Nuclear News Roundup for 2/14/16

China’s Generation IV reactors could be ready next year

(MIT Technology Review) The 105-megawatt Generation IV HTGR type nuclear reactor built by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Corp. could be completed by November 2017, according to Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology Director Zhang Zuoyi. The plant is nearly finished Zhang said

Construction of the high temperature helium-cooled pebble bed design type plant is nearly complete, and the next 18 months will be spent installing the reactor components, running tests, and loading the fuel before the reactors go critical in November 2017.

If it’s successful, Shandong plant would generate a total of 210 megawatts and will be followed by a 600-megawatt facility in Jiangxi province. China plans to sell these reactors internationally; in January, Chinese president Xi Jinping signed an agreement with King Salman bin Abdulaziz to construct a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) in Saudi Arabia.

“This technology is going to be on the world market within the next five years,” Zhang predicts. “We are developing these reactors to belong to the world.”

DOE awards cleanup contract at Idaho lab

(WNN) The US Department of Energy has awarded a $1.4 billion five-year contract to Fluor Idaho LLC to support two environmental cleanup projects at the Idaho National Laboratory site .

The Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project involves the retrieval, characterization, treatment and packaging of transuranic waste for shipment to permanent disposal at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, while the Idaho Clean-up Project covers the clean-up of legacy wastes from decades of civilian and military nuclear research and testing.

A major challenge for the new contractor will be to complete and operate successfully the Integrated Waste Treatment Plant. It is supposed to process nearly one million gallons of sodium bearing liquid waste now sitting in underground tanks at the Idaho site. Using a fluidized bed process involving steam and activated charcoal, the plant is designed to turn the radioactive residuals into a dry powder called calcine. Once in that form, it will then be put in steel canisters and shipped to WIPP.

The plant is six years behind schedule and nearly $400 million over budget leading DOE to start thinking about finding another method to deal with the waste. The agency is under the gun to get the job done as the State of Idaho has a federal consent decree on its side which requires the feds to treat the waste and remove it from the site.

Much Ado About Nothing in New York

(WNN) Entergy has said that elevated levels of tritium identified in groundwater at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York State are less than one-tenth of 1% of federal reporting guidelines and offer no health or safety consequences to the public.

The leak of tritium didn’t affect any source of drinking water onsite or offsite, and it likely reached the ground during recent work at the facility, Entergy said.

State governor Andrew Cuomo had directed state commissioners to investigate the elevated levels, which were discovered in three out of 40 monitoring wells. Cuomo, who welcomes any opportunity to bash the plant in an effort to close it on behalf of his political allies, tried to make newspaper headlines that stoke public fears about the plant.

The Bloomberg wire service reported that Cuomo’s office described the levels of radioactivity found in the groundwater as “alarming” and said the governor had ordered Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos and Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker to investigate.

Eventually, saner views prevailed in the news media which is rare instance of a case of common sense breaking out amid the usual “if it bleeds it leads” media crowd.

Westchester County, N.Y., Executive Rob Astorino defended Entergy’s Indian Point nuclear plant, calling it “a critical source of energy” for the state of New York.

“Getting the facts and understanding them are critically important to serving the public interest. False hysteria is not,” Astorino said.

Climate activists support Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

(wire services) A group of global warming activists has asked California Gov. Jerry Brown to do what he can to keep Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open.

“We are writing as scientists, conservationists, and philanthropists to urge you to do everything in your powers to ensure that California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon Power Plant, is relicensed,” the group wrote in an open letter, noting that the plant contributed 22% of the state’s clean energy during 2014.

TVA ditches plans for AP1000s at Bellefonte

(Times Free Press) The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) said it will tell the NRC it is giving up its plans to build a pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Ala.

A long-range power plan finished last year for TVA projects that TVA won’t need the power from another nuclear plant like the two partially built reactors at Bellefonte for more than two decades.

“We have no plans to restart construction (which has been suspended at Bellefonte for the past two decades),” Johnson told reporters.

Johnson said power demand is growing at a sluggish pace and additional natural gas plants and renewable energy sources should meet the projected demand after TVA finishes its Watts Bar Nuclear Plant this year.

TEPCO inches toward restart of reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant

(Nikkei Asian Review)  Tokyo Electric Power may get approval to resume nuclear power generation at another facility as soon as this summer, as Japan’s nuclear safety agency is moving toward giving the “all clear” to the utility’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture.

Tepco has worked to convince the Nuclear Regulation Authority that the fault line found below the Niigata plant’s coastal levee is not active. After hearing the utility’s argument, backed up by various data stemming from a series of drilling surveys since December, the NRA concluded that Tepco’s assessment was “mostly appropriate.”

This has removed a major sticking point in the power company’s efforts to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant. However, the authority will still have to check the plant’s earthquake resistance level. Because it takes several months for the NRA to write an assessment report, the earliest that the reactors could get the green light would be this summer.

Restarting these reactors would be a significant development, since they would be the first boiling water reactors, or BWRs, allowed to resume operation since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which had the same type of reactors. BWRs are said to be more prone to pressure buildup in times of accidents compared to pressurized water reactors, or PWRs. All five reactors at three plants that have passed the authority’s safety checks so far are PWRs.

Japan establishes used nuclear fuel reprocessing organization

(WNN) A new entity in Japan will be created to focus on the reprocessing of used nuclear fuel after the approval of a bill by the Japanese cabinet last week. The bill will also reserve funding for used nuclear fuel reprocessing efforts by creating a system that calls for contributions from nuclear plant operators.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said that reprocessing of spent fuel, and the use of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, are key parts of the Basic Energy Plan approved by the cabinet in April 2014.

One of the main measures of the recently approved bill is to establish a new “contribution system” for funding reprocessing. Nuclear plant operators will be required to contribute to the reprocessing fund according to how much used fuel they generate.

Currently, Japan’s ten power companies deposit fees for future reprocessing with the Radioactive Waste Management Funding Research Centre (RWMC). The bill also authorizes a new “authorized corporation” to take responsibility for Japan’s reprocessing business.

The key to any plan for production and use of MOX fuel is reliable delivery of it to reactors at the time of their scheduled outages for fuel related operations.

EDF reactors endangered by French law

(Reuters) A French energy law could lead to the closure of one-third of Electricite de France’s (EDF) nuclear reactors by 2025, according to an annual report from audit office Cour des Comptes.

“Only a very significant increase of electricity use or power exports could limit the number of closures, but experts do not expect this will happen,” notes the report. The energy transition law calls for a reduction of nuclear’s share in France’s energy production to 50%

€100bn Needed To Upgrade French Nuclear Fleet

(NucNet): France’s official court of auditors, the Cour des Comptes, said in its annual report yesterday that €100bn ($112bn) of investments need to be made until 2030 to maintain state-controlled utility EDF’s fleet of 58 commercial reactors, although it said the estimate includes “many uncertainties”.

EDF said in 2015 it would need to invest €55bn to 2025 to upgrade its nuclear fleet to the French regulator’s latest safety standards.

The figure also includes all future maintenance costs, while EDF’s estimate is limited to investments needed to modernise the fleet.

The court also said France’s energy transition law could force EDF to close up to a third of its reactors by 2025.

The court estimates that the planned reduction of the share of nuclear in French energy production to 50 percent by 2025 from more than 75 percent now could lead to the closure of 17 to 20 reactors if power consumption and exports remain at current levels.

NEI provides Wall Street analysts with status, outlook of US industry

NEI President and CEO Marvin Fertel told a packed room of Wall Street analysts that the US nuclear fleet’s 2015 performance was outstanding and that the industry is undertaking an in-depth assessment of operations to improve safety and efficiency to achieve “significant and sustainable cost savings by 2018 and beyond.”

(NucNet): Nuclear energy continues to provide considerable and distinct value to America’s economic and environmental goals, as seen most recently by record-setting efficiency during 2015 at the nation’s nuclear power plants, the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute said.

The NEI, which represents companies that own and operate the nation’s 99 commercial nuclear reactors, told Wall Street analysts that nuclear energy facilities generate 63 percent of America’s carbon-free electricity.

In 2015, based on preliminary NEI estimates, they achieved a record-high level of efficiency with an electric sector-leading average capacity factor of nearly 92 percent.

“These attributes and exemplary performance at nuclear energy facilities demonstrate the urgent need to correct electricity market flaws that continue to place some high-performing nuclear energy facilities at risk of premature retirement,” said Marvin Fertel, NEI’s president and CEO / Press Release  / Briefing slides /

South Africa moves ahead on nuclear reactor plans

(WNN) President Jacob Zuma confirmed that South Africa plans to expand its nuclear capacity by 9600 MWe over the next decade in his State of the Nation address, but emphasized that it will “only procure nuclear on a scale and pace that our country can afford.”

He said: “We will test the market to ascertain the true cost of building modern nuclear plants.”

Controversy around the program started in 2014, when Russia’s state-owned nuclear company, Rosatom, prematurely announced it had won the contract, after President Jacob Zuma secretly visited Russia. It later retracted its statement and told South African media in 2015 that it was a public relations mistake.

Russia and China have expressed strong interest in the project and are said to be planning to offer financing for it. Reuters reported that Russia has offered to build the plants and operate them for 20 years while charging for the electricity at rates which will pay for the reactors. The current estimated price of the eight 1200 MW reactors is said to be about $64 billion. However, South Africa’s Energy ministry refused to comment on the number.

One of the impediments to past efforts to run procurements for nuclear reactors is that political considerations made it impossible for Eskom, the state owned electric utility, to raise its rates to pay for infrastructure and grid improvements. South Africa’s GDP has suffered a decline due to brown outs and outages which affect its heavy industries.

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