Nuclear news briefs for 23 Sept 2014

  • TVA opts for ESP for SMRs
  • Utah reactor project challenged over water rights
  • State of New York still contending over fish at Indian Point
  • Vietnam delays construction for 1st Russian 1000 MW VVER
  • UAE approves Units 3 & 4 at Barakah power station site on Persian gulf

TVA to develop Early Site Permit for a small modular reactor

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has notified the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) it will proceed to prepare an Early Site Permit (ESP() application for a small modular reactor (SMR) using the agency’s combined construction and licensing process. Previously, the utility had planned to prepare separate applications for the license and for construction.

TVA does not have to specify a reactor vendor in the ESP process. The status of its relationship with Babcock & Wilcox over use of that firms mPower 180 MW SMR is unclear and the firm has stepped back from further development of the design citing the lack of the a customer.  Also, according to the NRC, no SMR vendor has submitted a design for review by the agency.

On 2012 the Department of Energy awarded a multi-part $452 million cost-sharing grant to the TVA / B&W partnership. It called for construction of up to four of the 180 MW mPower SMRs at TVA’s Clinch River site. Presumably, that site would be the focus of the newly announced ESP effort.

TVA said that the ESP would allow it to address numerous plant licensing and design issues. Two of them that have a high profile for the future of SMRs include the size of the security and emergency preparedness zones for a multi-reactor site and whether a single control room can be used manage multiple reactors.

The ESP application also evaluates the environmental characteristics of the site and whether they are suitable for a new reactor. Given that the Clinch River site is already used for this purpose, that shouldn’t be a critical issue. Assuming the ESP is approved by the NRC, it is good for 20 years. That will give TVA time to wait for one of the contending SMR developers to bring a design for review to the NRC. If the TVA then selects a reactor’s design, it can save time wit the combined construction and operating license application with the ESP already in place.

Challenge to water rights for Blue Castle nuclear site at Green River Utah

The anti-nuclear group HEAL has filed a brief with the Utah State Court of Appeals challenging a ruling by a Utah 7th District Judge that upheld the Utah State Engineer’s decision granting 50,000 acre feet of water from the Green River to Blue Castle’s proposed 3000MW nuclear power station.

The group also challenged the economic viability of the project, which if built, would replace planned coal fired projects and also supply electricity to power hungry cities in California.

Update 7/22/16: The Appellate Court upheld the lower court decision to grant the water rights to Blue Castle.

New York slaps Indian Point with fish issue – again

In an effort to make Entergy’s two-reactor 2200 MW Indian Point power station economically unfeasible, and thus close it down, the State of New York is demanding that the utility construct $1 billion in cooling towers to save the lives of fish that are otherwise sucked from the Hudson River into the reactors’ cooling systems. For its part, Energy has installed fish screens, and proposes to upgrade them with a “wedge shaped” design.

At issue is a water permit from the State of New York which Entergy needs to complete its application to the NRC to extend the reactors’ licensees for the next 20 years.

The anti-nuclear Riverkeeper organization, which counts among it supporters green voters in elections, is pushing the fish issue. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has a close relationship with the environmental group, is running for re-election this year. He’s made opposition to Indian Point a key stone of his administration.

Vietnam delays 1st Russian reactor construction start

Vietnam’s deputy trade minister Cao Quoc Hung said September 18 that his country would delay the start of construction of the 1st of four 1000 MW nuclear power stations to be built by Rosatom. The start date has been pushed back to 2020 or 2022.  He said the country needs more trained nuclear engineers to support its nuclear safety and regulatory program.

The Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission has plans to build eight reactors by 2030 to supply reliable power for manufacturing and mining industries. Currently, coal accounts for about half of the electric generation capacity and hydro another 25%. The delay announced this week will push back the completion of the other seven reactors well into the 2030s. The delay may put at risk the country’s ability to expand its economy based on high value manufacturing which would need the electricity from the planned reactors.

Separately, Nuclear Power International reported that GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hanoi University of Science and Technology in Vietnam to train nuclear engineers. The first internships are planned for 2015 when 10 Hanoi University students will spend the summer at GE Hitachi’s headquarters in Wilmington, NC. The students will be trained in GEH’s BWR type reactor technologies.

UAE gets green light for two more nuclear reactors

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation has approved plans to build two more South Korean APR1400 nuclear reactors at the remote Barakah site on the Persian Gulf. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) is the developer for all four reactors.

Hamad Alkaabi, the UAE Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the approval represents a green light for ENEC to start the construction of reactors 3 and 4.

“The UAE nuclear program is well-recognized internationally for its transparency, fast-moving progress and strong safety framework. The project can now expand to the next phase.”

The first two units are expected to enter revenue service in 2019 and 2020 respectively. they will provide electric power for general and industrial use and for desalinization of sea water.

The UAE has an accelerated program to train nuclear engineers and skilled trades to work on the plants. It will be administered by the Abu Dhabi Polytechnic Institute.

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