The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Britain’s planned new nuclear reactors will produce twice as much highly radioactive trash as now exists

The nuclear industry and government have repeatedly said the volume of nuclear waste produced by new reactors will truthbe small, approximately 10% of the volume of existing wastes; implying this additional waste will not make a significant difference to finding a GDF for the wastes the UK’s nuclear industry has already created. However, the use of volume as a measure of the impact of radioactive waste is highly misleading.

A much better measure would be the likely impact of wastes and spent fuel on the size or “footprint” of a GDF. New reactors will use so-called ‘high burn-up fuel’ which will be much more radioactive than the spent fuel produced by existing reactors. As a result it will generate more heat, so it will need to be allocated more space in the GDF’s disposal chambers. So rather than using volume as a yardstick, the amount of radioactivity in the waste – and the space required in a GDF to deal with it – are more appropriate ways of measuring the impact of nuclear waste from new reactors.

radioactive trashThe activity of existing waste – mostly stored at Sellafield amounts to 4,770,000 TBq. The proposed reactors at Moorside would produce spent fuel and ILW with an activity of around 4,206,012 TBq making a total of 8,976012 TBq stored in Cumbria. However the activity of spent fuel and ILW stored at new reactor sites outwith Cumbria would amount to 15,586,988 TBq – almost twice as much. And if we assume that the reactors at Bradwell goahead it will probably be more than twice as much.

NuClear News No 90 4. Nuclear Waste Updates  The Department of Business, Energy and flag-UKhighly-recommendedIndustrial Strategy – BEIS – (formerly called ‘DECC’) was planning to hold two public consultations, on the draft National Policy Statement for a Geological Disposal Facility and on Working With Communities based on the work of the Community Representation Working Group, this autumn, but the uncertainty caused by recent turbulence in the wider political environment means that these now look likely to be delayed until early 2017.

Energy Minister Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe hailed a “nuclear renaissance” when she addressed the Office for Nuclear Regulation Industry Conference in Cumbria. She said that as well as Hinkley Point C and proposals for new reactors at Moorside the Government is “going further, with proposals to develop 18GW of nuclear power across six sites in the UK.”

She said the Government would be launching a new siting process for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) in 2017. The Whitehaven News reported that the site for the GDF would almost certainly be in West Cumbria, but this was not in the Minister’s published speech. (1)

Just to finally knock on the head the idea that most of the nuclear waste is in Cumbria already so we might as well build the GDF there, nuClear News has done some number crunching:

Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM) has developed a detailed inventory of radioactive waste for disposal in its proposed GDF which it calls the ‘Derived Inventory’. This inventory is subject to uncertainty due to a range of factors such as uncertainty about the life of the AGR reactors and what happens to the UK’s plutonium inventory, and, of course proposals for new reactors.

The Derived Inventory is therefore updated periodically to take into account new information. RWM published a new 2013 Derived Inventory in July 2015. This can be compared with the previous 2010 Derived Inventory to obtain further information about the impact of a new reactor programme. The table below is from an RWM report which does just that. (2)

The 2010 inventory showed a derived inventory (2010 DI) which did not include any spent fuel or other waste from new reactors and an upper inventory (2010 UI) – which did include spent fuel and wastes from a 10GW new reactor programme. On the other hand the 2013 Derived Inventory has only one set of figures which includes spent fuel and waste from a 16GW new reactor programme. As mentioned above this could increase in future to take account of the fact that the Government now anticipates the size of the new reactor programme will be 18GW, to allow for the latest additional to the proposed fleet – Bradwell B. Beyond that there are ambitions to build between 7 and 21GW of Small Modular Reactor (SMR) capacity by 2035.

The nuclear industry and government have repeatedly said the volume of nuclear waste produced by new reactors will be small, approximately 10% of the volume of existing wastes; implying this additional waste will not make a significant difference to finding a GDF for the wastes the UK’s nuclear industry has already created. However, the use of volume as a measure of the impact of radioactive waste is highly misleading.

A much better measure would be the likely impact of wastes and spent fuel on the size or “footprint” of a GDF. New reactors will use so-called ‘high burn-up fuel’ which will be much more radioactive than the spent fuel produced by existing reactors. As a result it will generate more heat, so it will need to be allocated more space in the GDF’s disposal chambers. So rather than using volume as a yardstick, the amount of radioactivity in the waste – and the space required in a GDF to deal with it – are more appropriate ways of measuring the impact of nuclear waste from new reactors. The total activity measured in Terabecquerels (TBq) of the 2010 Derived Inventory, (not including any wastes from new reactors) was 4,770,000 TBq.

The total activity given in the 2013 Derived Inventory, which includes waste and spent fuel from a 16GW new reactor programme, was 27,300,000 TBq. Not all of this huge increase in activity is down to new reactors. For instance there is a big jump in the activity of legacy spent fuel and 3,700,000 TBq from spent mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MoX) fuel – a category which does not appear at all in the 2010 inventory. However, 19,793,000 TBq is activity from new reactor wastes and spent fuel. So the activity of radioactive waste from a new reactor programme would be roughly four times the activity in the total 2010 inventory.

Of course this figure is for a 16GW new reactor programme. For an 18GW programme the total activity of spent fuel and intermediate level waste would be about 22,267,125 TBq or almost five times the activity of existing waste.

[Table on original]

These numbers are significant because of the amount of repository space taken up by existing waste mostly located in Cumbria compared with waste stored on reactor sites outwith Cumbria. The NDA has estimated the total repository footprint for a baseline inventory (the total waste expected to be created by the existing programme) of between 5.6 km2 and 10.3km2 depending on the rock-type. However, the footprint from a maximum inventory which includes a 16GW new reactor programme would be between 12.3km2 and 25km2. (3)  [Table on original]

So the activity of existing waste – mostly stored at Sellafield amounts to 4,770,000 TBq. The proposed reactors at Moorside would produce spent fuel and ILW with an activity of around 4,206,012 TBq making a total of 8,976012 TBq stored in Cumbria. However the activity of spent fuel and ILW stored at new reactor sites outwith Cumbria would amount to 15,586,988 TBq – almost twice as much. And if we assume that the reactors at Bradwell goahead it will probably be more than twice as much.

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Reference, UK, wastes | 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

UK fails in appeal to UN to reverse its ruling in favour of Julian Assange

flag-UN-SmjusticeUN rejects UK appeal on Assange, Justice for Assange On 30 November 2016, the United Nations rejected the United Kingdom’s attempt to appeal the UN’s February ruling in favour of Julian Assange.

The decision therefore stands and the UK and Sweden are once again required to immediately put an end to Mr. Assange’s arbitrary detention and afford him monetary compensation.

Earlier this year the United Nations concluded the 16 month long case to which the UK was a party. The UK lost, appealed, and today – lost again. The UN instructed the UK and Sweden to take immediate steps to ensure Mr. Assange’s liberty, protection, and enjoyment of fundamental human rights. No steps have been taken, jeopardising Mr. Assange’s life, health and physical integrity, and undermining the UN system of human rights protection.

Now, the United Nations has found that the United Kingdom’s request for review of this decision (filed on March 24) was inadmissible; the United Kingdom has now reached the end of the road in its attempt to overturn the ruling. As a member of the Security Council and the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United Kingdom must respect its commitment to the United Nations, and release Mr. Assange immediately. Now, more than ever, moral leadership is required; maintaining Mr. Assange’s effective detention (which stands at six years as of 7 December, 2016) will only serve to green light future abuses against defenders of free speech and human rights.

Mr. Assange stated “Now that all appeals are exhausted I expect that the UK and Sweden will comply with their international obligations and set me free. It is an obvious and grotesque injustice to detain someone for six years who hasn’t even been charged with an offence.”…..

December 2, 2016 Posted by | Legal, 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renewables – the cheapest way for Britain decarbonise

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

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

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

Renewable costs keep falling


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

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

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

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

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

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

Offshore wind farm (MorgueFile image)Offshore wind

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

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

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

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

energy-efficiency-manEnergy Efficiency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keyway Route Cracking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Britain – new nuclear reactor plans

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

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

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

UK government’s huge legal fees for Hinkley nuclear project

Slaughters earns £12m for advice to government on Hinkley Point nuclear power plant James Booth Slaughter and May has received £12m in legal fees from the government in relation to its advice on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant project.

The magic circle firm has been advising the Department of Energy and Climate Change in connection with the £18bn plans to build Hinkley Point C, which will be the UK’s first new nuclear power station for 20 years.

The fees were revealed in a freedom of information (FoI) request by The Times, which showed that Slaughters received nearly three times more in fees than the next best paid adviser, big four accountant KPMG, which received £4.4m. Financial adviser Lazards has been paid £2.6m, with management consultancy Leigh Fisher securing £1.2m according to the FoI.

Slaughters’ team on the long-running matter is being led by financing partner Paul Stacey, banking partner Robert Byk, corporate partner Robert Chaplin and competition special adviser Jackie Holland.

The controversial development has secured roles for numerous firms, including Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), which advised French energy company EDF on its planning application; Pinsent Masons, which advised the local authorities on the planning application; Eversheds, which advised China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) on its investment in the project; and Ashurst, which acted for China General Nuclear Power Corporation on the deal.

HSF fielded a team of more than 30 lawyers on the project, led by planning partner Matthew White. Other HSF partners to have been involved in the project include UK real estate head Julian Pollock, energy partner Julia Pyke and disputes partner Nusrat Zar.

Clifford Chance (CC) is also acting for EDF on matters such as the £6bn investment in the project by CNNC and on helping secure European state aid approval from the European Commission.

The CC team is being led by London energy partner John Wilkins and also includes Paris energy partner Richard Tomlinson, London corporate partner Jenine Hulsmann and Paris corporate partner Thierry Schoen.

Pinsents’ team for the local authorities was led by planning partners Richard Ford and Jonathan Riley, Eversheds’ was led by Beijing corporate partner Jay Ze and London energy partner Rob Pitcher, and the lead Ashurst partners were energy lawyer David Wadhamand corporate partner Robert Ogilvy-Watson.

The Somerset-based power plant is expected to be first operational in 2025.

Slaughters declined to comment.

November 23, 2016 Posted by | Legal, politics, UK | Leave a comment

A new nuclear plant at Wylfa on Anglesey? the economics don’t stack up

scrutiny-on-costsflag-UKEconomic case for nuclear ‘falling apart’ anti-Wylfa Newydd protesters claim

Rally urges government not to build new nuclear plant on Anglesey B 19 NOV 2016 

The economic case for nuclear energy is “falling apart”, a leading anti-nuclear campaigner claimed. Dr Carl Clowes made the claim at an anti-nuclear power rally at Llangefni.  An audience of more than 50 listened to arguments against building a new nuclear plant at Wylfa on Anglesey.

Dr Clowes said: “There’s been a proposal to develop Wylfa Newydd for some years now and we believe passionately this is not the right way forward for either energy or employment on the island. “It’s going to cause as many problems as it may potentially solve and it leaves a legacy which is wholly inappropriate for future generations. “There are better more effective, more efficient ways of producing energy now and we need to address those rather than waste our time and money indeed on something that may not happen at the end of the day.

“The economic case for nuclear is falling apart. We’ve seen already this week Vatenfall, a Danish company, is aiming to produce electricity with offshore wind at something like half the price, 45 pence per kiolwatt hour that the Government has agreed for Hinkley C with EDF.

“So it’s a no brainer for an economist or a Government minister they should be seriously looking at the way ahead and it’s not nuclear.” Dylan Morgan of PAWB (People against Wylfa B) claims Hitachi’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) which they are proposing for Wylfa B is not a proven technology.

“Since the explosions and triple meltdowns at nuclear reactors in Fukushima in March 2011, none of the four ABWRs which were operating in Japan are now operational. “One nuclear power complex shut down in June 2006 after only running from its start up in January 2005.

“Also a plan to build an ABWR in the USA was abandoned in March 2011 because nobody wanted to invest in it,” he said.

The meeting also considered why small nuclear reactors should not be built at the site of the now decommissioned nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd near Blaenau Ffestiniog or anywhere else.

A competition to develop a miniature nuclear power station at Trawsfynydd earlier this year attracted interest from 38 companies from around the world.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been compared to the nuclear reactors that have been used to power submarines since the 1950s.

Last year the UK Government announced £250m in funding over the next five years for nuclear research and development, including a competition to identify the best value SMR design for the UK.

November 21, 2016 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

The British nuclear lobby’s sick weapons experiments with chickens

During the Cold War, the UK designed nuclear land mines that were reliant on chickens JEREMY BENDER NOV 14, 2016 The Cold War spawned decades’ worth of bizarre weapon ideas as the West and the Soviet Union strove towards gaining the strategic upper hand over their superpower rival.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | history, UK, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby getting a big boost from the British government

UK-subsidy 2016UK launches nuclear innovation program, WNN 07 November 2016 The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced its commitment of £20 million ($25 million) for an initial phase of a new nuclear research and innovation program. This covers five major themes: advanced fuels; materials and manufacture; reactor design; advanced recycling; and strategic toolkit.

BEIS said on 3 November: “At Spending Review 2015, government committed to invest in an ambitious nuclear research and development program. This funding forms a part of government’s wider commitment to double the UK’s energy innovation spend, such that by 2021 it will have doubled to over £400 million per year.

“As part of this commitment, over £20 million will be provided to support innovation in the civil nuclear sector across five major areas from 2016-18, building on the recommendations set out by the Nuclear Innovation Research Advisory Board (Nirab).”

This funding includes: £6 million towards maintaining the UK’s leading edge work on advanced nuclear fuels which could provide greater levels of efficiency; £5 million for research that underpins the development, safety and efficiency of the next generation of nuclear reactor designs; £5 million to develop the UK’s capability in materials, advanced manufacturing and modular build for the reactors of the future; £2 million to research fuel recycling processes that may reduce future environmental and financial burdens; and £2 million to continue with the development of a suite of toolkits and underpinning data that will enhance government’s knowledge basis for future decision making in the nuclear sector, up to 2050.

The deadlines for the procurements are, respectively, 16 December 2016 for those on the website of the Official Journal of the European Union, and 18 January 2017 for the Small Business Research Initiative procurement……..

Last November, the government announced plans to invest at least £250 million over the next five years in a nuclear research and development program including a competition to identify the best value small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK. The first phase of that competition, a call for initial expressions of interest, was launched in March. It has also announced that an SMR Delivery Roadmap will be published later this year.

Nirab chair Sue Ion said the BEIS announcement “acts on the government’s commitment to spend at least £250 million on an ambitious nuclear research and development program over the next five years.” She added: “It’s a significant step forward for the UK in our drive to be a leading nation at the forefront of nuclear research.”

The research into new fuel, advanced manufacturing, reactor design, improved recycling processes and strategic tools aligns with Nirab’s recommendations and will “plug gaps in the UK’s current activity”, she said. “It will begin to equip our universities, national labs and industry with world leading skills and capability and act as a stimulus to national and international collaborative working.”

In October, Rolls-Royce announced it had submitted a paper to BEIS, outlining its plan to develop a fleet of 7 GWe of SMRs with its consortium. Other participants in the UK’s SMR competition include French-owned EDF Energy and its partner China National Nuclear Corporation, Westinghouse and the US developer NuScale Power.

Tom Mundy, managing director for the UK and Europe at NuScale Power, said the company welcomes the government’s “continued commitment to nuclear innovation and interest in the development of small modular reactor technology.” He added: “We look forward to the progression of the government’s competition, which aims to identify the best value SMR design for the UK.”

Industrial strategy

The UK’s Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) today called for the government “to work with industry to ensure the industrial strategy has energy infrastructure front and centre”, in its submission ahead of the Autumn Statement, due on 23 November.

The Autumn Statement is one of the two statements the Treasury makes each year to Parliament upon publication of economic forecasts, the other being the annual Budget……

the NIA has called for four developments.

Firstly, the roadmap for delivery on SMRs, following the Phase 1 competition, “to be released as soon as possible, so industry can capitalise on increasing international interest and for the UK to benefit from the supply chain and intellectual property developed here”.

Secondly, “clarity” following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, to give investors in key infrastructure developments “the confidence that a stable policy framework will be maintained to deliver vital new projects that promote growth”.

Thirdly, “assurance” that the Levy Control Framework, or successor mechanism, is set for the period beyond the current 2020-21 funding cap, to accommodate Contracts for Difference agreed for further low-carbon energy infrastructure, including new large-scale nuclear power stations at Moorside in Cumbria and Wylfa Newydd in Wales.

These projects belong, respectively, to NuGeneration (NuGen) and Horizon Nuclear Power.

NuGen, a joint venture between Toshiba and Engie, plans to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity at Moorside. NuGen will use AP1000 nuclear reactor technology provided by Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba.

Horizon aims to provide at least 5.4 GWe of new capacity across two sites – Wylfa Newydd and Oldbury – by deploying Hitachi-GE UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors. Established in 2009, Horizon was acquired by Hitachi in November 2012.

Fourthly, “sustained and predictable” funding for decommissioning the nuclear legacy, and maintaining progress made in recent years, while also promoting the country’s advanced supply chain and decommissioning expertise in export markets…..

The government’s strategy “must not stop at Hinkley”, NIA Chief Executive Tom Greatrex said, “but focus on the next line of new build developers, who will need to attract investment to build the new infrastructure we need, as well as providing clarity on the policy direction for an SMR program.”

November 12, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

British nuclear wastes to remain at old nuclear power plants

wastes-1flag-UKNuclear waste to remain at old UK plants rather than moved off-site
Leaving more contaminated soil and rubble on-site instead of moving it to dedicated dumps is cheaper and allows for quicker clean-ups, say officials,
Guardian, , 10 Nov 16  More contaminated soil and rubble will remain at the sites of Britain’s old nuclear power plants rather than going to a dedicated dump, under government-backed proposals.

But officials said that the sites would not be left in a hazardous state because international radiological standards would still be upheld.

They argued the changes would mean former nuclear sites could be cleaned up more quickly, less waste would need to be moved around the country, and decommissioning would be cheaper than under today’s regime.

Experts were split over the proposals. Some said that it showed the UK did not know what to do with its nuclear waste, but others welcomed it as a way of saving money.

 The government said a change to the Nuclear Installations Act 1965, outlined in a discussion paper last week, is needed now because several sites will reach the final stage of cleanup in the early 2020s, such as Winfrith in Dorset and Dounreay in Caithness.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) currently oversees the licensing of 17 nuclear sites that are slated for decommissioning and cleanup. The final stage involves dealing with large amounts of rubble, concrete, brick and soil, some of which is radioactive and designated low level waste (LLW). That waste currently goes to the UK’s only LLW site, at Drigg in Cumbria, which is almost full……..

nuclear critics said the changes showed the government lacked a long-term plan on nuclear waste.

“It’s another example of how much of the stuff we have and we don’t really know what we’re going to do with it, we’re just leaving it [the LLW]. It’s an appalling choice,” said Dr Paul Dorfman of University College London, who was involved in the decommissioning of Harwell in Oxfordshire, a former nuclear research site which is now partly used as a business park.

“The notion of the acceptability about LLW being just low level: you can say low, but this stuff is dangerous. You don’t want this stuff near you,” he said.

Under the proposed changes, former sites would no longer be considered “nuclear” at the end of their cleanup, and therefore no longer the responsibility of the ONR. Regulation would fall instead to the Health and Safety Executive and environment agencies.

“What the government is suggesting is, they’re turning off the liability but they’re not turning off the risk or hazard,” said John Large, a nuclear consultant who has advised the UK government on nuclear issues.

He said one of the drivers behind the change might be the pressure on the ONR from regulating and overseeing the new nuclear reactors planned in the UK, such as EDF’s new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset, and the regulator wanting to lighten its load. “I suspect the ONR are cutting their cloth here, I suspect they are hard pushed,” he said.

The government’s discussion paper said the changes could not be made without legislation being amended to allow the ONR to relinquish regulation of sites in their final stages of decommissioning. A public consultation on the proposal is planned in 2017.

November 11, 2016 Posted by | UK, wastes | Leave a comment

British nuclear lobby now going after government subsidies

UK-subsidy 2016Government could part-fund new UK nuclear plants, NuGen suggests, Telegraph UK,    energy editor 5 NOVEMBER 2016

Taxpayers could shoulder the multibillion-pound cost of civil engineering works for new nuclear power plants to make them easier to finance and reduce their impact on energy bills, the company seeking to build reactors in Cumbria has suggested.

Tom Samson, chief executive of NuGen, proposed reviewing how the different elements of new nuclear plants could be “carved up in different way to allow the Government to take a role in some of the enabling infrastructure”.

This could include funding major aspects of construction such as “the civil works”, he told a House of Lords committee.Mr Samson’s company wants to build three Westinghouse reactors at Moorside, near Sellafield in Cumbria, in a 3.8-gigawatt project he said was expected to cost up to £15bn.

But financing presents a major challenge for the project, which is 60pc owned by Japan’s Toshiba and 40pc by France’s Engie, formerly GDF Suez. It has been in talks with potential investors for months about a deal.

Under the funding model used for the £18bn Hinkley Point nuclear plant, developer EDF is to shoulder the full cost of construction in return for a 35-year contract from the Government guaranteeing it subsidies for the electricity it eventually produces.

These will be levied on consumer energy bills and could cost as much as £30bn.

But the model has been criticised as inefficient and expensive.

Even EDF, which is majority-owned by the French government, struggled to raise enough funds for the construction, raising major questions about how non-state-owned groups like Toshiba could hope to…….

NuGen is already lobbying via the Cumbrian Local Enterprise Partnership for Government assistance in improving the transport infrastructure in the Cumbrian area to help support both decommissioning operations at Sellafield and the proposed construction site at Moorside.

Ministers are reported to have commissioned a study earlier this year to consider alternative funding models, which also suggested the Government could take direct stakes in future projects.

Earlier this year rival developer Horizon warned that the Government needed to come up with a framework that was palatable for private investors, not just state companies like EDF…..

November 8, 2016 Posted by | politics, UK | Leave a comment

No safe way to move nuclear waste

Airplane dangerThere’s no safe way to move nuclear waste’: Scottish Politicians slam nuke flight that needed armed cop convoy Daily Record  18 SEP 2016   JIM LAWSON

Green MP John Finnie and Caithness MP Paul Monaghan among those to voice concerns about flying nuclear waste to the US. THE first flight believed to be carrying British nuclear waste to America took off from Wick Airport amid tight security yesterday.

Scots politicians and anti-nuclear campaigners have slammed the deal, brokered by David Cameron and Barack Obama, to move the waste.

The airport was closed from early morning as armed police patrolled the perimeter.

Twenty miles away in Thurso, more armed officers escorted a lorry from the Dounreay nuclear plant through the town. It was carrying two heavily reinforced containers……

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth, said: “There is no truly safe way to move this waste.”

Caithness MP Paul Monaghan said the deal was “morally reprehensible” and Green MP John Finnie said people would be stunned that nuclear waste was being transported by plane.

Nuclear expert John Large said: “The risk in transport by air is the fuel being engulfed in fire, the packages breaking down and the fuel igniting.”

The runways at Wick have been extended at a cost of £18million to take the US planes, and Highland Council have published an order allowing local roads to be closed for five hours at a time until March 2018.

Police refused to comment on yesterday’s operation for security reasons.The first flight believed to
be carrying British nuclear waste to America took off from Wick Airport amid tight security yesterday.

November 4, 2016 Posted by | safety, UK | Leave a comment