Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
By Kim Hyun-cheol
Chances are good for South Korea to export its skills in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants for the first time in 30 years since the country began their commercial operation.
Two state-run companies, the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), said Tuesday that they are vying or planning to tender bids for nuclear power plant construction in Turkey, Romania and Morocco.
KEPCO will compete in a bid for the first nuclear plant in Mersin, Turkey, in partnership with Enka, Turkey's biggest energy company. The plant is the first of three Turkey is planning to build and operate by 2015, and the Turkish government is expected to pick the bidder this year.
The power company said it will submit a tender by September.
It is also competing with several foreign firms to win a contract for building and operating a nuclear power plant in Morocco. The electric power company, however, declined to comment on the bid details and possibilities of winning because both tenders are still being processed.
The KHNP is set to compete in another nuclear project of engineering, procurement and construction of two heavy-water reactors in Cernavoda, Romania, the establishment of which were halted in the 1980s.
The firm is currently fine-tuning the set-up of a consortium with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) before bidding opens in July, it said.
"Forming the consortium will benefit both of us, because the AECL owns core technologies of heavy-water reactor plants and we have top-notch operational know-how," Lee Jung-hwa, a KHNP official, said.
The AECL is the technology vendor of CANDU, a form of heavy-water reactor. It has been chosen for the Cernavoda plants, and one is operating in Wolseong, North Gyeongsang Province.
South Korea launched its first nuclear plant in Gori, in the vicinity of Busan, in 1978. Now, a total of 20 plants are in service, producing 35.4 percent of all electricity consumed nationwide.
Nuclear power projects are considered a lucrative business. Exports of two 1,000- megawatt plants create 55,000 jobs and 5 trillion won ($499.5 million) in added value.
Haci Duran Gokkaya, director general of TETAS, told the A.A correspondent that legal ground is already ready to produce nuclear energy in Turkey and the tender process --which started on March 24th, 2008-- would end on September 24th, 2008.
Four companies are interested in the tender so far and this number could go up to 10-15 before the end of September, Gokkaya said.
"A nuclear power plant costs 10-15 billion USD. Energy production through nuclear means has become more attractive thanks to support by the state," he said.
Pensioned-off engineers will have to be brought out of retirement if the revival of nuclear power is not to be hit by serious delays, the Government has been warned.
A shortage of professional engineers and skilled trades is threatening plans to build new nuclear power stations around the country to ensure security of electricity supply and avoid the risk of blackouts, it is claimed.
Over the next 10 years the nuclear sector will need to recruit between 5,900-9,000 graduates and 2,700-4,500 skilled trades to meet nuclear needs, a London conference will be told today.
John Earp, president of the British Nuclear Energy Society, expects nuclear engineers will have to be brought out of retirement to help with the planning, training and development of a new "nuclear generation".
"They will have to act as a stop-gap because it is unrealistic to expect retired engineers now in their 60s to be working on reactors in another ten years," he said.
The shortage of engineers is expected to be a key issue, along with funding, potential sites and the waste storage needed to complete the first new nuclear plant by 2018.
Colin Brown, director of engineering at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, one of the conference organisers, said: "With the average age of an engineer 58, by the time the proposals come into force we are looking at an ageing population with most retired, unless we do something now."
The two-day conference will also hear John Hutton, Business Secretary, pledge government help to plug the engineering gap.
Other speakers include Bill Coley, chief executive of British Energy, which is in discussions about its future structure and role.
The Government is using its remaining stake in the company to attract new investors or partners to ensure a strong British role in the next nuclear power age.
Iran on Monday started talks with inspectors from the UN nuclear watchdog as well as Valentin Sobolev, acting secretary of Russia's National Security Council.
A three-man delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), headed by chief inspector Olli Heinonen, arrived in Tehran Monday morning and was to hold talks with officials from the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization.
Sobolev, who arrived Sunday night, had already started talks with his Iranian counterpart Saeid Jalili, who is also Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator.
Heinonen is reportedly to meet with the deputy of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Mohammad Saeidi, and the country's IAEA envoy, Ali-Asqar Soltanieh.
Foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini Sunday rejected press reports that Iran would discuss intelligence alleging Iran pursued nuclear weapons studies with Heinonen, saying that talks would only be within the framework of the IAEA and Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Heinonen was in Tehran last week, but Tehran insisted that the visit was just routine and rejected Western press reports that the talks were solely focused on the new allegations.
The IAEA inspectors reportedly want answers from Tehran regarding intelligence received from Western member states on alleged studies of uranium conversion, high-explosives testing and work on a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which have potential nuclear weapons applications.
Talks with Sobolev are mainly focused on the latest developments concerning the nuclear at Bushehr in southern Iran. Moscow is cooperating with Tehran on building the light-water reactor.
The two sides are also expected to discuss last month's halting of a cargo of Russian heat insulators destined for the Bushehr plant which has not yet been released.
Hosseini said Sunday that Iran was in constant contact with Azeri officials and the Iranian embassy in Baku to enable the urgent release of the cargo.
Sobolev told reporters after his meeting with Jalili that Moscow had already started diplomatic efforts to settle the cargo dispute with Azerbaijan at the earliest term.
Jalili said that he consulted with Sobolev over an Iranian package containing Tehran's proposals for settling international disputes and would soon be forwarded to United Nations Security Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States as well as Germany.
"We have proposals on important global political, security and economic issues," Jalili said, without giving further details.
He confirmed that the package also contains the dispute over Iran's controversial nuclear programmes.
The Fars news agency termed the package "Iran's peace package" and said the contents would soon be disclosed.
Observers doubt that the ambiguous package would meet the main demand by the from Iran which is suspending the uranium enrichment process.
(Source: The Economic Times)
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development declared the French consortium Novarka the winner of the tender for construction of a new safe confinement, which is being designed by an international group led by French engineers.
Many countries, including Russia, have contributed to the EBRD-managed Chernobyl Shelter Fund ($1 billion). The new shelter will consist of a 100-meter-high steel arch with a span of about 250 meters. It will slide along rails into place over the Soviet sarcophagus (containing 200 tons of irradiated fuel and 16 million curie).
After that, work will begin to extract and rebury radioactive materials from the damaged reactor.
Meanwhile, the old sarcophagus is being improved by the Stabilizatsiya consortium of Atomstroyexport, Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly. The company has stabilized the old structure and will now repair the roof and install physical protection systems.
Work to clear up the consequences of the Chernobyl tragedy has not stopped for 22 years. The world still remembers that abnormal radiation levels were registered in tea plantations in California and in Antarctica, thousands of kilometers from the disaster zone. The explosion claimed many lives, and people are still dying of radiation-related diseases. Many lost their families and homes, while others refused to leave their polluted homes.
The tragedy also became a major trial for the nuclear sector, because it stopped the construction of many nuclear power plants and put a temporary halt on the sector's development. Many countries decided to decommission their nuclear power plants, but France, which quickly learned the lessons of Chernobyl, surged ahead, and now 87 percent of its electricity is produced at nuclear plants.
The world wanted to see what Russia, the legal successor of the Soviet Union, would do. During the Millennium Summit in New York, where much was said about the sustainable development of humankind and an upcoming energy crisis, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia had made its choice in favor of nuclear generation.
Russia's first practical step towards this goal was the approval of a federal program until 2020, which provides for building nuclear power plants in the energy-hungry Tver, Nizhni Novgorod, Chelyabinsk and Yaroslavl regions, and possibly also in the Kostroma region. It has recently been decided to build a nuclear power plant in the Kaliningrad region, Russia's enclave on the Baltic Sea. In the future, a nuclear power plant will also be built in the Maritime Territory on the Pacific.
The nuclear renaissance is spreading across the world. More than 20 countries have announced their intention to develop nuclear power generation, while those that have such plants are modernizing them and building new facilities.
Why? Has the world forgotten about Chernobyl? No, but the looming threat of an energy crisis is forcing humankind to pin its hopes on the atom. Future civilizations will invent something better, but for now we have to build nuclear power plants.
Russian scientists, engineers and designers of nuclear reactors have not been sitting on their hands. They addressed safety problems and improved reactors, and it was largely thanks to them that nuclear generation has been revived.
Russian-designed reactors are better than ever. For example, they are now equipped with a sophisticated containment unit, an emergency meltdown core catcher. Alexander Borovoi of the Kurchatov Institute research center said that in case of an accident, the task of these containers is to catch and keep meltdown mass with a radiation level of hundreds of millions curie, consisting of nuclear fuel and parts of an exploding reactor.
On the other hand, the probability of an accident at a modern nuclear power plant is one in a million.
Many countries are working to create better catchers, but the first such system was designed in Russia and installed at the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China.
Borovoi, who has for 20 years headed a group of Kurchatov Institute scientists working at Chernobyl, said it was only by chance that the destroyed reactor's core had not melted through the building's walls and contaminated subsoil waters.
The new core catchers now make this an impossibility.
Monday, April 28, 2008
For years, the original iron and concrete shelter that was hastily constructed over the reactor has been leaking radiation, cracking and threatening to collapse. The new one, an arch of steel, would be big enough to contain the Statue of Liberty.
Once completed, Chernobyl will be safe, said Vince Novak, nuclear safety director at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development which manages the $505 million project.
The new shelter is part of a broader $1.4 billion effort financed by international donors that began in 1997 and includes shoring up the current shelter, monitoring radiation and training experts.
The explosion at reactor No. 4 on April 26, 1986 was the world's worst nuclear accident, spewing radiation over a large swath of the former Soviet Union and much of northern Europe. It directly contaminated an area roughly half the size of Italy, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
In the two months after the disaster, 31 people died of radioactivity, but the final toll is still debated. The U.N. health agency estimates that about 9,300 will eventually die from cancers caused by Chernobyl's radiation. Groups such as Greenpeace insist the toll could be 10 times higher.
The old shelter, called a "sarcophagus," was built in just six months. But intense radiation has weakened it, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and rain and snow are seeping through cracks.
Officials say a tornado or earthquake could bring down the shelter, releasing clouds of poisonous dust.
The first step, shoring up the sarcophagus, is almost complete, Ukrainian and EBRD officials say.
Later, the 20,000-ton arch — 345 feet tall, 840 feet wide and 490 feet long — will be built next to the old shelter and slid over it on railtracks.
Its front side will be covered by metal, and the back will abut the wall of reactor No. 3. Construction is to begin next year and be completed in 2012, and it is designed to last 100 years. It is designed and built by Novarka, a French-led consortium.
Workers will wear protective suits and masks, and those needing to be closer to the radioactivity will work in shifts as short as several minutes.
Once the arch is up, the least stable parts of the old shelter and the reactor will be dismantled and removed. In 50 years, the nuclear fuel will be extracted, although it is unclear where it will be stored.
The EBRD says 95 percent of the reactor's nuclear inventory is still inside the ruins, but some experts believe most of the radiation was released in the days after the accident.
The new shelter evokes mixed feelings among Ukrainians.
Some are just happy the reactor is finally going to be made safe. Others, especially those directly affected by the disaster, accuse the government of playing up the new shelter at the expense of treating their health problems.
Scientists continue to debate the Novarka solution, with some saying the reactor should be dismantled or embedded in concrete. Others say the government should be more concerned about the contaminated land, ground water and equipment, and the spent nuclear fuel.
This nation of 46 million gets almost half its electricity from 15 reactors at four power plants. None is of the Chernobyl type.
President Viktor Yushchenko wants to expand Ukraine's nuclear power industry, but environmentalists say the lesson of Chernobyl is that nuclear power carries hidden costs and dangers.
"Nuclear energy has shown how expensive it is," said Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia.
(Source: Associated Press)
I suppose we found a common language over thousands of miles separating us (I was in Kiev, and Rod in Annapolis, with 7 hour time difference; but internet technologies and Skype in particular has made it possible as well as if we were speaking on the phone).
The program is available online here.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
I usually do not believe so much in things one can not explain. Like for instance, how come did my trip home turn into an extensive discussion on nuclear power and many other things.
Having booked the flight on the 26 of April was not planned specially, was convenient because it's on Saturday. 22nd Chernobyl anniversary was something to reflect upon for me just the day before when I posted some materials related to the date. With those things in mind, I was boarding my flight. Near the same gate, there was a small group of people, obviously Ukrainians and (I guessed so and I was right) some kind of officials. As I found out a bit later, they were from a State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine. We started talking with one of the ladies, finally we took seats next to each other and spent a nice 3 hour flight talking and discussing things. I still have an impression that there is too little information that the ordinary citizens have about the radiological state of the environment around them in Ukraine. And not only in Ukraine - even the "secure" Swedish Forsmark has quite large radioactivity leakages every time one of the reactors is shut down. In Sweden, for sure, all this is monitored much more careful, but still, very little is reported to the public.
One of the things we discussed was the problem of nuclear waste storage in Ukraine. The Swedish storage which my flight companion has just visited, left a great impression on her, so secure, pure and isolated in was. Ukrainian waste, in particular radioactive water remains (fuel blocks themselves are taken care of by the Russian supplier TVEL), is stored in temporary places, not for longer then 30 years, and what will happen after, is not yet decided. How come a country having 15 reactors in operation does not have a single permanent storage? Means this task will be left for our descendants.
We we slowly going down to reach Borispol airport, and Chernobyl site could actually be seen from air if not the clouds.
"You know, - said my companion, - I suspect all this (here: Chernobyl accident) was done to us intentionally. It was made for this country should never rise to prosperity. Huge sum of money is sucked out of our budget by Chernobyl. Those testings of reactor with all security switched off were made according to higher orders. If the person operating the plant that night have said "no" to those orders, it would never have happened."
We landed, left the plane, passed passport control and waited for a while for our luggage (welcome to Ukraine - too many flights and too little luggage lines, Borispol is quite a small airport). Then we parted, but I suppose we will meet again some day - we exchanged cards, and as soon as I am in Kiev next time, I was invited to visit the Committee and possibly write something about their international projects. That would be an interesting thing to do I suppose.
That was my April 26 this year, 22 years after.
Just as global warming and rising oil prices were making nuclear energy seem more acceptable, the radioactive leak at the plant near the coastal city of Tarragona sparked new safety concerns.
Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's anti-nuclear government had appeared to be swimming against the tide in the West, where countries such as Britain, Finland and the United States are increasingly relying on nuclear power.
But the Spanish government seemed to be growing less critical of nuclear energy, when it came out that Asco I had downplayed the importance of a leak that occurred during refuelling in November.
Not only was the leak over 100 times more serious than the 1,000 megawatt plant had reported, but radioactive particles have now been found as far as 60 kilometres outside the plant.
Ultimately the leak was not deemed dangerous in itself. Rated a level 2 on a risk scale of zero to 7, the leak is not believed to have had adverse health effects on any of the 1,600 people being tested. And there has never been a safety problem ranked above level 3 in a Spanish nuclear plant.
But the fact that Asco I appeared to misinform the public about the incident led to the director and the protection chief of the plant being sacked and the plant facing a fine of up to 30 million euros (46 million dollars).
The Asco I incident in addition did arouse safety concerns, with Carlos Bravo from the environmental group Greenpeace describing Spanish nuclear plants as 'obsolete.'
According to trade union sources quoted by the daily El Pais, companies running nuclear plants have in general been cutting personnel and investment costs, thus increasing safety risks.
Zapatero has pledged to close nuclear plants that have been operating for more than 40 years.
In theory, the government wants to close all of Spain's eight active nuclear plants by 2028, while continuing to turn the country into one of the world leaders in the use of renewable energies.
Spain currently gets about a fifth of its energy from nuclear power, as opposed to 10 per cent from wind energy.
The company is working with the city of Galena on its application to the NRC, and while the small Yukon River community could become one of the first sites for the new reactor, Toshiba also plans an aggressive worldwide marketing program to sell the units for power generation at remote mines, desalinization plants and the making of hydrogen as an alternate fuel.
Approval by the NRC is important to Toshiba because the U.S. regulatory agency's stamp of approval on the design will enable the company to get approvals for the reactor in many countries.
The company hopes to sell four times the number of units for hydrogen production than would be sold for conventional power generation, as in Galena, according to Marvin Yoder, a consultant to Galena on the project.
“The central concept of the reactor design is that the 4-S is safe and simple to operate,” he said.
Yoder told the Resource Development Council in Anchorage April 17 that Toshiba has made two presentations to NRC staff in Washington on the reactor design, with a third briefing session planned for May 23. One more staff briefing will be held and then the Japanese company, which has also acquired U.S. nuclear manufacturer Westinghouse, will prepare its formal applications to the NRC seeking approvals. Yoder said Toshiba hopes to make the application in 2009.
If the commission approves the design in 2010 or 2011, the 4-S unit could be installed in Galena and generating power by 2012 or 2013, Yoder said.
The 4-S reactor is a small unit that would generate 10 megawatts of power and operates with passive systems, meaning there are no mechanical parts in the reactor itself, Yoder said. A larger 50-megawatt unit is also under development.
The reactor unit would be about 8 feet by 3 feet in dimension and will be encased and buried 40 feet below the surface. The nuclear reaction will heat liquid sodium that will be moved through heat exchanges with electro-magnetic pumps. Power is generated in a steam turbine at the surface.
Unlike large conventional nuclear reactors, Toshiba's 4-S design involves passive systems, meaning there are no mechanical parts that can break down. The safety systems are not dependent on emergency power to function. It will also not need refueling at the site.
The fuel loaded in the reactor will be sufficient for 30 years. Toshiba's plan is to refuel the reactor after 30 years, with the entire unit being extracted from the site and shipped elsewhere for refueling and maintenance.
The NRC may decide to have the reactor checked before 30 years, particularly if the Galena reactor is the first commercial installation, Yoder said. An important security consideration is that the grade of nuclear fuel to be used is well below weapons grade. This is a security concern with some reactor designs used elsewhere.
Very little on-site maintenance of operations staff would be needed, except with the power generation turbine on the surface. Modular construction, with the unit moved to its final location by barge, will save costs and construction time.
Galena officials hope the nuclear plant, if it is installed, can reduce local electricity costs to 17 cents per kilowatt hour or less, Yoder said. While Galena now uses much less power than the 10 megawatts the 4-S unit could produce, the local power requirement will very likely grow over time, particularly if local residents switch from heating with fuel oil to heating with electricity.
(Source: Alaska Journal of Commerce)
Three of the environmental activists suspended themselves from the top of the building in downtown Ankara, but did not manage to unfurl a giant banner reading "Nuclear power is a sham. The minister has no clothes" as the police and ministry officials intervened.
Fellow demonstrators outside the building brandished placards reading "No to nuclear energy" and "Don't trust the nuclear tales."
Overriding strong opposition from environmentalists, the energy ministry last month invited bids for Turkey's first nuclear power plant, to be built at Akkuyu, on the country's southern Mediterranean coast.
An earlier plan for a reactor at Akkuyu was scrapped in July 2000 amid financial difficulties and protests from environmentalists in Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.
Opponents raised safety concerns on the grounds that the proposed site was only 25 kilometres (15 miles) from a seismic fault line.
Friday, April 25, 2008
For years, the original iron and concrete shelter that was hastily constructed over the reactor has been leaking radiation, cracking and threatening to collapse.
"After we complete this project we will reach the goal of a safe state in Chernobyl," said Vince Novak, Director of the Nuclear Safety Department with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which manages the $505 million project.
The new shelter is just part of a broader $1.4 billion effort financed by international donors that began in 1997. The project involves fixing the current shelter, monitoring radiation, training experts and building a massive new steel shelter that will slide over the current structure.
Chernobyl's reactor No. 4 exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of the former Soviet Union and much of northern Europe in the world's worst nuclear accident. An area roughly half the size of Italy was contaminated, forcing the resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people.
In the first two months after the disaster, 31 people died from exposure to radioactivity, but there is heated debate over the subsequent toll. The U.N. health agency estimates that about 9,300 people will eventually die from cancers caused by Chernobyl's radiation. Some groups, such as Greenpeace, insist the toll could be 10 times higher.
The old shelter, called a "sarcophagus," was built in just six months to cover the demolished reactor. But intense radiation has weakened the shelter, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It has also been damaged by the rainwater and snow that got inside through cracks in its roof, experts say.
Officials say that were a tornado or an earthquake to hit the area the shelter could collapse, releasing clouds of poisonous radioactive dust.
"This installation has a low or limited safety," said Valeriy Bykov, deputy chairperson of Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Committee. "Some external factors can create dangerous radioactive incidents such as the emission of dust and its spread to great distances."
The first step, shoring up the sarcophagus, is almost complete, Ukrainian and EBRD officials say.
Later, a 105 meter (345-foot) tall, 260 meter (853 feet) wide and 150 meter (490-foot) long arch weighing 20,000 tons will be built and slid over the old shelter using railtracks.
The front side of the arch will be covered by metal, the back side will abut the wall of the adjacent reactor No.3. Construction of the arch is scheduled to begin next year and be completed in 2012, and it is designed to last 100 years.
The new structure will be big enough to house the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York. The project is designed and built by the French-led consortium Novarka, which includes the companies Bouygues SA and Vinci SA.
Workers wearing protective suits and respiratory masks will build the arch at a site about 120 meters (yards) away from the reactor, to minimize exposure to radiation. Specialists who need to be closer to the reactor will work in shifts as short as several minutes.
Once the arch is erected, the most unstable parts of the old shelter and the reactor will be dismantled and removed. In 50 years, the melted nuclear fuel will be extracted from the reactor, although it is unclear where it will be stored.
Experts still debate how much radioactive material remains inside the reactor. The EBRD says 95 percent of the reactor's nuclear inventory remains inside the ruins, but some experts believe most of the radiation was released in the days after the accident.
The new shelter has evoked mixed feelings among Ukrainians.
Some are happy the reactor is finally going to be safely enclosed. Others, especially those directly affected by the disaster, accuse the government of playing up the need for a new shelter to get international aid while downplaying their health problems.
Even as the project is underway, scientists continue to debate it. Some favored alternate approaches, such as embedding the reactor in concrete or dismantling it. Other experts say the government should be more concerned about the health threat from contaminated land, ground water, equipment and spent nuclear fuel.
Nuclear energy is key for this country of 46 million. Ukraine today operates 15 reactors at four power plants, which generate nearly half of all its electricity. None is of the Chernobyl type.
(Source: International Herald Tribune)
Twenty-two years after the world’s most serious nuclear accident, work by the international community and the IAEA continues apace to assist Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine. The work is moving into a new phase that aims to build upon progress already achieved and target the most pressing social and economic needs. The IAEA remains an active participant in recovery work at and around the Chernobyl site, mostly in the form of assistance projects related to the safe management of radioactive waste and decommissioning activities. The catastrophic accident on 26 April 1986 destroyed the reactor at unit 4 and dispersed radionuclides into the surrounding area and parts of Europe.
'The UN General Assembly has proclaimed 2006-2016 a 'decade of recovery and sustainable development' for the affected regions,' UN Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon said in addressing the next phase of global cooperation. 'The UN Chernobyl Action Plan, to be adopted this year, will provide coordinated support to implement the Decade, with a focus on social and economic development -- including investment and job creation -- and the promotion of healthy lifestyles and community self-reliance.'
The IAEA has worked with multiple partners on Chernobyl expert and recovery projects over the past two decades. The work was commended in 2007 by the UN General Assembly, which particularly singled out the IAEA for its efforts in monitoring human exposure in areas affected by Chernobyl, remediation of agricultural and urban environments, and cost-effective agricultural countermeasures.
One effective international partnership has been the Chernobyl Forum, initiated in 2003 with the cooperation of the IAEA and seven UN organizations, plus Belarus, Russia, and the Ukraine.
The Forum's recommendations, issued in 2006, define a strategy and set clear priorities for future activities at Chernobyl. The IAEA's work includes:
- Assisting in the decommissioning and management of radioactive waste at Chernobyl, along with providing support in developing a plan for waste management at the site;
- Spearheading a project that will provide radiological support to rehabilitate territories of Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine affected by the accident;
- Assisting in the decommissioning and management of radioactive waste at Chernobyl, along with providing support in developing a plan for waste management at the site;
- Helping Ukraine in the safe management of radioactive waste, based on IAEA safety standards. This effort takes into account all Chernobyl-related radioactive waste along with other radioactive waste.
Additionally, the IAEA is participating in a meeting of the UN Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Chernobyl today. A draft of the UN Action Plan on Chernobyl to 2016 is scheduled to be presented and many UN agencies and international organizations involved in recovery efforts are expected to participate.
The Chernobyl Forum was a two-year cooperative international effort that studied the social, environmental and health impacts of the accident. Created in 2003, the Forum was comprised of eight specialized UN agencies, as well as the governments of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. It concluded its work in 2005 and issued a set of authoritative reports that were released in September 2005.
(Source: IAEA, Environmental-expert.com)
One item of note is that countries trying to produce weapons material build specialized production reactors and do not use power reactor designs (i.e., no one uses a PWR or BWR to make weapons material).
Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel from coal will rise to 50 percent. And Italy is not alone in its return to coal.
Driven by rising demand, record high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over energy security and an aversion to nuclear energy, European countries are slated to build about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years, plants that will be in use for the next five decades.
The fast-expanding developing economies of India and China, where coal remains a major fuel source for more than two billion people, have long been regarded as one of the biggest challenges to reducing carbon emissions.
But the return now to coal even in eco-conscious Europe is sowing real alarm among environmentalists who warn that it is setting the world on a disastrous trajectory that will make controlling global warming impossible. They are aghast at the renaissance of coal, a fuel more commonly associated with a sooty Dickens novel and which was on its way out just a decade ago.
There have been protests here in Civitavecchia; at a new Vattenfall plant in Germany; at a plant in the Czech Republic; as well as at the Kingsnorth Power station in Kent, which is slated to become Britian's first new coal-fired plant in over a decade.
European power-station owners emphasize that they are making the new coal plants as clean as possible. But critics say that "clean coal" is a pipe dream, an oxymoron in terms of the carbon emissions that count most toward climate change. They call the building spree short-sighted.
"Building new coal-fired power plants is ill-conceived," said James Hansen, a leading climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "Given our knowledge about what needs to be done to stabilize climate, this plan is like barging into a war without having a plan for how it should be conducted, even though information is available.
"We need a moratorium on coal now," he added, "with phase out of existing plants over the next two decades."
Enel, like many electricity companies, says it has little choice but to build coal plants to replace aging infrastructure, particularly in countries like Italy, which prohibit nuclear power. Fuel costs have risen 151 percent since 1996, and Italians pay the highest electricity costs in Europe.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
E.ON, the German-owned utility which supplies gas and electricity to millions of customers in Britain, said yesterday that it planned to build two nuclear power stations in the UK.
The company, which has run into controversy over its plans to build a coal-fired plant at Kingsnorth, Kent, wants to use a new generation of 1,600MW atomic reactor, designed by Areva of France.
E.ON, which is also pressing ahead with wind farm developments, has not officially revealed where it wants to build the plants but sources say it is considering sites in the south of England now owned by British Energy.
"It's clear that a new generation of nuclear power stations will ensure that the UK will have a secure and reliable source of low-carbon power for decades to come, and E.ON is right at the forefront of those plans," said the firm's UK chief executive, Paul Golby. "It's now up to us to work with our partners and with government to make that a reality."
E.ON, which has been building its public profile in the UK by sponsoring the FA Cup, has signed a letter of intent with Areva and the German engineering group Siemens, to help build the plants, which are unlikely to be in place before 2018.
E.ON has joined the French electricity provider EDF in making explicit its desire to press ahead with nuclear given government provision of the framework. There has also been speculation that RWE, of Germany, would like to construct a facility to replace the nuclear power station at Wylfa, on Anglesey, Wales.
The momentum comes amid talks between E.ON, EDF and RWE with the UK's nuclear operator, British Energy, which generates 18% of the country's electricity from its existing facilities and owns the key sites that could be used for a new generation of plants.
British Energy is a potential takeover target of EDF and RWE. Sources close to E.ON say the German group is interested in a small equity stake in the nuclear generator rather than full control but is fearful that EDF or another firm might buy the company outright and effectively gain a stranglehold on the best potential newbuild sites.
It seems clear that E.ON would be willing to ask that the government or industry regulator prevents any one company getting an unfair advantage.
EDF, the world's largest nuclear operator, could team up with Centrica, the owner of British Gas, to make a bid for British Energy, while RWE, possibly in cooperation with Vattenfall, of Sweden, could be another bidder for the UK group, which is owned 35% by the government. RWE is already reported to have proposed a 700p indicative offer for the UK nuclear firm, valuing it at £11bn.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
French review examines nuclear site-leukemia relationship
The recent German study of cancers around nuclear sites is the only one that identifies a clear relation between nuclear facility proximity and excess incidence of childhood leukemia, France's Institute of Nuclear Protection and Safety, IRSN, found in a review of epidemiological studies around nuclear sites. Dominique Laurier of IRSN's Epidemiology Laboratory said April 22 that the institute's review of 198 single-site epidemiological studies in 10 countries had confirmed the "persistence" of leukemia clusters in children around three sites: Sellafield and Dounreay in the UK, where both reactors and fuel cycle installations were operated, and Germany's Kruemmel nuclear power plant. But its review of 25 "multi-site" studies in eight countries showed that there were no multi-site studies, except the recent German one, that found such a relation. The German study, by the Institute of Medical Biometry, Epidemiology, and Information Science at the University of Mainz, published
December 10, found a statistically significant relationship between leukemia among children below 4 years of age and their proximity to nuclear plant sites. But Laurier said the German researchers could offer no explanation for the excess other than proximity to the sites, and said that "the German study seem to be isolated" from the mainstream of multi-site studies. IRSN undertook the review at the request of the French nuclear safety authority, ASN. The review can be downloaded from http://www.irsn.fr.
(Source: New Europe)
Azerbaijani officials said one or two trucks carrying heat-isolating equipment supplied by the company OAO Atomstroiexport were halted at the town of Astara, on the border with Iran, March 29.
Iranian officials have made no comment about the shipment.
Russia delivered the final shipment of uranium fuel in January, and Tehran has said it was hoping the plant would begin operations by summer. The United States initially opposed Russia's building Bushehr, but later softened its position.
A top Azerbaijani customs official said that release of the blocked equipment, valued at around $170,000, required special government permission. Officials have said they needed assurance the equipment did not violate United Nations sanctions against Iran.
"This cargo consists of isolating materials and falls under the category of cargo that requires expert control," Aidyn Aliev, the chairman of the Azerbijani government customs committee, said in comments televised Tuesday.
Atomstroiexport spokeswoman Irina Yesipova said the company was baffled by the hold-up. She said the government in Baku had not sent a request for more information.
"We do not understand why officials in Azerbaijan are obstructing the delivery," she said.
"Our cargo has been thoroughly inspected and does not fall under U.N. sanctions," she said.
Yesipova could not give any more details about the use of the equipment. It is the first time Atomstroiexport has tried to send cargo through Azerbaijan, she said.
Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Khazar Ibrahim said Baku sent the request for information to Russia's embassy soon after the trucks were stopped. He expressed surprise at the company's assertion that it had not received any request.
A spokeswoman for the Russian Embassy would not say whether it had received the request.
Iran is paying Russia more than $1 billion to build the light-water reactor. Construction has been held up in recent months by disputes between Tehran and Moscow over payments and a schedule for shipping nuclear fuel.
The United States changed its position on the Bushehr plant after Iran agreed to return spent nuclear fuel to Russia to ensure it does not extract plutonium from it that could be used to make atomic bombs.
The United States and its Western allies agreed to drop any reference to Bushehr in the sanctions resolutions passed by the U.N. Security Council as a result of Russian pressure. Russia says the plant's contract is in line with all international agreements aimed at preventing nuclear weapons proliferation.
The United States and Russia have said the supply of Russian nuclear fuel means Iran has no need to continue its own uranium enrichment program — a process that can provide fuel for a reactor or fissile material for a bomb. Iran has insisted it will continue enriching uranium.
(Source: International Herald Tribune)
The compromise, which moves America closer to the positions of other nations selling nuclear technology and material, is important because it could give ammunition to Iran, which is under U.N. sanctions for defying a Security Council demand that it give up its enrichment program.
It also could complicate efforts to put life into a U.S.-Indian deal that would allow transfers of sensitive nuclear technology to New Delhi, even though it remains outside of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
The diplomats, who demanded anonymity because their information was confidential, said the new U.S. position was discussed at a Vienna meeting of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, whose gatherings are meant to set and monitor common policies on exports of sensitive atomic hardware and knowledge.
No decision was reached at the meeting, which ended Tuesday, said one of the diplomats, adding that any agreement must be made by consensus and that the issue was deferred to the group's next full session in Berlin starting May 19.
While the U.S. had moved closer to positions favored by most of the other NSG nations, the diplomat suggested there was still a ways to go if that consensus was to be achieved. Still, he said, Washington appeared to be prepared for further compromise.
"The U.S. will go back to Washington with some amendments, with some comments we put forward," he said. "The aim is to have a broad discussion in Berlin."
The U.S. decision to drop its insistence on a ban was forced primarily by Canada, which has large reserves of uranium and reserves the right to start up enrichment programs for lucrative export sales, the diplomats said.
Any ban, as originally demanded by the U.S., would thus present an obstacle to Canadian ambitions to possess its own enrichment capabilities.
The Americans, however, apparently remained firm in their opposition to any transfers of technology that is replicable and would allow receiving states to copy it and create their own program. A Canadian government statement issued while the meeting was still ongoing indicated that that was the case.
"While we welcome the U.S. proposal on nuclear enrichment and reprocessing, the proposal does not address all of Canada's concerns as a nuclear nonproliferation treaty party with impeccable nonproliferation credentials and a significant nuclear industry," said Foreign Affairs spokesman Andre Lemay. "We will continue to work with all parties in a nuclear supplies group to find an acceptable solution."
A participant in the meeting said the United States favored the "black box approach" that gives other nations the technologies without knowing how they work.
Canada wants the right to develop its own enrichment technology, and a ban on exports of replicable material — or the "black box approach" — would hurt it in this regard.
Other regional powers, such as Brazil, Argentina and South Africa, also have indicated a possible interest in selling enriched uranium fuel. With nuclear power undergoing a rebirth, additional countries might seek to join the club, a development that could lead to dozens developing enrichment programs and strengthen Iran's claim that it has the right as an NPT signatory to its own enrichment activities.
The U.S. shift also could hurt the chances that India can cut a deal with the suppliers group giving it greater access to nuclear technology even though it remains outside the NPT.
The U.S. wants the suppliers group to approve exports of nuclear fuel and technology to India, which has been cut off from international atomic markets because of its refusal to sign nonproliferation accords or accept outside inspection regimes.
An agreement meant to lead to that access for India was signed with the U.S. nearly two years ago. But it is in jeopardy, with India's leftist opposition arguing it would weaken the country's nuclear sovereignty.
Washington's shift could further complicate matters if it means moving closer to the position of other NSG states backing such sales but only on condition of more stringent international controls on recipients of such technology. That would surely strengthen Indian opposition to the deal, not only within the leftist opposition but also inside the government.
"The Indians have been insisting on having access through the NSG to enrichment and reprocessing-related technology and this propose, which is now being backed by the vast majority of NSG countries, would bar the transfer of these two technologies to India, which is not a member of the NPT," said Daryl Kimball executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington.
Any tough safeguards on recipient countries would likely include acceptance of rigid International Atomic Energy Agency inspection rights — and in some cases at least, maintain a ban on sales of replicable technologies, said one of the diplomats.
Olli Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) deputy director general, held two sessions of talks with Iranian officials Tuesday after a first round on Monday, the state broadcaster reported.
No information filtered out on the contents of the discussions amid an apparent media blackout and neither photographs nor video footage of the meetings were released.
Heinonen's two-day visit is aimed at pressing Iran over claims it has carried out so-called "weaponization studies", the Vienna-based watchdog has said.
The deputy head of Iran's atomic energy organisation Mohammad Saeedi and its ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh led the Iranian delegation at Tuesday's talks as they had on Monday, the student ISNA news agency reported.
Official media reports before the talks had said that deputy national security chief Javad Vaeedi would lead the Iranian delegation but, as on the previous day, he was not present on Tuesday.
No reason was given for Vaeedi's absence.
ISNA said the final round of talks ended Tuesday evening without either side making any declaration.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the talks, Iran's leading hardline daily Kayhan launched a withering personal onslaught against Heinonen and his intentions on Monday.
"This trip is to complete a joint Israeli-US trick to provide phoney proof on Iran's nuclear activities," said an editorial signed by chief editor Hossein Shariatmadari, who is appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
In a closed-door briefing to diplomats at IAEA headquarters in Vienna on February 25, Heinonen presented detailed evidence suggesting that Iran could have been studying how to use its nuclear technology to make a warhead.
Some of the information is reported to have come from IAEA member states, including data from a laptop computer smuggled out of Tehran in an operation by Western intelligence in 2004.
Western diplomats present at the meeting subsequently said the new evidence of alleged "weaponization studies" was troubling.
Iran, which insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful and aimed solely at generating energy, at the time furiously denounced the claims as fake.
Iran's refusal to suspend sensitive uranium enrichment operations -- which the West fears could be used to make a nuclear weapon -- has already led to three sets of UN Security Council sanctions against Tehran.
Despite more than four years of intensive investigation, the IAEA has never been able to confirm that the nuclear drive is peaceful and bring its probe to a conclusion.
Iran has stuck to a conspicuously different characterisation of Heinonen's visit than that of the IAEA, saying it is a routine trip as part of the cooperation between Tehran and the nuclear watchdog.
The multilateral talks have been stalled for months by a dispute over the North's declaration on its nuclear weapons program and proliferation activities, which they promised to provide by the end of 2007 as part of the aid-for-disarmament deal.
"They did, as I understand it, have a chance to meet with Kim Gye Gwan today and they'll be continuing their discussions over the next day or so," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, referring to the team of US experts.
"Their focus ... is to work on the declaration," he said.
Kim has been leading the North Korean delegation to the six-party talks launched in 2003 among the United States, China, the two Koreas, Japan and Russia aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons drive.
Washington says Pyongyang should not only account for its plutonium program but also clear up suspicions about an alleged uranium enrichment program and suspected proliferation -- claims denied by North Korea.
According to numerous reports, the North in a face-saving gesture will merely "acknowledge" US concerns about the two issues in a confidential document to the United States.
Casey said he hoped the latest meeting with the North Koreans "will make progress toward getting that declaration.
"But I'm really not in a position to try and handicap for you exactly how close or how far away we are at this point," he added. "This really is an issue where it's not done until everything is done."
Monday, April 21, 2008
The plant is intended to ensure the Baltic enclave's energy security. Russian physicist Anatoly Zrodnikov once said, "The world is now not ruled by the dollar or the euro, but by the joule." (The joule is a unit of energy measuring heat, electricity and mechanical work named after English physicist James Prescott Joule).
There are many nuclear power plants in Europe, notably in France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Finland.
A nuclear power plant is absolutely necessary for the Kaliningrad Region. It will ensure its competiveness and sustainable development, Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Federal Nuclear Power Agency, Rosatom, said when signing the framework agreement on the construction of the plant on April 16.
The other signatory was the regional governor, Georgy Boos, who said energy supply was a major headache for the region because gas prices keep rising.
Speaking before regional Duma deputies, Kiriyenko said, "The nuclear power plant is vital for that part of Europe in terms of market and energy security."
The European Union, and especially Kaliningrad's Baltic neighbors, do not like the idea of the nuclear power plant. But nuclear power generation seems to be the only solution now in view of the feared global energy crisis. Experts say that energy consumption will double by 2050.
Even such small countries as Albania and Estonia are considering building nuclear power plants. Lithuania, which does not want to part with its energy comfort, is planning to build a new Ignalina plant instead of the old one. The Baltic countries on both sides of the Kaliningrad Region are prepared to pool their funds to finance Lithuania's project. Finland, which has four nuclear reactors and will commission a fifth one in 2009, has announced its intention to build another two or three reactors.
The EU looks benevolently on its members' nuclear ambitions, but complains about environmental and other dangers when Russia advances nuclear plans. Twenty-two years after the Chernobyl disaster, the world should have cured itself of radiophobia.
As the saying goes, "once bitten, twice shy," but the probability of an accident at a modern nuclear reactor is one in a million. Such reassuring figures do little to assuage the public, however.
Russia could simply disregard the opinion of its neighbors, but it respects Europe and its standards - especially since the Kaliningrad Region is surrounded by EU countries.
On the other hand, many EU countries in the Baltic region either already have, or plan to build, nuclear power plants, and so the Russian enclave is located in a hypothetical nuclear risk zone. It can continue to buy energy from neighboring countries at market prices, or build its own nuclear power plant.
Besides, the Kaliningrad plant will provide electricity not only to the enclave, but also to its close and distant neighbors. According to experts, the plant's two reactors will enable Russia to diversify its foreign trade by selling not only commodities (oil and gas) but also high-tech nuclear generated electricity.
In short, Russia plans to make a strong geopolitical move, and it is probably this that worries Europe most of all.
The planned Kaliningrad plant is similar to the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria, which has been certified by the EU. This should be enough to allay Europe's fears. But it is also worried by the plant's huge capacity. After long debates, it has finally accepted the experts' arguments that a plant with two 1150 MW reactors will be the best choice economically and operationally.
The two twin reactors with common infrastructure will make the plant cheaper and ensure that operation will not be interrupted by routine maintenance shutdowns of one of the reactors.
Experts have estimated the cost of the project at 5 billion euros. Atomstroyexport, Russia's nuclear power equipment and service export monopoly, will be the main contractor.
This, too, should go some way to allaying European safety concerns. Atomstroyexport is known for working to the highest standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and European requirements for nuclear projects. It was granted the EUR (European Utility Requirements) certificate for the Belene project.
Foreign investors and nuclear construction companies will be invited to take part in the Kaliningrad project. Russian legislation dictates that the state owns and holds controlling stakes in all nuclear power plants. However, Russia is ready to offer foreign partners, above all European ones, a 49% stake in the Kaliningrad plant, Kiriyenko said.
Several potential partners have already expressed interest in supplying equipment to the plant. Now that the agreement has been signed, talks will be held officially.
As for investment, Rosatom plans to consider the issue thoroughly and hold a tender, even though "some investors have expressed willingness to buy everything without a tender," Kiriyenko said.
The decision to build the plant was made after a yearlong survey. Since the plant cannot be built on the Baltic coast for geophysical reasons, it will be built inland, on the area of 13.300 square kilometers, some 120 km (75 miles) from the capital city in the east of the region.
The project will be adapted to the site geographically, will take into account possible environmental effects, undergo thorough ecological expertise and will be approved only after public debates.
(Source: RIA Novosti)
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Talking to reporters during his weekly press briefing, he rejected recent allegations made by US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown against Iran's peaceful nuclear program as baseless.
Asked about the possibility of talks between Iran and members of the Group 5+1 on Iran's nuclear issue, he said the modality issues have been resolved and that currently, Iran and the UN nuclear agency have normalized relations.
However, Hosseini reiterated that there have been appropriate grounds and good opportunities for dialogue on other issues.
He regretted that the potentials have been not been used appropriately.
He said that Iran-EU relations could be settled down in a more appropriate manner.
Asked whether the visit to Germany of Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari was aimed at making preparations for talks with the Group 5+1, Hosseini said his visit had nothing to do with dialogue with that group.
Safari's visit took place at the invitation of his German counterpart and focused on bilateral cooperation and regional developments.
He said that the talks are in line with Iran-EU cooperation.
(Source: Islamic Republic News Agency)
U.S. President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was in Washington last week, pledged a united effort to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb, possibly by expanding sanctions against Tehran.
"The stance voiced by the American president and British prime minister about Iran's nuclear activities is not compatible with the reality of any of (its) activities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue with its peaceful activities," he told a news conference, adding that "no law prevents our country from continuing these peaceful activities".
Iran, the world's fourth largest oil producer, says it is seeking to master nuclear technology to generate electricity not bombs. But its failure to convince world powers about its intention has prompted three rounds of U.N. sanctions.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said this month Iran would soon unveil proposals aimed to help defuse the row but gave no details. Hosseini did not elaborate on those plans.
"Regarding the package, we will provide you with the comments and explanations at the appropriate time," he told reporters when asked about Mottaki's nuclear proposal package.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) top investigator, Olli Heinonen, arrives in Iran on Monday to press for answers to Western intelligence alleging Iran covertly studied how to design atomic bombs. Iran denies this.
Hosseini described Heinonen's trip as a "normal" visit.
“We run a full nuclear fuel cycle of our own and we would be happy to participate in providing a home for a nuclear fuel bank,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said in an interactive session at the India Global Forum here.
However, he said discussions on this issue “were a long way away.”
The concept was floated by International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohammad ElBaradei last year.
It seeks to set up an international uranium enrichment facility where countries can source their requirements to run atomic power plants.
On the civil nuclear agreement with the U.S., Mr. Menon said India hoped to bring the deal to “fruition” soon.
“We hope civil nuclear cooperation with the U.S. and other countries will become possible soon ... we hope to bring it to fruition soon,” he said.
On the Iran issue, Mr. Menon said it was not in India’s interest to have another nuclear weapons state in its neighbourhood but Tehran had the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy subject to its international obligations.
Mr. Menon allayed apprehensions about a nuclear flare-up between India and Pakistan. “Immediately after the 1998 tests, both India and Pakistan realised that we needed to be in touch with each other. In 1999 itself we agreed on a series of nuclear confidence building measures and we have been carrying that out,” he said.
India and Pakistan have set up an expert group on nuclear CBMs.
The two countries notify each other on ballistic missile tests and have a series of engagements.
Mr. Menon said India was committed to the reconstruction of the war-ravaged Afghanistan notwithstanding militants’ attacks on its nationals there.
“Our commitment is quite clear. I think what is important in Afghanistan is we should not look at it as a mere law and order situation.” He said the real challenge for the international community is to enable creation of plural groups and a stable society and economy in the restive nation.“We have presence all over Afghanistan — almost 4,000 Indians working there,” Mr. Menon said, pointing out that India’s work there was truly crucial for the international effort.
(Source: The Hindu)
Friday, April 18, 2008
Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said Friday he is convinced that Russia's plans to build a new nuclear power plant in the region was a public relations stunt.
The public relations campaign illustrates Russia's dissatisfaction with the plans for a new nuclear power plant to be built in Lithuania, Kirkilas was quoted by the Baltic News Service (BNS).
Kirkilas' comments come two days after Sergei Kirienko announced that Russia would build a new 5-billion-euro (8 billion dollar) nuclear power plant in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad by 2015.
'We are ready to offer foreign partners, primarily European ones, up to 49 per cent in the Kaliningrad Nuclear Power Plant,' Kiriyenko said. He added the power plant would be capable of producing 2300 MW, far exceeding what the enclave would need.
'If this strategic decision was really made by Russia, I think, that this is a serious checkmate for Lithuania. Such a little region certainly doesn't need two nuclear power plants,' Lithuanian political scientist Ceslovas Laurinavicius told BNS.
Lithuania and its Baltic neighbours, Latvia and Estonia, have been wrestling over the future of their energy supplies in anticipation of electrical shortage when the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania shuts down in 2009 as demanded by the European Union.
Mostly isolated from the EU energy networks, the Baltic countries would have to look to Russia as their main energy supplier amidst fears the Kremlin may use its economic foothold in the former Soviet republics for political gain.
The Baltics already have the electrical infrastructure with Russia in place, a remnant of the former Soviet Union system. Building new links is expensive and time-consuming.
Also years away is a replacement nuclear power plant for Ignalina, which the EU wants to shut down next year because it is deemed unsafe.
The three countries and Poland's push for new nuclear power station have been ridden with delays. Officials still say the nuclear power plant is likely to be completed by 2015, however energy experts say it's likely to be completed by 2020.
Lithuania's parliamentary elections in October are unlikely to force the government to make any decisions on this issue.
Of all the power supplies in the energy mix, nuclear has historically been the most criticized and controversial. But this most unpopular of power sources has recently resurfaced in political and economic dialogue.
Why is nuclear power back on the energy agenda?
The simple answer is climate change. Nuclear power stations are almost carbon neutral when operational. This has proved attractive to politicians who are keen to utilize a proven and powerful technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet the targets set down by the Kyoto Treaty. They also view the nuclear option as attractive as it shores up concerns about energy supply -- an increasingly vital debate in the 21st century.
How many nuclear power stations are currently operational worldwide?
The European Nuclear Society lists a total of 439 operational plants worldwide, with a further 35 currently under construction.
The top five users of nuclear power are the United States with 104 plants, France with 59, Japan has 55, Russia 31 and South Korea has 20. Before the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the nuclear building program was experiencing rapid growth. And whilst nuclear countries have kept existing plants in operation since, building programs have slowed -- in the case of the United States, it has stopped altogether.
But the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Analyst, Alan McDonald says that growth has kept pace with the expansion of world electricity supplies.
Currently, nuclear power contributes around a 5 percent slice of world energy -- and provides about 15 percent of the world's electricity. In 2007, the IAEA predicted that nuclear power would grow by between 25 and 93 percent by 2030.
But aren't they massively expensive to build? Shouldn't we be using this money to invest in renewable energy?
These are points which critics regularly voice. Nuclear power stations do cost billions of dollars to construct.
There is also a considerable environmental cost in mining uranium, building reactors and disposing of the radioactive waste -- an average nuclear power plant produces around 30 tons of waste every year.
All these activities produce considerable amounts of CO2. The economic cost of waste disposal alone is vast. According to Friends of the Earth, disposing of the existing waste from the UK's 19 reactors will in total cost a staggering $110 billion. And this is all before we start worrying about decommissioning costs, potential leaks and disasters that come with the territory.
That's all very well, but surely if they can help reduce CO2 emissions that's a good thing isn't it?
Yes, as stated earlier, nuclear power plants, day to day, produce extremely small quantities of CO2 compared with their fossil fuel cousins. A number of prominent environmentalists, including "The Revenge of Gaia" author James Lovelock, and Bruno Comby, author of the book "Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy", support the use of nuclear energy. But there are well-founded concerns about the ability of nuclear power to deal effectively with global warming over the next few years.
Because construction slowed after Chernobyl, many of the world's reactors are now old and approaching retirement -- all but one of the UK's active reactors will be closed down by 2023. And new plants take years to build. The UK Government, which has recently given the green light to a new nuclear building program, won't have the first new ones online before 2017.
Putting all other arguments aside, critics say that nuclear power is going to provide too little, too late. Jeremy Rifkin, president of the Foundation on Economic Trends and author of the Hydrogen Economy, told CNN: "To get any appreciable impact on climate change you have to get 20 percent from renewable energies. For nuclear power to achieve this figure would mean building 3000 nuclear plants -- that's three power plants every 30 days for the next 60 years."
The problems don't end there, Rifkin says. "We still don't know how to get rid of the nuclear waste. There is a problem of uranium deficits between 2025 and 2035 and there are also security threats."
But the most important factor, according to Rifkin, is that we don't have enough water. "In France -- which is the quintessential nuclear country -- 40 percent of all the water consumed every year goes to cooling the nuclear reactors. And when it comes back it's heated and it dehydrates the lakes and streams and furthers climate change drought. During the heat wave of 2003, there wasn't enough water to cool the reactors, so they had to slow them down," he said.
What's this I've heard about nuclear fusion? Perhaps it could save the day?
Traditional nuclear power plants rely on nuclear fission. That is to say splitting heavy atoms like uranium to produce gamma radiation and thus energy.
Another way of producing energy is nuclear fusion -- the joining of nuclear atoms using extremely high temperatures. Many scientists believe it will be a viable source of energy and could have a major positive impact on climate change. Not only does nuclear fusion generate more energy it also produces far less radioactive waste than traditional fission plants.
France is currently playing host to the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) at a site in Cadarache in southern France. The project, which is costing a whopping $12 billion, is a joint venture between the European Union, the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China and India.
But the first commercial plant is still a long way off. Should everything go smoothly, ITER predict fusion-powered electricity will be available by 2045.(Source: CNN Technology)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Although the reactor RBMK-1500, running now at Ignalina, is far not the same as Chernobyl RBMK-1000 when it comes to security. Reactors of graphite type have significantly improved their security and adjusted the construction since the mid-80s. Second block of Ignalina, launched in August 1987, has much more developed system of accident localization comparing to RBMK-1000. The current heat power of RBMK-1500 on Ignalina plant is 4200MWt, maximum electrical power 1360MWt. This plant supplies electricity to more than 70% of Lithuanian consumers, and rest is exported. Operation term for reactor of this type is 45 years, the last RBMK reactor in Russia is planned to be shut down in 2035.
Here are some characteristics of Ignalina RBMK reactor, taken from the website of the plant, including the description of security and monitoring systems used.
The Ignalina nuclear power plant contains RBMK-1500 water-cooled graphite-moderated channel-type power reactors.
The RBMK-1500 reactor is the largest power reactor in the world. The thermal power output of one unit is 4800 MW, the electrical power capacity is 1500 MW. The Ignalina nuclear power plant, like all the stations with RBMK reactors, has a direct cycle configuration - saturated steam formed in the reactor proper by passing the light water through the reactor core is fed to the turbine at a pressure of 6,5 MPa. The light water circulates over a closed circuit.
The first stage of the nuclear power project comprises two 750 MW turbines. Each generating unit is provided with a fuel handling system and unit control room. The turbine room, waste gas purification and water conditioning rooms are common for all the units. Ignalina NPP generates about 74% of electricity consumed in Lithuania.
TECHNICAL DATA ON RBMK-1500 REACTOR
light water (steam/water mixture)
Heat cycle configuration
Reactor power, MW
thermal power output
electric power capacity
Core dimensions, mm
Square lattice pitch, m
Thickness of graphite reflector, mm
Maximum graphite temperature, C°
Initial enrichment, for U235, %
Rate of burned fuel MW·d/kg
Number of channels per lattice, pc:
control rod channels
reflector cooling channels
Saturated steam pressure in separators, MPa
Feed water temperature, C°
Saturated steam flow rate, t/h
Coolant flow rate through reactor, m3/h
40000 - 48000
Coolant temperature, C°
at fuel channel inlet
at fuel channel outlet
Mean mass steam content at outlet
REACTOR CONTROL AND PROTECTION SYSTEM
The control and protection system is intended for reliable follow-up of the reactor performance and its safe operation. The system provides start-up, automatic maintenance of power at the set level, allows control of energy distribution along the radius and heightwise of the core, compensates for fuel burn-up, provides protection of the reactor under emergency conditions.
The control and protection system is built of fail-safe and redundant devices using integrated circuits to receive and process signals from various sensors, as well as to present the reactor status information to the operator. The reactor power release and its distribution are controlled by 211 carbide boron rods placed in the control channels and moved by individual servomotors mounted on the top of the control channels. The control rods are cooled with water from a special loop.
Out of the total numbers of rods, 40 ones are used for energy distribution control through the height of the active zone of the reactor. 24 rods perform the function of prompt emergency safeguard introduced into the active zone within 2.5 seconds under definite emergency situations. The remaining rods are unified and serve the function of reactivity scramming, automatic maintenance of the reactor power release at the set level, control of energy distribution over the core radius.
REACTOR PROCESS MONITORING SYSTEM
The reactor process monitoring system provides the operating personnel with information and inputs data into the control and protection system.
The reactor process monitoring system consists of the following functional elements:
- data logging system which provides follow-up, processing and presentation of the data;
- self-contained energy release control system which provides measurement, control and indication of energy release in the reactor channels'
- self-contained system monitoring tightness of fuel assembly cladding and providing measurement, control and indication of coolant activity rise:
- system monitoring integrity of the fuel and control channels and providing measurement of temperature and indication of relative humidity of gas pumped through the gas paths of the core;
- system monitoring coolant flow in the reactor channels;
- system monitoring temperature of the main and auxiliary equipment of the reactor.
The data logging system is configured in a three-level hierarchy using computers SM-1M and SM-2M and interface facilities.
The energy release monitoring and control system includes energy release detectors providing inertialess measurement of neutron flux density along the radius and height of the core, and the equipment to process information and signals on the control board.
The system monitoring tightness of the fuel assembly claddings includes scintillation gamma-spectrometer sensors, equipment, to ensure operation and movement of sensors in the intertube space of the steam lines, and facilities for processing and output of data.
The system monitoring the coolant flow through the reactor channels consists of tachometric transducer, and equipment affording frequency-to-analog signal conversion.
The system monitoring the temperature of the reactor equipment contains mainly heat-resistant cable heat-electric transducers.
The RBMK-1500 reactor is provided with special elements and systems ensuring radiation safety of the nuclear power plant and the environment both under normal operating conditions and in the emergency cases. The radiation safety and doze control systems include:
- highly reliable computerized control and protection system;
- reactor scram system;
- accident isolation system;
- fuel rod cladding tightness monitoring system;
- special facilities for gaseous effluent purification;
- liquid radio waste discharge, processing and hold-up system;
- computerized radiation doze control system;
- computerized system monitoring gaseous emissions and waste discharges;
- facilities for environmental radiation dose control.
The system monitoring tightens of fuel rod cladding specially designed for the RBMK-1500 reactors and applying modern techniques for detection of faulty fuel rods and computer-based data logging provides the core radiation control. The computerized radiation doze control system at the nuclear power plants with reactors of the RBMK-1500 type is provided with facilities monitoring radiation exposure of all components and systems of the station.
All this helps to maintain the radiation conditions at a safe level by implementing the purposeful actions (removal of leaky fuel assemblies, decontamination, replacement and repair of the equipment. To reduce emissions of noble radioactive gases. A two-stage system is used for cleaning gaseous and aerosol effluents discharged through a 150 m high stack into hold-up chamber. When noble gases pass through it, their activity is reduced due to natural decay.
The second stage-activity suppression facility purifies and reduces activity of noble radioactive gases by the method of dynamic sorption using the radiochromatographis char columns. To reduce radioactive aerosol emissions at the nuclear power plants with the RBMK-1500 reactors provision is made for purification facilities absorbing aerosols by special filters. The nuclear power plants with the RBMK-1500 reactors use a closed-circuit water supply system. Liquid radioactive effluents undergo special treatment. Radioactive discharge into air and water is monitored continuously using instruments of the computerized radiation dose control system.
The external radiation exposure surveillance service at the nuclear power plant with the RBMK-1500 is equipped with instruments to analyze concentration of radionuclides in the elements of the environment. The health physics laboratory is provided with facilities and sampling methods, dozimetric, radiometric, spectrometric instruments for objective assessment of the radiation conditions in the environment.
I suppose this will pour some light on the claims that Ignalina has to be shut down just for the sake of not having another Chernobyl. According to Russian experts, for example, Alexandr Potapow (interview to Regnum, 11.04.2006) who are most familiar with this type of reactors, their modern characteristics completely exclude the possibility of a new Chernobyl, because these reactors correspond to the world standards of security.
There might be also an interest from the side of Western reactor constructors to work on replacement of Ignalina power plant reactor, because such a project was already discussed by governments of Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Estonia. Although, as figures above and the discussions below show, this is far not a necessary step. If someone wants to earn on this – it’s another matter.
Some might suspect I am lobbying the Russians and their reactors. My own parents live 5 km from the plant, Braslaw region, Belarus. Basically on the other side of that lake in the photo.