Nuclear Industry knocks NRC budget cuts, highlights DOE increases
* $994 million for DOE nuclear energy programs, $982 million for NRC
* More work needed to right-size NRC, maintain focus on safety
* Fiscal 2017 request includes support for small reactors
The nuclear energy industry voiced displeasure this week with the Obama administration’s fiscal 2017 budget request for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, saying it falls far short of needed efficiencies and cost-cutting. The administration submitted a budget request that amounts to a mere 0.5 percent ($4.7 million) lower than the current NRC budget.
Among the cuts claimed in the NRC spending request is $15 million for the NRC’s education and workforce training program. However, Congress consistently restores these funds later in the appropriations process.
The industry noted that the flat funding request for the NRC comes despite the agency’s recent Project Aim announcement that it would enact structural reforms to improve its agility, efficiency and overall effectiveness.
In an unrelated development, William Ostendorff will depart from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission when his current term ends June 30, he said this week at the Platts Nuclear Energy conference. Ostendorff has been a commissioner at the agency since 2010. “I feel very comfortable leaving the commission at the end of June with where we are on Fukushima,” he said.
In other nuclear energy news concerning the President’s FY2017 budget, the proposed budget for the U.S. Department of Energy is $32.5 billion, with $994 million to DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. This is an $8 million increase over the $986 million allotted to nuclear energy programs in fiscal 2016.
The $994 million includes funds for research and development for advanced reactors, support for fuel cycle technologies and the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies effort addressing common challenges at existing facilities.
Included in the administration’s request is $89.6 million to continue supporting certification and licensing assistance for the small modular reactor design being developed by NuScale Power LLC under a cost-shared public-private partnership with DOE. The funds also would support the Tennessee Valley Authority’s development of a combined operating license application for eventual siting of a small modular reactor at the Clinch River Site.
Japan could restart as many as 28 reactors by end of 2017
(Bloomberg) Up to 28 nuclear reactors in Japan could be restarted by the conclusion of 2017, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Utilities want to restart as soon as possible as far as retail liberalization is concerned,” wrote BNEF analyst Miho Kurosaki.
“Each reactor and plant has issues, such as active faults and earthquake assumption. As long as those issues aren’t cleared, it won’t get restarted.
The fate of the world’s largest atomic power station in Niigata, northwest of Tokyo, is currently near the center of the debate over restarts in Japan. Opponents say the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility lies on an active fault and that operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s past negligence at Fukushima disqualifies it from restarting the plant.
TEPCO doesn’t believe there are any fault lines that could become active at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, spokeswoman Yukako Handa said.
The NRA is seen finding that the two newest reactors at the facility are safe to restart as soon as this summer. All of the reactors are BWR type designs. So far reactors that have been restarted in Japan are PWRs.
Nuclear Engineering International reported 2/16/16 that Kansai Electric Power Co and Japan Atomic Power Co have submitted applications to Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) seeking approval for plans to begin dismantling three ageing nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture.
These include units 1 and 2 at Kansai Electric’s Mihama NPP – 340MWe and 500MWe PWRs, respectively, in operation since the early 1970s – and unit 1 at JAPC’s Tsuruga plant, a 341MWe BWR that started up in 1970.
The plans outline the facilities and equipment to be dismantled and a timetable for completing the work.The dismantling operations are expected to take around 30 years for Mihama 1 and 2 and about 25 years for Tsuruga 1 reactor. All three were decommissioned in April last year.
(Yomiuri Shimbun) A group of several dozen Japanese nuclear energy firms recently discussed the export possibilities for the nation’s nuclear industry, with Hitachi providing expertise based on its ongoing nuclear construction projects in the UK.
“Teamwork will be important in constructing these reactors,” said Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Chairman Hiroto Uozumi. Japan plans to construct four nuclear plants in Turkey and is also in talks with Lithuania, Bulgaria and Kazakhstan for the construction of new nuclear plants.
South Australia explores commercial prospects to store spent nuclear fuel
(WNN) The storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel from abroad can “deliver substantial economic benefits” to South Australia, the Royal Commission investigating the state’s potential participation in the nuclear fuel cycle has tentatively found.
South Australia can safely increase its participation in nuclear activities and, by doing so, significantly improve the economic welfare of the South Australian community, the commission said.
It added that community consent would be essential to the successful development of any nuclear fuel cycle activities.
“The management of the social, environmental, safety and financial risks of participation in these activities is not beyond South Australians,” the commission said. However, it noted that long-term political decision-making, with bipartisan support at both state and federal levels, would be “a prerequisite to achieving progress.”
“Financial assessments suggest such integrated facilities with the capacity to store and dispose of 138,000 tonnes heavy metal of used fuel and 390,000 cubic meters of intermediate-level waste operating over about 100 years would be highly profitable in a range of scenarios,” the commission said.
“Those volumes represent about 13% of the projected global fuel inventory, based on a very conservative waste assumption that restricts the number of operational reactors to the current number planned to be in operation in 2030, with no additions.”
Such a storage and disposal facility could generate total revenue of more than USD$184 billion, with total costs of USD$104 billion) over 120 years. The commission suggests special arrangements – such as a state wealth fund – should be established to “accumulate and equitably share the profits” from the storage and disposal of waste.
Feds: Sovereign tribes could host used nuclear fuel repository
(SNL Financial) Although U.S. Native American tribes could support the use of their land for a used nuclear fuel repository, the Energy Department will leave it to state governments to determine whether the tribes have consented to such a facility, according to John Kotek, acting assistant secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy. A state government could create a legal agreement with a tribal government to host a used nuclear fuel repository, Kotek said.
Speaking at the 2016 winter conference of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in Washington, D.C., on 2/16/16, Kotek addressed the potential issue of sovereign tribal governments seeking to host the country’s nuclear waste.
The prospect of tribal governments being interested in hosting nuclear waste raised questions with some commissioners on the jurisdiction of state governments clashing with tribal sovereignty.
“People ask us what consent means and particularly when you get into a situation with a sovereign government, like a tribal government,” acknowledged Kotek, who added the DOE has yet to define ‘consent’ since announcing its consent-based siting process in December 2015.
As recommended in the 2012 report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, he said the siting process will recognize the willingness of a state government to enter into a legally enforceable agreement with a local or tribal government to host waste as a sign of giving consent. A tribal government or a “very, very supportive” community will have to have the state on board, he said.
IEA Calls For ‘New Market Framework’ To Support Low-Carbon Nuclear Power
(NucNet) Electricity prices in most countries are too low to recoup the investment costs of any low-carbon technology, including nuclear, and “a new consistent market framework” is needed, which includes carbon pricing and rate support for low-carbon investments, an International Energy Agency report says.
The report http://bit.ly/210PNFB ‘Re-powering Markets: Market design and regulation during the transition to low-carbon power systems’ says a “high and robust” carbon price is needed, but introducing one or strengthening existing ones will take time.
Proposals for carbon taxes will be politically contested creating risks for potential investors. Decisions made one year can be reversed in later years stranding captial assets that were developed based on them.
Coalition asks Calif. governor to keep Diablo Canyon plant open
(wires) The Save Diablo Canyon Coalition has asked for California Gov. Jerry Brown to do what he can to keep Pacific Gas & Electric’s nuclear plant open, noting that the plant’s closure would add to carbon emissions.
The stances of such climate change activists have put them at odds with old-school environmentalists who “are still playing their Jackson Browne LPs and longing for the good old days when nuclear energy was the demon that must be defeated,” writes Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Ground broken for Kudankulam Units 3 & 4
(The Hindu) Excavation of the site for the third and fourth reactors of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) commenced this week .
With plans to complete the excavation before January 2017, the ‘First Pouring of Concrete’ for the third and fourth reactors will take place by this time next year.
“As we have gained the much-needed experience on constructing the 1,000-MW VVER Russian reactors during the construction of the first two units, we have planned to complete the construction of the new units and be ready for commissioning by 2022,” said a senior official of KKNPP.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), proponent of the project, has proposed to construct six reactors on the sprawling KKNPP site.
Wisconsin Opens Door To New Nuclear Construction
(NucNet) The Wisconsin Legislature has signalled that the state is open to consideration of new nuclear power plants, the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute said.
The state Senate voted 23-9 on 2/16/16 to repeal the state’s 33-year moratorium on nuclear plant construction. The bill now moves to Governor Scott Walker, who is expected to sign it into law.
Republican state Rep. Kevin Petersen said he introduced the legislation because the reason for the ban – the lack of a federal used fuel repository – is no longer relevant now that dry storage is in wide use at nuclear plant sites. Wisconsin has two nuclear reactors in commercial operation, Point Beach-1 and -2.
Energy Dept. deal could lead to SMRs at Idaho National Laboratory
(Spokesman Review) An agreement between the Energy Department and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems could lead to the use of small modular reactors at the site containing the Idaho National Laboratory. The Energy Department has provided a site-use permit to the energy cooperative that could open the door to the use of SMRs built by NuScale Power at the location.
No formal decision on the selection of a site for the SMR will be made until after the NuScale design passes its safety design review at the NRC. The vendor said it plans to submit its paperwork for the review by the end of 2016. The review is expected to take about four years. A subsequent license application to the NRC will contain a preferred site that will be subject to an environmental and safety review by the NRC based on NuScale’s SMR design.
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