Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists Try to Save Illinois’ Plants

With Time Running Out for Illinois Nuclear Plants, Independent, Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists to March in Chicago on 10/24

green_earth_nuclear_atomA long time ago in a galaxy far away green groups supported nuclear energy. Now some groups like them are aligned with the same fossil fuel companies whose air pollution residuals were the basis for the original call to action.

Since then some ardent environmentalists have switched their views to the pro-nuclear view. See also Ecomodernism.

Green groups have always found it to be effective to get media attention, and public support, by marching to the offices of the polluters. Roles are reversed in the 21st century with pro-nuclear groups organizing the grass roots actions. 

Read on for an action alert for events taking place in Chicago on Monday October 24th.  (Hat tip to Will Davis at Atomic Power Review)

Contact: Eric Meyer, Director of Engagement, Environmental Progress   
Tel. 218.384.1645  Email:   Date: 10/20/16

With Time Running Out for Illinois Nuclear Plants, Independent, Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists to March

WHEN: Monday, October 24th, 2016, 11:00 AM
WHAT: Protest March and Rally at Invenergy and Environmental Law and Policy Center.
WHO: Pro-Nuclear Environmentalists  (Environmental Progress)
WHERE: Starts at W. Monroe and S. Wells St., Chicago, ending with a rally and press conference at ELPC at 12:30 (see march route on map below)
WHY: To urge passage of legislation to save Illinois nuclear plants

CHICAGO — On Monday, October 24th at 11:00am, independent pro-nuclear environmentalists will march, rally, and sing in support of provisions in the Next Generation Energy Plan (NGEP) that would allow for continued operation of Clinton and Quad Cities Nuclear Plants.

IL Parade Route

Illinois legislators could still act in a “veto session” after the November 8 elections to save both plants as part of a package deal that includes generous subsidies for renewables and energy efficiency.

The march is being organized by the Clean Power Coalition, a new pro-nuclear environmental coalition consisting of Environmental Progress, American Nuclear Society – Young Members Group, Mothers for Nuclear, Thorium Energy Alliance, and the International Youth Nuclear Congress.

Coalition marchers will march on the headquarters of two organizations they view as hostile towards nuclear power — Invenergy and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC).

“The ELPC has accepted funding from fossil energy companies including Invenergy to lobby against nuclear,” said Alan Medsker, IL Coordinator of Environmental Progress, a pro-nuclear environmental organization, “but we won’t let them shut down these two climate change champions, Clinton and Quad Cities.”

“There are only a few regions in the world that have actually been able to stop burning fossil fuel for power — places like France, Sweden, and Ontario — and they did so with nuclear power,” said University of Illinois nuclear engineering student and ANS student president Aries Loumis,   “Illinois could be one of those places.”

If the Next Generation Energy Plan passes with the nuclear component intact, the plants will get the small subsidy necessary to remain competitive in a market flooded with cheap natural gas.  “This is just smart energy policy,” said Lenka Kollar of IYNC, “Keeping these valuable assets online is crucial for mitigating climate change and ensuring energy security for the future.”

“Abandoning these plants would lead to 2 million cars worth of pollution and over 4,000 people losing their jobs,“ added Natalie Wood, President, North American Young Generation in Nuclear.  “If we need to march to ensure fair treatment of nuclear power, we will.”

“It takes guts to defend nuclear power in this hostile political climate,” noted Brett Rampal, President of American Nuclear Society’s Young Members Group. “But with all the information, I trust the legislature will do the right thing.”

About the Clean Power Coalition

The Clean Power Coalition is composed of environmental, academic, and industry organizations including Environmental Progress, Mothers for Nuclear, the International Youth Nuclear Congress, North American Young Generation of Nuclear, Thorium Energy Alliance, and American Nuclear Society Young Members Group.

About Environmental Progress

Environmental Progress is an environmental research and policy organization building a movement of citizens, scientists and conservationists advocating ethical and practical energy solutions for people and nature.

To learn more visit, or email us at

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The Case for a Nuclear Energy Investment Bank

The nation needs a government backed investment bank to secure capital at reasonable interest rates for development of advanced nuclear reactors.

This blog post describes the kinds of mechanisms that could be developed to provide the capital and financing mechanisms that are the missing links in the chain of events that need to be completed for nuclear start-ups to get the one thing they need most – customers.

There is a whole ecosystem of nuclear startups that believe they can build a better reactor, and faster than ever before. Designers of advanced nuclear reactors seek to bridge the gap between concept and prototype. While it is too early for investors and potential customers to easily pick winners from an increasingly crowded field of advanced reactor projects, new patterns of investment, including public/private partnerships, are creating opportunities for entrepreneurial developers.


Despite the excitement and enthusiasm associated with the work of nuclear energy start-up entrepreneurs, and a few risk taking venture capital investors, the prospects for them getting to market are dim without stable sources of loans and equity financing once these projects attain enough maturity to warrant it. (See also Third Way “Advanced Nuclear 101“)

Long Walk, Short Pier

I have come to the conclusion that all the so-called “happy talk” and congressional testimony about advanced reactors isn’t driving money into the hands of startups. Also, I am convinced that unless they have investors with lots of patience and very deep pockets, like TerraPower’s deal with China, that the most “product” some of them will ever develop, after long development time lines, are paper designs and maybe some intellectual property that can be sold to cash out the VC or angel Series A investors.

This is an unacceptable outcome to their investors and to the technologists who are committed to bringing their visions of a new generation of nuclear technologies to physical form.

New Kinds of Partnerships

The focus of a nuclear investment bank, in this view of it, is on firms that have passed through their initial conceptual development work and and have real prospects for producing a feasible design. Also, they need to have established viable partnerships, as startups, with much larger partners/potential customers, to take their work to the next stage. The example that comes to mind is X-Energy’s relationship with Southern Nuclear.

In January of this year my blog predicted that utilities, as customers of innovative developers, will not be content to wait 20 years for DOE national laboratories to kick R&D projects out of their sandboxes.

I wrote that the business paradigm of time to market for useful innovations will produce a demand factor that will drive utilities to try to get early, hands-on, looks at innovative reactor designs.

Four months later Southern Corp. and X-Energy proved the principle by inking a deal to collaborate on the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies. Neither Southern nor X-Energy explained in their press statements where their R&D work intersects.

The technological link between the two projects is Triso fuel. Some GEN IV designs of very high temperature molten salt reactors specify the use of it. The pebble bed design depends entirely on Triso fuel.

Similar partnerships are possible with many other types of nuclear reactor technologies and fuels. For instance, in 2011 a group of nuclear engineers reviewed the design of the Integral Fast Reactor and concluded that there were no technical barriers to developing an NRC licensing application for it.

However, not every utility is as bullish on nuclear start-ups as Southern. In fact, many are adverse in varying degrees to the idea of this kind of partnership due to their mixed portfolios of nuclear, coal, gas, and renewable energy generation technologies all competing for capital investment dollars.

Stockholders seeking maximum return on investment, in markets that values quarterly earnings reports, appear to have little patience for the time it takes to bring a new reactor design to market. The exception, so far, besides Southern, is UAMPS with its commitment to NuScale’s SMR now targeting an NRC license submission by the end of this year.

Even TVA is cautious having backed away from a ground breaking relationship with B&W to design and license a 180 MW SMR. Instead, the quasi-government utility has opted for a technology agnostic Early Site Permit that has a shelf life of up to two decades.

The Federal Government’s Potential Role at a Nuclear Banker

The “bank” would have multiple roles. As a quasi-government corporation, it would raise funds by selling government bonds against a debt ceiling authorized by Congress.  This financial arrangement would buffer the bank from the volatility of the annual appropriation cycle.

Here’s a short list of possible investment vehicles. The list is expressed in general terms. Financial experts would need to work out the details.

  • Series A funding for start ups perhaps in partnership with VC firms. The money would be repaid once more significant resources are found producing the possibility of a revolving fund of $1-5M investments for start-ups.
  • Cost sharing grants (50/50) for technical design and development of license applications.
  • Investments in permanent test facilities, with flexible infrastructure and configurations, to be used on a cost-reimbursement / grant basis by nuclear start ups to prove the viability of fuels, materials, and components.
  • SBA type loans and/or grants to suppliers of nuclear parts, components, and systems to obtain NQA-1 certification for them to be used in advanced reactors
  • Sale of bonds to generate funds for significant equity investments in maturing firms
  • Loan guarantee like the ones granted to Southern for Vogtle
  • Finally, DOE needs to do a much better job at due diligence to avoid another Solyndra type scandal which appears to have been driven in part by political deals cut at the White House.

DOE Progress Shows Promise

DOE is to be commended for having taken several important steps in promoting financial futures for startups.

  • It created the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) which includes the Nuclear Voucher System for small grants to start ups.
  • It awarded loan guarantees to cover $8.3 billion in costs for the twin Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Georgia Power’s Vogtle site.
  • It awarded two large grants worth $40M each to developers of advanced nuclear technologies.
  • It funded a cost sharing agreement with NuScale to support design and licensing expenses for its 50 MW SMR.

So what’s missing? The financing strategy is piecemeal. It lacks broad congressional support, and the Obama White House, a reluctant sponsor of these programs for much of its eight years in office, never pushed for an integrated program of policy objectives and financing tied to nuclear energy as a key technology to address climate change.

SEAB Report on the Future of Nuclear Power

On September 22 the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB), composed of senior level experts from industry and government, published its final report on the future of nuclear power.

In its report, and accompanying slide presentation, SEAB identified the huge costs needed to build a first of a kind (FOAK) advanced nuclear reactor, and the time frame to complete one for commercial deployment. The chart below from the report shows that total program costs for as single design could be $8-13 billion over a period of up to two decades.

SEAB timeline FOAK

The SEAB report is unnecessarily cautious, and like TVA, seems to want to bask in the reflected light of market options that might never bear fruit. The government and the industry must come up with better numbers. These types of prognostications represent a kind of thinking that harks back to the lumbering progress of national labs decades before there ever were any nuclear start ups or the Internet.

The government needs to learn from the start-ups with their focus on rapid prototyping, modeling in super computers, the blazing speed of web enabled communication, and public / private partnerships with new lab organizations like GAIN.

Lack of Speed Kills

Venture capitalists like Ray Rothrock, which is also a nuclear engineer, know that speed is the hallmark of developing new disruptive technologies like advanced reactors. In a paper published in September by the Breakthrough Institute, he writes that the Silicon Valley innovation model involves “many shots, one goal.”

DOE seems to have the idea, at least as embodied in the SEAB report, that one design fits all and that taking a “moonshot” approach to it will solve the problem.

fastballRothroack says this isn’t the right approach. Instead, the government ought to think in baseball terms, and that is that the more “at bats” you get, the more times you are likely to get a hit, get on base, and score a run. This means placing many “bets” on a variety of designs to see which ones which ones will fail quickly and which ones can go the distance.

Need for  Leadership

Rothrock writes that the next President must start “by making nuclear energy a national priority to meet our climate and energy needs and explicitly setting the goal for deployment and commercialization of advanced reactors.”

And Rothrock says the SEAB report, “has the right idea.”

But he also says its recommendations must be and it can be done even faster if we are to have any chance against climate change.

“The math suggests that we’re going to need to be already deploying a range of clean technologies including new nuclear technologies starting in 2030 if we want to stay on target to meet our climate goals by 2050. That means our first deployments have to come earlier—we’re talking 2025, fully commercialized and ready to go. Bold goals indeed that need to be expressed.”

He points out that China is planning to deploy advanced reactors in 2018, so clearly this is less of a technology barrier than just a decision to do it. Russia is also placing many bets on advanced reactor R&D and has connected one of its advanced reactors, with its new fuel type, to the grid.

A government bank that provides funding at various stages of maturity for many different types of reactor start up efforts would be consistent with the concept of placing multiple bets to find out which ones would have the greatest potential to get the one thing they all want – paying customers.

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Nuclear News Roundup for October 23, 2016

Note to readers: Twitter was unavailable several times this week due to a series of unprecedented denial of service cyber crime attacks. This weekly report on the blog is longer than usual to compensate for loss of Twitter for breaking news. Regular posts to Twitter will return as conditions permit.

Kudankulam Units 3 & 4 Launched

(WNN) India and Russia have officially launched the second phase of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant under construction in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu by Rosatom as part of an intergovernmental agreement signed between Moscow and New Delhi in 1998.

India has started construction of units 3 and 4 and a government spokesman at NPCIL said that all the necessary infrastructure and design documentation have been established. First concrete is to be poured at the site near the first two units in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The new reactors at the Kudankulam plant are based on Atomenergoproekt design with VVER-1000 MW power units.

Last August NPCIL inaugurated Unit 1 of the Kudankulam plant, which is already in service, having started commercial operation in December 2014. Output from Kudankulam 1 is being supplied to India’s southern grid and divided between five states: Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry. Unit 2 of the plant has also been connected to the electricity grid, becoming India’s 22nd operating power reactor.

Anti-nuclear Politician’s Win Hurts Japan’s Efforts to Restart Its Reactors

(AFP/South China Morning Post) Fears about the safety of nuclear power and radiation exposure linger in Japan, challenging a push by PM Abe and his government and utility companies to switch the country’s remaining reactors back on.  An anti-nuclear candidate pulled off a surprise victory in a local Japanese election at the weekend. His election is seen as hurting the government’s bid to restart shuttered reactors more than five years after Fukushima.

First-time politician Ryuichi Yoneyama, 49, had campaigned on a pledge to stop the restgart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station, the world’s biggest nuclear plant, located about 200 kilometres northwest of Tokyo. There are seven reactors across the enormous Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site.

His victory came after voters in southern Kagoshima prefecture voted in a new anti-nuclear governor in July. Yoneyama, a doctor and lawyer who ran as an independent but was supported by left-leaning opposition parties, beat a ruling bloc-supported candidate with 528,455 votes to his opponent’s 465,044.

His election should not have come as a surprise to anyone who has followed politics in Niigata Prefecture. It has consistently elected anti-nuclear governors who have been critical of TEPCO’s management of the reactors at the site. Fires and accidents with storage of low level waste have rattled area residents.

The latest election results put Abe in a tricky position. The central government can overrule a governor’s opposition to restarting nuclear reactors. But Abe has promised to win approval from local communities before approving restarts under stricter post-Fukushima safety rules.

Japan Atomic Energy Agency Will Seek to Restart the Joyo Fast Reactor

(Japan Times/Kyodo News) The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is considering applying for a government safety assessment of its aging Joyo experimental fast reactor in hopes of restarting it.

The government is looking to the Joyo reactor to continue development of fast reactors, given that the JAEA’s Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, which was intended to play a key role in the process, is expected to be scrapped after a trouble-plagued history stretching back two decades.

The Joyo reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture and Monju in Fukui Prefecture were created as the first and second stage of the fast breeder reactor research and development project that commenced in the 1960s. Joyo, which reached criticality in 1977, is no longer used for fast breeder research.

Monju was intended to play a key role in achieving a nuclear fuel cycle aimed at reprocessing uranium fuel used in conventional reactors and reusing the extracted plutonium and uranium.

The reactor uses extracted plutonium and uranium as fuel, but it has remained largely offline since first achieving criticality in 1994, due to a leakage of its sodium coolant and other safety and operational problems.

In plutonium-fueled fast reactors, fission chain reactions are sustained by fast neutrons. The government has been pursuing fast reactors to “breed” plutonium, meaning more plutonium is produced than consumed. Both reactors were developed as part of Japan’s plans for a “plutonium economy” designed to counter competition from China for fossil fuels.

NRC to Issue Licences For Two New AP1000 Reactors At Levy County, FL

(NucNet) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has cleared the way to issue two combined licences (COLs) for Duke Energy to build and operate two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at its Levy County site in Florida.

Based on the mandatory hearing on Duke’s application, the Commission found the NRC staff’s review adequate to make “the necessary regulatory safety and environmental findings.”

The staff will impose conditions on the COLs, including specific actions associated with post-Fukushima requirements for mitigation strategies and spent fuel pool instrumentation, and a pre-startup schedule for implementing post-Fukushima aspects of the new reactors’ emergency preparedness plans and procedures.

Progress Energy Florida (now Duke Energy Florida) submitted its COL application for Levy County in July 2008. The NRC completed its environmental review and issued the final environmental impact statement for the reactors in April 2012. The NRC certified the amended 1,100-MW AP1000 design in 2012.

It is doubtful that work to build the reactors will begin on the reactors anytime soon. Duke Energy inherited the project from Progress as part of the merger, but escalating costs, including grid improvements, along with a sputtering economy and record low natural gas prices, have made the project a non-starter.

Florida’s policy of having rate payers cover costs of new reactors as they are being build came under fire from legislators as the projected costs for the Levy plant became known. However, several efforts to overturn the policy were defeated in roll call votes. This bodes well for future plans by FP&L to build two new AP1000  reactors at Turkey Point near Miami. Even so, these plans are also on hold pending economic and environmental reviews.

Like other utilities, Duke’s effort to complete the licensing process banks the approval against an undetermined future date when it might make business sense to consider building the reactors. The utility is taking the same approach with its William States Lee III plant at the site in South Carolina.

Uranium Prices Tumble to Record Lows

(Bloomberg) Uranium producers should brace for a longer period of lower prices as the fuel extends its decline to an 11-year low amid a glut, according to Australian miner Paladin Energy Ltd.

According to the wire service, every uranium mine is running at a loss with prices at $21 a pound, said Alexander Molyneux, the chief executive officer of Paladin Energy. Spot prices for yellowcake (U3O8) fell to $20.50, capping a 40% decline for the year, according to data from Ux Consulting Co. Prices were last below $21 in January 2005, according to Ux.

Uranium is heading for a second annual drop amid a global surplus prolonged by the slower-than-anticipated restart of Japan’s nuclear reactors. The glut is forecast to extend until a rebalancing occurs in 2024.

RBC Capital Markets reduced its 2017 uranium price estimate by 21% to $27.50 a pound and its 2018 forecast to $35, according to an Oct. 16 note. Prices are unlikely to rebound until at least 2019.

Saudi Arabia to Select Nuclear Power-Plant Site
— UAE Signs on with KEPCO to Operate its Reactors

(Bloomberg) Saudi Arabia will soon choose a site for its first nuclear power plant as the world’s biggest crude exporter seeks to diversify its sources of energy.

“We will be selecting sites very soon (within the next year) that we will reserve for our first nuclear energy power plant,” Khalid Al-Falih, the country’s energy minister, said at the Oil and Money conference in London. “

The kingdom has a target of generating 6 to 7 GWe of electricity from nuclear power by 2032, rising to 17 gigawatts by 2040, Maher al-Odan, an adviser to the government on renewables planning, said in April of last year.

Saudi Arabia has selected three potential sites for its nuclear plants. Also, it has said it will diversify its procurement of reactors and not rely on a single vendor.

UAE Sets Operational Relationship for its Four Reactors

Abu Dhabi in the neighboring United Arab Emirates is building the Gulf Arab region’s first nuclear power plant. The reactor, one of four that the emirate is planning, is scheduled for completion in 2017.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. and Korea Electric Power Corp. signed a joint-venture agreement this week for a long-term partnership in the UAE’s nuclear program, ENEC said in a statement. The South Korean firm will operate the UAE nuclear facilities as an equity partner and contractor.

Korea Electric is taking an 18% in a venture representing the commercial interests of the UAE’s Barakah nuclear-plant project, with ENEC holding the rest.

Construction of the UAE’s four reactors is more than 71%, and all the plants are to be finished in 2020, ENEC said it expects to produce nearly a quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy by 2020.

Akkuyu Nuclear Plant Seeks Turkish Partners

(Wire Services) Turkey’s Cengiz Holding is seeking local partners to undertake an equity share in Turkey’s Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is being built by Russian company Rosatom.

Cengiz Holding recently won a bid for construction of water-intake infrastructure for the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant. Russia is holding talks with the firm in hopes to capitalize on the holding’s experience in energy installation and power plant construction.

Cengiz highlighted that the company needs to be a shareholder of the nuclear power plant in order to take part in its management and the Turkish partnership is expected to be completed by the beginning of the new year.

The hunt for investors in the four reactor complex has been ongoing for several years, but there have been no takers so far. In April 2016, Russia’s Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation decided to sell up to 49% of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, Inc. to local companies in an attempt to form new partnerships.

The initial agreement on the nuclear power plant was signed between Turkey and Russia in 2010. The power plant consists of four nuclear reactors and a capacity of 4,800 megawatts (MW). It bis projected to be operational by 2023.

The nuclear plant in the southern province of Mersin is the first of three nuclear power plants Turkey currently plans to build to reduce its dependence on imported natural gas from Russia.

A second plant will be built by a French-Japanese consortium in the northern city of Sinop near the Black Sea. The Turkish energy ministry announced in October of last year that the country’s third nuclear power plant will be built in the Igneada district in the northwestern province of Kirklareli located on the western coast of the Black Sea.

Korsnick: Nuclear Must Be Seen as Essential National Infrastructure

(NEI) Maria Korsnick, the Nuclear Energy Institute’s newly selected president and chief executive officer, said last week that her most pressing priority is to get nuclear energy “the credit it deserves” as an essential part of the nation’s industrial and electrical infrastructure.

Speaking at her first press conference since NEI’s Oct. 4 announcement that she will succeed current CEO Marvin Fertel on Jan. 1, 2017, Korsnick called nuclear energy the unsung hero of our energy mix. She said she would seek recognition for the role nuclear energy must play as the nation and the world seek to meet increasing electricity demand using low-carbon energy sources.

“If we hope to maximize nuclear energy’s immense potential globally, the United States must take a leadership role, and NEI must carry out its mission effectively on behalf of the utilities, vendors and suppliers we represent,” she said.

Korsnick pointed out that despite the exemplary performance of the nation’s nuclear power plants, a confluence of factors—including low natural gas prices, federal and state support for renewables, and market flaws that do not value nuclear’s reliability and carbon-free attributes—have resulted in numbers of nuclear plants closing prematurely. When nuclear power plants retire prematurely, their generation is largely replaced by more natural gas.

“When you’re trying to stop carbon emissions, the math doesn’t add up. That’s a net loss in the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, above and beyond the devastating economic impact to the communities where the plants operated,” she said.

She said much of the impetus to keeping current plants operating will come from working with state-level governmental agencies and policymakers to recognize and value their reliability and zero-emission attributes. New York state’s recently approved Clean Energy Standard is one model that can be emulated by other states and regions.

On the other hand, getting pricing mechanisms right to value nuclear in energy and capacity markets will come from policy changes at the level of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission as well as at the regional transmission organizations that regulate and operate electricity grids, she said.

SMRs and Advanced Reactors are a Priority

Another of NEI’s priorities is to assist in accelerating the design and commercialization of small modular light water reactors, next generation light water reactors and non-light water, advanced reactors for deployment in the coming decades.

“It is important that young people entering our field—and others thinking about it—see a bright future for our industry,” she said.

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Nuclear News Roundup for October 16, 2016

TVA sets auction date for Bellefonte nuclear power plant

(Times Free Press) TVA said this week it has set an auction date of November 14 to sell its unfinished Bellefonte nuclear power plant. Concentric Energy Advisors Inc., a property consulting firm TVA hired this spring to market the 1,400-acre power plant site on the Tennessee River in Hollywood, Ala., will conduct the sale at the plant site.

TVA directors declared the unfinished nuclear plant to be surplus property earlier this year 43 years after construction began on the twin-reactor complex. The site is not currently subject to any zoning regulations and TVA says the site could support a mix of industrial, commercial, retail and residential use.

TVA said in a statement the “primary goal in selling the site is to provide the best long-term economic return to the surrounding communities.”

The minimum bid price is $36.4 million, which is the appraised value of the riverfront property, but the bids will be evaluated on both the price offered and the economic gains any sale would generate for the region. The utility spent $5 billion on the unfinished reactors which never loaded fuel not generated any electricity.

TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said the utility and its sales agent are not disclosing the identities of bidders who have qualified to submit purchase proposals next month. It is unknown if any of the buyers are interested in using the reactor building, transmission yard and cooling towers to pursue any nuclear power generation.

One possible bidder is the Nevada-based Phoenix Energy, which said it submitted a $38 million bid for Bellefonte last month. The company has proposed using Bellefonte for a new type of magnetic inductive power generation known as induction energy fuel conversion after investing a few hundred million dollars.

Because TVA does not anticipate needing any extra power that the plant might generate, Phoenix Energy would have to beat the generation prices of other independent power producers to sell its power on the open market.

Chinese nuclear firm confident its reactor can pass strict UK safety tests

(China Daily) China General Nuclear Power Corp has said it is confident that the Chinese-made Hualong One reactor will pass Britain’s strict approval process in five years.

The technology, also known as HPR1000, or Hualong One, will be submitted to the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation for its rigorous generic design assessment by the end of this year, the company said.

If it passes, the design will be used at the proposed power station at Bradwell, on the east coast of England, which would be the first nuclear project in a developed market to use a Chinese reactor.

“We completed all preparatory work regarding the technology’s assessment in July, and we received positive feedback from Britain during a technology conference last year,” said Mao Qing, the project manager at CGN responsible for Hualong One’s assessment.

“We have thoroughly studied the technologies that have gone through the process in the past and are confident Hualong One will meet the UK’s stringent safety, security and design requirements.”

According to He Yu, the chairman of CGN, passing the assessment will also lead to more countries having confidence in the Chinese reactor, which is based on third-generation nuclear technology, and will push forward its global market development.

CGN recently signed a final agreement on the 18 billion pound ($23.4 billion) Hinkley Point C power plant with the French utility EDF and the British government. The project has been hailed as a gateway to promote Chinese nuclear technology.

The proposed Bradwell project consists of two Hualong One reactors, each with an output of 1.15 gigawatts. CGN will hold a 66.5 percent share of the project, with EDF holding the rest.

China R&D group sets goal of deploying 10 MW nuclear battery in five years

(South China Morning Post) A top mainland research institute is developing the world’s smallest ­nuclear power plant, which could fit inside a shipping container and might be installed on an island in the disputed South China Sea within five years.

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

Although the small, lead-cooled reactor could be placed ­inside a shipping container ­measuring about 6.1 metres long and 2.6 metres high, it would be able to generate 10 MW of heat, which, if converted into electricity, would be enough to power some 50,000 households.

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

It is also capable of running for years or even decades without refuelling, and scientists say that because it produces neither dust nor smoke, even on a small island a resident would hardly notice its existence.

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

Swiss government opposes campaign for quick nuclear exit

(Reuters) The Swiss government opposes an initiative to be voted on in November that would shutter three nuclear plants next year, Energy Minister Doris Leuthard said this week.

While the government aims to exit nuclear energy eventually, she told a news conference in Bern, the proposal to be decided by referendum on Nov. 27 is premature, leaving Switzerland unable to replace power output with energy from renewables.

The initiative, pushed by Greenpeace and the Swiss Green Party that dispute Leuthard’s dire predictions, demands reactors Beznau I und II and Muehleberg be closed in 2017, with two remaining stations to follow in 2024 and 2029.

A hasty shutdown, Leuthard contended, would leave Switzerland’s energy security in tatters, boost dependence on German coal-fired power and expose taxpayers to utilities’ demands for remuneration.

“Compensation lawsuits are inevitable,” Leuthard said. “Taxpayers would be on the hook.”

Swiss power company BKW already plans to shut its Muehleberg plant in 2019, citing high costs to keep the nearly 45-year-old site running.

Accelerating that to 2017, while adding more closures, would leave Switzerland hard pressed to replace more than 1,000 megawatts of power, enough for 1.6 million households, BKW Chief Executive Suzanne Thoma said.

“Electricity is something we take for granted,” Thoma said. “When it is no longer available, everything falls apart.”

Japan Minister confirms Fast Breeder Reactor remains important

(WNN) The head of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has confirmed the importance of fast breeder reactor (FBR) development in Japan at a meeting of public and private sector representatives. Japanese governmental policy on FBRs – including the future of the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor – is to be finalized by the end of the year.

The Conference on Fast Reactor Development took place in Tokyo on October 7th. Chaired by METI Minister Hiroshige Seko, it was attended by Hirokazu Matsuno, minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Toshio Kodama, president of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), Satoru Katsuno, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies, and Shunichi Miyanaga, president of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

METI minister Hiroshige Seko reiterated to the conference the Japanese government’s recognition that nuclear energy is essential for Japan to maintain stable supplies of inexpensive electricity. He stressed that that the country must face the challenges of the nuclear fuel cycle “squarely.”

MEXT representatives told the conference it would cost an estimated JPY540 billion ($5.24 billion) to operate Monju to the end of its licensed operating period. This is a minimum cost based on the assumption it would take eight years to restart the reactor, and that it could then be operated for another eight years, and does not include decommissioning costs.

The 280 MWe Monju FBR started up in 1994 but following sodium leakage problems operated for only 205 days until it restarted in May 2010. It has not operated since refuelling equipment fell into the reactor vessel during a refuelling outage later that year.

The equipment was subsequently retrieved and replaced but the Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has not yet permitted the reactor to restart. In November 2015, following concerns over equipment inspections, the NRA determined that operator JAEA was not competent to operate the reactor.

Many experts believe the plant will never be restarted and that if Japan wants an FBR it will have to start over.

NEI Praises US Regulator’s Advanced Reactor Strategy

(NucNet): The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s near-term activities to prepare for the licensing of advanced non-light water nuclear reactor technologies are “generally consistent” with the industry’s focus over the same period, the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute has told the NRC.

In comments to the NRC, the NEI called an NRC strategy document on non-light water reactors “an important opportunity to assure alignment of NRC activities with the goals and priorities of the industry.”

NEI said the nuclear industry in the US is preparing for new reactor technology to supplant existing reactors in the coming decades. Dozens of companies are developing a variety of advanced non-light water reactor designs that differ substantially from the light-water reactors in use internationally. Some of these designs include non-traditional technologies such as high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, molten salt reactors and sodium-, lead- or gas-cooled fast reactors.

The NEI said the companies’ efforts have strong bipartisan support in Congress, and several bills have been passed in the past two years to provide fincial support as well as technical and material support from the US Department of Energy’s complex of national laboratories.

DOE and the industry anticipate that these advanced nonlight water reactors will be ready for deployment by the early 2030s, the NEI said.

“Non-light water reactors, large light water reactors and small modular light water reactors – which are expected to be operational by the mid-2020s – will form an ‘all-of-the-above’ nuclear energy portfolio that will be required to meet future energy needs and clean air goals.” The NRC strategy document is online:

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Spacecraft Nuclear Batteries Get A Boost From New Materials

Plutonium power may yet again support deep space missions

No extension cord is long enough to reach another planet, and there’s no spacecraft charging station along the way. That’s why researchers are hard at work on ways to make spacecraft power systems more efficient, resilient and long-lasting.

“NASA needs reliable long-term power systems to advance exploration of the solar system,” said Jean-Pierre Fleurial, supervisor for the thermal energy conversion research and advancement group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

“This is particularly important for the outer planets, where the intensity of sunlight is only a few percent as strong as it is in Earth orbit.”

A cutting-edge development in spacecraft power systems is a class of materials with an unfamiliar name: skutterudites (skut-ta-RU-dites). Researchers are studying the use of these advanced materials in a proposed next-generation power system called an eMMRTG, which stands for Enhanced Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.

What is an RTG?

Radioactive substances naturally generate heat as they spontaneously transform into other elements. Radioisotope power systems make use of this heat as fuel to produce useful electricity for use in a spacecraft. The radioisotope power systems on NASA spacecraft today harness heat from the natural radioactive decay of plutonium-238 oxide. (NASA web page – primer on RTGs)  PU-238 is not a weapons grade material and cannot be used to make bombs.

The United States first launched a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) into space on a satellite in 1961. RTGs have powered NASA’s twin Voyager probes since their launch in 1977; more than 10 billion miles (16 billion kilometers) away, the Voyagers are the most distant spacecraft from Earth and are still going. RTGs have enabled many other missions that have sent back a wealth of science results, including NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover and the New Horizons mission, which flew by Pluto in 2015.

The new eMMRTG would provide 25 percent more power than Curiosity’s generator at the start of a mission, according to current analyses. Additionally, since skutterudites naturally degrade more slowly that the current materials in the MMRTG, a spacecraft outfitted with an eMMRTG would have at least 50 percent more power at the end of a 17-year design life than it does today.

“Having a more efficient thermoelectric system means we’d need to use less plutonium. We could go farther, for longer and do more,” Bux said.

Radioisotope Power Systems & Heaters by Mission

Mission Radioisotope
Power Systems
Nimbus III Two SNAP-19B3 RTGs Earth atmospheric science (weather)
Apollo 11 (Early Apollo Surface Experiment Package) Two RHUs Lunar surface
Apollo 12 through 17 (Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Package) One SNAP-27 RTG each Lunar surface
Pioneer 10 Four SNAP-19 RTGs, 12 RHUs Outer planet flyby at Jupiter
Pioneer 11 Four SNAP-19 RTGs, 12 RHUs Outer planet flybys at Jupiter & Saturn
Viking 1 lander Two SNAP-19 RTGs Mars surface
Viking 2 lander Two SNAP-19 RTGs Mars surface
Voyager 1 Three MHW-RTGs, 9 RHUs Outer planet flybys at Jupiter, Saturn, plus interstellar space
Voyager 2 Three MHW-RTGs, 9 RHUs Outer planet flybys at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, plus interstellar space
Galileo Two GPHS-RTGs, 103 RHUs on orbiter, 17 RHUs on atmospheric probe Venus and Earth flybys, Jupiter orbit, probe to Jupiter’s atmosphere
Ulysses One GPHS-RTG Two Jupiter flybys, Solar polar observations
Mars Pathfinder Sojourner Rover Three RHUs Mars surface
Cassini-Huygens Three GPHS-RTGs, 82 RHUs on orbiter, 35 RHUs on Huygens probe Venus, Earth and Jupiter flybys, Saturn orbit, Huygens lander to Titan
Mars Exploration Rover Spirit Eight RHUs Mars surface
Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity Eight RHUs Mars surface
New Horizons One GPHS-RTG Pluto/Kuiper Belt flybys
Mars Science Laboratory Rover Curiosity One MMRTG Mars Surface 

What are skutterudites?

The defining new ingredients in the proposed eMMRTG are materials called skutterudites, which have unique properties that make them especially useful for power systems. These materials conduct electricity like metal, but heat up like glass, and can generate sizable electrical voltages.

Materials with all of these characteristics are hard to come by. A copper pot, for example, is an excellent conductor of electricity, but gets very hot quickly. Glass, on the other hand, insulates against heat well, but it can’t conduct electricity. Neither of these properties are appropriate in a thermoelectric material, which converts heat into electricity.

“We needed to design high temperature compounds with the best mix of electrical and heat transfer properties,” said Sabah Bux, a technologist at JPL who works on thermoelectric materials. “Skutterudites, with their complex structures composed of heavy atoms like antimony, allow us to do that.”

RTGs in space

A team at JPL is working on turning skutterudites into thermocouples. A thermocouple is a device that generates an electrical voltage from the temperature difference in its components. Compared to other materials, thermocouples made of skutterudites need a smaller temperature difference to produce the same amount of useful power, making them more efficient.

Earth-based applications of skutterudite

There are many potential applications for these advanced thermoelectric materials here on Earth.

“In situations where waste heat is emitted, skutterudite materials could be used to improve efficiency and convert that heat into useful electricity,” said Thierry Caillat, project leader for the technology maturation project at JPL.

For example, exhaust heat from a car could be converted into electricity and fed back into the vehicle, which could be used to charge batteries and reduce fuel use. Industrial processes that require high temperatures, such as ceramic and glass processing, could also use skutterudite materials to make use of waste heat. In 2015, JPL licensed patents on these high-temperature thermoelectric materials to a company called Evident Technologies, Troy, New York.

“Over the last 20 years, the field of thermoelectrics has come into being and blossomed, especially at JPL,” said Fleurial. “There’s a lot of great science happening in this area. We’re excited to explore the idea of taking these materials to space, and benefitting U.S. industry along the way.”


What is a thermoelectric material?

Thermoelectric materials are materials that can convert a temperature difference into electricity, or vice versa.

What is a thermocouple?

A conventional thermocouple is made of two different thermoelectric materials joined together at one “shoe,” or end, where its temperature is measured. When you heat up a thermocouple, the difference in the conductivity of the materials results in one metal becoming hotter than the other, and causes the temperature of the joined end to change. This temperature difference creates a voltage (the force with which electrons flow through the material), and converts a portion of the transferred heat into electricity.

How do thermocouples work?

Thermocouples are in every home: They measure the temperature in your oven and control your water heater. Most household thermocouples are inefficient: they produce a voltage so small, it produces almost no electrical current. By contrast skutterudites are a lot more efficient: They require a smaller temperature difference to produce useful electricity.

NASA is studying thermocouples made out of skutterudites that have a flat top and two “legs,” somewhat like the iconic Stonehenge stone monuments. Heat transfers across the thermocouple from a high-temperature heat source to a suitable heat ‘sink’ (such as cold water). An electrical current is produced between the hot end (the flat top) and the cold end (the legs) of the thermocouple.

“It’s as though there are a lot of people in a room where one side is hot and one side is cold,” said JPL’s Sabah Bux. “The people, which represent the electrical charges, will move from the hot side to the cold side. That movement is electricity.”

The thermocouples are joined end-to-end in one long circuit – the electrical current goes up, over and down each thermocouple, producing useful power. Devices outfitted in this way can take advantage of a variety of heat sources, ranging in temperature from 392 to more than 1832 degrees Fahrenheit (200 to more than 1000 degrees Celsius).

In Curiosity’s power system, the Multi Mission RTG (MMRTG), 768 thermocouples encircle a central can-like structure, all facing the same direction towards the heat source, at the center of the generator. The enhanced MMRTG (eMMRTG) would have the same number of thermocouples, but all would be made from skutterudite material instead of the alloys of telluride currently used.

“Only minimal changes to the existing MMRTG design are needed to get these results,” Fleurial said. A group of about two dozen people at JPL is dedicated to working on these advanced materials and testing the resulting thermocouple prototypes.

The new skutterudite-based thermocouples passed their first major NASA review in late 2015. If they pass further reviews in 2017 and 2018, the first eMMRTG using them could fly aboard NASA’s next New Frontiers-class mission.

& & &

JPL’s work to develop higher-efficiency thermoelectric materials is carried out in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Teledyne Energy Systems and Aerojet Rocketdyne, and is funded by NASA’s Radioisotope Power System program, which is managed by NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The spaceflight hardware is produced by Teledyne Energy Systems and Aerojet Rocketdyne under a contract held by the DOE, which fuels, completes final assembly and owns the end item. Caltech manages JPL for NASA.

Thanks to NASA/JPL for this material and sources

News Media Contact

Elizabeth Landau
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

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Seeking Informed Consent on Siting Nuclear Waste

States and Localities Open to a New Approach on Siting Nuclear Waste

A “consent-based” approach to siting nuclear waste facilities may offer a promising solution to what has been a decades-long stalemate on the issue, according to the results of a survey of state leaders conducted by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

The first-of-its-kind survey found state leaders are willing to engage in discussions about potential nuclear waste storage facilities with the federal government, local communities, tribal agencies, and other stakeholders on a collaborative basis.

nuke waste

These findings are part of a new report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Nuclear Waste Council. The report, Moving Forward with Consent-Based Siting for Nuclear Waste Facilities, also contains a series of recommendations from the council on how to break the national impasse on nuclear waste and structure a viable consent-based process that brings together relevant stakeholders at all levels of government.

The recommendations are based on the state survey, site visits to private waste storage facilities, and consultations with local leaders across the country.

“We have allowed the issue of how and where to store nuclear waste to stagnate for too long,” said former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue, co-chair of the Nuclear Waste Council.

“Our council believes a cooperative approach could be a breakthrough, and we urge Congress and the Department of Energy to consider it.”

“Decisions about nuclear waste storage are never going to be easy, and even in a consent-based approach there are still tricky questions to be answered,” said former Rep. Norm Dicks, co-chair of the Nuclear Waste Council.

“But it is clear to our council that giving all stakeholders a seat at the table is more likely to produce a sustainable solution that satisfies the need for permanent storage and addresses citizens’ concerns.”

The council’s recommendations include:

  • As part of a fundamental overhaul of the U.S. nuclear waste management program, Congress should establish a new, dedicated nuclear waste management organization, separate from the Department of Energy.
  • Future siting efforts should emphasize voluntary participation, flexibility, transparency, inclusion and consultation, trust, accountability, and scientific and technical integrity.
  • Future siting efforts should encourage multiple applications, ensure a fair and thorough assessment of all options, avoid down-selecting to a single option too early in the process, and make selections among competing options on the basis of objective, observable metrics.

References on the Web

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U.S. Navy Sets Plans to Upgrade Idaho Spent Fuel Facility

The Naval Reactors facility needs a new wet storage facility to cool off spent fuel from its nuclear propulsion program.

spent fuel train idahoThe Associated Press reported October 3 that the Navy and U.S. Department of Energy want to build a $1.6 billion facility at a nuclear site in eastern Idaho that would handle fuel waste from the nation’s fleet of nuclear-powered warships through at least 2060. (fact sheet)

According to the wire service, the new facility would be built at the Energy Department’s 890-square-mile Idaho National Laboratory, the nation’s primary lab for commercial nuclear energy research.

The Navy’s plan is sure to set off a significant response from anti-nuclear  groups and two ex-governors who have stridently opposed any new spent nuclear fuel, from any source, being brought to the state.

batt_and_andrus_nprFormer Governors Cecil Andrus, a democrat, and Phil Batt, a republican, (left) have maintained that absent significant progress in stabilizing and removing nearly a million gallons of highly radioactive liquid radioactive waste at the Idaho lab, no new spent nuclear fuel can be brought to the site.
(Image: NPR/Boise Public Radio)

Their opposition scuttled a plan by the R&D side of the house at the Idaho lab to conduct evaluations of small quantities of high-burnup fuel from commercial reactors. The project was transferred by the Department of Energy to the Oak Ridge lab.

The latest plan announced by the U.S. Navy could re-energize their opposition and possibly put at risk an unrelated effort to build a first of a kind small modular reactor for commercial generation of electricity at the Idaho lab in the 2023 or later.

History of Navy Spent Fuel in Idaho

The Navy has been bringing spent nuclear fuel from its ships and submarines to Idaho via rail since the early days of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program. The liquid radioactive waste that is sitting in underground tanks on the Arco desert is residual material from the reprocessing of the naval fuel which took place there until President Carter cancelled the program as a nonproliferation measure.

Some of the facilities at the Naval Reactors site date back to the the Cold War era which is one reason why the government thinks that an upgrade is in order. The State of Idaho, which wants all of the spent fuel gone from the site by 2035, seemed to recognize that business as usual is the more likely scenario. A spokesman for the lab told the the AP;

“We would prefer to see a state-of-the-art facility if they’re going to continue to bring in spent fuel,” said Susan Burke, Idaho National Laboratory oversight coordinator for the state Department of Environmental Quality.

According to the AP report, a document approving the plan could be issued early next month. Officials say site preparation would likely begin in 2017, with the facility becoming operational in the early 2020s.

“The facility would be designed with the flexibility to integrate future identified mission needs,” the environmental impact statement says. It also notes that the new facility would be upgraded to meet new seismic standards.

Idaho Earthquake Risk

On October 28, 1983, the Borah Peak earthquake measured 6.9 on the event magnitude scale making it a violent seismic event. Earthquake numbers are logarithmic which means each tick on the right side of the decimal means a 10 fold increase in seismic intensity.

The U.S. Geological Survey notes that the Borah Peak earthquake is the largest ever recorded in Idaho – both in terms of magnitude and in amount of property damage.

The Challis-Mackay region experienced significant damage, with 11 commercial buildings and 39 homes with major damage; while another 200 houses were damaged, minor to moderately.

Mackay in particular, about 50 miles west of the Idaho lab site, experienced the most severe damage. Most of the city’s large buildings on its Main Street were damaged and some had to be demolished.

Path Forward for Navy Spent Fuel

Another reason that a new building at the Naval Reactors site is needed to handle a new type of spent-fuel shipping container. The container requires a larger pool with a different configuration to place the spent fuel in wet storage until it cools off enough to be moved to dry casks.

The new facility will take spent fuel from ships, move it to wet storage at the Idaho site, and when it is cool enough, place it in dry casks for shipment to an interim storage or permanent geologic disposal site.

navy spent fuel wet to dry storage

Image Source: Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program

The performance characteristics of naval fuel are classified, but Burke told the AP the time needed to cool the fuel and move it to a dry cask is six years. Once is it moved to a dry cask, the Idaho Settlement Agreement requires it to be taken out of Idaho. Typically, for commercial nuclear spent fuel, that takes about five years to be ready for dry casks

All of the naval spent fuel, old and new, is required to be removed from Idaho by 2035. Currently, with the path to Yucca Mountain shut down, the fuel has no place to go.

The latest developments in the nation’s quest to deal with spent nuclear fuel include two efforts by private firms to develop interim storage sites, one in west Texas and the other in southeastern New Mexico.

It seems, conceptually, possible the U.S. Navy would consider a move of its spent fuel from Idaho to either of these sites. However, given the national security issues associated with the spent fuel, the interim storage site would have to be separated from the one hosting commercial spent fuel.

In a separate development, the Department of Energy has been developing what it calls a “consent based” approach to siting spent fuel facilities.

Lawsuits Cloud Relations Between Idaho and DOE

Shipments of naval spent nuclear fuel to the Idaho site have been the subject of intense political action and response including lawsuits.

AP notes in its news report that the lawsuits culminated in a 1995 agreement, then a 2008 addendum, limiting such shipments and requiring spent fuel, and most solid nuclear waste, to be removed from Idaho by 2035. The deal applies to the Navy’s spent nuclear fuel.

The plan for the new facility is based on an operational timeline that takes it out to 2060. That might require the government to reopen negotiations with the state.  Andrus, in particular, has been outspoken in his comments that he does not trust the  government to keep its promises.

Currently, the prospect of renegotiating the Settlement Agreement  is a non-starter for Andrus and Batt, While it has been several decades since either man has been in elected office, they still swing considerable political weight and a sitting Idaho governor is not going to buck them. Indeed, Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has lined up with Andrus and Batt saying that no new spent fuel from any source can come to Idaho until there is progress on cleaning up the site.

While DOE and its contractors made progress since 2005 shipping solid radioactive waste material in drums to the WIPP site in New Mexico, that facility has been closed since 2014 due to a fire, and it still has problems. This week two ceiling panels in the underground caverns caved in raising issues about the timing of restart of operations.

DOE is still struggling to successfully operate a $550M treatment facility at the Idaho lab which is designed to convert the liquid radioactive waste into a dry powder form. A new contractor that started work last June says it has a plan to get the plant into gear.

Unlike Los Alamos and Sandia, both located in New Mexico, the Idaho lab does not do R&D work on nuclear weapons nor is it involved in their fabrication or decommissioning. However, it has hosted the Naval Reactors program since 1957. The lab also is home to a U.S. Army facility that manufactures tank armor from depleted uranium tailings recycled from uranium enrichment facilities.

One benefit of construction of the $1.6 billion navy spent fuel plant is that jobs related to that work would directly benefit the region. In 2013 Areva, a French firm, walked away from plans to build a $3 billion uranium enrichment plant on private land on a site located about 18 miles west of Idaho Falls. The company said it could not attract investors despite having been issued a  license for the plant by the NRC and obtained a loan guarantee from DOE for the first $2 billion in costs.

lightning-bolt-idahoBy the early 2020s one thing is sure, DOE will need to have figured out a way to get rid of the liquid radioactive waste that is the subject of the ire of Andrus and Batt. The future of the Navy’s plans, and those of NuScale for its FOAK SMR, depend on it.

Otherwise, the same old disputes will crackle across the Arco desert like the lightning from dry thunderstorms that sets off range fires in the volatile sagebrush on hot summer days.

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