nuclear-news

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

Small nuclear reactors, uranium mining, nuclear fuel chain, reprocessing, dismantling reactors – extract from Expert Response to pro nuclear JRC Report


.

………… If SMRs are used, this not least raises questions about proliferation, i.e. the possible spread of nuclear weapons as well as the necessary nuclear technologies or fissionable materials for their production.    ………..

By way of summary, it is important to state that many questions are still unresolved with regard to any widespread use of SMRs – and this would be necessary to make a significant contribution to climate protection – and they are not addressed in the JRC Report. These issues are not just technical matters that have not yet been clarified, but primarily questions of safety, proliferation and liability, which require international coordination and regulations. 

  • neither coal mining nor uranium mining can be viewed as sustainable …….. Uranium mining principally creates radioactive waste and requires significantly more expensive waste management than coal mining.
  • The volume of waste arising from decommissioning a power plant would therefore be significantly higher than specified in the JRC Report in Part B 2.1, depending on the time required to dismantle it

    Measures to reduce the environmental impact The JRC Report is contradictory when it comes to the environmental impact of uranium mining: it certainly mentions the environmental risks of uranium mining (particularly in JRC Report, Part A 3.3.1.2, p. 67ff), but finally states that they can be contained by suitable measures (particularly JRC Report, Part A 3.3.1.5, p. 77ff). However, suitable measures are not discussed in the depth required ……..

    Expert response to the report by the Joint Research Centre entitled “Technical assessment of nuclear energy with respect to the ‛Do No Significant Harm’ criteria in Regulation (EU) 2020/852, the ‛Taxonomy Regulation’”  2021

    ”…………………3.2 Analysing the contribution made by small modular reactors (SMRs) to climate change mitigation in the JRC Report   
      The statement about many countries’ growing interest in SMRs is mentioned in the JRC Report (Part A 3.2.1, p. 38) without any further classification. In particular, there is no information about the current state of development and the lack of marketability of SMRs.

    Reactors with an electric power output of up to 300 MWe are normally classified as SMRs. Most of the extremely varied SMR concepts found around the world have not yet got past the conceptual level. Many unresolved questions still need to be clarified before SMRs can be technically constructed in a country within the EU and put into operation. They range from issues about safety, transportation and dismantling to matters related to interim storage and final disposal and even new problems for the responsible licensing and supervisory authorities 


    The many theories frequently postulated for SMRs – their contribution to combating the risks of climate change and their lower costs and shorter construction periods must be attributed to particular economic interests, especially those of manufacturers, and therefore viewed in a very critical light

    Today`s new new nuclear power plants have electrical output in the range of 1000-1600 MWe. SMR concepts, in contrast, envisage planned electrical outputs of 1.5 – 300 MWe. In order to provide the same electrical power capacity, the number of units would need to be increased by a factor of 3-1000. Instead of having about 400 reactors with large capacity today, it would be necessary to construct many thousands or even tens of thousands of SMRs (BASE, 2021; BMK, 2020). A current production cost calculation, which consider scale, mass and learning effects from the nuclear industry, concludes that more than 1,000 SMRs would need to be produced before SMR production was cost-effective. It cannot therefore be expected that the structural cost disadvantages of reactors with low capacity can be compensated for by learning or mass effects in the foreseeable future (BASE, 2021). 


    There is no classification in the JRC Report (Part A 3.2.1, p. 38) regarding the frequently asserted statement that SMRs are safer than traditional nuclear power plants with a large capacity, as they have a lower radioactive inventory and make greater use of passive safety systems. In the light of this, various SMR concepts suggest the need for reduced safety requirements, e.g. regarding the degree of redundancy or diversity. Some SMR concepts even consider refraining from normal provisions for accident management both internal and external – for example, smaller planning zones for emergency protection and even the complete disappearance of any off-site emergency zones. 

     The theory that an SMR automatically has an increased safety level is not proven. The safety of a specific reactor unit depends on the safety related properties of the individual reactor and its functional effectiveness and must be carefully analysed – taking into account the possible range of events or incidents. This kind of analysis will raise additional questions, particularly about the external events if SMRs are located in remote regions if SMRs are used to supply industrial plants or if they are sea-based SMRs (BASE, 2021). 


    . In regard to external emergency planning, the working group for the planning zones at the SMR Regulators’ Forum has requested, among other things, that planning zones may need to be set for facilities used to handle and store fuel outside an SMR site. Special consideration is also necessary if the planning zones for SMRs are close to densely populated centres (SMR Regulators’ Forum, 2018). The working group also pointed out that possible source terms are hard to forecast, especially in the case of new technical designs, and new methods would need to be developed for them. The design and safety analysis working group at the SMR Regulators’ Forum also emphasises that challenges would need to be identified if an accident takes place at an SMR site with several modules/units and evidence would have to be provided about the availability of appropriate resources (personnel and equipment) and emergency strategies (SMR Regulators’ Forum, 2019). It can therefore be assumed that – in contrast to what is stated by some SMR developers – planning zones are necessary for emergency protection outside the SMR and they need to go beyond the unit’s site. The responsible nuclear regulatory authorities must ultimately decide how the emergency measures touted by SMR developers have to be actually implemented (BASE, 2021). 

    Responsible regulatory authorities, but also potential SMR producers and SMR operators face new challenges if there is a global spread of SMRs. No specific national or international safety standards have yet been drawn up for SMRs. International safety standards would particularly be required, if an SMR was delivered by one country, where the SMR was manufactured, will be used in a different country ……………  Questions of security and protection against disruptive action and other effects caused by third parties also need to be clarified. This will particularly be necessary for transportable nuclear power plants (BASE, 2021). 


    …………. If SMRs are used, this not least raises questions about proliferation, i.e. the possible spread of nuclear weapons as well as the necessary nuclear technologies or fissionable materials for their production.    ………..


    By way of summary, it is important to state that many questions are still unresolved with regard to any widespread use of SMRs – and this would be necessary to make a significant contribution to climate protection – and they are not addressed in the JRC Report. These issues are not just technical matters that have not yet been clarified, but primarily questions of safety, proliferation and liability, which require international coordination and regulations. 

    4 Criterion 2 in the Taxonomy Regulation – the DNSH criteria: from uranium mining to operating and dismantling power plants This section deals with the production stages ranging from mining uranium to the decommissioning and dismantling of nuclear power plants. The technical and scientific statements made by the JRC are examined to see whether they are complete and comprehensible …………


    4.1 Uranium mining and processing Measures to reduce the environmental impact The JRC Report is contradictory when it comes to the environmental impact of uranium mining: it certainly mentions the environmental risks of uranium mining (particularly in JRC Report, Part A 3.3.1.2, p. 67ff), but finally states that they can be contained by suitable measures (particularly JRC Report, Part A 3.3.1.5, p. 77ff). However, suitable measures are not discussed in the depth required …………


    A comparison between coal and uranium mining 

    1. The JRC Report compares uranium and coal mining and concludes that uranium mining is much more effective and “more environmentally-friendly” than coal mining (JRC Report, Part A 3.3.1.1, p. 64ff).         ……………  However this argument has not been thoroughly thought through: neither coal mining nor uranium mining can be viewed as sustainable – irrespective of the amounts involved in each case. The JRC Report wrongly confuses the comparison levels here: coal mining involves mining hydrocarbons, while uranium mining means extracting ore. The mining and processing techniques for both minerals are very different. Uranium mining principally creates radioactive waste and requires significantly more expensive waste management than coal mining.

    ,,,,,,,,,,..   the report remains very superficial about in-situ leaching. The environmental risks, particularly the contamination of groundwater, are mentioned, but not described in any detail or with the help of case studies. This needs to be done, however, to actually do justice to the environmental objective of “sustainable use and protection of water and marine resources” according to Article 9 c of the Taxonomy Regulation. Negative cases with serious environmental damage, such as Königstein (Saxony), Stráz pod Ralskem (Czech Republic; Andel & Pribán, 1996) or Devladovo (Ukraine; Molchanov et al., 1995), are not even mentioned……………………….

    Conclusion To conclude, when it comes to describing and assessing uranium mining and uranium processing, the JRC Report mentions the risks associated with uranium mining and uranium ore processing, but only describes the risk-filled reality of extracting uranium ore and its processing to an inadequate degree.


    4.2 Conversion into uranium hexafluoride Front-end, fuel element production ……….  . No mention is made of the importance of the radionuclides formed in the uranium actinium or uranium radium decay chain with long half-lives (Pa-231: half-life of ~ 32,000 years; Th230: half-life of ~ 75,000 years and Ra-226: half-life of ~ 1,600 years)   ……

    Radioactive inventory……….  . .The report argues that large amounts of VLLW or LLW have been properly disposed of without specifying the actual disposal method in any greater detail…… The JRC Report should have extended its “waste balance area” to the recipient countries, if it knew about the export of waste outside the EU     


      4.3 Uranium enrichment, fabrication of UO2 fuel, reprocessing, fabrication of MOX fuel   ………..

    General results of the review In general, it is possible to state that the four chapters merely take into account the technical process stages, but safety aspects are not adequately considered in their scope or suitable depth……….


    ……  The report does not examine the necessary decommissioning measures for facilities either. Decommissioning and dismantling not only place special requirements on the interplay between people, technology and organisation, but also for the later storage and disposal of the radioactive substances that accrue.     ….

      Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel….……….. 

    The JRC Report itself does not elaborate on how a “fully closed cycle” can be implemented. However, it has to be noted that the fuel cycle is not fully closed, as waste accrues here too and has to be removed from the cycle and taken to a repository. New fuel also has to be added to the cycle (but less than in an open or “partially closed” fuel cycle).  ……………..


    4.4 Operating nuclear power plants The JRC Report only considers normal operations at many points; accident scenarios are only studied in the relatively short Part A 3.5 (cf. sections 2.1 and 2.2.1 of this expert response). They are only considered in terms of their lethality and this is compared to other energy sources, but the report does not mention the other aspects of accident risks, which are relevant for taxonomy. Incidents and accidents, particularly when operating nuclear power plants, can lead to the uncontrolled discharge of radioactive substances and therefore cause considerable environmental effects. 

    ………….  The JRC Report considers both generation II and generation III reactors with respect to the risks of accidents in Part A 3.5. It particularly focuses on generation III nuclear power plants. However, these are currently not in operation in Europe yet; individual reactors are in the construction phase. Europe is almost exclusively operating reactors that are already more than 30 years old. …………


    4.5 Dismantling nuclear power plants It should be generally noted that comparatively little space is dedicated to the topic of decommissioning and dismantling in the JRC Report. This involves a very complex, challenging and long process; this applies to both dismantling nuclear power plants and also nuclear fuel cycle facilities. A more detailed and differentiated consideration would be advisable here. ……………


    The life cycle of nuclear power plants can be divided into several phases: the design and construction phase, operations, decommissioning and dismantling. This is generally handled in the same way in the JRC Report, but inconsistencies do occur if decommissioning is attributed to the operating phase. The assignment of decommissioning to the overall power generation phase is factually incorrect, as a nuclear power plant consumes energy during the decommissioning phase. The incorrect classification leads to uncertainties when interpreting the following results.

     While the JRC Report mentions a waste volume arising from the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant of “375 m3 per plant (1 GW)” in Part B 2.1, the associated IAEA source refers to an annual waste generation rate. The volume of waste arising from decommissioning a power plant would therefore be significantly higher than specified in the JRC Report in Part B 2.1, depending on the time required to dismantle it. Due to the importance of the dismantling process in the life cycle of nuclear power plants and because of the increasing need for information about the challenges and risks associated with this greater importance should be given to the phase of decommissioning and dismantling when examining the DNSH criteria.      …… https://www.base.bund.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/BASE/EN/reports/2021-06-30_base-expert-response-jrc-report.pdf.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=6

    September 13, 2021 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, decommission reactor, EUROPE, Reference, reprocessing, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster, Uranium

    No comments yet.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

    Google photo

    You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

    Connecting to %s

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    %d bloggers like this: