The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

USA Congress supports small nuclear reactors


Congress Passes Unconventional Nuclear Power Bill ANDREW FOLLETT,  Daily Caller, 24 Jan 17   House lawmakers passed legislation Monday to support unconventional nuclear power.

If signed by President Trump, the proposal could change how the government regulates nuclear power and create a boom in the utilization of advanced unconventional reactor technology. The bill was sponsored by two Republicans and three Democrats.

“We believe that trailblazing the advance of nuclear energy technology including Gen 3+, Small Modular Reactors, Non-Light Water Reactor (LWR) Advanced Reactors and Fusion Reactors is one of the key imperatives for U.S. market competitiveness,” David Blee, executive director of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council (NIC), told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“It is vital to maintaining the U.S. lead in technology innovation, safety enhancements, energy security and clean energy,” Blee said…….

text-SMRsEnergy companies in Idaho and Utah announced plans in June to build twelve small modular reactors to provide electricity to nine western states.

Getting regulators to consider approving an unconventional nuclear design is incredibly expensive. The company NuScale was required to produce a 12,000-page document and spend $500 million dollars just to get the government to consider its designs. The company thinks it won’t be able to commercialize small modular reactors by 2026 at the earliest due to regulatory delays…….

Getting regulatory approval from the NRC to build a new conventional reactor can take up to 25 years……..

January 25, 2017 Posted by | politics, technology, USA | Leave a comment

“Small” nuclear reactors are still pretty big, AND more expensive than large ones

NuScale says its mass-produced reactor modules will be simpler and more affordable to build than a big plant. Placing several modules in a single location will provide the same power output as a commercial reactor, says Mike McGough, the company’s chief commercial officer. NuScale is already partnering with a consortium of Utah utilities to build a 12-module power plant on land in Idaho owned by the U.S. Department of Energy. (The DOE is a partner in the NuScale project.)…..
not everyone is convinced smaller is better.Ed Lyman,an analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the electricity generated by a smaller reactor is more expensive than that generated by a larger one. Companies such as NuScale hope to offset the higher costs by saving on the cost of construction, but Lyman isn’t convinced. He worries savings will come at the cost of safety.

He says NuScale wants to do things like reduce the size and strength of the reactor containment building and the number of personnel needed to operate the plant. “NuScale is proposing major reductions in all of these areas relative to current NRC requirements for large reactors, based on the assertion that the reactor will be safer,” he says.

January 14, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

America’s Nuclear Submarines Now Obsolete? – new Swedish Technology

submarine,-nuclear-underwatDid Sweden Make America’s Nuclear Submarines Obsolete? The National Interest, 30 Dec 16 Nuclear-powered submarines have traditionally held a decisive edge in endurance, stealth and speed over cheaper diesel submarines. However, new Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology has significantly narrowed the performance gap on a new generation of submarines that cost a fraction of the price of a nuclear-powered boat……..

Nuclear vs. AIP: Who Wins?:

Broadly speaking, how do AIP vessels compare in performance to nuclear submarines?  Let’s consider the costs and benefits in terms of stealth, endurance, speed and cost.


Nuclear powered submarines have become very quiet—at least an order of magnitude quieter than a diesel submarine with its engine running.  In fact, nuclear-powered submarines may be unable to detect each other using passive sonar, as evidenced by the 2009 collision of a British and French nuclear ballistic missile submarines, both oblivious to the presence of the other.

However, there’s reason to believe that AIP submarines can, if properly designed, swim underwater even more quietly. The hydraulics in a nuclear reactor produce noise as they pump coolant liquid, while an AIP’s submarine’s engines are virtually silent. Diesel-powered submarines can also approach this level of quietness while running on battery power, but can only do so for a few hours whereas an AIP submarine can keep it up for days.

Diesel and AIP powered submarines have on more than one occasion managed to slip through anti-submarine defenses and sink American aircraft carriers in war games. Of course, such feats have also been performed by nuclear submarines.


Nuclear submarines can operate underwater for three or four months at a time and cross oceans with ease. While some conventional submarines can handle the distance, none have comparable underwater endurance.

AIP submarines have narrowed the gap, however.  While old diesel submarines needed to surface in a matter of hours or a few days at best to recharge batteries, new AIP powered vessels only need to surface every two to four weeks depending on type. (Some sources make the unconfirmed claim that the German Type 214 can even last more than 2 months.) Of course, surfaced submarines, or even those employing a snorkel, are comparatively easy to detect and attack.

Nuclear submarines still have a clear advantage in endurance over AIP boats, particularly on the long-distance patrols.  However, for countries like Japan, Germany and China that mostly operate close to friendly shores, extreme endurance may be a lower priority.

Speed:……..Obviously, high maximum speed grants advantages in both strategic mobility and tactical agility.  However, it should be kept in mind that even nuclear submarines rarely operate at maximum speed because of the additional noise produced.

 On the other hand, an AIP submarine is likely to move at especially slow speeds when cruising sustainably using AIP compared to diesel or nuclear submarines.  For example, a Gotland class submarine is reduced to just 6 miles per hour if it wishes to remain submerged at maximum endurance—which is simply too slow for long distance transits or traveling with surface ships.  Current AIP technology doesn’t produce enough power for higher speeds, and thus most AIP submarines also come with noisy diesel engines as backup.


Who would have guessed nuclear reactors are incredibly expensive?  The contemporary U.S. Virginia class attack submarine costs $2.6 billion dollars, and the earlier Los Angeles class before it around $2 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars.  Mid-life nuclear refueling costs add millions more.

By comparison, AIP powered submarines have generally cost between $200 and $600 million, meaning a country could easily buy three or four medium-sized AIP submarines instead of one nuclear attack submarine. Bear in mind, however, that the AIP submarines are mostly small or medium sized vessels with crews of around 30 and 60 respectively, while nuclear submarines are often larger with crews of 100 or more.  They may also have heavier armament, such as Vertical Launch Systems, when compared to most AIP powered vessels.

Nevertheless, a torpedo or missile from a small submarine can hit just as hard as one fired from a large one, and having three times the number of submarine operating in a given stretch of ocean could increase the likelihood chancing upon an important target, and make it easier to overwhelm anti-submarine defenses.

While AIP vessels may not be able to do everything a nuclear submarine can, having a larger fleet of submarines would be very useful in hunting opposing ships and submarines for control of the seas. Nor would it be impossible to deploy larger AIP powered submarines; China has already deployed one, and France is marketing a cheaper AIP-powered version of the Barracuda-class nuclear attack submarine.

It is no surprise that navies that operate largely around coastal waters are turning to cheap AIP submarines, as their disadvantage are not as relevant when friendly ports are close at hand. ……..

January 2, 2017 Posted by | Sweden, technology, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority approves closure of Monju nuclear reprocessing reactor by next April

monju-plant-in-tsuruga-fukui-prefectureNuclear watchdog approves scrapping Monju reactor Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the government’s decision to scrap the Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor. The education, science and technology ministry briefed the NRA on Wednesday about the government’s decision last week about the troubled reactor in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the decision is in line with the recommendation it made in November last year.
In it, the NRA urged an overhaul of a research and development project involving the reactor. It said scrapping the reactor would be an option unless a new operator were found for it.

The ministry also told the NRA on Wednesday that it will draw up a basic plan for decommissioning the reactor by next April.

It added that to eliminate possible safety risks soon, it will instruct reactor operator Japan Atomic Energy Agency to remove nuclear fuel from the reactor in about 5 and half years.

Tanaka asked the ministry to oversee the decommissioning process to ensure safety. He said the NRA will study whether relevant laws should be amended to step up regulation. He added that it may also set up an expert team to monitor the process.

December 30, 2016 Posted by | decommission reactor, Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Monju closure marks the end of the failed “nuclear fuel cycle” dream

fast-breeder-MonjuJapan pulls plug on Monju, ending US$8.5 billion nuclear self-sufficiency push, South China Morning Post,  21 December, 2016 

Japan on Wednesday formally pulled the plug on an US$8.5 billion nuclear power project designed to realise a long-term aim for energy self-sufficiency after decades of development that yielded little electricity but plenty of controversy.

The move to shut the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui prefecture west of Tokyo adds to a list of failed attempts around the world to make the technology commercially viable and potentially cut stockpiles of dangerous nuclear waste……

The plant was built to burn plutonium derived from the waste of reactors at Japan’s conventional nuclear plants and create more fuel than it used, closing the so-called nuclear fuel cycle and giving a country that relies on overseas supplies for most of its energy needs a home-grown electricity source.

With Monju’s shutdown, Japan’s taxpayers are now left with an estimated bill of at least 375 billion yen (US$3.2 billion) to decommission its reactor, on top of the 1 trillion yen (US$8.5 billion) spent on the project.

Japan is still committed to trying to make the technology work and will build a new experimental research reactor at Monju, the government said.

But critics within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) think it will be another futile attempt.

“We need to terminate the impossible dream of the nuclear fuel cycle. The fast breeder reactor is not going to be commercially viable. We know it. We all know it,” senior LDP lawmaker Taro Kono said recently at an event in Tokyo.

December 24, 2016 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

The huge danger to the world of plutonium space operations

text-from-the-archivesThe problem — a huge one and not mentioned whatsoever by World Nuclear News — involves radiation-warningaccidents with space nuclear power systems releasing radioactivity impacting on people and other life on Earth. That has already happened. With more space nuclear operations, more atomic mishaps would be ahead.

are subject to falling back to Earth and raining deadly radioactivity on human beings and other life on this planet.

The Push for More Spaceborne Nuclear Russian Roulette  HUFFINGTON POST, Karl Grossman, Investigative reporter  07/31/2012 World Nuclear News, the information arm of the World Nuclear Association that seeks to boost the use of atomic energy, last week heralded a NASA Mars rover slated to land on Mars on Monday, the first Mars rover fueled with plutonium.

“A new era of space exploration is dawning through the application of nuclear energy for rovers on Mars and the Moon, power generation at future bases on the surfaces of both and soon for rockets that enable interplanetary travel,” began a dispatch  from World Nuclear News. It was headed: “Nuclear ‘a stepping stone’ to space exploration.”

In fact, in space as on Earth there are safe, clean alternatives to nuclear power. Indeed, right now a NASA space probe energized by solar energy is on its way to Jupiter, a mission which for years NASA claimed could not be accomplished without nuclear power providing onboard electricity. Solar propulsion of spacecraft has begun. And scientists, including those at NASA, have been working on using solar energy and other safe power sources for human colonies on Mars and the moon.

The World Nuclear Association describes itself  as “representing the people and organizations of the global nuclear profession.”….. The problem — a huge one and not mentioned whatsoever by World Nuclear News — involves accidents with space nuclear power systems releasing radioactivity impacting on people and other life on Earth. That has already happened. With more space nuclear operations, more atomic mishaps would be ahead. NASA, before last November’s launch of Curiosity, acknowledged that if the rocket lofting it exploded at launch in Florida, plutonium could be released affecting an area as far as 62 miles away — which includes Orlando. Further, if the rocket didn’t break out of the Earth’s gravitational field, it and the rover would fall back into the atmosphere and break up, potentially releasing plutonium over a massive area. In its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the mission, NASA said  in this situation plutonium could impact on “Earth surfaces between approximately 28-degrees north latitude and 28-degrees south latitude.” That includes Central America and much of South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The EIS said the costs of decontamination of plutonium in areas would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.” The Curiosity mission itself, because of $900 million in cost overruns, now has a price of $2.5 billion.

NASA set the odds very low for a plutonium release for Curiosity. The EIS said “overall” on the mission, the likelihood of plutonium being released was 1 in 220. Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space , which has for more than 20 years been the leading opposition group to space nuclear missions, declared that “NASA sadly appears committed to maintaining its dangerous alliance with the nuclear industry. Both entities view space as a new market for the deadly plutonium fuel. … Have we not learned anything from Chernobyl and Fukushima?”

Plutonium has long been described as the most lethal radioactive substance. And the plutonium isotope used in the space nuclear program, and on the Curiosity rover, is significantly more radioactive than the type of plutonium used as fuel in nuclear weapons or built up as a waste product in nuclear power plants. It is Plutonium-238 as distinct from Plutonium-239. Plutonium-238 has a far shorter half-life  — 87.7 years compared to Plutonium-239 with a half-life of 24,110 years. An isotope’s half-life is the period in which half of its radioactivity is expended.

Dr. Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, explains that Plutonium-238 “is about 270 times more radioactive than Plutonium-239 per unit of weight.”….

The worst accident of several involving a Soviet or Russian nuclear space systems was the fall from orbit in 1978 of the Cosmos 954 satellite powered by a nuclear reactor. It also broke up in the atmosphere as it fell, spreading radioactive debris over 77,000 square miles of the Northwest Territories of Canada…..

the pressure by promoters of nuclear energy on NASA and space agencies around the world to use atomic energy in space is intense — as is the drive of nuclear promoters on governments and the public for atomic energy on Earth.

Critically, nuclear power systems for space use must be fabricated on Earth — with all the dangers that involves, and launched from Earth — with all the dangers that involves (one out of 100 rockets destruct on launch), and are subject to falling back to Earth and raining deadly radioactivity on human beings and other life on this planet.

December 23, 2016 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Reference, technology | Leave a comment

DOME INSTALLED FOR CHINA NUCLEAR PLANT A 300-ton containment dome has been installed at China’s first, domestically designed nuclear power plant in Fujian province, marking a key development for an effort to export the nation’s nuclear technology worldwide.

The successful lift project at the Fuqing nuclear complex construction site was announced via a news report on state-run CCTV television Nov. 26.

The plant, slated to open in 2020, is one of two being built at Fuqing with the China-designed Hualong One reactor. Two power plants at the Fangchenggang complex in Guangxi province will also use the reactor.

When completed, the report said, the Hualong reactor plants – called Fuqing 5 and Fuqing 6 – will be “significantly larger” than four other plants at the complex sporting reactors jointly designed by China and the French company Areva.

For safety, the report said, the 48-meter-diameter dome installed at Fuqing 5 was built with concrete and a steel alloy that’s six times stronger than regular steel.

Fuqing’s builder China National Nuclear Corp. and Fangchenggang’s builder China General Nuclear Corp. have been marketing the Hualong reactor worldwide. Customers so far include Britain, Pakistan and Argentina.

December 19, 2016 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

Nuclear fusion project in doubt, because of Britain’s exit from EU

nuclear-fusion-pie-SmBrexit puts Europe’s nuclear fusion future in doubt By Timothy Revell, New Scientist, 1 Dec 16 

Brexit puts the future of the world’s largest nuclear fusion reactor, based in Oxfordshire, in doubt. By leaving the European Union the UK might also exit Euratom, the EU’s framework for safe nuclear energy.

“It would be bizarre and extreme for the UK, which has been at the forefront of fusion research for 50 years, to just leave these projects,” says Ian Chapman, CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. “It would make no sense strategically.”

 The UK government has yet to say what its plans are for cooperating with Euratom, but part of the Brexit negotiations will have to include the nuclear fusion experiment JET. Decommissioning JET is expected to leave around 3000 cubic metres of radioactive waste, which would cost around £289 million to deal with, according to the UKAEA.

At the moment, JET hosts 350 scientists and is funded by 40 different countries. Its aim is to commercialise nuclear fusion, which releases energy by forcing atoms together in the same process that powers the sun.

The energy output should be far greater than that of current nuclear power stations and produce a smaller amount of waste. But making it work effectively has proved incredibly difficult, as reactors require huge amounts of energy to get going and only remain stable for short periods……

December 2, 2016 Posted by | EUROPE, technology, UK | 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

State-controlled China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) building floating nuclear reactor

China starts to build its first floating nuclear power reactor for deployment off coast, Times of India, Reuters | Updated: Nov 7, 2016, BEIJING: China has started to build its first floating nuclear power reactor, which it plans to deploy off its coast by the end of the decade.

State-controlled China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has begun construction of the ACPR50S reactor, and will acquire the reactor pressure vessel that encloses the reactor core from Dongfang Electric, CGN said in a statement on Friday.

The 200-megawatt reactor will help power offshore facilities in China’s open sea and island reefs, CGN said, adding that offshore energy supply is an issue that China has to overcome in order to become a naval power…….

November 11, 2016 Posted by | China, politics, technology | Leave a comment

The nuke heads want to use small nuclear reactor for Mars travel (I suppose it’s on tax-payers’ money)

spacecradt-plutonium-I-Team: Nuclear reactor test in Nevada could make a Mars trip reality, Las Vegas Now, By George Knapp , Matt Adams | 11/04 2016 “….Next year, a team of top scientists will hunker down inside a classified facility in the Nevada desert so they can experiment with a piece of advanced technology.

The test will focus on a small nuclear reactor and if it works as planned, it could be a huge step toward putting humans on Mars……

Los Alamos nuclear reactor scientist Patrick McClure is bubbling with enthusiasm about the end uses for the small nuclear reactor his team will test in the Nevada Desert in 2017. The reactor is named Kilopower. The experiment is dubbed KRUSTY, and yes, it’s an acronym named for the character in “The Simpsons” television show, but the goals are all too serious…….

“It could have happened. You could have nuclear powered rockets taking people to Mars, by now. That would be the reality of this,” said Darwin Morgan, Department of Energy.

“Definitely, in the 2030s, we will have the technology and the capability to go to Mars,” Houts said.

“This is exciting stuff,” McClure said. “We like it.”

November 5, 2016 Posted by | technology, USA | 1 Comment

Financial disaster of America’s failed Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility (MOX)

MOXhighly-recommendedNuke Fuel Facility Costs Ten Times Estimate, is 41 Years Behind Schedule   By: Lydia Dennett | October 13, 2016   Imagine you have a contractor working on your house. They quoted you a price and told you the project would be done in no time. Sure, you realize costs will probably go up some and the schedule will slip due to an unexpected problem or two. But months turn into years, years turn into a decade, and now, 14 years later, you find that they’ve already spent five times their original estimate and they aren’t even halfway done!

That’s the situation the Department of Energy is facing with the contractor building a nuclear fuel facility in South Carolina. The Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, known as MOX, is a multi-billion dollar boondoggle that is behind schedule, is over budget, and will never be able to complete its mission. Now the Army Corps of Engineers has released an independent cost estimate for the project that reveals things are even worse than we thought.

MOX was originally conceived as part of an agreement between the United States and Russia in which each country pledged to dispose of weapons grade plutonium. But that was back in 2000. As cost overruns and the technical failure has become clear, the Department of Energy asked Congress to cancel the program this year. The South Carolina delegation, defending jobs in their districts, pushed back and claimed doing so would violate the agreement. Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin announced he would be withdrawing from the agreement.

Without Russia being party to the agreement, the last remaining pretense for this boondoggle is shattered.

Congress will soon be reviewing the budget for fiscal year 2018 and should ensure that funding for this project is ended once and for all.

The new independent cost estimate shows that finishing the construction of the MOX facility has gone from $1.6 billion to a staggering $17 billion—more than 10 times the original projection. And while the facility was supposed to be fully constructed in 2007, the Army Corps of Engineers stated that MOX won’t be finished and ready for operations until 2048—putting it 41 years behind schedule.

But even if Congress decides to accept spending $17 billion in taxpayer dollars and waiting 41 extra years for the facility, the project will never work.

MOX technology dates back to the 1960s and has caused experts to raise concerns about the technical viability of the U.S. facility should it ever be completed and become operational. In 2014, Energy Department experts concluded that U.S. implementation of MOX technology still remains a “significant risk.” Moreover, even if the facility were to work perfectly and produce the mixed oxide fuel as intended, there aren’t any commercial nuclear reactor companies interested in purchasing it. In 2008, the project lost its only potential customer and hasn’t been able to find a single replacement.

What is even more unbelievable is that $17 billion isn’t even the bottom line for this monstrosity. Other independent estimates have found that over the facility’s lifetime, which includes the costs of operating the plant for 20 years on top of construction costs, MOX will cost taxpayers $110 billion.

The fact that these cost estimates come from independent sources is important. For the last several years the contractor in charge of the MOX project, CB&I AREVA MOX Services, has been spreading misleading facts and figures about the project’s true costs.

These contractor statements have been proven wrong time and time again by the Department of Energy, independent sources, and reality. The new Army Corps analysis exposes just how the contractors’ optimistic estimates border on delusional. For example, the contractors stated earlier this year that finishing the job will cost $3 billion; the Army Corps found the contractors’ estimate should have come closer to $10 billion. The contractors’ calculation, they found, had serious problems which led to the inaccuracies. “The MOX Services estimate-at-completion is not credible because it was developed using unrealistic production and productivity rates, artificially low escalation, inappropriate allocation of management reserves and contingency that is not time phased across the project duration, and lack of escalation applied to these reserves,” the Army Corps’ report stated. Based on their calculations the MOX project is only 28 percent complete, not 48 percent as the contractor has asserted.

What CB&I AREVA MOX Services also seem to conveniently forget in its calculations is that the project is running on at least a 25 percent rework rate, meaning approximately a quarter of the work already done will have to be re-done—the project takes one step back for every four steps forward. This includes everything from walls that were installed incorrectly to piping that was ordered but didn’t meet specifications.

These kinds of mistakes led to CB&I AREVA MOX Services receiving only half of its possible contract award fee in 2015.  “Overall performance is below the level needed for successful project completion, as culminated in cost overruns and schedule delays,” thegovernment documents stated. They cited the contractor’s poor management of the project and failure to adequately perform random drug testing. Still, CB&I AREVA MOX Services received $4.33 million of the possible $8.86 million in bonuses for that year.

It may seem remarkable that CB&I AREVA MOX Services has managed to retain the contract after so many missteps, but it could be the result of a very successful lobbying effort. The two companies that make up CB&I AREVA MOX Services, Chicago Bridge & Iron Works (CB&I) and AREVA, spent a total of $2.4 million lobbying the government in 2015 on various issues including the MOX project. In the first two quarters of 2016 alone the groups have spent $1.4 million. That amount doubles when including other organizations, like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, that listed MOX as a lobbying objective.

The contractor has effectively lined up several Senators and Representatives who have made sure that taxpayer dollars continue to flow to the MOX project, and thus to CB&I AREVA MOX Services. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Tim Scott (R-SC), and Representatives Joe Wilson (R-SC), James Clyburn (D-SC), and Rick Allen (R-GA) have done their best to support MOX. During the budget process this year, Wilson wrote a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development urging them to continue funding the MOX program. Clyburn and Allen also signed the letter. It comes as no surprise that Representatives Wilson and Clyburn as well as Senator Scott are among the AREVA Group’s top recipients for campaign donations. Also on the list are Representatives Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee which determines annual funding for MOX. At this point the MOX project is nothing more than pork barrel politics.

“We are confident [the MOX project] is not feasible in this environment. We are going down a road spending money on something that will never happen. Unfortunately, that seems to us to be a very large waste of taxpayer money,’’ DOE Associate Deputy Secretary John MacWilliams told The State reporter Sammy Fretwell on a tour of the construction site.

MOX is unaffordable, 41 years behind schedule, and will never work. And now that Russia has withdrawn from the agreement, the United States would be the only ones trying to uphold it. Congress’s decision to continue funding this disaster was based on grossly inaccurate information about both the cost and performance of this project. But they have time to revisit this decision with unbiased facts and analysis before the next budget decisions need to be made. There are cheaper and faster ways to dispose of the plutonium, methods that the Energy Department is already exploring. There is no reason Congress should continue forcing taxpayers to fund such an obvious boondoggle.

By: Lydia Dennett, Investigator

Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia works on safety and security of nuclear weapons and power facilities, foreign lobbying and influence, and works with Department of Veterans Affairs whistleblowers.

October 19, 2016 Posted by | reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

The very real threat of Cyber-attacks Against Nuclear Plants

cyber-attackCyber-attacks Against Nuclear Plants: A Disconcerting Threat INFOSEC Institute, Pierluigi Paganini OCTOBER 14, 2016 A cyber-attack against critical infrastructure could cause the paralysis of critical operations with serious consequences for a country and its population.

In a worst case scenario, a cyber-attack could affect processes that in case of fault could cause serious damages and consequent losses of human lives.

Let’s think for example to a refinery or a nuclear plant, in both cases; a cyber-attack represents a threat to the infrastructure, its processes, and people that work within.

Nuclear plants are critical components of any countries; critical functions depend on their operations, and an incident could have dramatic effects on the population.

Is a cyber-attack against a nuclear plant a possible event?

Unfortunately, the response is affirmative. Nuclear plants are composed of an impressive number of components such as SCADA/ICS, sensors and legacy systems that could be hit by a hacker.

The most popular case of a cyber-attack against a nuclear plant is Stuxnet, which was launched more than five years ago. Stuxnet is the malware developed by experts from the US and Israel with the intent of destroying the Iranian nuclear program. Nation state hackers hit the plant of Natanz in Iran in 2010 interfering with the nuclear program of the Government of Teheran.

The Stuxnet targeted a grid of 984 converters, the same industrial equipment that international inspectors found out of order when visited the Natanz enrichment facility in late 2009.

The cyber-attack against the Cascade Protection System infects Siemens S7-417 controllers with a matching configuration. The S7-417 is a top-of-the-line industrial controller for big automation tasks. In Natanz, it is used to control the valves and pressure sensors of up to six cascades (or 984 centrifuges) that share common feed, product, and tails stations” states “Technical Analysis of What Stuxnet’s Creators Tried to Achieve” written by the expert Ralph Langner.

Stuxnet was designed with a number of features that allowed to evade detection; its source code was digitally signed, and the malware uses a man-in-the-middle attack to fool the operators into thinking everything is normal.

Stuxnet is the demonstration that it is possible to use a malicious code to destroy operations at a nuclear plant.

In the last years, security experts and authorities confirmed at least three cases of cyber-attacks against Nuclear plants.

Who are the threat actors that could hit a nuclear plant?

There are many actors, such as cyber criminals, hacktivists, nation-state actors, cyber terrorists and script kiddies, that are threatening critical infrastructure worldwide

Let’s see which are the principal incidents that affected nuclear plants in the last years.

The incidents

According to the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, a nuclear power plant in Germany suffered a “disruptive” cyber-attack two to three years ago……..

This isn’t the first time that we receive the news of cyber-attacks on nuclear plants. There are three publicly known attacks against nuclear plants:

It is likely that Amano was referring the cyber-attack against the Gundremmingen nuclear plant that occurred earlier this year. Security experts, in that case, discovered the presence of the Conficker and Ramnit malware in the target systems……

2014 – Malware based attack hit Japanese Monju Nuclear Power Plant

On January, 2nd 2014 one of the eight computers in the control room at Monju Nuclear Power Plant in Tsuruga, Japan, was compromised by a cyber-attack. The local IT staff discovered that the system in the reactor control room had been accessed over 30 times in a few days. The experts observed the intrusion started after an employee updated a free video playback application running on one of the computers in the plant…….

Cyber-attacks against the organizations operating in the Energy industry were already observed in the past, in 2012 the Japan Atomic Energy Agency was targeted by a cyber-attack that compromised a computer at the JAEA headquarters at Tokaimura by infecting it with malware.

2014 – Nuclear plant in South Korea hacked

In December 2014, the South Koran government revealed that a nuclear plant in the country was hacked. …..

2016 – A malware infected systems at the Gundremmingen nuclear plant in Germany

In April 2016, the German BR24 News Agency reported the news of a computer virus that was discovered at the Gundremmingen nuclear power plant in Germany……..The experts involved in the investigation discovered the presence of the Conficker and W32.Ramnit malware in unit B of the Gundremmingen. Conficker is worm with the ability of rapidly spreading through networks, while W32.Ramnit is a data stealer.

The RWE also added that malware had been found on 18 removable data drives, mainly USB sticks, in office computers maintained separately from the plant’s operating systems………


Cyber-attacks against nuclear power plants and industrial control systems are probably at the top of a long list of potential computer-worm-nukedisasters that can be caused by hackers.

Stuxnet, which targeted nuclear power plants in Iran, is still the most widely publicized threat against such systems.

Security experts are aware of the possibility that hackers could cause serious problems to these critical infrastructures worldwide, for this reason, several governments already launched internal assessments of their infrastructure.

This summer, the European Parliament has passed the new network and information security (NIS) directive that establishes minimum requirements for cyber-security on critical infrastructure operators.

October 18, 2016 Posted by | secrets,lies and civil liberties, technology, weapons and war | Leave a comment

China’s plan for small floating nuclear reactors carries potentially devastating risks

Could China build the world’s smallest nuclear power plant and send it to the South China Sea?
Nuclear plant under development could fit into a shipping container and make a small island economically viable, CNBC, Stephen Chen, 11 Oct 16  SCMP A top mainland research institute is developing the world’s smallest ­nuclear power plant, which could fit inside a shipping container and might be installed on an island in the disputed South China Sea within five years.

 Researchers are carrying out intensive work on the unit – dubbed the hedianbao, or “portable nuclear battery pack”.

Although the small, lead-cooled reactor could be placed ­inside a shipping container ­measuring about 6.1 metres long and 2.6 metres high, it would be able to generate 10 megawatts of heat, which, if converted into ­electricity, would be enough to power some 50,000 households……The research is partially funded by the People’s Liberation Army.


Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Nuclear Energy Safety Technology, a national research institute in Hefei, Anhui province, say they hope to be able to ship the first unit within five years.

“Part of our funding came from the military, but we hope – and it’s our ultimate goal – that the technology will eventually benefit civilian users,” Professor Huang Qunying,a nuclear scientist ­involved in the research, said.

The Chinese researchers admit their technology is similar to a compact lead-cooled thermal reactor that was used by the navy of the former Soviet Union in its nuclear submarines in the 1970s.

However, China would probably be the first nation to use such military technology on land.

While these “baby” reactors would able to generate large quantities of electricity and desalinate huge supplies of seawater for use as fresh water, they have also attracted serious environmental concerns.

If any one of them were to ­suffer a catastrophic problem, the ­radioactive waste would affect not only the countries nearby, but also spread around the world via the region’s strong sea currents…….

The lead-cooled reactor is part of China’s efforts to develop new-generation reactors for its rapidly expanding nuclear energy sector. Other technological approaches, such as molten salt reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, are also under rapid development thanks to generous government funding.

China also has been considering building small floating nuclear power plants using conventional technology to generate electricity for the South China Sea islands.

A marine environment ­researcher at the Ocean University of China, in Qingdao, Shandong province, has warned that the inevitable ­discharge of hot, radioactive water from a nuclear plant into the ocean might alter the ecological system of an entire region around an island.

“Many fish and marine creatures will not be able to deal with the dramatic change of environment caused by massive desalination and the rise of sea temperatures caused by a nuclear reactor,” said the researcher, who declined to be named.

“If a nuclear disaster happened in the South China Sea, it would not have an immediate effect on people living on the mainland owing to it being a great distance away,” the researcher said.

“But the radioactive waste would enter the bodies of fish and other marine creatures and likely end up on our dining tables. Sea currents could also carry the waste to distant shores,” she said.

Before putting any nuclear power plant on a remote South China Sea island, the Chinese government should consider not only its political, military or economic benefits, but also carry out comprehensive scientific evaluations on its potential environmental impact, the researcher said.

October 12, 2016 Posted by | China, oceans, technology | Leave a comment

Russia’s ceremony to mark start of construction of floating nuclear power station

Work starts on on-shore infrastructure for Russian floating plant, World Nuclear News  07 October 2016
A ceremony was held on 4 October in Pevek, Russia, to mark the start of construction of the coastal infrastructure for the first-of-a-kind floating nuclear power plant. The floating power and heat plant is set to be commissioned there in 2019.
The event in Pevek in the Chukotka Autonomous Region – the northern most city of Russia – was attended by, among others, the regional governor Roman Kopin; Rosenergoatom deputy CEO and director of special projects and initiatives Pavel Ipatov; and head of the floating nuclear power plant construction administration Sergey Zavyalov.

During the ceremony, the first sheet pile driving into the foundation of the on-shore infrastructure was carried out. A memorial plaque and a time capsule were then installed to mark the start of construction of the infrastructure…….

Zavyalov said, “We expect that the works on elaborating the technical conditions for the floating plant’s power delivery we carry out jointly with the Department of Energy, Chukotenergo, and RAO EES Vostok will be completed by October-November 2016.” He added, “In December, we plan to be ready to submit operational documents and to order the electric technical equipment to be installed on our site.”……

The Akademik Lomonosov is undergoing trials at the Baltic Shipyard. These trials are expected to be completed by late October 2017 and it should be ready to be transported to Pevek later that year. Rosenergoatom plans to start installation of the plant in September 2019, followed by trials and operational launch.

October 8, 2016 Posted by | Russia, technology | Leave a comment