Nuclear News Roundup for April 23, 2017

NRC asked to Suspend Review of a License Application for West Texas Interim Storage Site for Spent Nuclear Fuel

(Midland Reporter-Telegram) Waste Control Specialists (WCS) has requested that the NRC to suspend its review of its license application for an Interim Storage Site for Spent Nuclear Fuel in Andrews County, TX.  The reasons, the firm says, is that it faces an government antitrust suit over a pending merger with Energy Solutions. Also, it is running out of cash to pay for the NRC review.

WCS is looking to store spent nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants at its already-existing low-level radioactive waste storage facility in Andrews County. The term “interim” could refer to storage of the spent fuel for periods of 50-100 years.

Because the spent fuel will be stored in steel lined concrete canisters, and buried in soil at a dry and geologically stable site, the risk of this long duration isn’t the same as for wet storage at a nuclear power plant.

WCS said there are two reasons it wants to pause the license review process.  It said it has a pending merger with Utah based Energy Solutions, but it faces an anti-trust lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The firm also said it is having to ramp up its efforts to raise the money needed to pay for the review, $7.5 million, which it says, “is significantly higher than we originally estimated.”

The firm’s letter to the NRC also cited costs associated with the public participation process, a potential adjudicatory hearing before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board as other reasons.

It revealed that a cost-sharing agreement with one of its partners being depleted. Its partners are TN Americas and NAC International, according to the press release.

Holtec Plans Amendments To Application For New Mexico Used Fuel Facility

(NucNet) Florida-based Holtec International wants to expand the scope of its planned temporary storage facility for spent nuclear fuel (SNF) in New Mexico to accommodate the various SNF canister types used across the US.

Holtec said it will ask the NRC to expand the authorization for the planned Hi-Store Consolidated Interim Storage (Hi-Store CIS) facility to hold every canister type ever used by both present and past suppliers to US nuclear plants.

Holtec said the list includes suppliers such as Areva, Pacific Nuclear, Vectra, NAC, Sierra Nuclear, BNFL Solutions and Westinghouse.

In March 2017, Holtec filed an initial licensing application with the NRC for the construction of the Hi-Store CIS facility. The facility will provide an interim option for US nuclear power plant operators that need to store used fuel assemblies in the absence of a federal disposal solution.

Nuclear Startup in Denmark Garners Headlines, but Details are Scarce

(NucNet) Seaborg Technologies of Copenhagen says it is developing an advanced thorium-based molten salt reactor (MSR) and has received a grant from the public funding agency Innovation Fund Denmark, a move that marks the first Danish investment into nuclear fission research since a 1985 ban on nuclear energy.

The decision to fund the reactor, known as the Seaborg CUBE-100 (short for Compact Used Fuel BurnEr), is the beginning of the first Danish venture into the development of advanced fission reactor concepts.

Few details are available about the effort. A white paper from a another firm, also located in Denmark, provides information about a “waste burner” design. It is unclear whether the firms are aligned or competitors. A very similar white paper, posted at the Seaborg web site, has since been taken down. The firm’s website is down and refers people to a Facebook page.

In 2015 Seaborg Technologies was reported in the Danish news media as a startup company working to develop and commercialize thorium-based molten salt reactors.

Seaborg Technologies, based in Copenhagen, was at the time reported to be a collaboration between a small team of physicists, chemists and engineers with educational roots at the Niels Bohr Institute, CERN, ESS (European Spallation Source) and DTU Center of Nuclear Technologies. Seaborg Technologies reportedly takes it name after the American nuclear chemist and Nobel laureate Glenn T. Seaborg.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said in a report on MSRs that the Seaborg prototype, known as the Seaborg Waste Burner (SWaB), is a 50 MWth single fluid unit. It is graphite moderated and fuelled by a combination of spent nuclear fuel and thorium.

Seaborg chief executive officer Troels Schönfeldt said in a recent media interview that with the initial small funding the company has it will be able to position itself for the additional investment required to progress towards commercial maturity.

Dr Schönfeldt said the company is looking for “visionary investors” with the long-term perspective required to capitalize on advanced nuclear reactors.

According to his Linkedin profile, Schonmfeldt completed his PhD in physics at a Danish university in 2015.

Jaitapur Nuclear Project to Break Ground in 2018

(The Hindu) Work on the 9900 MW (six EPR reactors) at the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) will finally take off in December 2018 and is likely to be completed by 2027.

A delegation led by French Ambassador Alexander Ziegler held a meeting with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to discuss the long-pending JNPP for which land has been acquired near Jaitapur plateau in Ratnagiri district.

The project, which will have six nuclear reactors, will be built using the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) technology. French company EDF proposes to build six EPRs of 1600 MW each in Jaitapur. EDF has now taken 51% share in the reactor business from Areva. Both firms are state-owned by the French government.

Funding for the project, to be provided by NPCIL, still has not been made final. It is expected that two reactors will be built initially the the other four to follow in later years.

Russia To Start Construction Of India’s Kudankulam-3 and -4 In 2017

(NucNet) Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom will begin construction work for India’s planned Kudankulam-3 and -4 reactor units this year in in Tamil Nadu state, southern India. In November 2016,

Rosatom’s nuclear equipment manufacturing company Atomenergomash announced it had begun manufacturing major components for Kudankulam-3.

In October 2016, Rosatom said first concrete had been poured for the foundation slabs of Units 3 and 4 at Kudankulam. Both units will be of the Russia-designed VVER-1000 pressurised water reactor type.

Idaho Lab sets plans for new test reactor on the Arco Desert

(Idaho Falls Post Register) — A three-year research and development process is underway regarding a potential new test reactor at Idaho National Laboratory’s desert site.

The study to find the cost and capabilities of a Versatile Reactor-based Fast Neutron Source began in March according to Rita Baranwal, the director of Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear program.

Baranwal said a fast reactor would provide next-generation fuel-testing capabilities not offered by INL’s Advanced Test Reactor or Transient Reactor Experiment and Test Facility, which is expected to resume operation this year.

There aren’t yet cost or schedule estimates for a new fast reactor, which would be used by private industry, government and academia. Such infrastructure doesn’t exist in the United States, but is necessary to remain globally competitive, Baranwal said.

“The industry needs a new fast spectrum test reactor to qualify fuel manufacturing processes and demonstrate fuel performance,” she said.

“Folks go to Russia to use their fast reactor. The time is right for us to be embarking on such an endeavor to build a reactor that would provide these capabilities.”

NRC Asks For Public Comment On SMR Emergency Preparedness Requirements

(NucNet) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is asking for public comment on a draft regulatory basis for new emergency preparedness requirements for small modular reactors (SMRs) and other new technologies such as non-light-water reactor facilities.

A regulatory basis is an early stage in the rulemaking process in which the NRC explains the rationale for developing new regulatory requirements and seeks input from the public.

The NRC said the nuclear power industry is developing SMRs and other advanced reactor technologies that differ in size, scope and hazard from the large light-water reactors operating in the US today.

Their smaller size or innovative safety features are likely to lead to lower risk or less challenging accident conditions than today’s reactors. This rulemaking would establish emergency preparedness requirements appropriate to these technologies, the NRC said. Details online:

NuScale has submitted a package to the NRC for a safety review of its design of a 50MW SMR. The firms’ first customer, a consortium of Utah utilities, wants to build up to 12 of the units at site at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.

Experts Say New Nations Pose Challenges for Nuclear Governance

(NEI) The nuclear governance system is facing an unprecedented challenge as traditional nuclear suppliers that have built the backbone of the safety, security and nonproliferation regime face new competition to provide technology to emerging nations. This is according to an April 19 policy report released by the Global Nexus Initiative (GNI), a unique project that combines experts from the nuclear industry and leading energy, climate change and nuclear security advocacy organizations.

The locus of new nuclear plant construction has shifted to fast-growing nations in Asia and the Middle East, the report notes, and traditional suppliers, including the U.S., France and Japan, are giving way to Russia and China, which have the most active nuclear production lines, the capacity to increase manufacturing and the state financing to support it.

China alone has 21 reactors under construction and another 40 planned; Russia has seven under construction and another 25 planned. South Korea, a key U.S. ally and another emerging global nuclear supplier, has three reactors under construction and is building four new reactors abroad in the United Arab Emirates.

Neither Russia nor China have been leaders in the nuclear governance area and many nations with emerging economies and ambitious nuclear power development plans face challenges in effectively governing the plants and materials they seek.

“Control of the nuclear energy market translates into the power to set the governance agenda,” said Kenneth Luongo, president of the Partnership for Global Security (PGS), a nonpartisan think-tank offering innovative solutions to global nuclear security challenges.

“We cannot afford a race to the bottom in pursuit of market share in this vital area. The growth of non-U.S. and non-European nuclear reactor suppliers is a significant concern as it may impact the global leadership needed to drive forward the improvements required for the system to remain effective.”

GNI’s fourth and final report will be released May 2 at a press conference at the National Press Club with a simultaneous webcast. The memo will present recommendations on the role of nuclear power in meeting the challenges of energy production, climate change and global security.

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