Saturday, May 24, 2008

Compiling the master equipment list for the nuclear renaissance

ANS leader says entrepreneurial spirit will create companies to build the parts

bray_butterfly_valves_lg The first eight new nuclear power plants built in the U.S. will require a staggering number of components. According to William Burchill, the Vice President of the American Nuclear Society, these plants will need a master equipment list composed of 700,000 electrical connections, 200,000 feet of pipe,and 20,000 valves. Plus the plants will need large forgings that are currently only built in Japan, but that will change, Burchill says, because of the American entrepreneurial spirit that responds to new industry needs.

burchill Burchill (right) made his remarks in a recent speech given in Lynchburg, VA, to the local ANS chapter there. Lynchburg is home to B&W and Areva both of which are about as deep into the new nuclear renaissance as you can get. These firms are likely over the next few years to ramp up their own capabilities, on a global scale, to provide large forgings for new nuclear plants.

The bottleneck at Japan Steel Works is an opening for American heavy industry Burchill says.

"This is an opportunity for an entrepreneur to get into this business and open up some shops."

His judgement call here is informed by his past experience as the head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at Texas A&M University. Nuclear energy is coming back Burchill said because the world needs more power.

"It is not unusual to find estimates that say by mid-century world demand for electricity will grow by a factor of two."

One of his priorities as an industry leader, and former educator, is to help meet the soaring demand for nuclear engineers. He called for more funding by the federal government for scholarships and financial support to educate the next generation of nuclear engineers. However, he said these engineers will be different than previous generations.

“These students who come out of high school with an interest in science and mathematics don’t just come with a slide rule,” he said. “They have inquiring questions to ask about environmental impact and ethical impact."

slide rule Well, maybe in Burchill's day they might have come with a slide rule, but it is doubtful that anyone enrolling in college in 2008 has ever held one in their hands much less used it.

More likely, this generation of nuclear engineers will come with powerful laptop computers, cell phones, and an "always on" attitude about connecting to friends.

They may blur the distinction between work and play, and have remarkably different ideas about how large organizations ought to treat the people who work for it compared to their parents' generation. Burchill is right. Their impact on the industry will likely be as profound as the nuclear renaissance itself.

Thorium Power reports 1st revenue

The nuclear fuel R&D firm has paying customers
[Update 05/29/08]

Thorium Power (THPW.OB) announced $3.8 million in revenue for the 1st quarter of 2008. The revenue is a first for the firm which has been reporting R&D results since 2002.

Operating loss for the three months ended March 31, 2008 was reported to be $0.8 million, compared to an operating loss of $2.9 million for the same period last year. As of March 31, 2008, the company said it had $6.7 million of working capital.

seth graeSeth Grae, CEO of Thorium Power, (right) stated, "We are pleased to report that Thorium Power recorded its first revenues in the quarter ended March 31st for consulting and strategic advisory services provided to a foreign government-owned entity.

The project focuses on the development of a program to deploy civilian nuclear power plants. Grae said, "We announced the engagement on March 18th and received a payment of $4.3 million for the project.

Last January World Nuclear News reported Thorium Power had reached a new agreement with Russia's Kurchatov Institute relating to the irradiation testing program for the firm's thorium-based nuclear fuel designs. The program has been ongoing since 2002.

The agreement assigns to Thorium Power the worldwide rights to the technical data generated under contract from the ampoule irradiation testing of seed and blanket fuel samples in the Kurchatov research reactor over the past two years.

ThoriumThorium Power executive vice president Andrey Mushakov, said: "Ampoule irradiation testing is a critical long lead time activity in our comprehensive program of technology testing and demonstration activities and it is a vital process that new fuel designs must perform as part of a fuel qualification and regulatory licensing process. "

He added that the ampoule irradiation testing work is necessary for eventual licensing of the firm's commercial fuel designs.

It will be long road to convince regulatory authorities that the fuel is ready for use in commercial reactors. However, several nations facing uranium shortages that have shut down their reactors, such as India, may be ready for this solution.

Facts about Thorium nuclear fuel

Worldwide information on Thorium deposits is incomplete. In Idaho various deposits in the Lemhi Pass region (left) of the state near Salmon, ID, have been documented since the 1970s.

The World Nuclear Associations reports thorium-plutonium fuel claims four advantages over MOX:

(1) proliferation resistance,

(2) compatibility with existing reactors - which will need minimal modification to be able to burn it, and the fuel can be made in existing plants in Russia.

(3) a lot more plutonium can be put into a single fuel assembly than with MOX, so that three times as much can be disposed of as when using MOX.

(4) The spent fuel amounts to about half the volume of MOX and is even less likely to allow recovery of weapons-useable material than spent MOX fuel, since less fissile plutonium remains in it.

WNA also reports that with an estimated 150 tonnes of weapons plutonium in Russia, the thorium-plutonium project would not necessarily cut across existing plans to make MOX fuel.

Update 05/28/08 Thorium Power discloses UAE Contract

Wire services report that US-based nuclear energy firm Thorium Power disclosed on May 27th that two previously announced consulting and strategic advisory service agreements are with the United Arab Emirates government which is working on that nation's evaluation of a domestic nuclear energy program. The firm reportedly has received a total of $9.2 million on contractual payments for the work.

The UAE policy document was made public in April following consultations by the UAE government authorities with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as numerous national governments, including the U.S. government.

Thorium Power said in a press statement it is consulting in the UAE on the development of schedules, organizational structure and priorities for the establishment of a Nuclear Energy Program Implementation Organization as well as an independent federal Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Binder confirmed at CNSC

Selection follows service as Interim President

binderCNSC Michael Binder as been appointed as the new President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission following his service since January 2008 as the Interim head of the agency. Binder's appointment was endorsed by Gary Lunn, Canada's Minister of Natural Resources, who said,"he is the right person to lead the CNSC."

Binder has held senior positions in Industry Canada, the Department of Communications, the Office of the Comptroller General of Canada, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, the Ministry of State for Urban Affairs and the Defense Research Board. He has extensive experience in the telecommunications industry. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Alberta.

Isotope controversy forced change at the top

Binder's appointment last January came on the heels of the firing of Linda Keel, the previous President, who was let go when the Harper government lost confidence in her leadership abilities following an international crisis over medical isotopes causes by the shutdown of the Chalk River reactor. The Canadian parliament temporarily revoked the regulatory agency's authority over the reactor in order to restart production of the isotopes which account for one-third or more of the global supply. The CEO of AECL was also forced to resign as a result of the crisis. CNSC resumed regulatory oversight of AECL's reactor at Chalk River, Ontario, on April 11th.

“The reactor is operating safely and CNSC and AECL staff have agreed on a way forward through more effective regulatory compliance to ensure that such a situation does not reoccur,” said CNSC President Michael Binder. “Upgrades relating to the connection of the EPS to two of the main cooling pumps are fully operational.”

Tolgyesi appoint to CNSC

tolgyesiCNSC.jpjDan D. Tolgyesi has been appointed a member of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and his term begins May 30, 2008.

A resident of Quebec City, Mr. Tolgyesi holds a B.Eng. in Mining Engineering and a Master’s in Mineral Economics from Laval University in Quebec City. For over fifteen years, he has held the position of President of the Quebec Mining Association, the organization responsible for promoting the development of mineral resources and of the mining, metallurgy and related industries in Quebec. He has over 30 years of experience in the mining industry.

New division for new reactors and uranium mines

CNSC has created a new directorate to address design of nuclear reactors the primary one being AECL's new ACR1000. The new organization will also deal with applications for new uranium mining operations and the aging of existing facilities.

The creation of the new directorate separates current regulatory operations from incoming new construction projects. The CNSC said the change will enable the commission to continue its regulatory activities while also focusing expertise on projects involving new nuclear power reactors and new uranium mines.

According to World Nuclear News Canada produces about one third of the world's uranium mine output, much of it from two new mines. After 2011 Canadian production is expected to increase further as more new mines come into production. About 16% of Canada's electricity comes from nuclear power, using ACEL's CANDU technology. Eighteen reactors currently provide over 12,600 MWe of power. New nuclear capacity is proposed in three provinces: Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta.