Saturday, June 23, 2012

At American Nuclear Society Conference in Chicago

Starting Sunday through most of next week I will be the National Meeting of the American Nuclear Society being held at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, IL.

Follow news about the conference on the ANS Twitter feed @ans_org, via the conference hash tag #ANS12, and the ANS Facebook Page

Also, I will be posting updates to Twitter via my personal account @djysrv

If you read this blog, and will be at the conference, give me a shout. I'd love to hear from you.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

ANS Social Media & Communications Sessions at Chicago

The national meeting in Chicago 6/24-28 features several sessions

Chicago - home of Daniel Burnham's
maxim - "make no little plans"
I will be at the ANS National Meeting being held in Chicago next week at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.  I can be reached there via direct message to my Twitter ID @djysrv

There are several sessions involving social media and communications which are worth your time. You must be registered at the conference to attend these sessions. One day tickets are available.

Video skills for nuclear bloggers

What can be done to encourage nuclear bloggers to produce 3-5 minute YouTube videos?  How much work is involved in making one?  What's within the range of possibilities for equipment, software, and the online capabilities of an independent blogger?

It is easy to be intimidated by the excellent work of large corporations.  However, excellence in a small scale is accessible for an investment of a few hundred dollars for a camera, tripod and editing software.

I'll be talking about these ideas, and looking for ideas from others, at the social media meet up to be held at the American Nuclear Society national meeting in Chicago. The conference runs June 24-28.

On Tuesday morning, June 26 from 7:00-8:30 AM nuclear bloggers, and others attending the ANS conference who are interested in social media, are going to have an informal discussion about this topic.  If you are there and interested in this activity, please stop by.

Tentatively, the event will take place at the ANS Media Room, Stetson Hall, Room F, West Tower, Hyatt Regency hotel in downtown Chicago.  Anyone who is attending the conference interested in this topic is invited to attend this early morning meeting.

Unlike past social media meet ups, this one will not offer any beverages or snacks.  Please bring your own breakfast.

Three sessions by ANS Public Information Committee

Next week, at the ANS Annual Meeting, the ANS Public Information Committee is sponsoring three sessions on communications that should be very interesting and perhaps even thought provoking.

Mimi Limbach, a partner at Potomac Communications, writes that the formal sessions begin Tuesday, June 26. Both will be held in Regency A. It’s a huge room that will hold 400 people!  Her descriptions of these sessions follows below.

Tuesday June 26

*** 1 p.m. Why do politicians appear to hold so much disdain for science, and what can we do about it? If you want answers – or at least discussion, come to the session on Science in Politics: Getting Scientists Elected–Panel. The PI Committee’s Laura Hermann will chair this session.

Judging from news reports, people seem to be sick of politics as usual. What should technical societies like ANS do to transform politics into a system in which decisions are made based on facts rather than ideology?

This session will reflect on the role of science in government from the days of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin to present day. Panelists will survey the scientific issues in today’s current political landscape and look forward to the role science will play in solving the important challenges facing government in the future.


· Maggie DeCarlo (Univ of Chicago)
· Monica Metzler (Illinois Science Council)
· Chad J. Boyer (ANS/AAAS Legislative Fellow)
· Dick Simpson (Univ of Illinois at Chicago)

*** 2:30 p.m. Then we have the eternal question, What Do Women Want? And its corollary,  How Can We Build Support for Nuclear Energy? I’ll be chairing this session and we have a great panel.

Public opinion polling consistently shows that women support nuclear energy at far lesser levels than men do. In this session, the panelists will explore why women have concerns about nuclear energy, how the industry hasn’t adequately addressed those concerns, and what ANS members can do to help build support among women about nuclear energy.


•  Ann Bisconti (Bisconti Research Inc.)
•  Gwyneth Cravens (author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy)
•  Margaret Harding (4 Factor Consulting and ANS Special Award winner for excellence in communications)

Wednesday June 27

Wednesday, June27, 4 PM in Crystal A, the ANS PI Committee, NA YGN and Exelon Generation will be sponsoring our “cocktails and communications” session. 

Focus on Communications:  
Three Issues that Will Shape Nuclear Energy’s Future. 

We’ll be discussing three major issues: what the recent ruling on waste confidence means for the industry and how we can address it, investments in research, and keeping the U.S. competitive in nuclear energy when new builds have shifted offshore.

This is a townhall type event with lots of audience discussion. ANS Washington Representative Craig Piercy, ANS PI Committee Member Laura Hermann and Mimi Limbach will be leading the discussion, which should be lively. Our host is Craig Nesbit, Vice President of Communications for Exelon Generation, who has graciously sponsored the beer, wine and snacks.

I hope you’ll be able to attend all three of these sessions. The more support we show for communications, the more opportunities we’ll have to educate ANS members about how to communicate effectively.

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Due to the ANS Conference, blog posting here will be light through to June 28. Regular blogging will return thereafter.

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Governors vie for DOE SMR funds

Gov Haley in SC and Gov Gregoire in Wash throw down their markers

nuscale_moduleThe competition for $452 million in Department of Energy money to pay for engineering and licensing costs for development of small modular reactors (SMRs) heated up this week.

The governors of the states of South Carolina and Washington have held press conferences to promote the technology and the potential for plants to manufacture them. Both governors cited the jobs that would be created and the demand for SMRs in domestic and export markets.

The Department of Energy received proposals for the cost sharing money from four firms in late May. It has promised to make an award for up to two firms, or $226 million each, by the end of September. The firm(s) that get the money must match the federal funds.

What the governors know is that states that pitch for firms seeking federal money have a better chance at getting that those who don’t. That’s the model that Westinghouse adopted when it lined up Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to support a 225 MW SMR for the Callaway nuclear site in his home state.

Read the whole story exclusively at Cool Hand Nuke online now.


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Smoke but no fire in nuclear energy news from India

Press releases aside, there are no American deals for U.S. reactors

Smoke detector
A flurry of media stories last week about Westinghouse having a nuclear reactor deal at Gujarat is insubstantial proof that there is any change in opportunities for American firms to enter India’s energy markets.

Things got rolling with a press release on June 13 from Westinghouse that it had agreed to negotiate an “Early Works Agreement” supporting construction of up to six 1,150-MW AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Mithivirdi site in Gujarat. Work scope includes preliminary licensing and site development activities.

Separately, Areva announced last week it would sign a contract by December to build the first two of six planned 1,650-MW EPR reactors for Nuclear Power Company of India Ltd. (NPCIL) at Jaitapur in Maharashtra.

Then on June 15 in Washington, D.C., with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna standing next to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the media headlines followed saying that the AP1000 deal represents “a significant step toward the fulfillment of the landmark U.S. India agreement.”

Under questioning from the DC press corps, Clinton acknowledged that “there was still a lot of work to be done.”

The sticking point, which has been evident all along, is India’s nuclear liability law that was passed by parliament in 2010. Its assignment of supplier liability, long after components have been installed and are operating in a plant, creates unreasonable risks for U.S. firms.

Really nothing has changed because it is more-or-less politically impossible for Indian Prime Minister Singh to revise the liability law. Changes at the implementation level might include NPCIL designated “nuclear parks” for U.S. built reactors.

Read the full details at ANS Nuclear Café online now.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An IPO for China’s nuclear energy triple play

It is a $27 billion package that will fund building multiple reactors at four sites
This is my updated coverage from Fuel Cycle Week V11:N477 6/14/12 published by International Nuclear Associates, Washington, DC.  Celebrating five years with INA this month.
Reactor core under construction in China
The Chinese government reinvigorated its civilian nuclear energy program last week with three major actions.

First, it announced the release of a long awaited safety plan that will result in the lifting of a moratorium on new nuclear reactor projects.

Second, it announced approval of an IPO by China National Nuclear Power (CNNP), the country’s largest reactor developer, to raise the equivalent of US $27.3 billion.

Third, the central government announced a list of seven strategic industry initiatives to counter a sharp down turn in economic growth. One of them is building new nuclear power plants.

Facebook step aside
Unlike the over-valued IPO for Internet giant Facebook, CNNP is not basing its IPO on the uncertain prospects of online advertising. It is to build new nuclear power stations, with multiple reactors, at least five of them, and within the next decade. It is a first of a kind financial offering for CNNP.
The short list of nuclear reactors that are under construction, and those that are planned, in China represents 77 reactors and 86 Gwe of power. Of that number, two reactors types are most frequently cited for projects planned by China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), the parent firm of China Nuclear National Power.

Upgraded domestic design
Ling Ao II RPV
The first is the CPR-1000. It is a 1,080 MW Gen II+ PWR with a digital control room which has an expected operational life of 60 years. In terms of fuel, it uses conventional enriched uranium in 157 fuel assemblies. The Ling Ao II is one of the first plants to be built with safety enhancements include its ability to ride out seismic events and dealing with floods as well as having sufficient emergency power to deal with station blackouts.

The reactor is expected to be the leading plant design for domestic use. So far 15 units are under construction and 13 more are planned to be built though not all will be built by CNNP. The standard construction time for a CPR-1000 is reported to be 52 months at a cost of $2,000/Kw. An IPO of $27 billion would buy 10-13 reactors depending on the mix of CPR-1000 and AP1000 units and other cost factors such as grid improvements to bring power to customers.

The second most frequently referenced design is the 1,150 MW Westinghouse AP1000. This is an advanced Gen III+ design with passive safety features that is well known in the U.S. Four units are under construction and another 15 are planned for construction by CNNC and by the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group.

According to English language reports from the Chinese mainland media, $5.4 billion of the money from the IPO will pay the 20% upfront money needed to start five multi-reactor power projects previously approved in 2008-2010 for Fujian, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Hainan provinces. The projects are currently listed as CPR-1000s or AP1000s.

How solid is the IPO?
An IPO is the 21st century equal
to cash on the barrelhead
The IPO has been approved by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and now goes to the regulatory agencies in charge of financial securities. It is unclear how many shares will be offered or if the offering price will be changed, up or down, once the review by regulatory agencies is done. Another factor is whether the IPO will be fully subscribed by investors.

On June 6 the Wall Street Journal raised questions about the impact of an offering this size on China’s financial markets. It reported that Chinese financial analysts told the newspaper the IPO could divert funds from riskier investments leading to problems with their sustainability. This report could also be the effect of speculators trying to protect their position.

Another issue is which exchange will handle the IPO and whether the selected venue will be up to the task. It is unclear at this time if foreign investment banks will be able to participate in the IPO.

Reasons for the IPO
Andy Mulkerin, Managing Partner at the Nicobar Group, a consulting firm with offices in Shanghai and New York, told FCW via email that the CNNC IPO announcement is exciting news for both the Chinese and global nuclear power markets.

“While other Chinese nuclear power manufacturers and uranium mining subsidiaries are already listed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, this IPO represents China’s first for a nuclear plant operator and could be China’s largest IPO to date.”
“Our opinion is that this is a sign of China’s continued dedication to nuclear power, despite the delay in new construction starts, and the country’s long-term vision that nuclear power will play a major role in fulfilling its growing energy needs. More importantly, it is a milestone event in the beginning of a period where we see more and more Chinese outbound activity in global nuclear markets.”
Asked why the IPO is being developed at this time, Mulkerin said there are several possible considerations contributing to the decision for CNNC’s IPO, the strongest of which likely include international branding and raising capital.

“An IPO will allow CNNC to project more accountability and transparency as they look at more international opportunities. CNNC’s IPO may be a way to demonstrate that they are on par with SNPTC and CGNPC (who are both now part of consortiums bidding on Horizon in the UK) in terms of their international prowess, as they have lagged behind both since the introduction of 3G plants in China. “
Another issue is that during China’s 14 month long suspension of new starts, the projects that will be funded by the IPO have seen cost escalation. Nicobar’s analysts say the IPO should help them to ease the financing of these plants in completing the projects. They also observe that having assured funding will attract the kind of management expertise needed to bring the projects in on time and within budget.

“Secondary reasons for IPO may include attracting and retaining top internationally experienced management, seen most recently in the appointment of Qian Zhimin as General Manager, who was formerly at CGNPC, WANO, and NEA, and other financial motivations such as facilitating acquisitions and creating various investment opportunities – i.e. convertible debt and equity offerings.
Safe at Third
Safe at third is a baseball metaphor for
unique accomplishments since not many get there
After a very long rain delay, the Chinese government has indicated it will lift its 14 month moratorium on approving new construction starts for nuclear reactors. The government called a halt soon after the March 11 tsunami that wrecked six nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan.

At the time 28 reactors were under construction in China. Work continued on Gen III+ reactors being built by Westinghouse (4 AP1000s) and Areva (2 EPRs). Other new starts were halted especially those involving CPR-1000 Gen II designs which had not yet broken ground. The 9 Gwe of installed reactors remained operational, though they received safety checks.

China’s cabinet, the top level of government decision making in the government chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao, announced last week that it approved and will release a safety plan that will be implemented for the nation’s current and future nuclear power stations. It did so as part of a nuclear energy strategy that takes it to 2020. China plans to have 100 operational nuclear reactors by 2020 which could make it the biggest buyer of uranium in the world.

The organizing principles of the safety plan focus on significant systems and the quality of components manufactured by Chinese firms. Implementation strategies enumerated in the plan follow well established paths including accident prevention, defense-in-depth, continuous improvement, procedural compliance & supervision, etc. Overall, the new plan is said to comply with safety standards published by the IAEA.

Other indications are that the plan will force a shift from China’s older versions of its domestic reactors designs, generally designated at Gen II for the profile of their safety features, to Gen II+ and Gen III+ reactor designs. Upgrades to the design of China’s mainstay domestic reactor, the CPR1000, a 1,000 MW PWR, are expected to be included in new starts.

During the moratorium on new starts the Chinese government commissioned the Ling Ao 2 reactor, an “upgraded” Gen II+ CPR-1000 and connected it to the grid bringing total installed capacity to 12 Gwe.

China has ambitious plans for a fleet of its own designs based on the Westinghouse 1,150 MW AP1000. It is working on a 1,400 MW version called the CAP-1400. China’s intellectual property agreements with Westinghouse release it from licensing requirements for designs greater than 1,350 MW.

The new safety plan also pulls the trigger on restart of new construction approvals for fuel cycle facilities including uranium enrichment plants and, potentially, a $15 billion spent fuel reprocessing center to be built in collaboration with Areva.

While China has 86 GWe of planned new nuclear reactor construction on the books, many analysts believe that a more realistic goal that is that by 2020 new output will be in the range of 60-70 GWe.
Xu Yuming, the vice secretary at the China Nuclear Energy Association, said May 17 in a statement resulting from advice to the central government that China will complete 70 GWe by 2020 and have an additional 30 Gwe under construction at that time. He estimated China could have 200 GWe of installed nuclear power by 2030.

More concession sales
The Chinese government, mindful of the cooling off of its economy, has announced a policy of investing in a set of seven key industries. It will launch 20 projects that include nuclear power and wind energy infrastructure. What it wants is a stimulus of the economy through spending on large capital projects.

China’s state-owned nuclear component manufacturers have seen their business activity frozen by the 14 month suspension of new construction starts. The combination of release of the safety plan with its promise of new starts, and the IPO, could result in thousands of new jobs.

According to financial wire service reports, new starts on nuclear reactors could generate contracts worth close to $8 billion for firms like Shanghai Electric Group, Dongfang Electric, and Harbin Electric. Some estimates are higher depending on how many projects are approved by the government.

Other sectors targeted by the program include information technology, biotechnology, high-end manufacturing, and new composite materials for a wide range of applications. In particular, it wants to start sending energy efficient appliances into the hands of consumers to address rapid growth in electricity demand.

The government is providing tax incentives to consumers to purchase them which will stimulate increased manufacturing activity for washing machines, refrigerators, and other conveniences of middle class life.

China looks abroad

The State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC), which is a separate entity from state owned firms authorized to build and operate domestic nuclear power plants, is in talks to invest $10 billion in the UK’s Horizon nuclear power project. The funds are not associated with the $27 billion IPO recently announced by CNNC.

Horizon was to have been developed by a consortium of the German firms E.ON and RWE to build up to three reactors at Wylfa and three more at Oldbury. The two firms backed out in April citing cash flow problems.

What makes the idea seem feasible is that SNPTC is the entity in China that is licensing Westinghouse AP1000 reactor technology for domestic and export use. Since the Westinghouse AP1000 is mostly through the UK General Design Assessment, it’s interest in the project seems to be a closer match than might otherwise appear.

The six reactors at the two power station sites could represent $60 billion in new construction and an operational life of 40-60 years.

Russia’s Rosatom also expressed interest in offering its 1,000 MW VVER PWR for the Horizon project. However, it would have to start from scratch in terms of safety review and licensing which could make it tough to get in the game.

SNPTC has also approached the government of South Africa over financing of its planned 9 GWe tender which is to be released later this year. There the Chinese are up against a better positioned entry from Rosatom which recently wined and dined South Africa Energy Minister Dipuo Peters in Moscow while pitching their reactors.

It’s likely that if the South African tender moves ahead, the government may buy from several vendors. Areva and Westinghouse submitted bids on the 2008 tender for 20 GWe which was cancelled by Eskom due to lack of adequate financing.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

No easy answers at SONGS - Update

Faulty computer analysis, design flaws, and manufacturing changes are among the reasons there is excessive tube wear in the steam generator at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station Unit 3

California Song Bird
In a presentation at an NRC public meeting held in San Juan Capistrano, CA, on Monday June 18, Southern California Edison VP for Nuclear Engineering Tom Palmisano said there are a combination of factors that have been identified as causes of excessive wear.

Grouping them together under the term "fluid elastic instability," he said the causes are high velocity dry steam and inadequate support structures. These factors cause the steam tubes to vibrate and rub against each other which a cause of the wear. (see video from the hearing below)

In terms of next steps, Palisano said the utility and other firms in the nuclear industry  supporting it, are developing a corrective action plan. Long terms solutions, he said, will take extensive work. He did not address the issue of whether the utility has decided to replace or repair the steam generators. He did say that the steam equipment for the Unit 2 reactor are in much better shape because the support structure is different in terms of the design and method assembly compared to that in Unit 3.  He didn't go into specifics on those differences.

NRC calls situation a serious safety issue

Elmo Collins, the regional administrator for the NRC, said the situation at SONGS is a "serious safety issue."  He said the computer design simulation used by Mitsubishi and Edison failed to predict with sufficient accuracy the velocity of the steam flowing through the tubes. This isn't a minor mathematical difference. What they found was an error that underestimated these factors by three or four times the original reported numbers.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Sunday June 17 NRC's Collins said mistakes in fabrication, installation, or both, are possible causes of the excessive wear relative to the age of  the units. Collins told AP that on the issue of "like for like" replacement, the agency is reviewing how that regulatory process was handled at the time.

He said the original steam generators and the replacements "look substantially different."  He added that while Mitsubishi manufactured the steam generators, SCE is responsible for safety at the reactor site and could be held accountable for any violations of NRC regulations should there be findings along those lines.

Operators shut down Unit 3 on Jan. 31, after a tube leak in one steam generator was identified; Unit 2 had been shut down for a scheduled maintenance outage. Both reactors have remained safely shutdown. On March 27, the NRC issued a Confirmatory Action letter documenting actions that Southern California Edison officials have agreed to take prior to seeking permission to restart the reactors. The NRC has been conducting inspections to determine the extent and cause of the tube degradation. Steam generators do experience some wear during the first year of operation but the level of tube wear at both units is unusual.

Between March 13 and 21, 129 steam generator tubes were pressure tested. Eight tubes failed acceptance criterion – indicating that they could rupture during some operating conditions. The integrity of steam generator tubes is important because the tubes provide an additional barrier inside the containment building to prevent a radioactive steam release.

It is becoming clear that the steam generators as originally designed by Mitsubishi underwent substantial modification. A total of 400 tubes were added and the total weight of the units was increased by 24 tons. Collins said that significant technical issues need to be worked out before the all the causes of wear are known and what to do about them. He noted that "tube-to-tube interaction is substantially proportional to power."

Similar steam generators manufactured by Mitsubishi were installed at the Ft. Calhoun nuclear power station in Nebraska, but they have not had the excessive wear seen at SONGS. The reasons may be they are smaller and the reactors don't generate as much power. It is a single unit 484 MW plant. The twin reactors at SONGS come in at just over 1,100 MW each.

SONGS to remain shut down

The steam generators were installed in 2009-2010 at a cost of $617 million. Collins said that ultimately Southern California Edison is responsible for resolving the problem. So far SCE has plugged 510 tubes in Unit 2 and 807 tubes in Unit 3. These numbers will not affect plant power output. Peter Dietrich, SCE VP and Chief Nuclear Officer, said both SONGS units will remain shut down until the utility can satisfy the NRC they can be restarted safely.  

Environmental groups attending the NRC meeting claimed that SCE made changes to the design without getting approval from the agency. Damon Moglen, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth, which has commissioned several speculative reports about the changes, said his organization has submitted a petition to the NRC requiring SCE to get an entirely new license to operate the reactors. He complained that the agency "was asleep at the wheel" when SCE made the design changes.

For its part, the NRC has said it was notified of the changes at the time, but is now conducting a review. Collins promised a written report will be ready in July to address these and other issues.

- SONGS - 
NRC Augmented Inspection Team 
Public Exit Meeting (6/18/2012) 

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