Nuclear Energy Roundup for January 8, 2017

NRC names nuclear reactors using potentially flawed Areva parts

(Reuters) The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) told French nuclear power company Areva it will publish the names of U.S. reactors that contain components from its Le Creusot forge that is suspected of falsifying documents despite the company’s claim that the information is proprietary.

The written notice, dated 12/30/16 and seen by Reuters, is a source of tension between the NRC and Areva after French authorities opened an investigation last month into decades of alleged forgery relating to the quality of parts produced at the forge and used in power plants around the world.

The NRC has investigated whether the suspected false documents pose any risks for U.S. nuclear plants, but has said it has found that the plants are safe.

“At this time, there are no indications of any specific safety concerns for U.S. reactors,” NRC spokesman David McIntyre told Reuters.

Reuters has independently identified four of the U.S. reactors that are using components from Le Creusot, a fifth that may contain them, and a sixth that may have them on hand for future installation.

All of the owners of the reactors said the components meet their quality standards and their reactors are safe.

French Government Committed to Saving Areva

(Reuters) A government-led rescue of French nuclear group Areva and the wider atomic energy industry may cost the state as much as 10 billion euros ($10.45 billion). The wire service reported that political support for the troubled state-owned firm is almost certain whoever wins the presidential election in May.

In addition to its financial problems, Areva is beset by technical, regulatory and legal problems. Given its importance to a nuclear industry that generates three quarters of France’s electricity and employs 220,000 people, the next government probably has little choice but to stand by the bailout plan inked by outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande.

The nuclear industry rescue also involves a cash injection for power utility EDF, which operates France’s 58 nuclear reactors and will buy part of Areva’s business.

The government is seeking Japanese and Chinese investors to buy minority stakes in the fuel group, provisionally called NewCo, for one billion euros.

Russian nuclear group Rosatom also expressed interest in participating in Areva’s restructuring. While EU sanctions on Russia would be a problem, Fillon has promised to pursue warmer relations with Moscow if elected.

If these investors come forward, one of their demands will likely be to isolate the cost overruns taking place at new reactors construction projects in Finland and France,

Nuclear Engineer pleads guilty to charges of conspiracy to illegally transfer nuclear materials to China

(Washington Post) A nuclear engineer ensnared in a complex case involving export of nuclear materials to China will enter a plea agreement that he illegally conspired to send PU-239 to a Chinese nuclear energy firm.

Ho was accused of violating a provision of the Atomic Energy Act by helping the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group, formerly known as the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company (CGNPC), more quickly design and make components for nuclear reactors.

Prosecutors in Knoxville, TN, say he paid a colleague, Ching Ning Guey, who worked at the Tennessee Valley Authority, to travel to China in 2013 at the power company’s request to provide nuclear consulting. They allege that Ho encouraged Guey to share EPRI reports on nuclear power generation that he got through his work at TVA.

Ho’s assistance to the company focused on advanced fuel assembly research and the validation of nuclear reactor-related computer codes, among other things all of which he did without a license from DOE, the government says.

The prosecution of Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho and a colleague marks the first time the Justice Department has brought cases under a 1946 Cold War-era proliferation statute.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will drop charges that Ho, who owns a consulting business in the field of commercial nuclear energy, intended to illegally help China and that he acted as a foreign agent. That means Ho, 66 and a naturalized citizen born in Taiwan, no longer faces a potential life sentence but a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The case was initially brought last April and also involved five other nuclear engineers hired by Ho to work on his projects. 

TEPCO’s giant Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant not opening any time soon

(Reuters) The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture reiterated his opposition to the restart of Tokyo Electric Power’s (Tepco) Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, adding it may take a few years to review the pre-conditions for restart.

During a meeting with Tepco Chairman Fumio Sudo and President Naomi Hirose, Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who was elected in October on his anti-nuclear platform, repeated his pledge to keep the plant shut unless a fuller explanation of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was provided.

He also said that evacuation plans for people in Niigata in case of a nuclear accident and the health impacts that the Fukushima accident have had would need to be reviewed before discussing the nuclear plant’s restart.

The restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, the world’s largest, is key to helping Tepco rebound from the aftermath of the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima-Daiichi plant.

Shutting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant for additional years would mean that the company would have to continue relying heavily on fossil fuel-fired power generation such as natural gas.

Governors do not have the legal authority to prevent restarts but their agreement is usually required before a plant can resume operations.

Japanese Pro-nuclear trade group argues reactor re-starts needed to fight climate change

(WNN) Japan needs to work towards bringing its reactors back online if the country is to meet its climate goals, Akio Takahashi, president of the Japan Atomic Industry Forum (JAIF), said this week.

Nuclear energy currently accounts for just 1.1% of Japan’s electricity production and commercial operation has been resumed at only three of the country’s nuclear power plants – Sendai 1, Sendai 2 and Ikata 3.

“There are less than a handful of NPPs currently in operation in Japan. I hope that the safety examinations of the rest will proceed steadily and consistently, with more of them being restarted, so that CO2 emissions can continue to be reduced and a stable supply of electricity ensured,” Takahashi said.

All of Japan’s 48 operational nuclear reactors were gradually taken off line following the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi. A new regulatory regime has since been created and by mid-2013 the Nuclear Regulation Authority had rewritten the country’s requirements for nuclear power plant safety. Power companies then submitted applications for reactor restarts, which have progressed slowly.

In May last year, Kyushu Electric Power Company received final regulatory approval necessary for restarting units 1 and 2 of its Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima prefecture. Sendai 1 was the first to be restarted, in August that year, followed by Sendai 2, in October. Shikoku Electric Power Company announced in September this year that Ikata 3 in Japan’s Ehime prefecture had resumed commercial operation.

In a statement on JAIF’s website on 28 December, Takahashi said the Paris Agreement that came into effect in November offered a global framework for reducing CO2 emissions through 2020 and thereafter. The agreement provides the first framework in which all 196 member countries of the Climate Change Conference are participating, he noted.

“Its common, long-term, global target is not only to hold the increase in global average temperatures to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but also to make the utmost efforts to keep that increase below 1.5°C.

“Japan, with a target of reducing CO2 emissions by 26% from 2013 levels by the year 2030, ratified the Paris Agreement and must now achieve its target in order to fulfill its obligation to the world,” Takahashi said.

“Energy-derived CO2 emissions account for about 90% of total CO2 emissions in Japan, and some 40% of energy-derived emissions involve electricity generation. To achieve the reduction target, one key is cutting the carbon emissions associated with power sources, such as by expanding the use of renewable energies, operating nuclear power plants, improving the efficiency of thermal power plants, and finding alternative fuels,” Takahashi said.

“Each NPP has a large generating capacity while functioning as a stable source, and is highly effective in reducing CO2 emissions. In meeting the target, nuclear power will play a major role,” he said.

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