The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

India’s grand thorium nuclear plan: pity it’s many decades away and not economically viable

A primer on India’s nuclear energy sector, Hans India , By Gudipati Rajendera Kumar  , 10 July 17 “………India has insufficient Uranium reserves of 1-2% of global reserves, but is endowed with one of the largest reserves of Thorium which constitute about 30 % of global reserves.

Thorium however is not fissile and can’t be used directly to trigger Nuclear Reaction. But it is ‘fertile’ and what makes it Nuclear Fuel is the fact that its isotope Thorium – 232 can be converted to Uranium -233 which is ‘fissile’. This process of conversion is called ‘Transmutation’. To exploit Thorium reserves Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha conceived ‘3 Stage Nuclear Program’….
 at present thorium is not economically viable because global uranium prices are much lower…..
Thorium itself is not a fissile material, and thus cannot undergo fission to produce energy.

•  Instead, it must be transmuted to uranium-233 in a reactor fueled by other fissile materials [plutonium-239 or uranium-235].

•  The first two stages, natural uranium-fueled heavy water reactors and plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactors, are intended to generate sufficient fissile material from India’s limited uranium resources, so that all its vast thorium reserves can be fully utilized in the third stage of thermal breeder reactor.

Stage I – Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor [PHWR]

•  In the first stage of the programme, natural uranium fuelled pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) produce electricity while generating plutonium-239 as by-product.

[U-238 ] Plutonium-239 + Heat]

[In PWHR, enrichment of Uranium to improve concentration of U-235 is not required. U-238 can be directly fed into the reactor core]

[Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope uranium-235. Most of the remaining 99.3% is uranium-238 which is not fissile but can be converted in a reactor to the fissile isotope plutonium-239].

[Heavy water (deuterium oxide, D 2O) is used as moderator and coolant in PHWR].

•  PHWRs was a natural choice for implementing the first stage because it had the mostefficient reactor design [uranium enrichment not required] in terms of uranium utilisation…..

• In the second stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs)[moderators not required] would use plutonium-239, recovered by reprocessing spent fuel from the first stage, and natural uranium.

•  In FBRs, plutonium-239 undergoes fission to produce energy, while the uranium-238 present in the fuel transmutes to additional plutonium-239.

transmuted to Plutonium-239?

Uranium-235 and Plutonium-239 can sustain a chain reaction. But Uranium-238 cannot sustain a chain reaction. So it is transmuted to Plutonium-239.

But Why U-238 and not U-235?

Natural uranium contains only 0.7% of the fissile isotope uranium-235. Most of the remaining 99.3% is uranium-238.

•  Thus, the Stage II FBRs are designed to “breed” more fuel than they consume.

•  Once the inventory of plutonium-239 is built up thorium can be introduced as a blanket material in the reactor and transmuted to uranium-233 for use in the third stage.

• The surplus plutonium bred in each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors, and might thus grow the Indian civil nuclear power capacity till the point where the third stage reactors using thorium as fuel can be brought online.

As of August 2014, India’s first Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam had been delayed – with first criticality expected in 2015, 2016..and it drags on.

Stage III – Thorium Based Reactors

•   A Stage III reactor or an Advanced nuclear power system involves a self-sustaining series of thorium-232-uranium-233 fuelled reactors.

•  This would be a thermal breeder reactor, which in principle can be refueled – after its initial fuel charge – using only naturally occurring thorium.

•  According to replies given in Q&A in the Indian Parliament on two separate occasions, 19 August 2010 and 21 March 2012, large scale thorium deployment is only to be expected 3 – 4 decades after the commercial operation of fast breeder reactors. [2040-2070]

As there is a long delay before direct thorium utilisation in the three-stage programme, the country is now looking at reactor designs that allow more direct use of thorium in parallel with the sequential three-stage programme

•  Three options under consideration are the Accelerator Driven Systems (ADS), Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) and Compact High Temperature Reactor

Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at Kalpakkam

•  The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) is a 500 MWe fast breeder nuclear reactor presently being constructed at the Madras Atomic Power Station in Kalpakkam, India.

•  The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) is responsible for the design of this reactor.

•  As of 2007 the reactor was expected to begin functioning in 2010 but now it is expected to achieve first criticality in March-April 2016.

•  Construction is over and the owner/operator, Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Limited (BHAVINI), is awaiting clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

•  Total costs, originally estimated at 3500 crore are now estimated at 5,677 crore.

•  The Kalpakkam PFBR is using uranium-238 not thorium, to breed new fissile material, in a sodium-cooled fast reactor design.

•  The surplus plutonium or uranium-233 for thorium reactors [U-238 transmutes into plutonium] from each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India’s needs for power.

•  The fact that PFBR will be cooled by liquid sodium creates additional safety requirements to isolate the coolant from the environment, since sodium explodes if it comes into contact with water and burns when in contact with air……

1. In the first stage, heavy water reactors fuelled by natural uranium would produceplutonium [U-238 will be transmuted to Plutonium 239 in PHWR];

2.  The second stage would initially be fuelled by a mix of the plutonium from the first stage and natural uranium. This uranium would transmute into more plutonium and once sufficient stocks have been built up, thorium would be introduced into the fuel cycle to convert it intouranium 233 for the third stage [thorium will be transmuted to U-233 with the help plutonium 239].

3.  In the final stage, a mix of thorium and uranium fuels the reactors. The thorium transmutes to U-233 which powers the reactor. Fresh thorium can replace the depleted thorium [can be totally done away with uranium which is very scares in India] in the reactor core, making it essentially a thorium-fuelled reactor [thorium keeps transmuting into U-233. It is U-233 that generates the energy].

Present State of India’s Three-Stage Nuclear Power Programme

•  After decades of operating pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWR), India is finally ready to start the second stage.

•  A 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam is set to achieve criticality any day now and four more fast breeder reactors have been sanctioned, two at the same site and two elsewhere.

•  However, experts estimate that it would take India many more FBRs and at least another four decades before it has built up a sufficient fissile material inventory to launch the third stage.

Solution to India’s Fissile

Shortage Problem – Procuring Fissile Material Plutonium

•  The obvious solution to India’s shortage of fissile material is to procure it from the international market

July 14, 2017 Posted by | India, Reference, technology, thorium | Leave a comment

Yet again, hope for nuclear fusion pushed into the distant future

Fusion energy pushed back beyond 2050, BBC, 11 July 2017, We will have to wait until the second half of the century for fusion reactors to start generating electricity, experts have announced.
A new version of a European “road map” lays out the technological hurdles to be overcome if the processes powering the Sun are to be harnessed on Earth.

The road map has been drawn up by scientists and engineers at EUROfusion.

This is a consortium of European laboratories and universities that funds research on fusion energy.

The original version of the road map, published in 2012, forecast that a demonstration fusion power plant known as DEMO could be operating in the early 2040s, in order to supply electricity to the grid by 2050.

But in the updated version, yet to be released, DEMO would not start running until “early in the second half of the century”.

A related document that provides more detail on DEMO’s design says that operations would start after 2054.

The setback has been caused largely by delays to ITER, a 20bn-euro reactor that is currently being built in the south of France to prove that fusion energy is scientifically and technically feasible.

In fact, according to EUROfusion’s programme manager, nuclear physicist Tony Donné, DEMO’s schedule could slip further, depending on progress both with ITER and a facility to test materials for fusion power plants that has yet to be built.

“2054 is optimistic,” he says. “It is doable but we need to align political decision makers and get industry involved.”

Fusion involves heating nuclei of light atoms – usually isotopes of hydrogen – to temperatures many times higher than that at the centre of the Sun so that they can overcome their mutual repulsion and join together to form a heavier nucleus, giving off huge amounts of energy in the process……

the project has been beset by delays and cost overruns. Originally foreseen to switch on in 2016 and cost around 5bn euros, its price has since roughly quadrupled and its start-up pushed back to 2025. Full-scale experiments are now not foreseen until at least 2035.

As well as being technically very demanding, ITER is also complex politically…..


July 14, 2017 Posted by | EUROPE, technology | Leave a comment

Costs of building Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant now 4 times greater

Cost of building nuclear fuel reprocessing plant up 4-fold, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, July 4, 2017 Construction costs for the long-delayed spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, are likely to rise to 2.9 trillion yen ($25.67 billion), about four times the initial estimate, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) has disclosed.

The company attributes the latest cost estimate increase of 750 billion yen, revealed July 3, to the necessity of meeting more stringent safety standards introduced after the 2011 nuclear crisis in Fukushima Prefecture.

Estimated construction costs previously stood at 2.193 trillion yen as of 2005.

The total cost of the project, including operating the plant for 40 years and then decommissioning it, was initially estimated at 12.6 trillion yen.

However, it is expected to rise to 13.9 trillion due to the increase in maintenance and personnel costs.

The major electric power companies that jointly set up JNFL have to cover those costs, but ultimately consumers will shoulder the burden in the form of electricity rates.

JNFL is constructing the plant in the village of Rokkasho, with the Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan (NURO) contracted to handle the fuel reprocessing……..  Even if the NRA approves the new safety measures in the screening, the approval is expected to be made this autumn at the earliest, meaning the latest completion target of September 2018 is likely to be missed. 

July 5, 2017 Posted by | Japan, reprocessing | Leave a comment

NASA spending $millions on plan for nuclear reactors on Mars

NASA to place NUCLEAR REACTOR on Mars to help humans colonise Red Planet NASA is working on an £11 million project that will see the space agency develop nuclear fission reactors on Mars. Express UK  By SEAN MARTIN, 4 July 17, As humanity gears up to make a move across the solar system, with some experts believing the Red Planet could be in the midst of a colonisation process by 2030, space agencies are preparing ways to sustain life.

One of the necessities for life to be built and sustained on Mars will be power, which is why Nasa is working on nuclear fission reactors that could work on Earth’s next door neighbour.

Nasa has already built the small 6’5” reactors which they will soon test on Earth, and if all goes to plan, could be shipped off to Mars in the future.

The reactors work by splitting uranium atoms in half which generate huge amounts of power – which will be needed to generate oxygen, light, heat, electricity and even water…….

July 5, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

NASA works on plan for small nuclear reactors on Mars

NBC 30th June 2017, As NASA makes plans to one day send humans to Mars, one of the key
technical gaps the agency is working to fill is how to provide enough power
on the Red Planet’s surface for fuel production, habitats, and other
equipment. One option: small nuclear fission reactors, which work by
splitting uranium atoms to generate heat, which is then converted into
electric power.

July 3, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

NASA funding project for nuclear-powered travel to Mars

NASA Seeks Nuclear Power for Mars  After a half-century hiatus, the agency is reviving its reactor development with a test later this summer, Scientific American By Irene Klotz, on June 30, 2017, As NASA makes plans to one day send humans to Mars, one of the key technical gaps the agency is working to fill is how to provide enough power on the Red Planet’s surface for fuel production, habitats and other equipment. One option: small nuclear fission reactors, which work by splitting uranium atoms to generate heat, which is then converted into electric power.

NASA’s technology development branch has been funding a project called Kilopower for three years, with the aim of demonstrating the system at the Nevada National Security Site near Las Vegas. Testing is due to start in September and end in January 2018.

The last time NASA tested a fission reactor was during the 1960s’ Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power, or SNAP, program, which developed two types of nuclear power systems. The first system — radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs — taps heat released from the natural decay of a radioactive element, such as plutonium. RTGs have powered dozens of space probes over the years, including the Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars. [Nuclear Generators Power NASA Deep Space Probes (Infographic)]

The second technology developed under SNAP was an atom-splitting fission reactor. SNAP-10A was the first — and so far, only — U.S. nuclear power plant to operate in space. Launched on April 3, 1965, SNAP-10A operated for 43 days, producing 500 watts of electrical power, before an unrelated equipment failure ended the demonstration. The spacecraft remains in Earth orbit.

Russia has been far more active developing and flying spacecraft powered by small fission reactors, including 30 Radar Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites, or RORSAT, which flew between 1967 and 1988, and higher-powered TOPAZ systems. TOPAZ is an acronym for Thermionic Experiment with Conversion in Active Zone.


NASA has funded several nuclear power technology efforts in the 50 years since SNAP, but financial, political and technical issues stymied development. Three years ago, the agency’s Game Changing Developmentprogram backed Kilopower, with the goal of building and testing a small fission reactor by Sept. 30, 2017, the end of the current fiscal year. The project is costing about $15 million…….

NASA engineers figure human expeditions to Mars will require a system capable of generating about 40 kilowatts of power, which is about what is needed for “about eight houses on Earth,” according to the agency. Curiosity’s RTG was designed to supply about 125 watts — less energy than what is needed to power a microwave oven — though power levels fall as the radioactive plutonium decays. [How Will a Human Mars Base Work? NASA’s Vision in Images]

Solar power is another option, but that would restrict power generation to regions that are exposed to enough sunlight to charge batteries. Inside the moon’s Shackleton Crater, for example — a prime candidate for lunar sorties due to its water resources — it is completely dark. The sunniest spots on Mars receive only about one-third the amount of sunlight as Earth does.

“If you want to land anywhere, surface fission power is a key strategy for that,” Michelle Rucker, an engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said during a presentation in December to NASA’s Future In-Space Operations working group.

Fission reactors also can continue working in adverse weather conditions, such as Mars’ ubiquitous dust storms. ……

Partners in the Kilopower project include NASA’s Glenn Research Center, the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Lab and the Y12 National Security Complex, which supplies the reactor’s uranium.

Irene Klotz can be reached on Twitter at @free_space. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Google+. Original article on Space.com

July 1, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Russia is up against it, in trying to sell small nuclear reactors (SMRs) to Indonesia

No Indonesian market for SMRs 28 June 17, M. V. RAMANA    Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global…

Saying it “takes time” is an understatement. The country’s National Nuclear Energy Agency, or BATAN as it is known from its acronym in the Indonesian language (Badan Tenaga Nuklir Nasional), was set up in the late 1950s and has been advocating nuclear power for Indonesia ever since. In 1972, BATAN started the process of selecting specific sites for nuclear plants when—in conjunction with the ministry in charge of public works and electricity—it established the Preparatory Commission for Development of a Nuclear Power Plant. That eventually led to various sites being chosen for nuclear plant construction on the Muria Peninsula on Indonesia’s most populated island, Java. But in each case, these efforts were stopped—primarily by local opposition, but partly also because of widespread skepticism about BATAN’s claims about the seismic safety of sites on the peninsula.

BATAN then turned its attention to other locations in the country, but with little success. To date, BATAN has conducted site studies on at least 16 potential locales.

BATAN’s efforts at setting up a nuclear power plant in Indonesia have not gone unnoticed. Many reactor vendors have beaten a path to Jakarta’s doorstep, hoping to sell their wares. The list includes South Korea, France, China and, of course—given its status as the leading reactor vendor in this decade—Russia. In recent years, all these countries’ offers have focused on one specific kind of reactor that BATAN has expressed an interest in: Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

Why SMRs for Indonesia? Small Modular Reactors have electrical power outputs of less than 300 megawatts. They are being heavily promoted by many countries’ nuclear establishments as having several desirable characteristics when compared to traditional large reactors—in particular, cheaper construction costs per unit, higher safety levels, lower rates of radioactive waste generation, and less likelihood that these reactors and their fuel production facilities could be used to make fissile materials (plutonium or highly enriched uranium) for nuclear weapons. There are no operating SMRs, and it remains to be seen whether any real-world reactor would be built that features any, let alone all, of these characteristics. Indeed, of the different major SMR designs under development, none simultaneously fulfills the key requirements of lower cost, higher safety, less radioactive waste, and reduced opportunity for nuclear weapons proliferation. These are the key problems confronting nuclear power today and constraining its future. It is likely that addressing one or more of these four problems will involve design choices that make some of the other problems worse.

Among the target markets for such reactors are developing countries such as Indonesia. The International Atomic Energy Agency considers SMRs as a good option to electrify “remote regions with less developed infrastructures” because the low-capacity electricity grid that is typical of such areas makes it difficult to introduce a nuclear power plant with large power capacity—say 1,000 megawatts—without destabilizing the grid itself. Indeed, one of the reasons that BATAN claims to be interested in SMRs is that there are many islands in the Indonesian archipelago that require electricity or energy but do not have a high enough level of electrical demand to support the construction of a large nuclear reactor. One of the areas highlighted by BATAN officials as particularly suitable for SMRs is the province of West Kalimantan because its “grid capacity [is]… still limited.” BATAN also suggested that an attractive aspect of SMRs is the lower cost—due in large part to the fact that a small modular reactor will generate only a fraction of the power generated by a large reactor.

Among the SMR designs that have been offered by vendors, and explored by BATAN, are high temperature gas-cooled reactors, submarine-based reactors, floating power plants, and light water reactors.

Who’s in the competition? South Korea was the first to pitch the idea of SMRs to Indonesia: In October 2001, with IAEA approval, BATAN signed an agreement with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute to undertake a joint study titled “A preliminary economic feasibility assessment of nuclear desalination in Madura Island.” The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute had been developing a small modular reactor called the System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor since 1996; it had the bonus feature of incorporating additional equipment that could desalinate water in addition to generating electricity.

In the case of China, BATAN signed an agreement with the China Nuclear Engineering Group Corporation in 2016 to jointly develop high temperature gas reactors and train Indonesian professionals to run them—an agreement that resulted from Chinese officials scouting around potential reactor markets.

With France, BATAN signed an agreement with DCNS, a company that has traditionally been involved in a range of naval defense systems but more recently has been developing a submarine-based electricity generating reactor project called Flexblue. (Link in Indonesian.) The idea is to park the submarine on the ocean floor and run a cable from it to land to supply electricity.

Russia, however, has been the most determined suitor. In the mid-2000s, Rosatom proposed a small Russian floating nuclear power plant to supply electricity to Gorontalo province on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Rosatom’s floating nuclear power plants are modeled after the reactors that have been used to power a small fleet of Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers for decades. The idea of a civilian floating nuclear power plant project has been around in Russia since the 1990s, but progress has been slow and erratic. China and the United States have also explored the idea of commercial floating nuclear power plants, but the United States abandoned the idea as uneconomical after spending millions of dollars in research and development.

In October 2006, the governor of Gorontalo announced that the province already had an agreement with Russia’s then state-owned Unified Energy System of Russia to buy a floating power plant.

But despite enthusiasm for the proposal from the provincial government, the Indonesian minister of Research and Technology rejected the idea of using a floating nuclear power plant. As Natio Lasman, then-deputy chairman of Indonesia’s nuclear agency and later chair of Indonesia’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency, told the Wall Street Journal: “I don’t want Indonesia to be used as an experiment.”

Public opposition: A major problem. Many problems may afflict nuclear proposals, regardless of whether the building plans are based on SMRs or large reactors. A key challenge has been public acceptance. Because of the potential for catastrophic accidents and the production of long-lived radioactive waste, nuclear power is perceived as a risky technology, and those living near areas selected to house a nuclear plant—such as the Muria Peninsula—often push back.

And apart from local opposition, the unpopularity of nuclear power among the general population nationwide is often a factor in whether a country develops nuclear power. A poll commissioned by the International Atomic Energy Agency in October 2005 found that only 33 percent of those Indonesians questioned felt that nuclear power was safe and that more plants should be built. In comparison, 28 percent felt that nuclear power was dangerous and all plants should be closed—while 31 percent agreed with the “middle opinion” that what was already in place should be used but that no new plants should be constructed. In the case of Indonesia, of course, that middle opinion is in practice the same as the 28 percent who wanted to close all reactors, because there was (and still is) no operating nuclear power plant in the country.

In 2011, an IPSOS poll conducted after the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident in Japan found that two-thirds of the Indonesian population expressed opposition: 33 percent of Indonesians strongly oppose nuclear power while 34 percent were somewhat opposed. About two-thirds of those polled said that their opinion was not influenced by Fukushima.

BATAN, not surprisingly, feels differently. And it has conducted a series of polls that show greater levels of support. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Nuclear power continues to be controversial in Indonesia, and there is widespread public opposition. Indeed, in December 2015, when then-Energy and Mineral Resources minister Sudirman Said publicly announced that the government had concluded that “this is not the time to build up nuclear power capacity,” one of his stated reasons for avoiding nuclear power was that he did not want “to raise any controversies.”

So, when people like Luhut Pandjaitan—Indonesia’s coordinating maritime affairs minister—talk about the “need to raise public awareness,” it’s reasonable to ask what they mean. Is raising public awareness really just code for coaxing or bribing the people in some areas to allow the construction of a nuclear power plant? The history of the many attempts to site nuclear reactors in Indonesia shows quite clearly that the public is already aware of the hazards involved in nuclear power. The Indonesian public’s longstanding opposition to nuclear power, especially in areas that have been earmarked for potential construction, include concerns about the security of reactor operations, the reliability of reactor designs, radioactive waste, the potential for nuclear proliferation, Indonesia’s geographical position within the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire, and the proximity of nuclear sites to seismic faults or volcanoes. Many Indonesians are also concerned about nuclear power’s high economic costs and future dependence on foreign parties for nuclear technology or fuel, and they prefer local renewable energy resources.

Other problems with SMRs. My collaborators at the Indonesian Institute of Energy Economics and at the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability and I recently issued a report that detailed the many challenges that would have to be overcome before any small modular reactors are constructed in Indonesia. These challenges include a lack of support for nuclear power at the highest political levels, the absence of tested SMR designs, and the higher electricity-generation costs of SMR technology. We also identified legislative regulations that could become obstacles for specific SMR technologies such as floating power plants, and the political and regulatory problems with SMR construction plans that involve fabricating the bulk of the reactor at off-site factories.

The cost of electricity generated by SMRs is high compared to large conventional nuclear power plants, and high compared to the range of readily available alternatives in Indonesia. The rapidly declining cost of photovoltaic technology is particularly relevant. Studies testify to the large potential of solar energy in Indonesia, and the government has been adopting policies that promise to accelerate the construction of significant amounts of solar capacity.

The lower power level of SMRs also implies that more reactors would have to be built using this technology to produce the same amount of electricity as a few larger reactors—meaning that planners would have to deal with public resistance at many more sites. Public opposition has played a major role in stopping the construction of nuclear power plants so far; small modular reactors might face even more of controversy.

For small modular reactors, the potential benefits accruing from electricity generation come at a higher economic and social cost than other energy sources would require. As a result, it would seem that the construction of SMRs is unlikely, especially in large enough numbers to make a sizeable contribution to Indonesia’s electricity generation.

July 1, 2017 Posted by | Indonesia, marketing, Russia, technology | Leave a comment

China “looks to small nuclear reactors” – but it’s not really a very good look

This article is surely meant as a promotional boost for small nuclear reactors, SMRs.  BUT – it doesn’t quite read that way.  We learn that only the most enthusiastically pro-nuclear nations are interested in SMRs.

Another giveaway is that remarkable confession at the end  – that success of SMRs hinges on investors seeing new large-scale plants coming online and building on those successes.

Well, seeing that large nuclear reactors projects are now stalling, all over the place, with delays, safety problems, and ballooning costs –  those successes are looking very unlikely. Which leaves SMRs very much in the fantasy world – waiting for investors who never appear.

China looks to small nuclear, JUNE 27, 2017. David Stanway, Reuters China is betting on new, small-scale nuclear reactor designs that could be used in isolated regions, on ships and even aircraft as part of an ambitious plan to wrest control of the global nuclear market.

Within weeks, state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is set to launch a small modular reactor (SMR) dubbed the “Nimble Dragon” with a pilot plant on the island province of Hainan, according to company officials.

…..But these so-called “third-generation” reactors have been mired in financing problems and building delays, deterring all but the most enthusiastically pro-nuclear nations.

The challenges of financing and building large, expensive reactors contributed to the bankruptcy of Toshiba Inc’s nuclear unit, Westinghouse, and to the financial problems that forced France’s Areva to restructure.

SMRs have capacity of less than 300 megawatts (MW) – enough to power around 200,000 homes – compared to at least 1 gigawatt (GW) for standard reactors.

China aims to lift domestic nuclear capacity to 200 GW by 2030, up from 35 GW at the end of March, but its ambitions are global.

CNNC designed the Linglong, or “Nimble Dragon” to complement its larger Hualong or “China Dragon” reactor and has been in discussions with Pakistan, Iran, Britain, Indonesia, Mongolia, Brazil, Egypt and Canada as potential partners.

“The big reactor is the Hualong One, the small reactor is the Linglong One – many countries intend to co-operate with CNNC’s ‘two dragons going out to sea’,” Yu Peigen, vice-president of CNNC, told a briefing in May.

…….The success of new small-scale reactors hinges on investors seeing new large-scale plants coming online and building on those successes, said Christopher Levesque, Terrapower’s president.

“We’re not competing with those folks, we’re rooting for them,” he told an industry forum in Shanghai last month.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | business and costs, China, technology | Leave a comment

Environment groups sound the alarm on Tennessee Valley Authority’s plan to develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs)

Green groups oppose TVA plan to test small nuclear reactors, Utility Dive Robert WaltonJune 27, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • Two environmental groups have petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to intervene in the agency’s review of Tennessee Valley Authority’s plan to develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) at a site near Kingston, Tenn.
  • The federal utility has petitioned NRC for an early site permit (ESP) to determine whether the site is suitable for two or more SMRs, with a capacity of up to 800 MW.
  • TVA has been pushing for more than a year to site small reactors at the abandoned Clinch River nuclear development site.

Dive Insight:

Several conservation groups led by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy are sounding the alarm over TVA’s plans to site small reactors at the Clinch River site, allowing the utility to reduce the size of the emergency planning zone around the proposed reactors.

The SMR concept proposes to utilize smaller reactors which can be developed offsite and then constructed quickly. Opponents fear their smaller size may lead to more lax restrictions, and say TVA should be looking to clean energy alternatives.

“The accurate description of what SMRs will actually do for TVA and its customers is squander more resources,” said Sara Barczak, high risk energy choices program director for SACE. “We hope our intervention will prove successful and prevent TVA from making a bad decision that would cost customers and potentially put local communities and the environment at risk.”

SACE and the Tennessee Environmental Council petitioned NRC, contending the federal utility has not shown it has fully reviewed the risks, including the “safety and environmental risks of spent fuel pool fires, which could have far-reaching and catastrophic consequences.”

The groups say TVA wants to reduce the size of the emergency planning zone around the proposed reactors “from the standard ten miles to the site boundary or at most two miles, thereby exempting state and local governments from emergency planning requirements and reducing the level of preparedness for an accident at the reactors.”

“TVA expects the public near the Clinch River site to accept on faith that the fantasy nuclear reactors it wants to build there will be so safe that no evacuation plan is needed, even in the event of a core meltdown or a spent fuel pool fire,” Union of Concerned Scientists’ Edwin Lyman said in a statement.

TVA officials told the Times Free Press that they have not yet decided whether to move forward on the Clinch River SMR plan, but part of its mandate as a federal utility is to work with other agencies on energy development. TVA is working with the Department of Energy on the SMR pilot. ……

June 28, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

British tax-payer funding the small nuclear reactor (SMR) gamble

UK funds off-site nuclear module construction project, Power Engineering, 06/27/2017, By Tildy Bayar Engineering firm Cammell Laird has won £200,000 ($255,000) in UK government funding to develop nuclear modules. The company said the funding from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) would go toward a project that aims to work out the best way to build and test large modules at off-site locations before transporting them to nuclear sites for installation.

The Fit for Modules project is supported by the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC), Arup, Fraser Nash and Laing O’Rourke……

“The [UK] nuclear new build programme estimates a potential spend of up to £100bn over 30 years,” he said. “It is therefore imperative that as an industry we make the programme work from a cost and schedule perspective, stripping out waste and any unnecessary expense.”

He added that the project could “lay the foundation blocks for the UK to develop a complete industry specializing in off-site modular build”.

“If we can make a success of building modules for the domestic nuclear sector we can spin that expertise out to export markets as the UK looks to ramp up exports post-Brexit.”

In March the firm announced a partnership with the Nuclear AMRC to open a development centre for modular manufacturing methods for new-build reactors of all sizes, drawing on “a host of innovative technologies to significantly reduce costs and lead times for nuclear new build”.

June 28, 2017 Posted by | politics, technology, UK | Leave a comment

Opposition toTennessee Valley Authority’s plan for Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

Environmental groups challenge TVA nuclear reactor plan, Miami Herald, 25 June 17 The Associated Press  OAK RIDGE, TENN. 

Environmental groups are challenging the Tennessee Valley Authority’s proposal to use a Tennessee nuclear reactor design site abandoned in the 1970s to develop new small modular reactors.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press , the Southern Alliance for Clean Power, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League have challenged the Oak Ridge project’s site application. They say the reactors remain untested, unsafe and unneeded.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing the application to determine if the site works for two or more reactors generating up to 800 megawatts of nuclear power.

Sara Barczak, the high risk energy choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, compared the project to the Clinch River Breeder Reactor project that was planned for the site in the 1970s, but was scrapped amid escalating prices for the technology.

“We are very concerned that history is once again repeating itself,” Barczak said. “And we are concerned that billions of dollars could be spent on a technology that is unproven, untested and significantly more expensive than other types of power technology that are available to TVA.”……..

June 26, 2017 Posted by | opposition to nuclear, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Small Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) a very poor bet for Oak Ridge

Environmental groups challenge TVA plans for small nuclear reactors in Oak Ridge, Times Free Press, June 25th, 2017, by Dave Flessner  The Tennessee Valley Authority wants to use the site of a nuclear reactor design abandoned in the 1970s to develop a new technology of small modular reactors.

But environmental critics of the Oak Ridge project say the new small modular reactors are still untested, unsafe and unneeded.

Sara Barczak, the high risk energy choices program director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, likened TVA’s proposal to locate the new small reactor designs in Oak Ridge to the Clinch River Breeder Reactor that was planned for the same site in the 1970s. Ultimately, then President Jimmy Carter killed the project because he feared the liquid metal fast breeder reactor might lead to more nuclear proliferation around the globe, and he complained about the escalating price for the innovative technologyy.

“The Clinch River site has a very long, troubled and expensive history because of a failed nuclear experiment, which was one of the most expensive plants for never generating any power,” Barczak said. “We are very concerned that history is once again repeating itself and we are concerned that billions of dollars could be spent on a technology that is unproven, untested and significantly more expensive than other types of power technology that are available to TVA.”

In 1971, the Atomic Energy Commission estimated the Clinch River project would cost about $400 million. But ultimately, the project was projected to cost $8 billion to complete, and it was finally scrapped in 1983. Barczak said she fears the proposed Small Modular Reactor concept, which has yet to get an approved design from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, will prove too costly and not be adequately tested before one is built……..

The Southern Alliance for Clean Power and the Union of Concerned Scientists have joined the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League in petitioning the NRC to deny the early site permit for the small reactors in Oak Ridge. The environmental groups argue TVA has failed to justify its bid to reduce the size of the emergency planning zone around the proposed reactors from the standard 10-mile zone to the site boundary of about two miles.

“TVA expects the public near the Clinch River site to accept on faith that the fantasy nuclear reactors it wants to build there will be so safe that no evacuation plan is needed, even in the event of a core meltdown or a spent fuel pool fire,” Lyman said. “TVA has apparently failed to learn a major lesson of the Fukushima disaster: Public safety during a nuclear emergency depends critically on being prepared for the unthinkable.”

M.V. Ramana, a professor and chair of the Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, said TVA’s site application for the small reactors is “more like an advertisement brochure than an examination of the environmental impacts of constructing these reactors.

“There is a long history of experimentation with small nuclear reactors, and the evidence so far suggests that small reactors cost too much for the little electricity they produce,” Ramana said……..

The NRC is expected to consider TVA’s early site permit over the next couple of years, NRC spokesman Roger Hannah said.

June 26, 2017 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Russia continuing in building “floating” nuclear power plant

Russia building first ‘floating’ nuclear power plant, Economic Times, BY IANS | MAY 30, 2017,NEW DELHI: Russia is in advanced stages of building the world’s first “floating” nuclear power plant (FNPP) for installation in remote areas and hopes FNPP technology will also interest South Asian countries like India.

May 31, 2017 Posted by | Russia, technology | Leave a comment

China installs giant containment dome on new nuclear reactor

China installs heavy containment dome on nuclear plant, Financial Express  China today successfully installed the heavy containment dome for its first domestically developed third-generation reactor design which may also be used at the Karachi nuclear plant where Beijing is building two 1100 mw reactors. By: PTI | Beijing: May 26, 2017  The hemispherical dome, weighing 340 tonnes and measuring 46.8 metres in diametre, was installed by crane on the No 5 unit of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) in Fuqing City, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. The installation marks the completion of construction work on the pilot project and the beginning of the assembly stage, said Yu Peigen, deputy general manager of CNNC at the site of installation.

The dome will be used for protection against nuclear accidents under extreme conditions, and both its design and installation are very demanding processes, the report said. The design may be replicated in Karachi plant in Pakistan where China is building two 1100 mw reactors at a cost of USD 6.5 billion. “The installation is much more difficult than that of traditional nuclear reactors because the whole weight of the dome and the ropes is more than 500 tonnes,” said Yang Jianguo, the lifting commander at the site.

May 27, 2017 Posted by | China, technology | Leave a comment

A Pox on the Mox – Trump budget to stop Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility

Platts 23rd May 2017  The Trump administration is proposing to end construction of a facility deigned to convert 34 mt of plutonium from surplus nuclear weapons to nuclear reactor fuel, concluding it would “be irresponsible to pursue this approach when a more cost-effective alternative exists.”

The administration, which Tuesday unveiled its proposed fiscal 2018 budget, said it will direct CB&I Areva MOX Services to develop a plan “as soon as practical,” to halt construction of the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina and securely shut the facility by late 2018.

The 2018 fiscal year starts October 1. Congress must authorize and appropriate fiscal 2018 spending and the president must sign the budget bill. The $340 million that Congress appropriated in an omnibus budget resolution for fiscal 2017 was earmarked primarily for the installation of ductwork and to seal openings in the facility used during

The fiscal 2018 proposal states appropriations for the MOX project after this fiscal year are “to be determined,” with no dollar amount specified. A justification for terminating the MOX project that the US Department of Energy provided Tuesday noted that the facility’s $4.8 billion cost projected in 2007, with a startup date of 2015, had ballooned
to $17.2 billion by 2016, with 2048 the earliest date, by which mix-oxide fuel could be produced. DOE now estimates the completion cost at up to $26 billion.

DOE noted that analysis it and “external independent analyses” have conducted “have consistently concluded that the MOX approach to plutonium disposition is significantly costlier and would require a much higher annual budget than an alternate disposition method, ‘Dilute and Dispose.'”

May 26, 2017 Posted by | - plutonium, reprocessing, USA | 1 Comment