Nuclear News Roundup for September 3, 2017

GEH And ARC Nuclear Increase Collaboration On ARC-100 SMR

(NucNet) GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC) have signed an agreement for ARC to license technology from GEH’s Prism advanced reactor design as part of their joint effort to develop and deploy a sodium fast reactor in Canada.  The US-based companies said in a joint statement that GEH has also agreed to provide ARC access to nuclear infrastructure programs related to quality, safety culture, training, processes, procedures and tools.

In addition, GEH said it will make an “in-kind contribution” to ARC through its agreement to provide engineering and design expertise.

The companies previously announced in March 2017 that they would collaborate on the ARC-100 design with initial deployment in Canada. They have begun work on a preliminary regulatory review of the ARC-100 by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

A joint GEH-ARC engineering team is working to advance the ARC-100 design. GEH and ARC have each developed advanced reactor designs based on the EBR-II, an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which was developed by Argonne National Laboratory and operated for more than 30 years at Idaho Falls, Idaho.

GEH said that while there are more than 90 advanced nuclear technology and SMR designs under various stages of development, GEH and ARC Nuclear view sodium fast reactors as being “the most mature advanced reactor technology with decades of real operating experience from more than 20 previous reactors.”

Tepco’s nuclear reactors will likely pass safety review
Still unclear if and when Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility will restart

(Nikkei Asian Review) Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is expected to certify the safety of the two newest two units at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings key nuclear power plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast.

Passing the safety review is a requirement for Tepco to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which has been shut down since the 2011.

The plant has had a series of minor mishaps involving fires and problems with storage of  low level radioactive waste, but TEPCO has also been found to have covered up some of them. 

The most serious incident occurred in July 2007 when three reactors shut down after a 6.8-magnitude earthquake. A fire briefly broke out in one of the units. TEPCO initially said that the quake caused no radiation leaks, but days later admits that 1200 litres of radioactive water had washed into the sea and several drums containing nuclear waste lost their lids after falling over.

However, Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama remains wary about firing up the boiling water reactors. He is the latest in a series of politicians who have ridden into office on waves of voter distrust of TEPCO.  As of now, Tepco has no prospects of winning local consent. In Japan provincial officials have de facto veto power over the restart process.

The Japanese independent nuclear watchdog has already completed its review of the technical aspects of the safety review on units 6 and 7. When it meets later this month, it will focus on the reliability of TEPCO itself, including the safety culture inside the company and the attitude of its management team.

A group from the agency including Chairman Shunichi Tanaka visited the area of the nuclear facility at the end of July, and their findings will be addressed in the discussions. A successful review will result in the agency issuing a safety certificate for restart of the two reactors.

Tepco applied for safety assessments on the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors of the power plant in September 2013. 

U.S. citizen gets prison for assisting China’s nuclear energy program

(UPI/CNN) A U.S. nuclear engineer was sentenced this week to two years in prison for soliciting help from within the US to support nuclear energy in China, the Justice Department announced Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Justice said 66-year-old Taiwanese-American Szuhsiung “Allen” Ho received two years in prison followed by one year of supervised release and a $20,000 fine for his violation of the Atomic Energy Act.

“Today, Allen Ho is being held accountable for enlisting US-based nuclear experts to provide assistance in developing and producing special nuclear material in China for a Chinese state-owned nuclear power company,” acting Assistant Attorney General Dana Boente sad in the statement.

Ho’s charge and sentencing for facilitating US-based help to Chinese nuclear energy programs marked a rare instance of the Justice Department invoking the Atomic Energy Act, a Cold War-era law designed to regulate how nuclear technology is shared.

Ho’s indictment was announced in April of last year in the Eastern District of Tennessee. He also was initially charged with conspiracy to act in the US as an agent of a foreign government. He accepted a plea agreement and pleaded guilty in January, the Justice Department said, to violating the Atomic Energy Act, avoiding a charge for working as an agent of China.
close dialog

The indictment said Ho had since 1997 sought to enlist others to assist with developing nuclear reactors and nuclear material in China — without the permission of the Department of Energy. The indictment said Ho paid money to those US-based nuclear energy experts and made clear his intentions.

The Justice Department statement said Ho worked with US-based nuclear experts to provide technical assistance to China and that both Ho and the Chinese nuclear company managed their travel to China.

In April 2016 this blog reported the charges against Ho include a long list of technical data and analyses provided to China General Nuclear (CGN). The evidence cited comes from email traffic between Ho, his contractor engineers, and CGN. The emails from the Chinese firm include specific technical requests for information which could be indicators of areas where they were having difficulty with their work.

The key information passed by Ho to CGN is described in the indictment, referencing the emails, as nuclear reactor outage data for use at CGN’s Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant. Daya Bay has two 944 MWe PWR nuclear reactors based on the Framatone ANP French 900 MWe three cooling loop design, which started commercial operation in 1993 and 1994 respectively. It is located on China’s southeastern coast in Longgang District, Shenzhen.

The six engineers hired by Ho, with skills in various nuclear energy related disciplines, are also described as having provided information on nuclear fuel materials including plutonium used used in MOX fuel, U-233 used in the thorium fuel cycle, and conventional U-235 enriched nuclear fuel. The focus on multiple nuclear fuel cycles is further evidence that a broad development program of new reactor types is  underway in China. According to the Justice Department two of the engineers were paid a total of about $38,000 for their work.

Ho’s defense attorneys negotiated a plea agreement with DOJ, but the terms are sealed. Ho’s sentence might have been much more harsh so the implication is that he provided information about his work with CGN that was valuable to the government.

Brazil looks to China to finish nuclear power plant

(Reuters) Brazil will seek China’s expertise and financing to complete its third nuclear power plant when President Michel Temer makes a state visit to Beijing.

The Brazilian nuclear energy company Eletronuclear will sign a cooperation agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), signaling their intent to establish a partnership to finish the Angra 3 plant, the officials said.

Construction of the 1,405 megawatt reactor on the coast south of Rio de Janeiro has dragged on for three decades and its completion is now scheduled for 2023. Funding is the key issue. Brazil does not have the estimated $5 billion needed to finish the job.

The Chinese corporation is expected to provide these financial resources. The head of Eletronuclear, Bruno Barretto, signed an initial memorandum with CNNC on the Angra 3 completion in Beijing in December when he visited Chinese banks that are potential financiers, Eletronuclear said in a statement.

IAEA Opens LEU Storage Facility For Kazakhstan Fuel Bank

(NucNet) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Kazakhstan have opened a facility where low-enriched uranium (LEU) will be stored for the agency’s LEU bank in Kazakhstan.

The IAEA said on August 29, 2017, that the facility is at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in the eastern city of Ust-Kamenogorsk. The IAEA LEU bank will be established once the LEU, the basic ingredient to fabricate nuclear fuel, has been bought and delivered to the new facility.

The IAEA decided in December 2010 to establish the LEU bank as an assurance of supply mechanism of last resort for member states which experience a supply disruption due to exceptional circumstances and which are unable to secure nuclear power fuel from the commercial market or any other means.

Owned and controlled by the IAEA, the fuel bank will be a physical reserve of up to 90 tonnes of LEU suitable to make fuel for a typical light-water reactor. The establishment and operation of the LEU bank are funded by voluntary contributions from IAEA member states and other donors totalling $150m – enough to cover estimated costs for 20 years of operation.

The Bank, jump-started by the Nuclear Treat Initiative (NTI) more than a decade ago with an investment of $50 million from Warren Buffett, will be owned and managed by the IAEA and is the first of its kind not to be under control of any individual country.

“The launching of the IAEA LEU Bank is a major milestone for global nuclear security and nonproliferation efforts,” said former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, NTI Co-Chairman.  “The Bank will play an important role in reducing nuclear dangers and serve as a vivid example of the benefits of international cooperation at a time when our world is in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.”

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