Nuclear News Roundup for June 12, 2016

South Korea strengthens research ties with Russia on fast reactors

(WNN) A new wide-ranging agreement has been signed by Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and Russia’s Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) to advance South Korea’s plans to have a Korean Prototype Generation IV sodium-cooled fast reactor (PGSFR) operating about 2028. South Korea already has several decades of cooperation with the US Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). In August 2014 ANL signed an agreement to support licensing of a 150 MWe prototype by 2020. In a related development KAERI has contracted RIAR to irradiate prototype metal PGSFR fuel rods in Russia’s BOR-60 fast research reactor at Dimitrovgrad.

Russia’s REMIX fuel will enable closed fuel cycle

(NucEngIntl) Russia’s Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) has fabricated experimental fuel rods with REMIX fuel at its chemical metallurgical plant. The REMIX (regenerated mixture) fuel was developed by the VG Khlopin Radium Institute in St Petersburg for Techsnadexport (Tenex), the nuclear materials trading arm of state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

According to SCC REMIX fuel is produced directly from a non-separated mix of recycled uranium and plutonium from reprocessing used fuel, with a low-enriched uranium (LEU, up to 17% U-235) make-up comprising about 20% of the mix. This gives fuel initially with about 1% Pu-239 and 4% U-235 which can sustain burn-up of 50 GWd/t over four years.

The used REMIX fuel is then reprocessed and recycled again, after low-enriched uranium top up. The wastes (fission products and minor actinides) are vitrified and stored for geological disposal.

SCC said REMIX-fuel can be repeatedly recycled with 100% core load in current VVER-1000 reactors, and correspondingly reprocessed many times – up to five times according to Tenex, so that with less than three fuel loads in circulation a reactor could run for 60 years using the same fuel, with LEU recharge and waste removal on each cycle.

SCC said REMIX technology will enable Russia to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle and minimise the volume of radioactive waste it produces.

Safety report supports new reactors at Florida’s Levy County

(NucNet) A final safety evaluation report prepared by the NRC concludes there are no safety aspects that would preclude issuing a licence for the construction and operation of two proposed Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Levy County site in Florida. The NRC staff will provide the report and final environmental impact statement on the application to the Commission for the mandatory hearing phase of the licensing process.

At the mandatory hearing, expected to take place later this year, the Commission will examine whether the staff’s review supports the findings necessary to issue a licence. Progress Energy Florida (now Duke Energy Florida) submitted its licence application for Levy County in July 2008.

The project was mothballed several years ago due to the combined effects of low electricity demand, competition from low natural gas prices, and the enormous estimated costs of upgrading the regional electrical transmission grid to wheel power from the plant to customers.

Court upholds storage of nuclear waste at power plants, rebuffing states

(The Hill) A federal appeals court rejected a motion from four states to overturn a regulation allowing long-term storage of spent nuclear fuel at power plants.

The District of Columbia Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) followed all relevant laws and standards when it wrote its 2014 regulation and an associated environmental impact statement.

The rule concluded that spent fuel rods can be stored safely at nuclear power plants indefinitely, which may be necessary if the United States never builds the long-delayed Yucca Mountain waste repository.

“Because we hold that the NRC did not engage in arbitrary or capricious decision-making, we deny the petitions for review,” a three-judge panel of the court wrote in its decision.

The ruling means that NRC can continue to give nuclear plants, both active and inactive, permission to store their spent fuel rods on-site for as long as they need to.

The attorneys general of New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut filed the lawsuit shortly after the NRC voted to make its regulation and environmental impact statement final. All four states have become increasingly hostile to nuclear power plants within their respective borders.

Campaign continues by green groups to close Indian Point

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo continued his engagement in a high profile campaign to close the Indian Point plant in Westchester county.  Cuomo, and his political backers at Riverkeeper and other environmental groups, were enraged last week when the NRC said that the Indian Point plant was being safely operated by Entergy, the utility which owns and operates the 2200 MW power station.

Indian Point’s Unit 2 reactor’s license expired in 2013. Unit 3’s expired in December 2015. Anti-nuclear groups has been relentless in their drive to close the plant despite the fact that natural gas plants that would replace it will increase CO2 emissions.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission held its annual public hearing on Indian Point Energy Center last week. NRC staff opened the meeting with a presentation announcing that Indian Point had passed its annual safety inspection. Staff noted the NRC’s earlier findings that a natural gas pipeline under construction near Indian Point would not impact the plant’s safe operation.

According to local news media reports, neither announcement went over well. The first speaker at the hearing said the NRC has become a “lapdog” to Entergy Corp., the owner-operator of the nuclear plant. Another speaker questioned the NRC’s relationship with Entergy. And so it goes.

Nuclear Industry needs to harness power of ‘Big Data’, says Rolls Royce

(NucNet) There is “a very significant opportunity” for the nuclear energy industry in the field of data analytics or “big data” that can help make the operation of plants even more competitive and effective, the president of Rolls Royce’s nuclear division said.

Speaking at the AtomExpo conference in Moscow Harry Holt said the nuclear industry is “not going to be exempt from the substantial changes that data analytics, big data, digitalisation, call it what you will” is bringing about in other sectors.

Rolls Royce is involved in the modernization of 20 reactors in EDF’s 1,300-MW fleet in France and is working on CPR-1000 units under construction in China. Mr Holt also said Rolls Royce has an ambition to play a leading role in the emerging UK small modular reactor (SMR) market.

In a separate development the US NRC has issued a draft plan to modernize digital I&C regulation saying that digital instruments increase safety, operational efficiency. NEI, the US nuclear energy trade group, said on its web site that it provided input to NRC plan.

According to NEI nuclear power plant operators in the United States are moving forward with plans to update their process control systems for the digital era.

Nearly all operating U.S. reactors that were built in the 1970s and 1980s have analog instruments from that period. While they work well, there are several advantages to digital instrumentation and control (I&C).

Replacement parts for the original gauges are getting harder to find, as are technicians qualified to maintain these systems. Digital instruments by comparison are more precise, less liable to break down than their electro-mechanical counterparts, and can monitor themselves as well as a wider array of plant systems.

The new instruments, when coupled with centralized computer displays in a digital control room, afford reactor operators an array of information that can be sorted, organized and prioritized faster and more efficiently than analog gauges. These functions include monitoring plant systems, trending analyses and component malfunction predictions. These advantages give plant operators easier control of the plant, which, in turn, increases plant safety above the high levels already being achieved.

In addition, NEI said the greater reliability of digital instruments and control devices reduces maintenance downtime and makes for greater operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

China’s NPPs make progress

(NucEngIntl) Cold hydrostatic testing (CHT) began on May 22 at unit 1 of China’s Sanmen NPP in Zhejiang province. China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation (CNEC) announced the start of testing.

The tests involve filling the reactor’s primary circuit with water, which is circulated by the reactor coolant pumps to verify that the welds, joints, pipes and components of the reactor coolant system and associated high-pressure systems meet regulatory standards. CNEC said the tests mark the beginning of the commissioning phase of the AP1000. The CHT prepares the way for hot functional test and initial fuel load.

Four AP1000 reactors are under construction in China, two each at Sanmen and Haiyang. Sanmen 1 is expected to be the first AP1000 to begin operating, in September, while Haiyang 1 is expected to start up by the end of the year. Containment tests have already been successfully conducted at both units. All four Chinese AP1000s are scheduled to be in operation by the end of 2017.

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