UK Brexit Plan Stirs Up a Bitter Brew Over Euratom Status

The decision to leave Euratom, the body that oversees European nuclear safety, will have profound impacts – and may not have been necessary.

bitter brew(NucNet) Leaving the Euratom agency that oversees nuclear safety in Europe will cause widespread confusion and have a potentially devastating impact on the nuclear energy industry in the UK, experts have warned.

According to Buzzfeed News, five “senior nuclear scientists” said there are three main areas that could be affected by Brexit. The areas are transportation of nuclear materials, including nuclear fuel; research, especially fusion research; and overseas investment in development of British nuclear power stations.

All of these could have further impacts on British high-tech industries. Possible consequences include a reduction in foreign investment in UK nuclear power facilities, the loss of thousands of jobs and the UK losing its place as a world leader in new nuclear technologies.

Professor Roger Cashmore, chair of the UK Atomic Energy Agency, told Buzzfeed News the current situation was “alarming.”

Although the treaties relating to Euratom are separate to those keeping the UK in the EU, the agency requires members to be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However, UK prime minister Theresa May has insisted the UK must withdraw from it as part of Brexit.

According to the Buzzfeed report, Juan Matthews, a visiting professor at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester, said,

“In order to continue our business with fuel manufacture and enrichment, we need to have the legislation in place to allow the movement and transport of materials.” But that cross-border legislation is put in place by Euratom and would need to be replaced if we leave.”

“If there’s a hiatus,” he said. “There are thousands of jobs at stake. It’s a billion-pound industry which could be held up.”

The UK is a major producer of enriched uranium, which is used in nuclear fuel, and exports much of the material to other EU countries. The UK government also owns a third of Urenco, the European uranium-enrichment company.

Prof. Cashmore told Buzzfeed News that unless new treaties relating to the transportation of nuclear materials between Britain and the EU are agreed quickly, the UK could run out of nuclear fuel within two years, meaning nuclear power stations would be unable to produce energy.

UK Reports On Euratom ‘Very Concerning’, Says Nuclear Industry Body

(NucNet): Reports in the UK media that there was no impact assessment undertaken by the government before deciding to trigger leaving Euratom are “very concerning”, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, said.

Mr Greatrex said that while the industry has provided the government with detailed information to help it understand the role of Euratom, it has also repeatedly been made clear to the government that the industry’s preferred position is to retain membership of Euratom.

“It is important now that the government ensures there is regular and constant dialogue with the industry, so they can understand the full consequences of decisions they will take over the period ahead,” he said.

The Guardian newspaper reported on July 12, 2017, that a ruling Conservative Party revolt has grown stronger over prime minster Theresa May’s plan to withdraw from the Euratom nuclear treaty with the possibility that  the PM will have no majority for the move.

The government insists that leaving Euratom is an inevitable consequence of triggering article 50 and proceeding to Brexit – a position shared by the European negotiators.

However, around a dozen Conservative MPs are pushing for the government to fight harder for the UK to stay in Euratom, which oversees the movement of nuclear materials across Europe.

Trudy Harrison, a Conservative MP representing Copeland, the constituency of the Sellafield nuclear site, said leaving the Euratom treaty without quickly replicating its benefits could risk jobs and safety.

The opposition Labour Party said Britain should remain in Euratom, adding it is increasingly clear that the government acted “recklessly” by giving up on membership of Euratom.

Position Paper Confirms UK Will Quit Euratom Nuclear Treaty

(NucNet): The UK’s Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) has published a position paper on the UK’s stance on the European atomic energy community (Euratom), saying the UK would quit the treaty but seek to work with Euratom’s member countries to ensure a “smooth transition” to a new regime of nuclear cooperation and safeguards.

The position paper resists calls for rethinking the withdrawal and says leaving Euratom is an inevitable consequence of triggering article 50 and proceeding to Brexit. Critics have said this is exactly the wrong position for the government to be taking.

The position paper, published on July 13, 2017, shows the government is not changing course from its decision in January to leave the Euratom treaty, despite strong warnings this week that doing so could undermine safety, affect investment in new nuclear and research, and threaten the supply of radioactive isotopes.

Politicians and the nuclear industry have urged ministers to consider an associate membership, an option that does not appear in the paper.

The nuclear industry said ministers had failed to give the sector enough clarity to date on the government’s plans regarding Euratom.

“While containing very little detail, the UK government’s position paper demonstrates the complexity of replicating Euratom arrangements in UK regulation and cooperation agreements with third countries which the industry has warned of,” said Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association. The position paper is online: http://bit.ly/2t6t9kl

U.K. May Seek Associate Membership of Euratom

(Bloomberg) The U.K. may seek associate membership of the nuclear oversight treaty that it’s pulling out of as part of its withdrawal from the European Union, Brexit Secretary David Davis said as he sought to quell a growing rebellion among lawmakers from his own Conservative Party.

“What we want is something quite close to what we currently have in terms of safeguards, in terms of agreements, in terms of oversight, in terms of the ability to transfer fissile materials, all these sorts of things,” Davis said in a BBC television interview.

“Whether we have an association agreement with the European Union or we have something independent under the International Atomic Energy Authority, we’ll provide the sorts of safeguards that we have today at least.”

By holding out the carrot of an association agreement, Davis may be able pacify opponents to the Euratom pullout within his own party. For its part the European Union had not responded to the idea of an “associate membership” at press time.

India Confirms Sites For 10 Indigenous PHWRs

(NucNet): India’s atomic energy minister Jitendra Singh has told parliament that the government has approved and financially sanctioned the construction of the 10 indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) totaling around 7,000 MW. They are scheduled to be progressively completed by 2031.

Mr Singh told parliament that the planned reactors are;

  • Kaiga-5 and -6 in Karnataka state
  • Chutka-1 and -2 in Madhya Pradesh
  • Mahi Banswara-1,-2,-3 and -4 in Rajasthan, and
  • Gorakhpur-3 and -4 in Haryana state

The total cost of constructing the reactors is estimated at $16.3bn (€13.9bn) at a constant price level, which excludes inflation and interest during construction, Mr Singh said. All materials and components for the units would be sourced in India, he said.

South Korea ‘In Talks’ Over Stake In Horizon’s Wylfa Newydd

(NucNet): South Korea’s state-owned Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) is said to be in early talks to buy a stake in Horizon’s Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station project in Wales. According to media reports on July 23, 2017, KHNP, a subsidiary of Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), could invest in Horizon as a minority shareholder along with the governments of Japan and the UK. The company is understood to be hiring advisers in the UK, the Sunday Times reported.

A spokesman for Horizon said: “We have always been clear that we are looking to bring other investors into Horizon. Based on the strengths of our project, we are in positive discussions with a number of parties but we will not be commenting on the process whilst it is ongoing.”

Horizon is planning to build and operate two UK Advanced-Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) units at Wylfa Newydd on the island of Anglesey in north Wales. The company submitted its site application in April 2017.

If KEPCO enters the picture, it may propose to build its own 1400 MW units similar to those it is completing in the UAE. However, the reactor has not yet been submitted for the UK nuclear safety review needed to license the construction and operation of this design.  That process could take three years or longer depending on how well the review process goes.

China Holds Talks With Poland Over Plans For First Nuclear Plants

(NucNet) Nuclear operator China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has held discussions with the Polish government about potentially becoming a partner and building Poland’s first commercial nuclear power plant.

CGN said talks took place with a Polish delegation headed by deputy minister of energy Andrzej Piotrowski in Shenzhen during a visit to China. Mr Piotrowski also met his Chinese counterpart Li Fanrong in Beijing.

CGN senior vice-president Shu Guogang said the company attached great importance to the Polish market and is “willing and confident of becoming a long-term strategic partner of Poland and helping with the localisation of nuclear technology.”

The Polish delegation visited the Daya Bay nuclear station in southern China and the first indigenous Hualong One units under construction at the Fangchenggang nuclear station, also in southern China. Poland has not finalized its nuclear plans, but CGN said in its statement that Poland is planning two units.

Poland in 2014 announced plans to build two nuclear power stations with total capacity of 6MW. The first unit is expected to be completed by the end of 2030.

Poland has repeatedly made such announcements and then postponed the start and finish dates due to issues with financing. The country gets the majority of its electrical power from coal and gas plants. It is not clear whether China offered to provide any of the funding needed to build the Polish plants.

France Could Shut Up To 17 Reactors In Bid To Meet 50% Nuclear Share

(NucNet):France may permanently shut up to 17 nuclear reactor units by 2025 to achieve its target of reducing the share of nuclear power in the generation mix from around 75% to 50%, environment minister Nicolas Hulot said in an interview with radio network RTL on July 10, 2017.

“When it was confirmed that the share of nuclear would be 50%, everyone understood that to achieve this objective we would need to close a number of reactors,” Mr Hulot said.

“It may be up to 17 reactors we have to look at.”

Mr Hulot said on July 6, 2017, that the new administration of president Emmanuel Macron wants to meet the country’s commitment to reduce the share of nuclear energy in electricity output to 50% by 2025. Unveiling proposals for the country’s energy transition, Mr Hulot said cutting electricity generated by nuclear power remained France’s objective.

The 50% target was set by the August 2015 energy transition law. According to International Atomic Energy Agency statistics, France’s 58 commercial nuclear units accounted for 72.28% of the country’s electricity mix in 2016, down from 77.5% in 2014. In his interview with RTL Mr Hulot did not name the units that would shut down.

If the plant is executed as planned it is likely that France will suffer an economic setback of significant proportions since it has no replacement power plan in place.

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Holtec, SNC-Lavalin, Partner on Development of 160 MW SMR

  • holtec logoThis is the latest partnering agreement between Holtec and a major nuclear reactor vendor. 
  • In August 2015, Mitsubishi  signed a long-term partnership agreement with Holtec to develop the instrumentation and control systems for the SMR-160.
  • Holtec has previously secured engineering, design and qualification support for its work on the SMR-160 from the Shaw Group and URS Corporation, and has a strategic alliance with utility PSEG Power, operator of three nuclear units at Salem and Hope Creek in southern New Jersey.

Under new the agreement, SNC-Lavalin will provide Holtec with a range of nuclear engineering services, including supporting the licensing of the SMR-160 reactor. While the SMR-160 is based on light water reactor technology, it should be noted that SNC-Lavalin is the parent company of Candu Energy.

According to the Holtec press statement, the partnership aims to accelerate the reactor system’s ongoing development and international licensing efforts by linking SNC-Lavalin’s  nuclear team with Holtec’s SMR team. Under the terms of the agreement, SNC-Lavalin will provide Holtec with a range of nuclear engineering services, including supporting licensing of the SMR-160 reactor.

Unlike its U.S. competitor Nu Scale, which has announced a customer for its 50 MW SMR, to be built and operated in Idaho, Holtec has not said publicly whether it also has a customer order or one in the works. The relationship with SNC Lavalin might develop beyond technical assistance since the firm supplies maintenance services to CANDU type reactors globally.

There are 29 operating CANDU reactors in seven countries; 19 in Canada, 4 in South Korea, and 2 each in China, India, and Romania. among others.  As these reactors reach the end of their service lives, or as demand for electricity grows in these countries, SNC-Lavalin’s existing relationships could be become door openers for the Holtec SMR. However, neither firm has said anything about a joint marketing agreement.

Preston Swafford, SNC-Lavalin chief nuclear officer and executive vice president of nuclear, said: “We know that the global nuclear market for safe, economic nuclear power continues to grow. Partnering with Holtec in the SMR-160 brings us a ‘walk away safe’ reactor design that will deliver a clean, affordable and reliable electricity supply satisfying regional and nation state power needs.”

Holtec CEO and president Kris Singh added: “With SNC-Lavalin’s contribution of a high calibre cadre of experts, Holtec is poised to deliver on our SMR promise, to re-invigorate nuclear power for a world in dire need of a weather-independent and carbon-free source of energy.”

Technical Overview of Holtec SMR

Holtec’s 160 MWe small modular reactor uses low-enriched uranium fuel. The factory-built reactor’s core and all nuclear steam supply system components would be located underground, and the design incorporates a passive cooling system that would be able to operate indefinitely after shutdown. No active components, such as pumps, are needed to run the reactor, which does not need any on-site or off-site power to shut down and to dissipate decay heat.  For complete details see the Holtec Technical Bulletin (PDF file)

holtec 160 mw smr

Holtec SMR 160

Although Holtec has partnered with a firm that has a core competency on CANDU reactors, the SMR-160 uses low enriched nuclear fuel. According to the company, “SMR-160 uses commonly available nuclear fuel pellets in zircaloy tubes (fuel rods) manufactured by many qualified suppliers around the world.”

Holtec Factory in Camden, NJ, to Manufacture Components for the SMR-160

Holtec International is completing construction of the world’s first dedicated SMR manufacturing facility. The factory, sited on the Delaware River in Camden NJ, has the lifting, cutting, welding, cladding, drilling, machining, inspection, and shipping capacities necessary for all of the SMR-160’s capital nuclear equipment fabrication needs.

This facility, scheduled for commercial operation by the beginning of 2018, is expected to be the first of multiple such facilities, both in the United States and elsewhere globally.

Holtec said it expects to submit its the initial licensing application to the NRC  by the end of 2018.

U.S. Firm to Launch SMR Manufacturing Center in Pittsburgh, PA

cammlogfo2Concurrent Technologies Corp plans to launch a Center for Advanced Nuclear Manufacturing (CANM) to fill the “critical gap” that exists in providing proven applied advanced manufacturing technologies in the emerging field of small modular reactors and advanced reactors.

The firm said on July 13th that the CANBM will “solve first-of-a-kind issues, conduct design for manufacturing analysis, and prototype new component designs.”

Overall, the CANM will support the US nuclear industry’s need to reduce acquisition and total ownership costs by developing innovative manufacturing solutions.

According to Concurrent, the future of nuclear energy will see the emergence of next-generation power plants, commonly referred to as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Advanced Reactors (ARs). It’s projected that hundreds of these SMR/AR systems will be needed by the late 2030s.

It say it sees critical gap exists in providing proven applied advanced manufacturing technologies in this emerging field. Concurrent Technologies Corporation will operate the new Center for Advanced Nuclear Manufacturing (CANM) to solve first-of-a-kind issues, conduct design for manufacturing analysis, and prototype new component designs.

manufacturing-labThe firm said, “a fundamentally different approach” will be needed for SMR/AR systems compared to the current light water reactor systems.

The newer reactors are relatively compact. They can be “factory produced” and transported in a few sections to a designated location for assembly. In addition, these reactors employ passive safety technologies that make them safer to operate.”

This firm’s approach to a “novel” manufacturing approach will challenge both nuclear suppliers and regulators and numerous technical issues must be considered to facilitate efficient SMR/AR production. These range from addressing supply chain capabilities to developing mechanized/automated manufacturing processes to support higher demand volumes.

Cooperation with Nuclear Infrastructure Council

nic logoConcurrent Technologies is part of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council’s (NIC) Manufacturing and Supply Chain Working Group which is working to address these issues. Vince Gilbert, Senior Fellow, NIC, said that Concurrent Technologies Corporation emerged as the consensus choice to house the new Center for Advanced Nuclear Manufacturing (CANM).

Gilbert added that the firm was chosen “based on our 30-year history and its track record in advanced manufacturing.”

The firm lists its capabilities as including large infrastructure/highbay space, equipment, testing facilities, and subject matter experts with experience in key technologies including additive manufacturing, casting, and cybersecurity for manufacturing.

Edward J. Sheehan, Jr., Concurrent Technologies Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer. “We look forward to working with manufacturing companies and suppliers interested in supporting nuclear facilities and upcoming nuclear construction projects.”

Two Events to Signal Commencement of CANM Activities

  • Suppliers Workshop August 23
  • CANM Open House August 24

supply-chainTo officially launch CANM’s operations, two events will be held for manufacturing companies and suppliers interested in supporting nuclear facilities and upcoming nuclear construction projects, as well as business and community leaders.

A USNIC Ready4Nuclear Nuclear Suppliers Workshop will be held on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, at Sheraton Station Square in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sessions will be conducted by key speakers representing various components of the nuclear industry geared toward strengthening the nation’s advanced nuclear manufacturing network.

The CANM Open House will be held on Thursday, August 24, 2017, at Concurrent Technologies Corporation in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

This event will feature a ribbon cutting, tours, and an opportunity for suppliers to meet one-on-one with CTC/CANM personnel to learn how to become part of the advanced manufacturing network.

Registration for both events can be completed online: http://conta.cc/2teWA3p.

The United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council is the leading U.S. business consortium advocate for nuclear energy and promotion of the American supply chain globally. Composed of nearly 100 companies, USNIC represents the “Who’s Who” of the nuclear supply chain community, including key utility movers, technology developers, construction engineers, manufacturers, and service providers.

Conconcurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC) is an independent, nonprofit, applied scientific research and development professional services organization. Together with our affiliates, Enterprise Ventures Corporation and CTC Foundation, CTC leverages research, development, test and evaluation work to provide transformative, and full lifecycle solutions.

CTC Media Contact

Robert Akans, Senior Director
Phone: 571-261-9441
Email: canm@ctc.com

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Areva & EDF to Try Again with NPCIL at Jaitapur

  • word cloud negotiateThe French government is going another round in the ring with India over roles and responsibilities to build six 1650 MW EPRs at the Jaitapur site on the west coast.
  • EDF wants to have the lead for engineering and, obviously, a large piece of the procurement pie, with NPCIL being in charge of construction.
  • For its part NPCIL wants EDF to have all three roles – engineering, procurement, and construction, due to risks associated with cost overruns.

In one of the longest running “we’re gonna build it” soap operas in the global nuclear industry, the latest round of negotiations over the Jaitapur project has push back on both sides over who does what and when.

Since 2007 when the Areva deal was first announced NPCIL has been digging in its heels about not wanting to accept any responsibility for project success or failure. This stance of having EDF and Areva holding the bag, so to speak, is based on NPCIL’s well founded fear of schedule delays and cost overruns. EPRs under construction in Finland and France provide ample grounds for these concerns.

NPCIL has now added a new condition for breaking ground, and that is operational experience with a “reference plant.” By this the Indian nuclear energy development agency means it wants to know that an EPR is up and running and that issues like reliability and costs are well documented.

For its part, Areva points to the two EPRs nearing completion at Taishan in Guangdong province in China which are expected to be in revenue service by the end of 2017.  NPCIL says, in response, ‘fine we’ll wait.’  Areva also offered the Flammanville EPR as a reference plant which is expected to be complete in 2018.

But that’s not the end of it. At an estimated cost of $4,000/Kw, each EPR is expected to cost close to $7 billion.  NPCIL is asking the French government, which owns about 85% of both EDF an Areva to provide India with a line of credit to pay for all six reactors.

So, consider the size of the project.  By the numbers it comes to almost 10 Gwe of electrical power costing more than $42 billion. Assuming the reactors are built in pairs, intelligent scheduling suggests that units 1 & 2, if started in 2018, will be complete in 2023; units 3 & 4 would be complete by 2026, and units 5 & 6 would be complete by the end of the decade.

South Korea was able to figure out how to build four 1400 MW PWR type reactors for the UAE without defaulting to a serial series of starts and finishes.

But India doesn’t seem to work that way.  At Kudankulam, in Tamil Nadu, NPCIL waited until Units 1 &2, each 1000 MW Russian built VVERs, were fully commissioned before breaking ground on Units 3 &4.  Contracts are just now being drawn up between Rosatom and NPCIL for Units 5 & 6.

The longer it takes the complete all six EPRs the more the later units are going to cost. This  brings us back to NPCIL wanting EDF and Areva not only to carry all the risk, but also to provide the credit line for the costs. That’s a lot of water to carry. It comes as no surprise the EDF wants to see NPCIL be more of a partner and less of a pirate in this relationship.

In terms of piracy on the high seas, so to speak, NPCIL wants the purchases of long lead procurement items by EDF from Indian heavy manufacturing firms to be paid for in Euros.  Examples include turbines, pumps, and switch station equipment.  Why India doesn’t trust its own currency is a mystery.  Another odd item is that India wants to place a tariff on French nuclear components brought into the country by EDF.

Given the interesting negotiations taking place, it should be noted that French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to pay a state visit to India by the end of 2017. This puts some pressure on all parties to complete a general framework agreement that ties up all the loose ends before then.

Westinghouse, which though bankrupt, still has ambitions to build six 1150 MW AP1000s PWR type reactors at Andhra Pradesh on India’s east coast. The new executive team in Pittsburgh might want to look at how the deal with EDF is shaping up before they take the next flight to New Delhi to discuss that project.

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NASA Plans to Use Nuclear Reactors on MARS

kilopower-unit_thumb.jpg

KiloPower Design – Image Source: Dasari V. Rao, Patrick McClure, Los Alamos National Laboratory as published in R&D Magazine 02/14/17

  • The reactors would use highly enriched uranium as a fuel to power fission processes.
  • The development of the technology would also require completion of the design and flight qualification of the Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator (ASRG)

The first humans to settle on Mars could have small nuclear power stations responsible for providing energy. Solar energy won’t be sufficient to meet the power requirements of a group of astronauts living and working on Mars for an extended period of time.

Scientific American reports that NASA is currently working on a project to develop nuclear fission reactors that could work on the red planet. The agency has built several small test prototypes of the reactors and is due to start testing the technology in a few months.

Each nuclear reactor can produce up to 10 kilowatts of power – enough to support two people on an expedition mission to the planet. NASA has estimated that an eight-person expedition would need 40 kilowatts of power.

This isn’t the first time the US space agency has experimented with nuclear reactors in space. Also the Russians have considerable experience with RTGs and fission reactors in space. (WNA profile of space nuclear technology)

Back in the 1960s it developed the SNAP (Systems for Nuclear Auxiliary Power) program that led to the creation of the radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG). This device uses a small mass of decaying plutonium-238 that gives off heat by converting it to electric power with a solid state thermocouple. (NASA fact sheets) (Infographic in NASA missions using RTGs)

The Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars uses an RTG for power as does the Cassini probe .

Chief Technologist Lee Mason, who oversees power and energy storage technology development at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, told Space.com that these new reactors will be the “first time we operate a fission reactor that could be used in space since the 1960s SNAP program.”

Successfully installing a power source on Mars is going to be a key part of establishing humans on the planet. Fission reactors are a better choice than solar panels because of Mars’ distance from the sun and their power output would not be diminished by the planet’s dust storms.

“We’ve landed some really cool things on Mars and they’ve had some pretty remarkable power systems … but they’re not going to cut it for human missions,” Mason said during last month’s Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C.

The biggest power requirement for future human expeditions is running the equipment to produce fuel, air and water, plus running the habitat and recharging batteries for rovers and science equipment.

NASA envisions sending four or five small fission reactors, each capable of generating about 10 kilowatts of power, to Mars, Mason said at the Humans to Mars Summit. The units would be launched cold and activated once they reach their destinations.

“They’re not operating at launch, whereas once you fuel an RTG, it’s operating, and you have to process the thermal output,” Mason said.

“The reactors also have a very low radiological inventory at launch — less than 5 curies — so it’s benign … There are no fission products until the reactor is turned on, and that’s when there will be some radiation.”

A key element of any nuclear power system to be used in space is that it has to be strong enough to survive a failed launch.  NASA RTGs are build to extremely rugged specifications to meet this requirement.

According to the report in Scientific American Mason said  tests scheduled for this September are designed to validate Kilopower’s design and performance. After that, NASA would be ready to proceed with developing a bigger system for testing on Mars.

The test reactor, which is about 6.5 feet tall is designed to produce up to 1 kilowatt of electric power. To keep costs down, the test unit does not include a full array of Stirling engines (ASRG) which would be needed to convert energy generated by the fission process into heat. (LANL technical summary of KiloPower)

In 2013 NASA cancelled development of the ASRG for flight and consigned the project to R&D status. The major portion of the funding originally allocated to the ASRG was transferred by NASA to the Department of Energy (DOE) to refurbish its neglected and aging facilities needed to produce PU-238 for RTGs.

DOE had been relying on purchasing PU-238 from Russia to support NASA RTGs, but when that country cancelled the sales, the US was left with only a small inventory of PU-238 and half of it was more or less unusable. DOE facilities at ORNL and LANL were not ready to fill the gap.

If the ASRG is going to produce the electrical power from the fission reactor to be built to be used on Mars, development work will have to be restarted on it at NASA Glenn.

In 2013 Mason’s work was recognized with a prestigious R&D 100 award.

The KiloPower team includes Lee Mason and Marc Gibson of Glenn as well as members of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and National Security Technologies in Las Vegas.

Nuclear Industry Says No Impact Seen from Hacking Campaign

Officials for the nuclear utility industry say there has been no apparent impact from a hacking campaign that has drawn the attention of federal officials.

The assurances came after federal officials told electricity grid operators last week about a hacking or phishing campaign that has targeted the energy and manufacturing sectors.

John Keeley, spokesman for the industry’s Nuclear Energy Institute, says no reactors operating in the U.S. have been affected. Keeley adds that if they had, the incidents would have been reported to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Scott Aaronson, executive director for security for the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned power companies, says there has been no impact to systems controlling power grids. He say the threat was unrelated to this week’s ransomware attack against companies around the world.

The New York Times and the Bloomberg wire service broke the story based on a report prepared as part of a joint effort by the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

The Washington Post reported the joint alert from the FBI and DHS, first reported by Reuters on June 30, said the hackers have been targeting the industry since at least May. Several days earlier, E & E News, an energy trade publication, had reported that U.S. authorities were investigating cyber-intrusions affecting multiple nuclear-power-generation sites.

The report said that hackers, most probably linked to Russia, gained access to business systems at the Wolf Creek nuclear plant in Kansas and the Fermi II plant in Michigan. Both plants reported that no safety related systems were impacted by the cyber attack.

Access was gained to the business systems by sending malicious software disguised as ordinary emails with MS Word attachments. Once the attachment was downloaded and opened, the software was launched inside the office system.

In December 2015, Russian hackers disrupted the electric system in Ukraine, plunging 225,000 customers into darkness. Last December, they tested a new cyberweapon in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, capable of disrupting power grids around the world.

Progress Reported on India’s Fast Nuclear reactor at Kalpakkam

(Indian English Language wire services) India plans to commission its first fast breeder reactor (FBR) by the end of this year at Kalpakkam in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. India’s Prototype Fast Breed Reactor (PFBR) will produce 500MW of power.

India would be the second country worldwide to have a commercial reactor currently produce power through a fast-breeder reactor. Russia owns the other commercially run FBR, the Beloyarsk Nuclear Plant.

According to World Nuclear News a 500 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) is under construction for some time at Kalpakkam and was originally expected to be operating late in 2014, fueled with uranium-plutonium oxide. It is now expected to begin operation in 2018.

It will have a blanket with thorium and uranium to breed fissile U-233 and plutonium respectively. Initial FBRs will have mixed oxide fuel or carbide fuel but these will be followed by metallic fueled ones to enable shorter doubling time.

The PFBR will take India’s ambitious thorium program to stage 2, and set the scene for plans to eventually achieve full utilization of the country’s abundant thorium to fuel reactors. Four more such fast reactors have been announced for construction by 2020.

India is also developing mixed carbide fuels for FNRs (U-Pu-C-N-O). Carbide fuel in FBTR has reached 125,000 MWd/t burn-up without failure, and has been reprocessed at pilot scale. It envisages metal fuels after 2020

Arun Kumar Bhaduri, Director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam said in a media briefing, “fast breeder reactors are far safer than the current generation of nuclear plants and that all efforts are being made to kickstart within this year India’s first commercial fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam.”

The world’s only commercially operating fast breeder reactor is situated in the Ural Mountains of Russia at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant, not far from Russia’s fourth largest city Yekateringburg.

The Russians are the global leaders in fast breeder reactors having operated a fast breeder reactor called BN 600 since 1980. In 2016, the Russian nuclear agency Rosatom commercially commissioned the BN 800 fast breeder reactor. This reactor produces about 800 MW of electricity and supplies it to the Ural region including the city of Yekateringburg.

China Expects Two New AP1000 Reactors To Go Commercial By End of 2017

(NucNet): China expects to bring two new commercial nuclear reactor units online by the end of the year, bringing its total to 39, the Shanghai Daily reported last week.

The English-language newspaper said Sanmen-1 in Zhejiang province, south of Shanghai, is close to getting authorization to connect to the grid.

Haiyang-1 in Shandong province, northeastern China, is also expected to go commercial by the end of 2017, the newspaper said, quoting Wang Binghua, chairman of the State Power Investment Corporation.

Both units are Westinghouse AP1000 plants. The AP1000 is a Generation III+ AP1000 pressurised water reactor. There are four AP1000 nuclear units under construction in China – two at Sanmen and two at Haiyang.

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Feds Report Hackers Push Cyber Attacks on Nuclear Plants

cyber_security_awarenessThe New York Times reports (7/6/17) that for the past several months hackers have penetrated the computer networks of energy facilities including at least one nuclear power station – the Wolf Creek unit located near Burlington, Kansas.

Wolf Creek officials told the newspaper that while they could not comment on cyberattacks or security issues, a statement by plant management said that no “operations systems” were affected and that their corporate network and the internet were separate from the network that runs the plant.

In a much longer and more detailed report the Bloomberg Wire Service says that hackers based in Russia are responsible for attacks on more than a dozen energy facilities in the U.S.

The Bloomberg report notes that the possibility of a Russia connection is particularly worrisome, former and current officials say, because Russian hackers have previously taken down parts of the electrical grid in Ukraine and appear to be testing increasingly advanced tools to disrupt power supplies.

The New York Times report quotes John Keeley, a spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute, who said nuclear facilities are required to report cyberattacks that relate to their “safety, security and operations.”

None have reported that the security of their operations have been impacted by the latest attacks. A check of the NRC’s website shows no incident report about a cybersecurity event at Wolf Creek. However, in some instances, the NRC would not post information about such an incident on its public facing web site.

The newspaper published the information about the cyber attack, which appeared to target non-safety relatedf systems on the business side, after obtaining a report issued jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week.

The newspaper says the report did not indicate whether the cyberattacks were an attempt at espionage — such as stealing industrial secrets — or part of a plan to cause destruction or to seek ransom for encrypting critical data and systems.

So far according to the report there is no indication that hackers had been able to move from business side computers into the control systems of the facilities. The report did not say how many facilities had been attacked by the hackers nor it identify who the government suspects is behind the hacking incidents.

Wind Farms Also at Risk

Nuclear facilities are not the only targets of hackers. Wired Magazine reported on June 28th that vulnerabilities have been found on ways to get inside the control systems of entire wind farms.

The University of Tulsa has been conducting ‘white hat” research on these threats by testing physical and digital barriers to cyber attacks.

What they found is that it was relatively easy to breach the control boxes of the wind towers and gain control over individual windmills and entire wind farms. The research report notes that hackers thousands of miles away could have launched similar attacks.

Brief Primer on Cyber Security at Nuclear Power Plants in the U.S.

The Nuclear Energy Institute has extensive briefing and technical material and information on cyber security at nuclear power plants and the compliance by utilities with NRC requirements in this area.  The NRC has a plain English explanation of its cybersecurity regulations on its web site. Every company operating nuclear power plants has an NRC-approved cyber security program.

From an industry perspective, the most important thing to keep in mind is that critical safety and security systems at nuclear energy facilities are isolated from the Internet.

Safety related information systems have no direct access to the web, nor do they have indirect access because they are not connected to the facilities’ internal networks. These systems use either air gaps, which do not require internal networking or internet connectivity, or robust hardware-based isolation devices that separate the control system from front-office computers.

You cannot conduct a Google search or catch up on sports scores from a terminal inside a nuclear reactor control room.

In addition, nuclear power plants are designed to shut down safely should their systems detect a disturbance on the electrical grid. Thus, nuclear plants are protected from digital threats by layer upon layer of safety measures.

Specific Cybersecurity Measures

Each U.S. nuclear power plant has taken the following measures to ensure protection against cyberthreats:

Isolated key control systems using either air gaps, which do not implement any network or internet connectivity, or installed robust hardware-based isolation devices that separate front-office computers from the control system, thus making the front-office computers useless for attacking essential systems.

As a result, key safety, security and power generation equipment at the plants are protected from any network-based cyberattacks originating outside the plant.

  • Enhanced and implemented strict controls over the use of portable media and equipment.

Where devices like thumb drives, compact disks and laptops are used to interface with plant equipment, measures are in place to minimize the cyberthreat. In some cases the USB ports on some devices are disabled.

These measures include authorizing use of portable assets to the performance of a specific task, minimizing the movement from less secure assets to more secure assets, and virus scanning. As a result, nuclear power plants are well protected from attacks like Stuxnet, which was propagated through the use of portable media – USB sticks.

  • Heightened defenses against an insider threat.

Training and insider mitigation programs have been enhanced to include cyber attributes. Individuals who work with digital plant equipment are subject to increased security screening, cyber security training and behavioral observation.

Each plant performs detailed cyber security assessments and implemented cyber security controls to protect equipment deemed most essential for the protection of public health and safety.

  • Measures to maintain effective cyber protection measures.

These measures include maintaining equipment listed in the plant configuration management program and ensuring changes to the equipment are performed in a controlled manner. A cyber security impact analysis is performed before making changes to relevant equipment.

The effectiveness of cyber security controls is periodically assessed, and enhancements are made where necessary. Vulnerability assessments are performed to ensure that the cyber security posture of the equipment is maintained.

In summary, cybersecurity at a nuclear power plant is implemented by a combination of policies, procedures, and management of physical assets to prevent intrusions.

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments

In Congress July 4, 1776

In Congress July 4 1776

John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776″

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Temelin Melt Down on Cheesecake Contest for Female Interns

CCF_FreshStrawberryCheesecakeManagers at the CEZ Temelin plant held a contest for bikini clad young women offering internships at the plant to the winners. Cheesecake type photos of the contestants and a video were posted on Facebook.

USA Today reports that a Czech nuclear power station is in a lot of hot water after it used a bikini contest to hire potential interns.

According to the newspaper, CEZ’s Temelín nuclear power station posted images of women in their late teens or early 20s wearing colorful bikinis and hard hats on its Facebook page last week. The station encouraged Facebook users to vote for the girl they liked best, with the winner earning a two-week internship at the station.

According to the Facebook post announcing the contest, the woman with the greatest number of likes was supposed to be crowned “Miss Energy 2017” and score a two-week internship with the company.

A German newspaper featured a video (since taken down) of the women posing next to the cooling tower of the Temelin plant wearing a smile, a revealing bikini, and a hard hat.

In other words, and in American terms, these were classic “cheesecake” glamour photos. According to the UK Daily Mail, (NSFW) the Temelin contest organizers used a fashion consultant to provide the women with color coordinated and styled swimwear for a photo shoot.

The fact that all of the photos that appear online show women who look like professional models raises the possibility that the organizers of the PR stunt selected beautiful women for the contest in the first place without any regard for their education and technical skills.

“We think photographs are very tasteful,” the company wrote in a comment on its Facebook post. “The combination of beauty and the industrial environment gives an interesting result.”

Contest blows up in organizers’ Facebook page

It only took a short time for the publicity stunt to blow up in the sponsor’s face. Critics called it sexist and pointed out using hiring preferences that that valued beauty over brains was a long walk on a short pier. Newspaper headline writers had a field day with the story. One called it “too hot to handle.”

Time Magazine reported that over 700 protest comments were posted on the Facebook page before it was taken down.

“Undress and you get an internship – this can not be serious, it’s degrading, disgusting and primitive,” one internet user commented.

Even Entertainment News Magazine, which routinely exploits photos of female movie and TV celebrities in bikinis, asked in a video report (NSFW) “how does looking good in a bikini equate to a person having a brain capable of working at a nuclear power plant?”

Petra Havlíková, a Czech lawyer for human rights non-profit Nesehnutí and an equal opportunities adviser, told the Czech news media site aktualne.cz, “The competition is absolutely outside the bounds of ethics. In 2017, I find it incredible that someone could gain a professional advantage for their good looks,”

A belated apology from Temelin’s management

temelin nuclear plantIt took a while for the criticism to take effect. Finally, days after the event, a manager at Temelin apologized noting that it offered internships to all 10 bikini contest participants.

“We didn’t want to offend anyone,” the station said. It added that all 10 women were offered internships.

“The purpose of the competition was to promote technical education. But if the original vision raised doubts or concerns, we are very sorry.”

That the PR stunt was wrong but anyone who thinks it should be dismissed as “boys will be boys” misses the point.

What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this incident is that it reflects a sexist, male-dominated culture within nuclear power industry. It’s a short trip from exploiting young girls in bikinis to unwanted advances and sexual harassment in the workplace. These types of incidents lead to litigation and cash damages which hit a firm’s balance sheet.

This problem is not confined to the Czech Republic nor to the nuclear industry. In the U.S. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported in 2016 there were almost 13,000 incidents involving sexual harassment reported to the agency. It reports that in 2016 employers paid out damages of $41 million to victims of these type of incidents.

These kinds of outcomes are the reasons that many firms have personnel polities that ban the display of sexually explicit material in the workplace cheesecake included.

There is little doubt that nuclear power profession is still mostly male-dominated. This is not just unfortunate and sad. It reflects the widespread culture within the industry, and this culture is a reason for concern for all those who think nuclear power should have a future.

The bikini contest is worse than just an example of “what were they thinking?” It was a gross error of judgment. It represents a collapse of professionalism in the workplace.

The manager(s) and staff responsible for organizing and promoting it brought embarrassment and justified criticism to their organization and made them the subject of late night comedy TV jokes. Worse, it sends a message that this kind of thinking prevails not just at the Temelin site, but in the nuclear industry as a whole.

Think that is harsh? Consider that the industry has for decades had the paradigm that an accident at one facility reflects on public confidence for all of them.

So what is the public supposed to think now about Temelin and other nuclear sites? The unfortunate message from this incident is that the staff there are spending their time viewing cheesecake images of young girls rather than doing their jobs. How’s that for a nuclear safety culture?

Yes, there are lessons learned

Making young women to pose as bikini models in order to compete for a job is simply wrong. It is sending a message that within the nuclear industry, women are valued only for their looks, not for their intellect or skills.

walk away2

Perhaps this incident will convince the next group of young women faced with an offer for a similar contest to simply walk away from it and the firm sponsoring the event.

Industries that treat women as a objects will find that the most qualified and talented women will not work for them.

Like any screw up in the nuclear industry, the first step in recovery is to make a list of corrective actions. What you and your colleagues can do is to take the event seriously. See also this protest letter which inspired this blog post.

  • Work to prevent similar occurrences in the future at your plant. Speak up if it something just doesn’t look right.
  • Go above and beyond the call of duty to change the culture within the industry so that such events are treated as seriously as other serious incidents within nuclear power industry should be treated.
  • Support Women in Nuclear which promotes career opportunities and professional networking for women in the nuclear energy industry. National conferences provide networking and learning opportunities and attract several hundred attendees and presenters from major utilities, vendors, universities and government agencies. Members are also active in local and regional chapters, meetings, and activities.

Bottom line – don’t be a jerk by engaging in sexist behavior. Respect all people for their professional credentials and expertise in the industry and make no other distinctions.

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments