Friday, March 2, 2012

ANS panel reports on Fukushima lessons learned

March 8: 10-11 AM EST

American Nuclear Society to Issue Report on Fukushima for One Year Anniversary

LA GRANGE PARK, Ill., March 2, 2012 -- The nation's premier professional society for the nuclear community, the American Nuclear Society (ANS), will unveil its "Special Report on Fukushima" in conjunction with the one year anniversary of the Japan earthquake and tsunami ANS Special Committee Co-Chair and former Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Dale Klein, Ph.D., announced today.

The report will be unveiled at a special press conference in Washington, DC on March 8 which will be broadcast live via a webcast at:  http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=85244 
The press conference will be held Thursday, March 8 at 10:00 a.m. EST at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.  In discussing the upcoming release of the report Klein said,

Dale Klein, past Chairman
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
"To prepare this report we gathered from our membership some of the world's leading figures in the nuclear science and technology community.  

The report will look at all aspects of the events at the Fukushima plant after the earthquake and tsunami, and will include recommendations for the nuclear community, for citizens, and for policymakers as a result of the lessons we learned."

Topics include:
  • Risk-Informed Regulation, 
  • Hazards from Extreme Natural Phenomena, 
  • Multiple-Unit Site Considerations, 
  • Hardware Design Modifications, 
  • Severe Accident Management Guidelines, 
  • Command and Control During a Reactor Accident, 
  • Emergency Planning, 
  • Health Physics, and 
  • Societal Risk Comparison.
For more information about the press conference call Jackie Clark at (301) 987-7113.

To participate in the webinar visit:
http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=85244

Michael Corradini
Univ Wisconsin
Committee Co-Chair Michael Corradini, Ph.D., Wisconsin Distinguished Professor Nuclear Engineering and Engineering Physics at the University of Wisconsin, concluded,

"This report will also serve as an historical document for reference by those who wish to know what really happened, from a scientific and technically informed perspective, and we thank all of our Committee members for their dedication, time and service creating this report to help us understand these events and better plan for our future." 



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Established in 1954, ANS is a professional not-for-profit organization of engineers and scientists devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its 11,600 members come from diverse technical backgrounds covering the full range of engineering disciplines as well as the physical and biological sciences. 

SOURCE:  American Nuclear Society


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DOE signs three SMR firms to develop at SRS

No federal funding is involved, but it offers access to infrastructure, skilled workers, and potential customers


I've been covering this development at Fuel Cycle Week. This is a significant step forward in terms of DOE support for SMRs.

Tom Sanders, PhD, a former ANS president, is the manager in charge of these efforts at SRS.  He led the ANS Special Committee on SMRs during his term at ANS.

Prior coverage on this blog


Full text - DOE press release for March 2, 2012

Energy Department Announces Small Modular Reactor Technology Partnerships at Savannah River Site

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Energy Department and its Savannah River Site (SRS) announced March 2 three public-private partnerships to develop deployment plans for small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) technologies at SRS facilities, near Aiken, South Carolina.

As part of the Energy Department’s commitment to advancing the next generation of nuclear reactor technologies and breaking down the technical and economic barriers to deployment, these Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) will help leverage Savannah River’s land assets, energy facilities and nuclear expertise to support potential private sector development, testing and licensing of prototype SMR technologies.

The Energy Department, Savannah River Site and Savannah River National Laboratory (SRNL) have entered into three separate agreements with Hyperion Power Generation Inc.; SMR, LLC, a subsidiary of Holtec International; and NuScale Power, LLC.

The agreements will help these private companies obtain information on potential SMR reactor siting at Savannah River and provide a framework for developing land use and site services agreements to further these efforts.

“The Obama Administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future,” said Secretary Chu.

“We are committed to restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing the next generation of these technologies, helping to create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses.”

The Energy Department has taken a number of steps to help jumpstart America’s nuclear industry and ensure that nuclear power continues to play an important role in the U.S. energy mix. As part of these efforts, the Department has worked to advance small modular reactors, which provide an important opportunity for America’s manufacturing sector to make and sell cutting-edge technology. Small modular reactors have the added advantage of passive safety systems, compact and scalable design and lower capital costs.

“We have a unique combination of nuclear knowledge and laboratory expertise, infrastructure, location and much more to make the Site a natural fit for advancing the small modular reactor technology,” said Dr. Dave Moody, DOE-SR Manager.

“We are about reinvigorating SRS assets to impact national needs and influence new missions for the future of the Savannah River Site.”

By strengthening information sharing and access to site facilities and technical expertise, these MOAs will help break down engineering and testing barriers to advanced nuclear reactor research and development while providing these nuclear companies with the resources to support effective deployment plans.

Today’s announcement builds on the Energy Department’s work to develop nuclear power as a vital part of America’s all-of-the-above energy strategy:

· The Energy Department announced $10 million in new research funds earlier this month to solve common challenges across the nuclear industry and improve reactor safety, performance and cost competitiveness.

· In 2010, the Department signed a conditional commitment for $8 billion in loan guarantees to support the Vogtle project, where the Southern Company and Georgia Power are building two new nuclear reactors, helping to create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses.

·  The Energy Department has also supported the Vogtle project and the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors by providing more than $200 million through a cost-share agreement to support the licensing reviews for Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design certification.  The Vogtle license is the first for new nuclear power plant construction in more than three decades.

· Promoting a sustainable nuclear industry in the U.S. also requires cultivating the next generation of scientists and engineers. Over the past three years, the Department has invested $170 million in research grants at more than 70 universities, supporting R&D into a full spectrum of technologies, from advanced reactor concepts to enhanced safety design.

The Memorandums of Agreement announced today do not constitute a federal funding commitment. The Energy Department envisions private sector funding will be used to develop these technologies and support deployment plans. The agreements, and the officials and offices involved with these activities, are separate and distinct from the Energy Department’s Funding Opportunity Announcement for small modular reactor cost-share projects announced earlier this year.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nuclear News Roundup for March 1, 2012

North Korea agrees to suspend uranium enrichment, nuclear tests

U.S food aid is clearly marked for recipients
The Washington Post and other mainstream news media report that North Korea said Feb 29 it would halt parts of its nuclear weapons program and allow IAEA inspectors back into the country.

The breakthrough in negotiations with the unpredictable leaders of the secretive government came as a result of an offer of food from the U.S. and a pledge of no hostile intent, a guarantee the North Koreans have long sought.

According to the U.S. State Department, North Korea agrees to suspend nuclear weapons tests, enrichment of uranium, and long-range missile launches.  However, this isn't the first time North Korea has made such pledges only to renege on them later for political reasons.  The U.S. suspended food aid two years ago for this reason.

North Korea's decision to engage with the West on these critical issues comes at a time when the government there is in transition.  Kim Jung Eun, age 29, is following in his father's footsteps with a tacit support of the nation's huge military establishment.

The request for food aid could be seen as an effort to insure domestic tranquility while the various power groups in North Korea sort out how their relationships are changed by the ascent to power of the untested son of the country's former strong man Kim Jong II.

Another issue is who is going to get the food aid. In the past it has been diverted to the military and elite government groups.  This agreement could simply result in simply propping up a military force that can feed itself.

North Korea is believed to have enough plutonium for about a dozen bombs. Its long-range missiles may have the capability to reach the U.S. west coast.

U.S. diplomats with experience in dealing with North Korea told the Washington Post they have "limited expectations" about how this latest round of negotiations will turn out.

Iran's enrichment machines failing?

Uranium centrifuges
Iran may be having trouble building out its uranium enrichment cascades according to a Reuters report of Feb 27. The IAEA says that Iran's boasts that it is vastly expanding its infrastructure at Natanz and underground at Fordow may not be supported by the facts. Alli Heinonen, the lead IAEA inspector, said Iran is having trouble with poor performance from outdated technology in terms of uranium enrichment centrifuges.

Reuters also reported that David Albright, of the ISIS think tank said the ability of Iran to link cascades to produce 20% U235 isn't going well.  Part of the reason is that Iran started its enrichment work with older models of centrifuges based on a design from Pakistan and has introduced two newer generations of technology to the same plants.  Mastering the new technology is taking more time.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg wire service and the Washington Post report the Obama administration is ratcheting up its drum beating about military options related to iran in advance of a visit to the U.S. by Irsaeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Obama administration officials are escalating warnings that the U.S. could join Israel in attacking Iran if the Islamic republic doesn’t dispel concerns that its nuclear-research program is aimed at producing weapons.

Four days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz told reporters the Joint Chiefs of Staff have prepared military options to strike Iranian nuclear sites in the event of a conflict. "  -- Bloomberg

The Washington Post coverage indicates U.S. military planners believe Iran's underground facilities are more vulnerable to so-called "bunker buster" bombs than previously thought.

In an OP ED in the New York Times, Middle East expert Martin INdyk says the Obama administration is backing itself into a corner with its sabre rattling leaving Iran with no place to go in terms of a negotiated agreement for peaceful use of nuclear energy.

"The only way out of the vicious circle is for Khamenei to understand that Obama is not seeking his overthrow — that behind the negotiating door lies a path to Iran’s peaceful use of nuclear power and not a corridor to the gallows."

Indyk says that Obama cannot appear to look weak to Republicans or domestic groups in an election year.  He says "We are now engaged in a three-way game of chicken" in which political survival makes blinking more dangerous than confrontation.

This blog believes no one's interests relative to Iran at this stage are served by military conflict.  Maybe the agreement with North Korea will be a signal to Iran and the U.S. there are other options.

U.K. commits to MOX

MOX fuel word tag cloud
The U.K. Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) says its preferred policy for dealing with 112 tonnes of surplus plutonium is to turn it into MOX fuel for use in commercial nuclear reactors.

The announcement comes following an extensive public consultation over possible solutions for disposing of the surplus material which was generated since the 1950s from reprocessing of spent fuel at Sellafield.

NDA strategy director Adrian Simper said that "re-use of plutonium as MOX fuel remains the best option."

The NDA expects to make a decision to build a MOX fuel plant by 2015 with manufacturing operations coming online within eight years.  Of the total amount held at Sellafield, about 10% belongs to Japanese nuclear utilities.  The NDA would like to have Japan as a customer for the MOX fuel and even more to the point, as an investor in the plant.

It may be a while before Japan needs the fuel. According to wire service reports, Japan may have all of its reactors shut down by May and little prospect for restarting them due to political opposition.  Economic analysts have predicted Japan's exports will tank as a result leading to increased trade deficits and business woes at home.

The largest federation of Japanese businesses has issued a strong statement in favor of restarting the reactors and soon.  The Japanese steel industry has said that if the reactors are not restarted, which are needed to run their electro-furnaces, they will take their production, and jobs,to other countries that have reliable supplies of electricity.

South Africa to try again for bids on new nuclear reactors

In 2008 South Africa briefly offered for bid a tender for up to 12 LWR reactors but withdrew it as it had to admit neither the government nor Eskom, the state-owned electric utility, had the money for pay for the new build.

In the new bid process, the South African government has established that it expects to spend about $40 billion on new reactors. At $4,000/Kw for 1,000 MW plants (overnight costs), that would come to six to eight reactors plus new transmission and distribution infrastructure.

A key success factor for Eskom will be the ability to charge for the new electric generating capacity.  The government and Eskom are still broke, but their path forward now appears to be to have the bidders finance and operate the plants for the first 15 years at guaranteed rates.

Eskom has invited EDF/Areva and China in a possible partnership to bid on the project.  Experts in South Africa told an English language wire service they're skeptical the reactors can be built for bargain basement prices.  Plus, China has not set itself up to export its reactors which domestically are being developed around the Westinghouse AP1000 design.

EDF CEO Henri Prolio told Retuers Feb 16 his firm is prepared to do business with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp. (CGNPC) in a joint partnersip for an Areva EPR (1600 MW) or a hybrid of French and Chinese technology.  Areva is building two EPRs in China and has signed technology transfer agreements.

Re-start in China of new builds not yet under construction in China awaits a political decision to release new nuclear safety regulations.  That country will have to make its case for nuclear safety at home before it will be credible to export its reactors to other nations.

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Indian PM Singh alleges protests funded by US NGOs

Kundankulam nuclear project jammed in new controversies

kudankulam nuclear reactorsMonths of protests that have significantly delayed the hot start of twin Russian built 1,000 MW VVER nuclear reactors in Kudankulam (KKNPP 1-2) located in Tamil Nadu, India's southern-most state.

Soon after Valentine’s Day India’s PM Mammohan Singh was quoted in an interview in the prestigious journal ‘Science’ published by AAAS alleging that U.S. NGOs are funding anti-nuclear protests at Kundankulam, the site of two nearly completed Russian built 1,000 MW VVER nuclear reactors.

That's the fiery and spectacular allegation made by Singh this week who got a pat on the back for his remarks from none other than Russia's ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin.

“There are NGOs, often funded by the U.S. and the Scandinavian countries, which are not fully appreciative of the development challenges that our country faces. But we are a democracy, we are not like China,” PM Singh said.

Singh's remarks appeared in the Indian press one day after the Russian and Indian foreign ministers had met in New Dehli. For their part, at that meeting Russians officials are reported to have expressed impatience with the lack of progress in getting the Kudankulam reactor up and running.

ElephantThe Indian government has moved swiftly since then freezing the funds of four Indian NGOs, filing criminal charges against them, and this past Monday mysteriously deporting a German national in the dead of night after claiming his confiscated laptop and cell phone contained proof of the government’s allegations.

For their part local protest groups and the Catholic church have denied the charges which have upset the local population. Instead of containing the protests, the government’s actions, intended to pave the way for hot start of the reactors, may have upended any chance for a political settlement.

A key question is who are the U.S. NGOs that Singh says provided the money? The Indian government isn’t saying and none have come forward to claim responsibility. The U.S. embassy has denied any involvement in the protests.


Read the latest on this fast moving story exclusively at ANS Nuclear Cafe online now.

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gates calls for energy R&D funding

Software billionaire wants a leap in energy investment

coolhandnukeMicrosoft billionaire Bill Gates has some words of wisdom for the federal government when it comes to developing new energy technologies. The  former software CEO, who has funded a major foundation, and who is privately investing in a new reactor technology, wants the government to follow suit. Namely, says Gates to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, open your checkbook.

Gates made these and related remarks at a major energy conference held this week in Washington, DC. Secretary Chu, a Nobel Prize winner, knows the value of investment in energy technologies.

For that Gates says he's astounded by the cheapskates in Congress who have cut off funds for basic science.

"It's crazy how little we're funding energy. Energy research is under-funded by a factor of two."

Real the full details exclusively at CoolHandNuke online now

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