megawatt hour (MWh) and €87 MWh when transmission costs are included. (10)

At the time this was described as the cheapest offshore wind electricity in the world: “beyond even the most optimistic expectations in the market.” (11) Since then Swedish utility Vattenfall has agreed to build a giant offshore wind farm in Denmark that would sell power for €49.50 per MWh. Vattenfall has broken its own previous record of €60 per MWh.

Greenpeace has produced the chart below [on original] to show the cost of offshore wind power compared with the cost of Hinkley Point C. The UK’s cheapest offshore windfarm will produce power at roughly £120 per MWh, which is far more than the projects being built in Denmark and the Netherlands. Part of the reason for that is that those governments cover transmission costs, so in the name of fairness Greenpeace adds £25 per MWh. And then to address offshore wind’s intermittency, you’ve got to add another £7.6 per MWh — according to the UK government’s top climate advisers to cover the cost of the ‘balancing’the system. (12)

So we can see that the latest Vattenfall bid is coming in at £75.50/MWh compared with £100.50/MWh for Hinkley Point C. (The £92.50/MWh strike price agreed for Hinkley Point C was index-linked at 2012 prices so £8/MWh has been added to allow for inflation.)

energy-efficiency-manEnergy Efficiency

Research out by sustainability expert, Chris Goodall, shows a business and government drive to promote switching of homes, street lights and offices to energy efficient LED light bulbs would see a huge reduction in the UK’s electricity demand for lighting – more than two Hinkley nuclear plants’ worth of electricity. Lighting is responsible for nearly a third (29%) of total winter peak electricity demand – a complete switch would halve that. Switching entirely to LEDs in homes will save about 2.7 GW of peak winter demand; street lighting 0.5 GW; offices and commercial buildings 4.5 GW.

An expenditure of about £62 in an average house, replacing about 21 of the bulbs in living areas would cut electricity bills by at least £24 per year. This could be done relatively quickly and the total cost of partially upgrading all UK homes to energy-efficient LED lights would be around £1.7 billion. The price of LED light bulbs is falling over time and they cost just £1.60 each at major retailers. Aside from saving money for the householder directly, the government would conservatively save £65 million per year on capacity market payments from this action in houses and more elsewhere in street lighting and commercial sector. (13)

There are good reasons for using investment in energy efficiency as a vehicle to stimulate the economy – the macroeconomic benefits of public energy efficiency programmes have been illustrated by economists time and time again. For instance Verco and Cambridge Econometrics estimate that if delivered as part of a major infrastructure investment programme for £1 invested by government £3.20 is returned through increased GDP resulting in increased employment of up to 108,000 net jobs per annum. A recent study by Frontier Economics calculates that an energy efficiency infrastructure programme could generate £8.7 billion of netbenefits to the economy.

We know from the German KfW loan scheme that public subsidies for energy efficiency are more than offset by the increase in tax revenues and savings in welfare spending due to lower unemployment. Now is the time to do this in the UK, according to Jan Resnow at the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University. The economic uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote will prevail for some time until Britain’s new status becomes clearer. At the same time, there will be no energy efficiency programme for the able-to-pay sector after 2017 and funds for fuel poverty alleviation are falling short of what is required to achieve the target. The economic evidence is clear – energy efficiency provides a golden opportunity for an economic stimulus in the UK. (14)

November 26, 2016 Posted by | renewable, UK | Leave a comment

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) warns Eskom on nuclear procurement plansx

Busa warns Eskom on nuclear plans IOL,  25 November 2016,  Siseko Njobeni Johannesburg – Business Unity South Africa (Busa) yesterday warned power utility Eskom not to proceed with preparations to procure nuclear while consultations on the draft integrated resource plan (IRP) had not been completed.

Busa said it was concerned that the difficulties that renewable projects faced in gaining access to the grid appeared to be used as an artificial constraint on renewable energy sources.

“Furthermore, Busa is concerned that Eskom and the government do not seem to be aligned on the question of the nuclear element of the IRP,” the business group said.

“Busa believes that the role of Eskom, particularly in respect of its position as the sole purchaser of electricity, needs to be clearly defined.”

“Additionally, Eskom’s role as the developer of new generation capacity should not proceed independently of the IRP which is only expected to be finalised in the third quarter of next year,” Busa said.


The business body said any procurement of large-scale generation should commence only after finalisation of the IRP as the national plan.

The warning comes after the Department of Energy published the draft integrated energy plan and the draft IRP for the country on Tuesday.  The documents are out for public comment.

The assumptions and scenarios in the IRP will be the subject of public consultation at Nedlac – the government, labour and business negotiating chamber – and provincial road shows in February next year…….

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa said yesterday that it was alarmed at the prospect of a delay of the nuclear programme to 2037.


November 26, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, South Africa | Leave a comment

Nuclear reactor graphite cores cracking: Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B

safety-symbol-Smflag-UKNuClear News No 90 26 Nov 16   Radio Four’s Costing the Earth has been investigating whether it is safe to keep reactors running long past their expected lifespan of about 30 years. Five of Britain’s seven AGRs are already older (Torness and Heysham 2 are only 27 years old). Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B are already 40 years old but EDF energy wants them to continue operating for at least another 7 years.

In 2005 the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (now the Office for Nuclear Regulation -ONR) expressed concern about the structure of the reactor core. The core is made up of 6,000 graphite blocks. Around half of these are 1 metre tall with a bore or channel running through each block. Around 200 of these channels contain rods of nuclear fuel. If anything goes wrong control rods are inserted between the channels to dampen the nuclear reaction and shut down the reactor.

Nuclear Engineering consultant John Large explains that graphite is not elastic, it doesn’t bend, and it is not particularly strong. And now the graphite bricks are cracking. The core is an assembly of several thousand bricks, loosely stacked together and the expectation was that the core would never fail, so there was no facility to replace any individual blocks if they did become damaged. But now there are physical changes occurring in the core, in the individual bricks – cracking and fracturing – that must result in some loss of strength – not only of the individual bricks, but of the core as a whole.

The BBC used a Freedom of Information request to obtain a number of documents. One paper from ONR reveals that one third of the channels inspected at Hinkley B and Hunterston B contain what they describe as significant cracks. EDF says the cracks were anticipated at this stage in the reactors’ life and it is safe to operate for years to come. It says evidence suggests that its predictions about cracking are accurate.

Brian Cowell, director of nuclear operations, says: “in fact we are looking to extend life further (than 2023) if we can.” The analysis suggests that we can have more than 1,000 axial cracked bricks and still operate with massive margins of safety. 1,000 cracked bricks would exceed the current safety limit set by ONR, but the regulator is considering changing that limit.

Mark Foy – Deputy Chief Nuclear Inspector says the percentage of cracked bricks ONR is currently happy to accept is 10%, but they are considering increasing that to 20%. Foy says that the original safety case provided by EDF was on the basis of 10% cracking. As experience is gained and analysis and research is undertaken it allows EDF and ONR to gain a more informed and accurate view of what is acceptable and what isn’t.

EDF has now provided ONR with a safety case for allowing 20% cracking. This is based on the analysis EDF has undertaken; samples they’ve taken and the inspections they’ve undertaken. The focus has been to look at the likelihood of core disruption after an earthquake which could prevent the control rods being inserted. ONR is considering the new safety case.

Keyway Route Cracking

The ONR is also investigating a very specific and more concerning form of cracking. The keyway is a slot that holds each brick to the adjacent brick, the bricks underneath and the bricks on top. These keyways, which are acknowledged to be the limiting factor in the life of these reactors, are beginning to fracture. John Large points out that this will make the graphite blocks a very loose set of bricks.

Prof Paul Bowen of Birmingham University sits on the graphite technical advisory committee for ONR. He says the keyway cracks could potentially prevent the entry of the control rods. If the core distorts too much, it’s easy to see how trying to feed anything in could become very difficult

Seven of the keyways have been discovered to have cracks at Hunterston B. John Large believes the presence of keyway cracks casts doubt on the safety of the reactor in the event of an emergency like an earthquake. We have a cracked and deteriorating core that’s lost its residual strength and we don’t know by how much. Some of the design case accidents will test the core – one of these would be a seismic shake where the whole core is wobbled. If the core becomes misaligned, and the fuel modules get stuck in the core, the fuel temperature will get raised and could undergo a melt. If the radioactivity gets into the gas stream and the reactor is venting because it’s over pressurised then you have a release to the atmosphere and you have dispersion and a contamination problem.

ONR agrees keyway cracks could compromise safety. One of the documents the BBC obtained said the discovery of keyway route cracks at Hunterston invalidates the previous safety case. EDF had to consider what information to present to ONR to satisfy them that the reactor was still safe to operate. EDF brought in articulated control rods and nitrogen injection systems to address the extra risks posed by the keyway route cracking. The new rods are bendy making them easier to insert into a distorted core and an injection of nitrogen could buy several hours of invaluable time in the event of an accident.

However, concern remains because we can’t be certain how many keyway route cracks there are. John Large explains that to examine where the cracks are you have to take the fuel out of the reactor and put a camera down to inspect the inside of the bore, but these keyway cracks are on the outside of the bricks so you can’t actually see them.

It’s very hard to inspect the channels in which the fuel sits. Around 10% are inspected each time the reactor is shutdown. So there may be keyway route cracks that have never been seen at Hunterston and Hinkley. In the absence of a full visual inspection a mathematical model is used to work out the likelihood of cracks in particular parts of the reactor. The trouble is the model has already been shown to be flawed.

Paul Bowen says they haven’t been able to get the exact timing of the cracks right. The industry argued that cracks would appear first in layers 4 and 5, but they actually appeared in level 6. John Large says the model relied upon by ONR is not working, so they can’t predict the strength of the core. More to the point they can’t work out where to put their investigative probes to see where cracking is taking place. So they’re in the dark.

If the ONR gives the go-ahead for an increase in the number of cracked bricks from 10 to 20%, it might be difficult for people living near theses reactors to understand why the definition of “safe” seems to be changing.

November 26, 2016 Posted by | Reference, safety, UK | 1 Comment

Britain – new nuclear reactor plans

NucClear News, 26 Nov 16 New Reactor Notes  The Environment Agency is planning to launch a consultation on its preliminary conclusions on the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor design which Horizon Nuclear is proposing to build at Wylfa on Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. The consultation will run between 12 December 2016 and 3 March 2017. (1) EA will hold a consultation meeting on 24th January 2017 at the Botanical Gardens, Birmingham. This should give participants an introductory understanding of the reactor design currently being assessed through the GDA. (1) 

The second stage of a public consultation into the two EPR reactors planned for Sizewell in Suffolk has been launched.
 EDF Energy and its Chinese partners want to build two new reactors on the site. The updated designs for Sizewell C will go on display at 23 public exhibitions around the county. The consultation runs until February. (2) 1. See 2. EDF Energy 23rd November 2016

November 26, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

Sweden ditching taxes on solar energy, to promote fast investment in renewables

Sweden to scrap taxes on solar energy in 2017  STOCKHOLM (AFP) –  Sweden is set to ditch taxes on its production of solar energy in 2017 in a bid to run entirely on renewable energy by 2040, the government said on Monday.

Solar energy is currently marginal in the Nordic nation, accounting for less than 0.1 percent of electricity production. Sweden relies mostly on hydropower (39 percent) and nuclear power (36 percent). The finance ministry said in a statement that the production of solar electricity for own use would be entirely exempt from taxes. Electricity providers would meanwhile only be taxed 500 kronor (51 euros) per megawatt hour, which is a 98-percent reduction from the current level.

“This makes fast investments possible,” Social Democratic Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said.

The proposal is likely to be adopted by parliament, with the centre-right opposition having criticised the minister for her lack of ambition with regards renewable energy investments.

The move must also be approved by the European Commission in Brussels, which aims to boost the EU’s share of renewable energy to at least 20 percent of consumption.

In October, the Swedish energy market regulator had estimated that in order to reach the target of 100 percent renewable energy, the share of solar electricity would have to rise to between five and 10 percent.

November 26, 2016 Posted by | renewable, Sweden | Leave a comment