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Activists vow to stop Holtec’s nuclear waste plan for New Mexico

‘Deadly, toxic business’: New Mexico will reject nation’s nuclear waste, activists vowOrange County Register, 27 Jan 19

Plan to keep waste at reactor sites is working fine, they say

In Southern California, the greatest hope for removing highly radioactive nuclear waste from the quake-prone coast might be those private, temporary storage sites that need licenses from the federal government to open.

But in New Mexico — where Holtec International wants to build such a site that could store waste from San Onofre, Diablo Canyon and scores of other commercial reactors — locals vow to do everything in their power to keep the state from becoming America’s biggest nuclear waste dump.

“The rush is on by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to grant Holtec a license before the people realize we’re being sacrificed for another government nuclear experiment,” said Noel Marquez, an artist and member of the Alliance for Environmental Strategies.

“We’re having to research, for ourselves, the long-term consequences of this deadly, toxic business. We’re being targeted for environmental injustice.”

The passionate show-of-force came Tuesday, the day before the NRC’s three-judge Atomic Safety and Licensing Board heard oral arguments from project opponents in Albuquerque. The aim is to figure out which groups have standing with the NRC to oppose the Holtec project, but legal challenges to the plan are under way in other courts as well.

Below the radar, the NRC’s plan for temporarily storing nuclear waste is actually working pretty well, said Terry Lodge, an attorney for opponents: “They are storing waste at nuclear reactor sites, relatively uneventfully and not particularly expensively,” he said.

That, to many Californians near the shuttered San Onofre and Diablo Canyon plants, is exactly the problem.

‘Entire project is illegal’

Those familiar with America’s nuclear waste wars may be experiencing Yucca Mountain deja vu.

New Mexico, like Nevada, has no commercial nuclear reactors. Many New Mexicans, like many Nevadans, don’t want to become the nation’s nuclear dump. But New Mexicans, unlike Nevadans, have a different legal argument to make.

Congress’ Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 forbids permanent waste storage on the Earth’s surface, and  —  given the federal government’s decades-long paralysis in finding a permanent, deep geologic repository —  Holtec’s temporary facility could well wind up being a permanent one, they say.

“The entire project is illegal,” said Diane Curran, an attorney representing the group Beyond Nuclear. If New Mexicans “step up and say, ‘We’ll take it in our above-ground facility,’ I’m really afraid you’ll have it forever —  a shallow graveyard for the nation’s nuclear waste.”

At a press briefing Tuesday, opponents raised the specter of cracked and damaged fuel canisters and/or rods; of dangers related to transporting canisters from all corners of the country to New Mexico by road or rail; and of the “geologic unsuitability” of the Southeastern New Mexico site, where there are underground caves, sinkholes from mining and brine that could corrode the storage containers. They also painted Holtec as an opportunistic player trying to maximize its profits and eliminate all risk.

Holtec is in some hot water with the NRC for redesigning spent fuel canisters used at San Onofre without notifying the NRC and following proper procedures…….

January 28, 2019 Posted by | USA, wastes | 1 Comment

French nuclear company EDF considering retreating from operations in UK

Telegraph 26th Jan 2019 The developer of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant is exploring a ­retreat from the UK as government ­energy policies take a toll on the industry’s largest players. Cash-strapped French utility EDF is weighing a range of options to distance itself from the British energy market.
The Sunday Telegraph understands from multiple industry sources that they include a potential spin-off of its energy-supply business in a merger with a fast-growing start-up. The move has been “on the table for at least a
year”, according to one senior figure, but it is being approached with caution by EDF’s Paris head office amid concern over the political implications.
A retreat by EDF would be likely to anger the Government. Ministers agreed to fund the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in a complex deal which is likely to cost energy bill payers about £50bn over the lifetime of the project. EDF has remained committed to supplying gas and power to about 5m UK customers despite making losses for almost a decade, according to ­official figures.
Its place as one of the Big Six energy incumbents is considered politically important as it pushes ahead plans for
another two nuclear power projects with support from China. EDF is locked in negotiations with the Government over plans to fund its plans for a reactor at Sizewell C. Discussions about a step back from the energy-supply
market began after the departure of long-serving boss Vincent De Rivaz in 2017.
The radical proposal came as EDF faced mounting pressure from the Government’s energy price cap, and rising competition from the flood of start-ups into the market. Energy bosses are up in arms over the Government’s conflicting energy policies which demand companies keep bills low while paying higher costs for clean energy and the roll-out of smart meters.
EDF’s challenges are further complicated by its ageing portfolio of existing nuclear plants, where profits are falling due to low market prices for electricity and the weak pound. It is considering the sale of a minority stake in the reactors, which supply a fifth of the UK’s electricity, alongside its partner Centrica. The parent company of British
Gas has confirmed plans to sell its 20pc stake in the reactors and industry sources say EDF hopes to sell another 29pc from its share within the same transaction. The deal is understood to have caught the eye of a consortium
of ­pension funds which would hold a ­minority share of the business while EDF remains the operator of the ­nuclear reactors.

January 28, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, France, UK | Leave a comment

Tax-payer funding for yet another nuclear folly? Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactors

Rolls-Royce seeks government funds for nuclear power project  Group wants £200m to develop small-scale plants after failure of big schemes   and – 27 Jan 19

 A consortium led by Rolls-Royce has asked for more than £200m in government funding to help develop its project for small nuclear reactors, as ministers scramble to recast Britain’s energy policy after the collapse of plans to build several large reactors. The engineering group and its partners, which include Laing O’Rourke and Arup, want to secure a sum “in the low hundreds of millions”, confirmed one person with knowledge of the request. Any amount would be match-funded by the consortium and be used to develop Rolls-Royce’s technology through to the later stages of the licensing process in order to be able to attract private investment.

 Supporters of small modular reactors — most of which will not be commercial until the 2030s — argue that they can deliver nuclear power at lower cost and reduced risk. They will draw on modular manufacturing techniques that will reduce construction risk, which has plagued larger-scale projects.

The consortium has applied for funding from the government’s industrial strategy challenge fund under UK Research and Innovation. The money would enable the group to develop its design through to the later stages of the “generic design assessment” by the industry regulator. Industry sources with knowledge of the bid said the consortium “entered detailed negotiations” with UKRI before Christmas. Rolls-Royce has previously said it believes its reactor would cost about £2.5bn to build.

 The push comes as the UK’s long-term energy policy has been thrown into chaos by the collapse of three new nuclear projects, after Hitachi’s decision earlier this month to freeze its involvement in the Wylfa plant in north Wales.
More than 40 per cent of the UK’s planned new nuclear capacity has in effect been cancelled, with Toshiba pulling out of developing a plant in Cumbria last year, while Hitachi has scrapped plans for another plant in Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. The UK government said it remained committed to developing nuclear plants with the private sector but has baulked at the cost and level of support investors have demanded. It is due to publish a white paper this summer that will overhaul its energy strategy. While nuclear is expected to remain part of the mix, the government is keen to examine new funding models and approaches.
Business secretary Greg Clark said in a letter to the Financial Times last week that “small modular reactors can have a role to play” but again cautioned these plans could not be “at any price”. Rolls-Royce and its team is one of several consortiums that bid in a government-sponsored competition launched in 2015 to find the most viable technology for a new generation of small nuclear power plants. However, when a nuclear sector deal was finally unveiled last June, the government allocated funding only for more advanced modular reactors.
 SMR’s, which typically use water-cooled reactors similar to existing nuclear power stations, were omitted from funding even though they were closer to becoming commercial.
 Rolls-Royce threatened last summer that it would shut down the project if there was no meaningful support from the government. It has already significantly reduced the number of staff working on the project. The business department said the government was “considering” a funding bid from a UK consortium to support research and development of a low-cost SMR”. A decision was expected “in spring 2019”. Rolls-Royce said: “Our consortium is in discussions with UK government officials that we hope could result in a significant joint investment in our power plant design.”

January 28, 2019 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | 1 Comment

In Britain’s new energy era of wind and solar, nuclear power just does not add up

In the era of cheap renewable energy, new nuclear plants don’t add up   New Statesman America, 22 Jan 19, The Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission says the energy market has changed dramatically in a short time, and this should be reflected in how Britain plans its future energy supply.
For many years I’ve been an advocate of nuclear energy – I oversaw the development of Sizewell B – but I’ve started to change my mind. I’m not the only one; Toshiba abandoned its plans for a nuclear power station in Moorside, in Cumbria, last November, and last week Hitachi suspended its proposals for new plants in Wylfa in Wales and Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

The reasons for this is that new nuclear power plants are no longer adding up. As the Business Secretary told the Commons on Thursday, the falling costs of renewable energy sources have significantly altered the economics of the energy market both here and abroad……

Our National Infrastructure Assessment – the first of its kind for the UK – highlights the golden opportunity for the UK to move towards a highly renewable energy mix. We recommend that the government aim for 50 per cent of our electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030 ……
Investment to increase our use of renewables could help to position the UK as a world leader in developing and running renewables-intensive energy systems, and support wider efforts to export our expertise around the world – giving us the edge in a relatively new and evolving market.  Not only is this an area in which we have real manufacturing capability – through facilities such as the Siemens facility in Hull, which employs more than 1,000 people making blades for offshore wind turbines – but it is also one which draws upon longstanding strengths for the UK in software, regulation and systems design.

January 28, 2019 Posted by | general | Leave a comment