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: http://bit.ly/2dRkHNN

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