Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

This blog is aimed at tracing the world news related to nuclear power development internationally and in particular countries. Being an independent resource, we accept all kinds of opinions, positions and comments, and welcome you to discuss the posts and tell us what you think.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Energy Northwest Trying To Improve; Low Rating From Nuclear Non-Profit

[What is interesting about this story is that, in the past, INPO assessment results are confidential. There was a news report a few months back on San Onofre that also included INPO assessment information. Perhaps the media is delving more into the INPO assessments and we may see more INPO related information become public?]


Anna King (2010-11-04)

RICHLAND, WA (N3) - Energy Northwest's nuclear power plant in southcentral Washington ranks as one of the two worst in the country for operations and staff. KPLU's Anna King reports.

The critical review was by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. This non-profit was formed after the Three Mile Island accident in the late 70s to watch over nuclear power producers and is funded by the nuclear power industry itself. The report criticized Energy Northwest for six unplanned plant shutdowns in the past two years. Energy Northwest's Rochelle Olson says a string of equipment issues prompted the shutdowns but things have changed.

Rochelle Olson: "The improvement plans we've put in place in 2009 have started to work. And we will continue focusing on that to insure operations remain reliable for the region."

The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations' next review of Energy Northwest will be in 2012.

I'm Anna King in Richland.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

IChemE nuclear experts back new build study

[I read through this study and it was an interesting comparison of the recent new nuclear builds going on across the globe. Some excellent operating experience (OE as it is called in the industry) going forward.]


28 October 2010

IChemE nuclear experts back new build study
Bill Harper, chair of IChemE’s Nuclear Technology Subject Group has welcomed a new report published today, bringing together lessons learnt from past and current nuclear projects to help ensure the success of future UK nuclear new build.

The Nuclear Lessons Learnt study was conducted by Engineering the Future (Etf), an alliance of professional engineering organisations with a combined membership of over 450,000.

Harper said: “This report is a formidable initial step, which furthermore strengthens the UK’s position in becoming recognised as a world leader in the effective mobilisation of national and international expertise to deliver world-class nuclear new build.

“As a global organisation, IChemE is acutely aware of the huge upsurge in international interest in nuclear new build, and the consequent pressure on the need to develop approaches which will deliver nuclear generating time, cost and quality.”

The study aims to demonstrate that despite the long intervals between domestic new build programmes, lessons have been learnt that will significantly reduce risks and delays in UK new nuclear build programmes. Six of the most relevant projects in recent history were examined, and the outcomes and recovery of unforeseen issues that arose were documented to identify the common lessons learnt.

Five high level common lessons that can be applied to the current and future UK new build programme to help ensure smooth and economically efficient delivery were identified:

Follow-on replica stations are cheaper than first-of-a-kind

Designs should be mature and licensing issues resolved prior to construction

A highly qualified design and planning team is essential

Sub contractors used must be experienced or taught nuclear-specific construction skills

Early and effective engagement with community is crucial
The report can be downloaded here


Friday, October 22, 2010

Construction of new Tsuruga units delayed

[It will be interesting to learn the specifics of the delay from METI. I will post if I hear anything.]


Japan Atomic Power Co (Japco) has announced a further delay in the start of construction of the Tsuruga 3 and 4 nuclear power reactors. The company said that construction, which was scheduled to begin this month, had been postponed due to delays in safety checks by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (Meti). Japco did not say when it now expects to start building the two 1538 MWe advanced pressurized water reactors (APWRs). In December 2006, the company put back construction of the units by two years due a revision in construction regulations following the government's new earthquake resistance guidelines. At that time it said that construction would start in October 2010, with commercial operation of unit 3 set to start in March 2016 and unit 4 in March 2017.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

National Ignition Facility (NIF) Winner of Project Management Institute’s 2010 Project of the Year Award

[Normally I do not post directly from press releases, however I found it interesting that a fusion project would win the PMI Award.]


For release on: 11 October 2010

Glenn R. Boyet
+1 610-356-4600 x1112

Megan Maguire Kelly
+1 610-356-4600 x7030

NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa., 11 October 2010 — National Ignition Facility (NIF), a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), has been honored by Project Management Institute (PMI) as the winner of its prestigious PMI® Project of the Year Award. The award recognizes the accomplishments of a project team for superior performance, exemplary project management execution, innovation in the use of project management technology or other processes.

The NIF, which was constructed at and led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, CA, is the world’s largest and highest-energy laser. Accomplished by a worldwide collaboration that included representatives from governments, academia and industrial partners, is also the largest scientific construction project completed by the DOE’s NNSA. The facility has the goal of achieving self-sustaining nuclear fusion - the process that powers the sun and the stars - in the laboratory for the first time. Fusion power has many of the benefits of long-term renewable energy sources, such as being a sustainable energy supply compared to presently utilized sources and emitting no greenhouse gases.

Initiated in 1996 and completed in March 2009, NIF's 192 giant lasers, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, is capable of delivering at least 50 times more energy than any previous laser system. This achievement is a major step toward developing inertial fusion energy as a clean, safe and virtually unlimited energy source for the future. In order to achieve this, the facility contains more than 3,000 pieces of amplifier glass, 8,000 large optics and 30,000 small optics that have been assembled into 6,206 replaceable units.

“We had a firm deadline for construction so equipment could be installed and completed,” said Dr. Edward Moses, Principal Associate Director for the NIF and Photon Science Directorate, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. “It was imperative to have proper processes and standards in place so we could institute a high level of technical and scientific project integration with an international, interdisciplinary consortium of scientists, engineers, vendors and suppliers. We are honored that PMI recognized the hard work, collaboration and dedication of the entire team that worked to create NIF.”

Through the use of skilled and certified project personnel and the rigorous application of the project management standards, processes, and techniques promulgated by the Project Management Institute as embodied in A Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) Guide —Fourth Edition, the project was completed approximately $2 million under the $3,502 million budget, three weeks ahead of schedule. Since its completion, the NIF has consistently demonstrated outstanding reliability and availability, serving a broad scientific community exploring new technologies in energy production and new frontiers in astrophysics, materials science, and nuclear science.

“The National Ignition Facility is a stellar example of how properly applied project management excellence can bring together global teams to deliver a project of this scale and importance efficiently,” said Gregory Balestrero, president and chief executive officer of PMI. “PMI is thrilled to present Dr. Edward Moses, principal associate director of NIF & Photon Science Directorate, and his project team for these outstanding results with the PMI 2010 Project of the Year award.”

Dr. Moses and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory team as well as Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman, were presented with the 2010 PMI Project of the Year Award on Saturday 9 October 2010 during the PMI Awards Ceremony at PMI® Global Congress in Washington, DC.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Self-sustaining nuclear energy from Israel

[We don't often hear of the Israeli civilian nuclear program. On a personal note, I had a professor who was trained at the Technion. Ben-Gurion University is the remaining school in Israel with a nuclear engineering major.]


Though the very mention of nuclear energy makes many people nervous, it's no secret that we will come to depend on it more and more as highly-polluting and costly fossil fuels go the way of the dinosaurs from which they derive. That's why the world's best minds are focused on finding efficient and inexpensive methods of generating nuclear energy.

Israeli nuclear engineer Eugene Shwageraus is one of those minds. The 37-year-old Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev lecturer and his research partner, Dr. Michael Todosow of the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, received a three-year Energy Independence Partnership Grant last May from the US-Israel Binational Science Foundation to develop a self-sustainable fuel cycle for light water reactors.

Speaking to ISRAEL21c from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is working during the first year of the grant, Shwageraus explains what this means.

Building on proven nuclear technology

The most common type of nuclear reactor in use for the past 40 or 50 years is the light water reactor (LWR). It is powered by uranium fuel and cooled with plain ('light') inexpensive water. The trouble is that LWRs are quite inefficient in natural resource consumption, using less than one percent of the energy that could potentially be extracted from the uranium.

"In the 1970s, when the availability of uranium was feared to be a real concern, people started to develop 'fast breeders' that produce fuel at a faster rate than they consume it," says Shwageraus. "But in order to engineer such a system, they had to move away from cooling the reactors by water. They were cooled by liquid metal, typically molten sodium, requiring complex engineering. That complicates the system to the extent that fast breeders become much more expensive than light water cooled reactors."

Both due to the cost factor and because - as it turns out - uranium actually is quite plentiful, fast breeders never came into widespread use. Despite its energy inefficiency, the standard is still the LWR, found in about 450 civil and naval installations around the world.

And that's where the Israeli scientist's innovation comes in. By taking advantage of proven LWR technology, he and Todosow intend to make a cost-effective light water cooled reactor that will be as efficient as a fast breeder in extracting energy from the fuel.

"The process of development is three years, and at that time we'll choose from among several ways to see which is optimal to combine safety, economics and resource utilization," Shwageraus relates.

Collaborating on alternative, renewable solutions

The goal is a self-sustaining reactor, meaning one that will produce and consume about the same amounts of fuel. This isn't possible with uranium and light water coolant. The better choice is thorium, whose nuclear properties offer considerable flexibility in the reactor core design. Some experts believe that the energy stored in the earth's thorium reserves is greater than what is available from all other fossil and nuclear fuels combined.

Thorium in the earth's crust is estimated to be at least three times more abundant than uranium, and not difficult to extract, according to Shwageraus. It can be found in large quantities in India, the United States, Australia and Turkey, as well as Norway, which is where a Swedish chemist first discovered the element in the 19th century and named it after the Norse god of thunder. While it has long been considered theoretically possible to use it to produce nuclear energy, this potential has yet to be realized.

The competition for BSF Energy Independence Partnership grants was tough, and Shwageraus admits he was pleasantly surprised to receive one. The program enables scientists from Israel and the United States to work collaboratively on finding alternative and renewable energy solutions. Supported by the Ministry of National Infrastructures, the initial phase awarded $1.2 million in funding for six projects in solar energy, biofuels and clean, safe nuclear energy.

Shwageraus, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at BGU and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering at MIT, came to Israel at age 20 from his native Russia. He and his wife and two young children plan to return to Israel next year, where he will continue the project.

"I see it as a mission," he states. "Nuclear energy is a strategic option for Israel and I want to be part of it. It's a good thing for the country and for global society."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fee Dispute Hinders Plan for Reactor

[While many may have already seen news reports on Constellation and the loan guarantee, I have not seen any reports discussing how this would affect the other utilities seeking loan guarantees (i.e., will this allow V.C. Summer or Comanche Peak a better chance at the remaining loan guarantee funds?)]


Published: October 9, 2010
WASHINGTON — Constellation Energy said on Saturday that it had reached an impasse in negotiations for a federal loan guarantee to build a proposed third nuclear reactor at its Calvert Cliffs site near Washington.

The decision would appear to kill the project unless Congress or the White House steps in. Constellation said in a letter to the Energy Department that the Office of Management and Budget was seeking a fee of $880 million on a guarantee of about $7.6 billion, which it said would doom the project, “or the economics of any nuclear project, for that matter.”

The fee is to compensate taxpayers for the risk of default. The company argues that because the plant’s model is being proven in Finland, France and China, and because it has a strong partner, Électricité de France, the fee should be 1 to 2 percent.

The project had once been hailed as a cornerstone of a nuclear power renaissance.

In 2005, President George W. Bush spoke at Calvert Cliffs, the first presidential visit to a nuclear plant in 30 years. “It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again,” he said. The last successful groundbreaking for a nuclear reactor in the United States was in 1973.

The federal government authorized a loan guarantee program in 2005 intended to spur nuclear power development, and Congress agreed to finance it in 2007. So far, however, only one guarantee has been issued, for two new units at the Southern Company’s Vogtle plant, near Waynesboro, Ga.

Ground has been broken there, and also for two more reactors across the Savannah River in South Carolina, a project that is proceeding without loan guarantees. But a variety of utilities around the country have stepped back from plans to build reactors.

Constellation, which serves a large area of Maryland and owns generating plants nationwide, announced its decision Saturday after the impasse was reported by The Washington Post.

On Saturday, James L. Connaughton, executive vice president of Constellation and an environmental official in the Bush White House, stopped short of saying the project was dead. “We were in the middle of discussions,” he said.

The government had proposed a lower fee if Constellation agreed to buy three-quarters of the power and Constellation and EDF guaranteed completion of the plant, said Mr. Connaughton, but he said those conditions were too onerous.

The site in question is 40 miles south of the District of Columbia where Baltimore Gas & Electric, a predecessor to Constellation, finished two reactors in the 1970s. They remain in operation.

In a statement, EDF said it was “extremely disappointed and shocked to learn that Constellation has unilaterally decided to withdraw from the Calvert Cliffs 3 project.” It added, “We were at the finish line with the Department of Energy and were making significant progress.”

Constellation said EDF would have to decide whether to proceed alone, although by law it needs an American partner. The companies had hoped to build a series of identical reactors around the United States, with local partners.

A spokeswoman for the Energy Department said they were surprised by Constellation’s announcement.

Constellation had been hinting for weeks that it had reservations. In September, Mayo Shattuck, the company’s chief executive, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Washington, referred to the differences in economics between Calvert Cliffs and the Vogtle plant.

The Georgia plant, he said, falls under traditional regulations that pass the costs of construction on to power customers; Calvert Cliffs, he said, was in a “merchant” environment, where companies build at their own risk, and sell power at market rates.

Experts have pointed out that the current economic climate is not favorable to nuclear construction, in part because the price of natural gas is so low.

Congress has authorized loan guarantees of up to $18.5 billion for new reactors, with $8.3 billion now earmarked for Vogtle. President Obama has proposed an additional $36 billion. The sums are simply guarantees by the government to repay lenders if the builder cannot do so.

Their cost to the Treasury is unclear; if the reactors are built as planned and run profitably, the cost would be zero. In fact, the Treasury could make a profit on fees paid by the borrowers. While the negotiations are secret, Constellation has been complaining for months that the fee Treasury sought was too high.

A version of this article appeared in print on October 10, 2010, on page A21 of the New York edition.

Tens of thousands take part in Munich anti-nuclear protest

[In Petr Bechmann's book, "The History of PI," he describes how some state legislatures in the US tried to legislate a value of PI. I thought of these attempts when reading this. If we could only legislate the sun and wind to blow per the instructions of the load dispatcher... ;-) ]


Tens of thousands of people turned out on the streets of Munich on Saturday against the nuclear power policy of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government.

A focus of the protest was the formation of a human chain, about 10 kilometers long, through the center of the city.

Organizers said that some 50,000 people in all took part in the day's events, while police put the number at around 25,000.

Gabriel claimed the protest showed the nuclear policy was deeply unpopular "It is an enormous success for us," said Marcus Greineder, chief organizer of the Bavaria Chain Reaction group, which organized the protest.

The heart of the demonstration was the city's Odeonsplatz, where a stage was set up to rally the crowd.

Public 'simply does not accept'

Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Sigmar Gabriel said that the turnout revealed the level of opposition to a planned extension to the operating lifespans of Germany's nuclear power plants.

"This shows once again that the population simply doesn't accept government's lobby group policy in favor of nuclear firms."

Five Bavarian nuclear plants are affected by the extension, among them the particularly controversial Isar 1 reactor which has been in use since 1977.

The Isar 1 plant is perhaps the most controversial of Bavaria's nuclear sitesSeveral political parties and action groups rallied people to join the demonstration, calling for a move away from nuclear energy towards renewable energy.

Reprocessing idea abandoned

The action was the biggest anti-nuclear event in Bavaria in decades. A rally against plans to build a nuclear reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf in 1985 - which was later abandoned - was attended by 30,000 to 50,000 people.

Organizers say around 100,000 people took part in a demonstration against the planned extensions in Berlin in September. Police put the number at 40,000.

A previous German government of the SPD and Green party decided to close all nuclear plants by 2021, but the current coalition has plans to extend that deadline by an average of 12 years.

Author: Richard Connor (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Ben Knight

Why we must embrace sustainable generation of nuclear energy

[For those who may not have read, Kenya has held discussions with South Korea regarding nuclear energy development. Whether any orders will materialize may be a while.]


Updated 3 hr(s) 34 min(s) ago
By William Ruto

Many people seem to harbour apocalyptic associations with the term 'nuclear'. Once they hear or read it, they immediately envision the end of the world as we know it. As a result, their knee-jerk reaction is hostile or, at best, totally unreceptive. However, Nuclear Technology is not just about war!

In fact, nuclear technology is already in use in Kenya to solve some of the most pressing problem facing the people, and in every day spheres like agriculture and medicine.

Examples include mutation breeding, which has been used to develop an internationally acclaimed early maturing, high yielding and drought resistant wheat variety in Kenya with tremendous potential to solve food security problems in the Developing World. The technology has been extended to cassava and banana breeding among other crops.

Secondly, radioactive medicine and healthcare, a critical function of nuclear technology, is now being used to treat cancer.

These successes in use of nuclear technology must spread to energy generation to power our industrial revolution and economic growth.

As the world population increases and more countries become industrialised, demand for energy escalates. Kenya has one of the fastest growing populations, with one million additional people every year. 80 per cent of Kenyans depend on wood fuel. Increased power generation would ease the immense and disastrous pressure on our forest and tree cover.

Without a doubt, nuclear technology is the most viable tool to access cheap clean energy on the basis on least cost analysis.

Additionally, if Kenya is to realise industrial revolution and grow the economy by 10 per cent as envisaged in Vision 2030, access to affordable, sustainable and clean energy is no longer an academic matter. A programmatic and strategic consideration of all the benefits of nuclear energy must be the centrepiece of the national development agenda.

Today’s energy options include hydrocarbon based sources (oil, coal and gas), renewable sources ( wind, hydro, solar, biomass and geothermal). Renewable sources indeed ameliorate greenhouse gas emissions and other deleterious impacts, but are expensive and liable to compound the cost of sustainable development.

Hydrocarbon based energy sources significantly contribute to global warming and climate change: in 2008 alone, the top 20 greenhouse gas emitters in the world released 24 trillion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There is a correlation between leading emitters, and fast-growing economies, implying that energy directly fuels development.

The Kyoto Protocol limits levels of carbon emission per country, while reserve depletion drives oil and gas prices higher as economic growth increases the demand for energy on the other hand. This is the full cycle of the fossil-fuel conundrum; it presents no happy ending in environmental and economic terms. Quite clearly, in very short time indeed, there will be worldwide resurgence of nuclear power out of need, not choice.

It is imperative that Kenya moves with urgency to build full capacity for the sustainable generation of nuclear energy.

That is why the office of the Prime Minister is set to coordinate an inter-ministerial (Energy, Industrialisation, Environment and Higher Education) committee spearheaded by the National Economic and Social Council, and that is just the beginning.

Development stakeholders must change their attitudes towards nuclear technology, and begin to see opportunities instead of threats, development instead of destruction, and blessings instead of disasters.

—The writer is Minister for Higher Education.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

China starts up 1st 4th generation nuclear reactor

[Fast reactors typically use a molten alkali metal such as sodium as the coolant. These reactors allow for higher energy neutrons that can be used for breeding or transmutation of actinide fission products.]


Updated: 2010-07-21 23:49
BEIJING - Chinese scientists have succeeded in testing the country's first experimental fourth generation nuclear reactor, an expert said here on Wednesday.

The successful start up of the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) marked a breakthrough in China's fourth generation nuclear technology, and made China the eighth country in the world to own the technology, Zhang Donghui, general manager of the CEFR project, told Xinhua over phone.

China's existing 11 nuclear power generating units all use second generation of nuclear power generation technology. The country started the construction of its first third-generation pressurized water reactors using AP1000 technologies developed by US-based Westinghouse in 2009.

Compared with the third generation reactors which have an utility rate of uranium of just one percent, CEFR boasts an utility rate of more than 60 percent.

A new recycling technology called pyroprocessing is also used to close the fuel cycle by separating the unused fuel from most of the radioactive waste.

"The CEFR is safer, more environment-friendly, and more economic than its predecessors," Zhang said.

Friday, June 11, 2010

King says Tonga should move to nuclear power


By: The Associated Press | 11 Jun 2010 | 03:33 AM ET Tonga -

The impoverished South Pacific island nation of Tonga should move quickly toward nuclear power as its main source of electricity, its king said Friday.

Opening the nation's Parliament, King George Tupou V said while energy-hungry Tonga is planning to produce half its electricity from renewable energy within three years, "nature is dictating that we must look to nuclear energy."

King George said his government is following a U.S. plan aimed at developing small 30-megawatt nuclear plants to curb electricity costs and reduce dependence on expensive imported fuels.

"Should this development prove successful, it would be of enormous value in protecting our environment and reducing our use of diesel fuel," he told the lawmakers.

He did not indicate how the near-bankrupt nation would fund a nuclear power plant.

Late last year, officials produced a "Tonga Energy Road Map" that sets a goal of producing 50 percent of the country's electricity from renewable energy sources, including solar and wind. Nuclear power was not part of their planning.

Currently 95 percent of Tonga's 20 to 30 megawatts of annual power consumption is produced by generators using high-cost diesel fuel. Just 5 percent of the electricity is produced by small solar plants located on outer islands of the archipelago.

While no South Pacific states, including Australia and New Zealand, have nuclear power plants, King George noted that building a nuclear station in Tonga would also help solve its need for clean drinking water through desalination.

Tonga's main water sources are underground and have been polluted in recent years by fertilizers and pesticides, he said.

"The government maintains that nuclear power is our best hope of resolving our water problem as we can produce abundant supplies through desalination very cheaply," he said. "The quicker we move in this direction the better."

King George was widely known as a rich and eccentric playboy during the reign of his father, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who died in September 2006.

He has since implemented democratic reforms in the near-feudal monarchy, with the country's voters set to choose a new government in elections later this year.

However, Tonga faces mounting poverty and unemployment among its youth, and relies heavily on aid and money remitted by citizens living abroad. The World Bank has said 40 percent of the nation's 101,000 people live near or below the poverty line.