Nuclear New Roundup for April 3, 2017

First Concrete to Be Poured at EDF’s Hinkley Point Project in UK

(WNN) The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted its first consent for the start of construction of a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point C. The consent covers the placement of the structural concrete for the first nuclear safety-related structure at the site. It does not give consent for all elements of construction.

Under a deal agreed in October 2015, China General Nuclear (CGN) will take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy’s £18 billion ($28 billion) project to construct Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, England.

Consisting of two Areva-designed European Pressurized Reactors, it will be the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK in almost 20 years and will provide about 7% of the country’s electricity. The first unit is expected to be commissioned in 2025-2026.

The UK EPR design became the first reactor design to complete the country’s Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and receive a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability from the Environment Agency, in December 2012.

EDF Energy and CGN also plan to develop projects to build new plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, the latter using Chinese reactor technology – the HPR1000. General Nuclear Systems (GNS) is a joint venture between CGN and EDF, developed to deliver the Bradwell project.

The regulators received a request from the government to commence a GDA of the UK HPR1000 reactor technology on 10 January. This followed their work with GNS, the requesting party, on the pre-requisites for GDA. The ONR said last week the GDA process for the UK HPR1000 had formally started on 19 January and that its completion was expected in 2021.

Dominion Utility Moves Forward with Nuclear Plan

(Southeast Energy News) A Virginia utility is forging ahead with plans for a new reactor provided by a different company.

Federal regulators signaled Dominion Virginia Power is on track to receive its long-sought license to build and operate its fifth reactor in the state once requisite structural modifications are certified to deal with earthquake risks.

The feedback came this week when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) completed a mandatory hearing addressing a wide range of environmental and safety issues, including changes to the proposed reactor technology Dominion has selected, which has yet to be deployed in the U.S. It is the GE-Hitachi ESBWR.

“With the structural design changes,” the NRC stated, the proposed Economically Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design meets “acceptance limits” needed to secure a Combined Construction and Operating License (COL).

Dominion’s vice president of generation construction, Mark Mitchell, hailed the hearing as a “major milestone” for nuclear power in Virginia.

The structural changes required stem from an August 23, 2011 earthquake that shook much of the East Coast. That earthquake shut down both of the existing reactors at Dominion’s North Anna plant, as they were designed to do, causing no “functional damage,” according to Dominion spokesman Richard Zuercher. The NRC authorized Dominion to restart both reactors three months later.

“We are poised to obtain a license for the new unit. We have not decided to build the new unit, and won’t do so until after we obtain the COL,” said Mitchell.

“The energy markets change,” Zuercher added. “What might have made sense at one time, might not make sense now but may make sense again. It’s all a timing issue.”

Kentucky, a Key Coal State, Overturns Its Moratorium on Nuclear Energy

(RTO Insider) Kentucky has dropped its decades-long nuclear moratorium, but experts on both sides of the nuclear debate say the move probably won’t result in new reactors for now.

The law, signed by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on March 27, eliminates the requirement that nuclear power facilities have “means of permanent disposal” of nuclear waste, allowing a less onerous Nuclear Regulatory Commission-approved waste plan.

Sen. Danny Carroll (R), the bill’s sponsor, said it was important that Kentucky start looking to diversify its energy portfolio, pointing out that nearby states take advantage of nuclear energy. Carroll said the bill will “keep Kentucky competitive with the energy portfolios of surrounding states.”

“When you run a business, you look for varied funding streams. You don’t put all your eggs in one basket. … That’s what we’re doing in our state. Out of fear of nuclear energy, out of efforts to protect the coal industry, whatever the case may be, we are putting all our eggs in one basket,” Carroll said last year, when an earlier version of the bill languished after Senate approval. Kentucky does not house any nuclear generation.

Carroll has tried for years to promote the use of the Paducah, KY, site for development of a nuclear reactor. The site was originally used as a uranium enrichment plant by the WWII Manhattan Project.  One of his ideas is the use nuclear energy for coal gasification to produce fossil fuels and petrochemical feedstocks.

The bill also eliminates the requirements that cost of waste disposal be known and that the facility have “adequate capacity to contain waste.”

The bill grants the Kentucky Public Service Commission the authority to hire consultants “to perform duties relating to nuclear facility certification” and allows it to prohibit construction of low-level nuclear waste disposal sites in Kentucky. The PSC can also direct the Energy and Environment Cabinet to review the nuclear permitting process.

Jordan and Saudi Arabia team up on uranium, SMRs

(WNN) Jordan and Saudi Arabia have signed agreements on cooperation in uranium exploration and carrying out a feasibility study into the construction of two small modular reactors (SMRs) in Jordan.

The agreements were among 15 major investment and economic agreements signed in Amman on 27 March following a meeting between Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and King Abdullah II of Jordan.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was also signed by KA-CARE president Hashim Yamani and Khaled Touqan, head of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). Under that MOU a feasibility study will be conducted on the construction of two small modular reactors in Jordan for the production of electricity and desalinated water.

Although Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program is in its infancy, the Kingdom has plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years. Little progress has been reported relative to the program for 1000 MW class reactors. However, multiple efforts are underway for small units.

In September 2015, contracts were signed between KA-CARE and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) to support their cooperation in developing KAERI’s SMART (System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor). This is a 330 MWt (100 MWe) pressurized water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced safety features.

Earlier this month, China and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement for a joint study on the feasibility of constructing high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) in the Middle Eastern country.

In March 2015, Russia and Jordan signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the construction and operation of two 1000 MWe VVER units at Az-Zarqa in central Jordan. A feasibility on the construction of those units is expected to be completed within the next few months.

South Africa Is Looking Again At Abandoned Plans For PBMR, Says Eskom

(NucNet): South Africa’s state utility and nuclear operator Eskom has started looking again at plans abandoned in 2010 to develop a Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), the company’s chief nuclear officer David Nicholls said. In an interview with EE Publishers, Mr Nicholls said Eskom is looking at whether there is a market for ultra-safe, small, nuclear reactors for power generation, using high-temperature technology.

He said Eskom had started looking at the PBMR again with “a clean sheet” and is carrying out a paper study “with limited research funding going into it.”

The PBMR was fundamentally designed in South Africa in the 1990s, based on German technology that was demonstrated in the 1970s and 80s. Mr Nicholls said the new work has been looking at what has changed since then, and how the PBMR design can be changed to take advantage of this. 

“Probably the best example is 3D printing. We can now consider 3D printing the ceramic materials, which would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. We are also considering the use of concrete pressure vessels instead of steel, which could reduce the price significantly.”

HOLTEC Files License Application with NRC for Interim Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel

(WNN) The NRC is expected to receive Holtec’s application submittal which comprises a complete package of documents, including the Safety Analysis Report and the Environmental report on the HI-STORE CIS.

HI-STORE CIS is the name of Holtec’s self-funded consolidated interim storage facility, which is being hosted by a coalition of counties and cities incorporated as ELEA, LLC in southeastern New Mexico.

Holtec thanked the NRC for conducting a pre-submittal technical audit in late February at its Technology Campus in Camden, NJ, which helped fine tune the content of the licensing package to accord with the NRC’s expectations.

The regulatory application was for a capacity of 10,000 canisters. Holtec’s Hi-Store Consolidated Interim Storage facility could store used fuel from any US nuclear power plant.

The application describes a 1,000-acre site near Hobbs, NM. It is a remote, geologically stable, dry location with existing infrastructure, including rail, and a pre-existing and robust scientific and nuclear operations workforce.

A similar facility is being developed just on the other side of the New Mexico / Texas border by Areva and Waste Control Specialists. The site, located near Andrews, TX, is already home to a low level radioactive waste facility. The consortium developing the spent fuel facility in Texas. It filed its license application in April 2016.

Japanese High Court Lifts Ban On Restart Of Takahama 3 And 4

(NucNet) The Osaka High Court has lifted an injunction against the restarts of the Takahama 3 and 4 reactor units (KANSAI) in Fukui Prefecture, southwest Japan, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (Jaif) said in a statement.

In March 2016, the regional Otsu District Court issued an injunction to halt operations at Takahama 3 and 4 in response to a request by anti-nuclear groups who said there were doubts about the station’s seismic standards and about new regulatory standards brought in following Fukushima-Daiichi.

In July 2016, Kepco filed an appeal to the Osaka High Court seeking to allow it to restart Takahama 3 and 4. According to Jaif, in its appeal Kepco argued that its seismic data was based on results of precise geological investigations and that important facilities had sufficient seismic safety margins, with municipal evacuation plans being “effective and reasonable” and based on experiences from the Fukushima accident. Takahama 3 and 4 are both 830-MW pressurised water reactors which began commercial operation in 1985.

Japan’s Regulator Postpones Decommissioning Approval For Five Reactors

(NucNet): Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has postponed its approval of decommissioning plans for five nuclear reactors because of a “lack of clarity” in some sections of a report drawn up by the regulator’s own secretariat, industry group the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (Jaif) said on March 30, 2017.

Decommissioning work can only begin once the NRA approves the plans. The work includes tasks such as removing fuel from spent nuclear fuel pools and dismantling main reactor units and peripheral equipment. 

The five units are Mihama-1 and -2, Tsuruga-1, Shimane-1 and Genkai-1. Decisions to decommission the units were taken in March 2015 for reasons of “economic inefficiency,” Jaif said.

All five units have been in commercial operation for more than 40 years. Jaif also said the NRA is evaluating a plan by Shikoku Electric Power Company to decommission Ikata-1. The power company decided in March 2015 to permanently shut down the reactor.

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