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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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Low priority for new reactors

[I wonder if the way to license small reactors in the US is to operate them in other countries first, e.g., South Africa and China who are already working on small pebble bed plants. That would provide some good operating data for licensing.]


Small advanced reactors offer enormous potential to extend the reach of nuclear power - but safety regulators in some leading nuclear nations are too busy to approve the designs.

Most nuclear power in the world is generated by reactors with capacities between 600 and 1200 MWe, with some of the latest designs reaching the 1400-1600 MWe range. The class of 'small' nuclear reactors with capacities of up to 300 MWe is seen as very promising for deployment in remote regions and countries with smaller power demands.

Dale Klein of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) praised the design genre at the Global Nuclear Renaissance Summit in Alexandria, Virginia on 24 July. He said he believed that the units could be used to provide process heat to industrial plants or to produce hydrogen. They could be especially valuable when used to provide power to people who currently live without, he noted, citing Nobel Prize winner Robert Solow who demonstrated the strong link between the availability of energy and economic growth.

However, Klein continued to say that he was "not at all bothered by the fact that there is no current interest" in those reactors in the USA. Klein said: "We have our hands full" with applications to build new mainstream reactors, "and the last thing I want to do is encourage submittal of additional new designs."

There is some interest in that class of reactor within the USA, however. Toshiba's 4S design which can output either 10 MWe or 50MWe has long been linked to the Alaskan town of Galena, and an international consortium has been developing and promoting the 100-300 MWe Iris design for some years. Both of these are among the four designs concerning which NRC has been holding 'pre-application' discussions with vendors, while Galena has studied the concept of locating an off-grid reactor in its region.

The remaining two designs are the Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) and NuScale, led by a eponymous company spun off from the Oregon State University. NuScale recently approached the NRC regarding their 45 MWe design, which was formerly known as the Multi-Application Small Light-Water Reactor (MASLWR). Besides these, some 26 other designs exist at various stages of development, according to International Atomic Energy Agency documents.

The 165 MWe PBMR may be receiving more attention from the NRC as it is also under consideration for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project alongside General Atomic's GT-MHR and Areva's Antares designs. South Africa's National Nuclear Regulator is also beginning to consider the PBMR design for wide deployment in that country. A licensing strategy for NGNP is to be completed by NRC next month to address nuclear fuel performance and containment requirements among other things.

In Russia, 300 MWe VBER boiling water reactors are included in central plans as are floating nuclear power barges, each including two 45 MWe reactors. One of these is already under construction, based on proven reactors that have been used to power icebreakers for many years.

With moves in the nuclear industry gathering pace to share experience and reduce duplication of regulatory work, the time that leading regulators like the NRC and Russia's Gosatomnadzor are able to give to new designs could conceivably help advance this class of reactor in other countries. Preliminary regulatory work on their feasibility would go towards an elevated starting point for regulators in nations with less developed infrastructure.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ontario nuclear plant weld failure "unprecedented," documents show

When the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission was struggling last December with a shortage of medical isotopes sparked by the Chalk River reactor shutdown, it was also dealing with another Ontario nuclear plant where there had been an "unprecedented" weld failure on one fuel bundle.

In all, 10 defective welds were found on the fuel bundle, a collection of processed uranium rods resembling the barrel of a Gatling gun about a half-metre long.

The rods contain pellets of uranium dioxide - used to generate electricity by heating water into steam to drive turbines.

The defective bundle was discovered at the Bruce Power plant, north of Tiverton, Ont., in June 2007.

Minutes of the Nuclear Safety Commission's meeting, held Dec. 5 and 6, 2007 and obtained by Canwest News Service, show the commission asking if similar incidents had ever occurred. "CNSC staff responded that weld failures have occurred over the last 10 to 15 years, but that this event of 10 weld failures on one bundle is unprecedented," the document says.

The information was contained in a report labelled: "Update on containment isolation due to a defective fuel bundle at Bruce B Nuclear Generating Station."

Aurele Gervais, a spokesman for CNSC, said last week in an e-mail response to Canwest News Service that CNSC considers it a minor problem since only a few fuel bundles were found to have faulty welds.

"Based on measurements of radiation levels, many of these welds did not fail until after the bundle was removed from the reactor," he said. "It is not unusual for the temperature change involved in removal to cause poor welds to completely fail."

Gervais also clarified the timeline of the discovery. Although the December commission document says the faulty fuel bundle was discovered in September 2007, it actually occurred four months earlier.

"There were two (defective) fuel bundles removed from Bruce B in 2007. In the first bundle removed in June 2007, there were 10 weld failures observed after the fuel was removed," he said. "The second bundle, removed in October 2007, had one weld failure."

The minutes reveal the defective bundles, each weighing about 23 kilograms, were manufactured only for Bruce Power at Zircatec Precision Industries Inc., in Port Hope, Ont. As a result, "Bruce Power is monitoring all bundles produced since November 2005," the minutes say.

Gervais said 104 fuel bundles, all manufactured on the same day as the failed bundles, were removed from the Bruce B reactors.

"No further fuel failures have been found since October 2007," he said, adding examination of the bundles is continuing at Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s Chalk River Laboratories.

The minutes of the December 2007 meeting show Zircatec told the commission it had identified two possible causes: "water ingress into fuel elements, and a potential mix-up of pellet type at one particular unit process."

Gervais said the cause of the failures has not been positively identified but is assumed to be the same since the two bundles were manufactured on the same day using the same welding machine.

Bruce Power said there was no increased risk to the public or workers as a result of the problem bundles.

Gervais said Bruce Power reacted properly to the discovery of the failures and the bundles were quickly removed from the reactor.

"The fuel performance since the discovery of the initial failure has been good, indicating that there is not a wider problem," he said, noting that Bruce B is equipped with online detection systems that can immediately identify even pin hole leaks in a fuel bundle.

The minutes show Zircatec told the commission quality assurance was the responsibility of contract personnel employed by Bruce Power. Bruce Power said until it knew the cause of the defects it could not say if inspection should have caught them at the Zircatec plant.

Gervais added Bruce Power has since improved its management of fuel bundles and it has required Zircatec to strengthen quality control to prevent recurrences.

According to its website, Bruce Power provides about one-quarter of Ontario's electricity.

Located approximately 250 kilometres northwest of Toronto, it operates six Candu reactor units, with a combined 4,700 megawatts of electricity, and is in the process of restarting two others. Once restarted, those units will boost total output to more than 6,200 megawatts.

(Source: Canada.com)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Iran to Boost Cooperation with IAEA

Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency will enhance cooperation to the highest level in line with the Safeguards Agreement Iran's Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) Deputy Director Mohammad Saeedi said on Friday.

Saeedi rejected rumors that Iran has reduced cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog, saying Tehran's cooperation with the UN body is "continuing based on a mutual understanding".

"Iran's cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency will continue at the highest level in line with the Safeguards Agreement," Saeedi told MNA.

Associated Press on Thursday reported that IAEO head Gholam Reza Aqazadeh in a meeting with IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Thursday has signaled that Iran will no longer cooperate with UN experts probing the alleged weaponization studies.

Aqazadeh and ElBaradei started talks behind closed doors in Vienna on Thursday, where the two sides discussed Iran's nuclear program and the outcome of Tehran's latest talks with the Group 5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany) over its nuclear standoff with the West.

"Speculations that have been published over the past two days about the meeting between Mr. Aqazadeh and Mr. ElBaradei are baseless and are based on unilateral analyses," Saeedi asserted.

The IAEA in May presented its latest report on Iran's nuclear activities to the UN Security Council, saying the Islamic Republic should respond to allegations that it is conducting weaponization studies.

At a closed door meeting with diplomats in Vienna, IAEA chief for inspections Olli Heinonen claimed that the agency had gathered intelligence from around 10 countries, suggesting Iran was engaged in weaponization studies in the past.

"In Iran's view the issue of the alleged weaponization studies has been concluded and Iran has fulfilled its commitments in this regard," Saeedi stated.

He said the Thursday meeting between Iranian and IAEA diplomats took place upon ElBaradei's invitation.

"The meeting was aimed at consulting the agency's director general because he has a key role in nuclear negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group. The two sides agreed to continue talks alongside the ongoing political negotiations," Saeedi stated.

"Iran's relations with the IAEA are continuing based on a mutual understanding," he added.

He said the IAEA is currently conducting routine inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities under the safeguards agreement.

Asked whether ElBaradei has made any special suggestion, Saeedi said that the IAEA director general did not make any "special requests".

"What is important for the director general is that the negotiations between Iran and the 5+1 group start as soon as possible and continue until it yields the desired results."

Elsewhere, Saeedi told IRNA that the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly continue with high level cooperation with the UN agency.

Everything will go on within the framework of the Safeguards Agreement and on the basis of mutual agreement, he noted.

On visit to Vienna of head of IAEO, Reza Aqazadeh, he said the visit had been postponed previously.

The inspections are carried out on the basis of the Safeguards Agreement, he added.

Last week, Iran's top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili held talks in Geneva with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana over ending Iran's long-running nuclear standoff with the West.

US senior diplomat William Burns attended the talks which marked the first high-ranking meeting between the two countries in 30 years.

Also present were representatives from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Russia, China, the United States, Britain, France, and Germany last month offered Iran an updated package of incentives in return for a halt to Tehran's uranium enrichment activities.

The package, which is a follow-up of an original proposal in 2006, offers nuclear cooperation and wider trade in aircraft, energy, high technology, and agriculture.

The Islamic Republic has also presented its own package of proposals on addressing international challenges, including the threat of nuclear proliferation and has said it has found common ground between the two separate packages.

Iran has repeatedly ruled out suspending uranium enrichment as a precondition for talks with the major powers and has said it will hold talks "only on common points".

After the meeting, the some countries within the sextet said Iran had two weeks to reply to the offer to rein in its nuclear work in return for a halt to new steps towards more UN sanctions.

Washington and its Western allies accuse Iran of trying to develop nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian nuclear program, while they have never presented any corroborative document to substantiate their allegations. Iran denies the charges and insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

Tehran stresses that the country has always pursued a civilian path to provide power to the growing number of Iranian population, whose fossil fuel would eventually run dry.

Despite the rules enshrined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) entitling every member state, including Iran, to the right of uranium enrichment, Tehran is now under three rounds of UN Security Council sanctions for turning down West's illegitimate calls to give up its right of uranium enrichment.

Tehran has dismisses West's demands as politically tainted and illogical, stressing that sanctions and pressures merely consolidate Iranians' national resolve to continue the path.

Iran has also insisted that it would continue enriching uranium because it needs to provide fuel to a 300-megawatt light-water reactor it is building in the southwestern town of Darkhoveyn as well as its first nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Bushehr.

The Islamic Republic says that it considers its nuclear case closed as it has come clean of IAEA's questions and suspicions about its past nuclear activities.

Yet, the United States has remained at loggerheads with Iran over the independent and home-grown nature of Tehran's nuclear technology, which gives the Islamic Republic the potential to turn into a world power and a role model for other third-world countries. Washington has laid much pressure on Iran to make it give up the most sensitive and advanced part of the technology, which is uranium enrichment, a process used for producing nuclear fuel for power plants.

Washington's push for additional UN penalties contradicts the report by 16 US intelligence bodies that endorsed the civilian nature of Iran's programs. Following the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) and similar reports by the IAEA head - one in November and the other one in February - which praised Iran's truthfulness about key aspects of its past nuclear activities and announced settlement of outstanding issues with Tehran, any effort to impose further sanctions on Iran seems to be completely irrational.

The February report by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, praised Iran's cooperation in clearing up all of the past questions over its nuclear program, vindicating Iran's nuclear program and leaving no justification for any new UN sanctions.

Observers believe that the shift of policy by the White House to send William Burns - the third highest-ranking diplomat in the US - to the talks with Iran happened after Bush's attempt to rally international pressure against Iran lost steam due to the growing international vigilance.

US President George W. Bush finished a tour of the Middle East in winter to gain the consensus of his Arab allies to unite against Iran.

But hosting officials of the regional nations dismissed Bush's allegations, describing Tehran as a good friend of their countries.

Many world nations have called the UN Security Council pressure against Iran unjustified, especially in the wake of recent IAEA reports, stressing that Tehran's case should be normalized and returned to the UN nuclear watchdog due to the Islamic Republic's increased cooperation with the agency.

(Source: FARS News Agency)

Power plant kept in the dark about missing reactor part

Staff working for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. lost a metal part they removed from a reactor at the Bruce nuclear power station in April, and didn't tell anyone until an employee from the station found it in June when it triggered the alarm on his radiation monitor.

Bruce Power immediately notified the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission that one of its workers received a radiation dose, as is required under safety rules.

Critics say the incident highlights a serious loophole in Canada's nuclear regulations. AECL is a contractor at the site, refurbishing the aging Bruce 1 station, and isn't immediately required to divulge when it loses track of highly radioactive materials pulled from reactors.

The missing part - a piece of metal about 10 centimetres in size - came to light only because a worker inadvertently received a radiation dose, which is considered such a serious incident that it must be reported to regulators either "immediately" or by the end of the next business day.

Bruce Power was miffed by the incident, and has informed AECL that, from now on, it wants to be informed if radioactive material goes missing.

"We do expect that if material is unaccounted for, we want to be told about it," said Steve Cannon, a Bruce spokesman. "We talked to AECL about that. ... They understand that it's important."

The missing piece was emitting high amounts of radiation, and would have given any worker holding it the maximum yearly allowed dose of this form of energy - feared because it can cause cancer - in only a few minutes.

But workers in the plant didn't come near the dangerous part because they handled it using remote-control devices, and the employee who made the discovery got only a chest X-ray type dose by quickly backing away.

The regulatory report filed by Bruce on June 24 indicates that AECL "became aware on April 23" that the piece was missing, but "they failed to notify" the station's radiation protection department. "The increased hazard would have existed from that time," it said.

Greenpeace nuclear critic Shawn-Patrick Stensil said "it's amazing that you can lose a major radioactive component and not have an obligation to report it."

He contended that the incident, which he said "shows a culture of secrecy," will undermine AECL as it tries to sell new reactors in Ontario, where the government wants new atomic power plants built to meet future electricity needs.

Dale Coffin, a spokesman for Crown-owned AECL, played down the events, saying no one was harmed over the two-month period that the piece was missing because workers weren't in the area. Once it was found, the location, in the reactor vault, was safely cordoned off. "There is no requirement on our behalf to notify the CNSC because nobody was in there working," Mr. Coffin said.

The Bruce nuclear station is located on Lake Huron near Kincardine, Ont..

The lost piece was known as a calandria tube insert ring. The regulatory report on the incident said no other rings are missing. "It has also been reinforced with staff that should any items that could significantly change radiological hazards be unaccounted for radiation protection staff are to be immediately notified," it said.

(Source: Globeandmail.com)

Germany reports 122 'notifiable incidents' at nuclear power plants

German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety said Saturday that 122 incidents were subject to reporting at the country's nuclear power plants last year, according to the Munich-based Focus news magazine.

Based on a seven-stage international evaluation scale (INES), 120 incidents were reported on the lowest notifiable category.

They had either 'no or very little' security and technical significance.

In two cases, it was registered as the second lowest category, however it had no radiological relevance.

Last March, a short circuit of a malfunctioning pump at the north German Brokdorf nuclear plant caused a fire in the facility.

In February, a fire broke out at the deactivated Kruemmel nuclear power plant near Hamburg which had been the scene of repeated mishaps in the past.

According to the operator of the Kruemmel atomic reactor, the fire department of the nuclear plant had to be called in to extinguish the fire at a ventilation system.

No one was injured and no radioactive material was released.

The reactor building had to be temporarily evacuated.

Owned by the Swedish Vattenfall company, the Kruemmel nuclear plant was shut down after a fire broke out in a transformer on June 28, 2007.

The German government cited last year 'considerable security deficits' at some of the country's 17 nuclear reactors following a series of recent incidents and technical blunders.

Berlin had also asked the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to review all security and technical supervisory aspects of its nuclear program.

Germany's nuclear power plants reported 944 incidents between the period of early 2000 and late 2006, according to statistics released by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).

Meanwhile, the number of registered breakdowns in German nuclear power plants since 1993 stand at 1,945.

The latest figures point to the high number of incidents in especially older nuclear power plants.

One-third of German atomic reactors are reportedly shut down because of either technical problems, repair work or system check-ups.

German nuclear power plants supplies 26 percent of the energy consumed in the nation.

Faced with a gradual phase-out by 2021, Germany's nuclear reactors are still working at full strength, having raised their electricity production in 2006.

German atomic power plants generated 167.4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2006, up from 163 billion kilowatt hours in 2005.

(Source: Mathaba)

Iran claims 5,000 active uranium plants

Iran has more than 5,000 active centrifuges for enriching uranium, its president was quoted as saying today, suggesting expansion of the nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments may irritate major powers which have offered the Islamic Republic economic and other incentives to persuade it to suspend enrichment activity that can have both civilian and military uses.

Western officials said after a meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator in Geneva on July 19 it had two weeks to reply to an offer of a halt to new steps towards more UN sanctions if Iran froze the expansion of its nuclear programme.

Iran has so far ruled out a freeze to start preliminary talks or suspension of enrichment to start formal talks on the incentives package proposed by the six world powers - the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

"Today, we have more than 5,000 active centrifuges," state television quoted Mr Ahmadinejad as saying.

The UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in May that Tehran had 3,500 centrifuges working at its Natanz facility in central Iran.

The UN Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions in a stand-off that goes back to the revelation in 2002 by an exiled opposition group of the existence of a uranium enrichment facility and heavy water plant in Iran.

Iran, the world's fourth-largest crude producer, says its nuclear activities are aimed solely at generating electricity.

It says it is ready for negotiations but will not accept any pre-conditions or threats in a row that has helped send oil prices sharply higher, despite falls in the last two weeks.

"Iran does not negotiate with anyone over its obvious nuclear right," Mr Ahmadinejad said in the city of Mashhad.

State radio quoted him as saying the West had retreated in the dispute and had now "accepted that Iran would continue uranium enrichment with its current 6,000 centrifuges." In a policy shift, a U.S. diplomat attended the Geneva talks and Ahmadinejad said this represented a "success" for Iran.

Iran launched 3,000 centrifuges, a basis for industrial scale enrichment, at Natanz in central Iran in 2007. But they are the 1970s-vintage P1 design, prone to breakdown.

It said in April it had started installing 6,000 new centrifuges at Natanz and testing a more advanced centrifuge.

Iran says it aims eventually to have 50,000 centrifuges to produce fuel for a planned network of power plants. Enriched uranium can also provide material for arms if refined further.

If running smoothly for long periods, 3,000 would be enough to make material for a warhead in a year, Western experts say.

The United States has warned Iran that it will face more sanctions if it fails to meet the two-week deadline. It has not ruled out military action if diplomacy were to fail.

(Source: Irishtimes.com)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Poland to build nuclear power plant to avoid electricity deficit

Poland may run out of electricity in 12 years, and after 2020 the demand for electricity will exceed its production by 30 percent, the Energy Market Agency predicted in a report on Thursday.

The report suggested that around 2030 Poland will either have to import 30 percent of required electricity or build a nuclear plant by that time, according to Polish news agency PAP.

"The structure of the Policy energy industry should undergo radical changes in coming years. It is estimated that hard coal resources will satisfy the home demand for 40 years and those of lignite for 30 years," authors of the report stressed.

The nuclear plant is the best solution for Poland, according to the report.

Expert of the International Atomic Energy Agency Andrzej Strupczewski believes that if Poland fails to build a nuclear power plant by 2020 it will have a lasting electricity deficit.

(Source: Insurancenews.net)

Sabanci in Talks for Turkish Nuclear Power Plant Tender

Turkish diversified group Sabanci Holding has announced that it is in negotiations with GE, Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Iberdrola regarding a tender to construct and operate Turkey's first nuclear power plant, according to Reuters.

The news source reported that the Turkish government has set September 24, 2008, as the tender deadline for bids to build the nuclear power plant with capacity of around 4,000MW at Akkuyu on the country's Mediterranean coast.

Turkey is planning to build at least three nuclear power plants in a bid to reduce its dependence on energy imports.

Other prospective bidders include Atomic Energy of Canada, Itochu, Vinci Construction Grands Projets, Suez-Tractebel, Atomstroyexport and Korean Electric Power, according to the Turkish energy ministry.

(Source: iStockAnalyst)

South Carolina to test wells near nuclear plants

South Carolina health officials to test water in wells outside 3 nuclear power plants

The state's health agency will be testing water from wells near three nuclear reactor sites around South Carolina.

The Department of Health and Environmental Control says its staffers will visit residents Thursday and take samples from wells near Duke Energy Corp.'s nuclear power plants in York and Oconee counties and near the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County, which is co-owned by Scana Corp.-owned South Carolina Electric and Gas and state-owned utility Santee Cooper.

The agency says it is looking for radioactive contaminants in the water and is retesting wells that were sampled earlier this year.

Last year, testing at the Catawba plant in York County showed elevated levels of tritium in one of 30 monitoring wells on the site.

(Source: CNNMoney)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bharat Heavy to Triple Nuclear Investments After Pact

Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., India's biggest power-equipment maker, plans to triple spending in nuclear components once overseas companies are allowed to supply technology and fuel under an agreement led by the U.S.

``If the nuclear deal comes through we are quite confident there will be a lot of orders in this area and we don't want to be left out,'' Chairman and Managing Director K. Ravi Kumar said in an interview at his office in New Delhi, where the company is based. ``We will invest depending on the volume.''

Bharat Heavy rose the most in five months in Mumbai on optimism the government's victory in a confidence vote last night will lead to the lifting of a ban on overseas supplies of nuclear technology. Areva SA, the world's biggest maker of reactors, and General Electric Co. may win orders when the accord between India and the U.S. is sealed, Nuclear Power Corp. of India has said.

``The orders could be divided and companies such as Areva, Siemens AG and ABB Ltd. will be involved,'' said Taina Erajuuri at Glitnir Asset Management in Helsinki, which manages $158 million in Indian assets, including Bharat Heavy. ``The government may prefer some local companies as well, like Bharat Heavy and Larsen & Toubro Ltd.''

Shares of state-controlled Bharat Heavy surged 11 percent to 1,773.35 rupees at close of trading in Mumbai. Larsen, India's biggest engineering company, rose 7.8 percent to 2,772.9 rupees.

Investment Plans

Bharat Heavy plans to spend 15 billion rupees ($351 million) in two years building plants to supply components for reactors of 1,600 megawatts capacity, Kumar said yesterday. Without the accord, Bharat Heavy will invest 5 billion rupees to build steam turbine generators and other components for 700 megawatt plants designed in India, he said.

The accord with the U.S. can generate more than $10 billion of orders for Indian companies, including Bharat Heavy and Larsen & Toubro Ltd., by 2012 if the planned projects are awarded, UBS AG analysts Suhas Harinarayanan and Pankaj Sharma wrote in a note to clients on July 10.

``We estimate Bharat Heavy's business potential at about 25- 30 percent of the contract size for the turbine generator sets and electrical equipment,'' the analysts said. They have a ``neutral'' rating on Bharat Heavy stock.

Joint Venture

Bharat Heavy will set up a 50-50 venture with state-run Nuclear Power Corp. that will supply components for nuclear plants with a capacity to generate 700 megawatts, 1,000 megawatts and 1,600 megawatts of power, Kumar said. The company will also seek overseas partners to provide technology for these plants, he said, declining to name the companies.

The company aims to expand its nuclear power-plant business because of wider profit margins, Kumar said. The gross profit margins for such plants would be as much as 30 percent, compared with about 22 percent for thermal power plants, Kumar said.

Bharat Heavy has provided 80 percent of the equipment used by Nuclear Power Corp.'s installed capacity of 4,120 megawatts. In April, Bharat Heavy agreed to set up a venture to make nuclear plants that will seek technology to make steam turbine generators of 700 megawatts or more.

Areva, GE

Areva, General Electric, Toshiba Corp.'s Westinghouse Electric Co. and Russia's atomic energy agency Rosatom are among four manufacturers of reactors that would share $14 billion of orders from India when the U.S. agreement is signed, Nuclear Power Corp. said in August.

NTPC Ltd., the nation's biggest utility, rose 5.5 rupees, or 3 percent, to 190.45 rupees. Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. surged 10.6 percent to 1,016.7 rupees. Areva T&D India Ltd., a unit of Areva, gained 79.05 rupees, or 4.9 percent, to 1,686.45 rupees.

The agreement will allow India to generate as much as 40,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2020, sufficient to light up four cities the size of New York, from 4,120 megawatts now. Electricity demand in Asia's third-biggest economy during peak hours widened to 17 percent in the last fisal year from 14 percent a year ago.

Singh was forced to seek a vote of confidence in the nation's lower house of parliament after his former communist allies withdrew support over the accord with the U.S. The Left parties have said the nuclear agreement will weaken India's ability to pursue an independent foreign policy.

Fuel Imports

The accord will allow India to import technology and fuel without joining the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India last week presented a nuclear inspections agreement to the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency, which needs to approve the plan before the government in New Delhi can push forward with expansion of power production.

The IAEA's board will vote Aug. 1 in an extraordinary meeting on whether to endorse the plan, which will give inspectors access to 14 civilian atomic reactors. The inspections agreement is a key condition for a U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation treaty.

Nuclear suppliers have been barred from providing India with atomic technologies since it tested a nuclear weapon in 1974 without being listed as an atomic weapons state in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

(Source: Bloomberg)

China's quake-hit province to build nuclear power station

China's earthquake-devastated Sichuan province plans to build its first nuclear power station in five years on a site with sound "geological structure", state media said.
Findings of a feasibility study of the USD 3.7 billion project with an installed capacity of four million to six million KWh would soon be submitted to the country's top economic planner - the National Development and Reform Commission, an official said.

"Construction of the station will begin once we have received approval, and will take five years to complete," Zhao Hua, head of the Nuclear Power Institute of China, was quoted as saying by the state-run China Daily.

The project would come up at Sanba village which a team of experts visited last year and reported that its geological structure was sound, he said.

The site is to the east of Chengdu, the provincial capital of Sichuan whose western areas were ravaged by the 8-magnitude temblor on May 12 that has killed nearly 70,000 people and left several thousands more missing in the deadliest natural disaster in 30 years.

"There were no signs of any subsidence or landslips," Zhao said.

Sichuan's 68 per cent of energy needs are met by hydropower but it still experiences shortages in the dry season, Li Chongxi, Deputy Secretary of Sichuan's Provincial Committee of the Communist Party, said.

Sichuan is home to the Nuclear Power Institute of China, the southwest Electric Power Design Institute, Dongfang Electric and Yibin Nuclear fuel plant.

The province has "all the right conditions" for development of nuclear power, he added.

(Source: Press Trust of India)

Ignalina nuclear power plant asks permission to increase price on electricity

At present, Ignalina nuclear power plant buys the nuclear fuel for about 80% higher price than over the previous year. Network distribution companies are also preparing plans for raising prices. Ignalina nuclear power plant intends to present the request to the State Control Commission for Prices and Energy until October 2008 on the increase of the sale price for the produced electricity.

"We will ask to increase prices because of the price growth for nuclear fuel – this is our main argument, and of course, inflation. Currently I cannot say what exactly will be the increase of price we will ask for but there are no doubts that we will ask," Director of Ignalina nuclear power plant Viktoras Sevaldinas spoke for the daily Respublika about new predicted prices.

According to the head of the power plant, the price for nuclear fuel comprises over 30% of the total primary cost of electricity production.

Moreover, according to Sevaldinas, the power plant is currently in the situation of waiting. If the work of Abisala does not bring results by the end of this year, we may forget about the further work of the nuclear power plant as it will be almost impossible to order the nuclear fuel. Ignalina nuclear power plant is surrounded with uncertainty and it is waiting. Only several months remain to order the nuclear fuel for 2010 – next year it will be especially problematic. "Of course, the sooner you order the nuclear fuel, the better. But it is difficult to say, which month will be last for making the order," the head of the power plant said.

Network distribution companies have not raised prices for electricity this year and intend to consider the question of new tariffs approximately in September.

(Source: The Baltic Course)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Belarus takes a second look at nuclear energy

  • Chernobyl's effect on Belarus has left the country allergic to all things nuclear.
  • But the Belarusian government wants to pursue nuclear power in hopes of ending its energy woes and lessening its energy dependence on Russia.
  • To do so, authoritarian President Aleksandr Lukashenko is aggressively promoting nuclear power in an attempt to make Belarusians less nuclear leery.

By Anya Loukianova

When Unit Four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in the middle of the night on April 26, 1986, the resulting radioactive fallout contaminated the territory of three countries--Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. Belarus in particular bore a heavy burden, as cesium and iodine particles spread across 23 percent of the country. The devastation forced the resettlement of thousands of Belarusian families and left a legacy of persistent medical and psychological problems, leading to a national allergy to all things nuclear.

Ales Adamovich, the late Belarusian writer and anti-nuclear activist, expressed the national sentiment in 1989 when he said Belarusians "don't want any kind of nuclear power--even safe nuclear power."

His admonition has held for almost two decades. But now, Belarus' authoritarian president Aleksandr Lukashenko is seeking to build a 2,000-megawatt nuclear power plant to reduce the country's reliance on imported energy sources, particularly Russian natural gas. His government has indicated that the plant, expected to cost $4 billion, will consist of two generation III water-cooled, water-moderated reactors.

Currently, three potential sites are under review: Krasnopolyanskaya, in the Mogilyov province near Russia--although the site is contaminated by cesium; Kukshinovskaya, also in Mogilyov; and Ostrovetskaya, near Lithuania in Grodno. One of these will be selected by the end of the year, and preliminary work is set to begin in early 2009. If all goes according to plan, Minsk expects to commission the first unit by 2016 and the second unit shortly thereafter. Ambitious plans by some in the country's scientific establishment include the construction of several more nuclear reactors and the nuclear generation of 85 percent of the country's electricity by 2050.

Lukashenko's nuclear PR campaign

Belarus is home to a sophisticated nuclear research program. But since the country's independence from the Soviet Union, its research capacity hasn't translated into practical nuclear-energy applications. Public sentiment after Chernobyl halted construction of a cogeneration plant based on Soviet light water reactor (VVER) technology near Minsk and the planning of another plant near the northeastern city of Vitebsk. Yet, faced with heat and electricity shortages, Belarusian authorities have flirted with the idea of a nuclear comeback.

In the early 1990s, Belarus considered procuring VVER and CANDU reactors from Canada and initiated discussions with Russia, Canada, France, and the United States. But the idea went nowhere due to a lack of funds. In 1997, when Lukashenko launched a campaign to resettle Belarusians back to their abandoned homes in Chernobyl-affected areas, government officials again floated the idea of nuclear plant construction, claiming that there wasn't an alternative to the cost-effectiveness of nuclear energy. After a public outcry, the president was forced to concede that purchasing energy from Belarus' neighbors was a more affordable option for the cash-strapped country and promised to conduct a public referendum before ever considering indigenous nuclear energy again. A year later, Lukashenko's government committed PDF [in Russian] to focus on nuclear research instead of planning nuclear power plant construction on Belarusian territory for the next decade--thus, agreeing to a moratorium until 2008.

But that commitment didn't last long. In 2003, Lukashenko declared that nuclear energy would ensure the country's energy independence and safeguard its national security. Although he still avoided any serious talk of construction plans, he proclaimed (perhaps wishfully) that the Belarusian people had overcome their post-Chernobyl "psychological barrier." In November 2007, he got more serious, authorizing preparatory work for nuclear construction following a timetable laid out by the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences. Despite earlier promises to hold a referendum, in January, Lukashenko announced [in Russian] that the country would move forward with construction of a nuclear power plant, without public input.

Aside from energy independence, Lukashenko's argument for nuclear power includes a myriad of benefits for Belarus--ranging from promises of more than 2,000 jobs to profits from selling nuclear know-how. His public-relations campaign has centered on the idea that the reactors would be safer than those of Belarus' heavily nuclear-reliant neighbors--Ukraine, Lithuania, and Russia.

To that end, Minsk has touted the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) support in selecting a site, strengthening the country's nuclear regulatory system, assisting in the drafting of nuclear energy legislation, and training specialists for future nuclear-related jobs. In addition, recent Belarusian legislation governing nuclear energy, hastily passed by the House of Representatives on June 24, included widely publicized provisions for transparency and assurances of "the priority of life and health protection of the present and future generations over all other aspects of the activity relating to the use of nuclear energy."

Keeping Russia at arm's length

Minsk's quest for a nuclear plant mimics the energy "diversification" trends in other European countries, many of which are anxious about overreliance on Russia for supplies of natural gas. The thinking DOC [see p. 2] in Belarus, which can only fill 15 percent of its energy needs indigenously, is that a "lack of domestic power and fuel resources and [a] critically high share of imported natural gas [present] threats to energy security." Unlike Eastern European countries in a similar energy predicament, Lukashenko's fierce nationalism prevents Belarus from engaging with the European Union or United States. Further, Minsk is effectively "married" to Moscow, having consented in 2000 to military and economic integration with Russia. Thus, on the face of it, Minsk's energy "diversification" options appear to be limited.

Russia's Atomstroyexport is the seemingly logical choice for a strategic nuclear partner. But Lukashenko has said that he anticipates bids on the project (perhaps naively or disingenuously) from France's AREVA and Japan's Toshiba-Westinghouse--even though for Toshiba, cooperation would require U.S. consent due to the headquartering of its Westinghouse arm in the United States. Minsk has also argued that Atomstroyexport won't necessarily be the favorite in the selection process. Part of the problem is that a contract with Russia would include a spent fuel take-back arrangement, further tethering Minsk to Moscow. Instead, Belarusian officials have noted that even if a Russian design is selected, Minsk may go elsewhere for enriched uranium fuel. Belarus hasn't joined the Russian International Uranium Enrichment Center at Angarsk, Siberia, a joint venture between Kazakhstan and Russia, and Minsk has reportedly explored expanding its back-end cooperation with Sweden, currently limited to management of spent fuel from its nuclear research reactors.

But until a funding source is located for Lukashenko's nuclear plant, the project can't move forward. Aside from Russia's promise to provide credit, Lithuania, Iran, and Kazakhstan have also reportedly expressed preliminary interest in financing the plant or working on joint projects. In addition, Belarusian authorities have expressed interest in cooperating with China and India on peaceful nuclear energy. But Belarus seems committed to going forward alone; for example, it hasn't expanded its cooperation with neighboring Ukraine or joined with Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland in their planned Baltic nuclear power plant. Lukashenko has said his country would instead be interested in talking to international institutions and private individuals to pay for the project. But it's unclear what he has in mind since the ownership of any nuclear plant in Belarus would be limited to the state.

Public opinion on the peaceful atom

Although Lukashenko insists that the Belarusian public has overcome its nuclear fear, commonly known in the Chernobyl-affected region as "radiophobia," he has moved forward without his much touted and promised public referendum. While he campaigns with the statement "if we ask the people, they will support us," his own officials have admitted that the topic is still sensitive due to "the Chernobyl syndrome." Two decades after the accident, the majority of the Belarusian people still don't want nuclear power--28.3 percent approved of the nuclear plant project and 46.7 percent disapproved, according to a 2005 country-wide government poll DOC.

Yet, aside from being the subject of polls, the Belarusian public has little direct input in the country's nuclear fate. In fact, the country doesn't have an effectively organized anti-nuclear movement that could translate negative public opinion into action against the nuclear project. Although the annual "Chernobyl Way" march still attracts thousands of participants, its numbers have decreased since 1996 when 50,000 marched in Minsk, and the message has become more "anti-Lukashenko" than anti-nuclear. On April 26, only 2,000 people gathered to mark Chernobyl's twenty-second anniversary and call for additional financial support for the disaster's victims.

To date, only small grassroots efforts are evidence of the resistance to the country's so-called "nuclear destiny." In January 2008, one protestant pastor in the eastern Mogilyov province, one of the regions most affected by Chernobyl, made news for seeking signatures on a petition against the nuclear project. As of June, other petition drives close to the proposed nuclear site in Kukshinovskaya have collected little more than 2,500 signatures.

Nor has the organized political opposition been able to resolve its position among itself. While representatives of the Green Party and other pro-environment movements in Belarus have declared themselves staunchly anti-nuclear, the organized political opposition hasn't been able to settle on one position. Members of the mainstream Belarusian People's Front have come out pro-nuclear so long as Belarusian reactors are of Western design rather than Russian. Representatives of the marginal United Civil Party have argued against the nuclear plant proclaiming, "Cheap electricity generated by nuclear plants [is] a myth." Meanwhile, associates of former opposition presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich claim that a more cost-effective plan would be to build a reactor at Ukraine's plant in Rivne, and Milinkevich himself has said he will lead a campaign against the nuclear project this fall. But for the time being, the mixed messages within the opposition make its arguments easy to marginalize.

That said, debate over the issue from within the country's scientific community shows more promise of raising the public's awareness. Although the nuclear project was initiated with the participation of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences, some scientists argue that more data regarding the cost-effectiveness of nuclear versus renewable energy and nuclear waste is still necessary. Others claim that while nuclear energy may be good for the country, it could cause Belarus to become even more dependent on Moscow. To gain traction for their ideas, the scientists have organized a Nuclear Free Belarus movement along with members of the political opposition and have called for a discussion akin to the dialogue that set the stage for the 1998 nuclear construction moratorium.

In response, Lukashenko has blasted both the political and scientific opposition for seeking to score political points at the expense of the economic well-being of the Belarusian people. Government officials have also sought to reassure the Belarusian public that the country won't be so focused by the nuclear project that it will no longer invest in other energy resources such as biofuels.

Oddly, although Lukashenko could move forward with his nuclear agenda without public consent, his government has carefully monitored public opinion on the issue. Data from the 2005 poll on the issue [see previously cited analysis DOC] has given the government clues about how to tailor its message in order to preempt and co-opt potential public opposition. Therefore, it's no surprise that the government has repeatedly stressed IAEA support for the project--polling indicates that the Belarusian public trusts the information provided by the agency. Similarly, as polls have indicated that the public trusts scientists, Lukashenko has sought to actively (and bitterly) rebut anti-nuclear comments from Belarusian scientists opposed to his nuclear plans.

Lukashenko will continue to promote his nuclear vision for the country until the Belarusian people translate their anti-nuclear feelings into an organized, widespread opposition. A unified message from the country's scientific community and the political opposition would go a long way to bolstering an otherwise weak public debate on whether Belarus should undertake this costly, multi-year nuclear project.

(Source: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

Malaysia looking at building its first nuclear plant: report

Malaysian utility Tenaga may construct the country's first nuclear power plant at a cost of 3.1 billion dollars but is braced for objections from the public, a report said on Tuesday.

"We are looking at about 10 billion ringgit (3.1 billion dollars) for a 1,000 MW plant," Mohamad Zam Zam Jaafar, head of Tenaga's nuclear energy taskforce, was quoted as saying by the Edge financial daily newspaper.

"The government has asked Tenaga to look at nuclear power," he added.

The Edge said Malaysia will reveal a national energy blueprint next month.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said in June that Malaysia may consider nuclear power to meet its long-term energy needs amid surging global oil prices.

Mohamad said the taskforce was discussing the plant's location and how to source uranium, adding Tenaga anticipated the public could object to the plant.

"A lot has to be done to change the public mindset when it comes to nuclear," he said.

Mohamad also said Tenaga would likely enter into a joint venture with an "experienced party to build its very first plant."

Currently, half of Malaysia's power plants run on gas. Other sources include coal and hydropower.

Last year, the government said it would build Southeast Asia's first nuclear monitoring laboratory to allow scientists to check the safety of atomic energy programmes in the region.

(Source: AFP)

German Chancellor urges longer running times for nuclear power plants

German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to urge longer running times for German nuclear power plants, reports the BBC. Nuclear power provides one-third of electricity, and changing this within 12 years is something she considers wrong, Merkel said during the ARD summer interview on the Report From Berlin programme.

Pioneering thinker Erhard Eppler has shown that there are discussions about this issue also in the SPD [Social Democratic Party of Germany], Merkel added.

The chancellor admitted that uranium as nuclear fuel is available only to a limited extent. That is why we must continue to invest in renewable energies and save energy, she stressed.

With a view to the unsolved issue of final nuclear storage sites, Merkel tossed the ball to the SPD: "It is not so much due to us that we do not solve the issue of the final storage sites," the chancellor said. "We are working on it, but the social democrats keep thinking of ever new things."

(Source: Power Engineering)

Britain pushes on with nuclear power revival plan

Britain wants to be the most attractive place in the world to build nuclear power plants and has published draft rules for finding places in England and Wales to do it.
All but one of the UK's existing nuclear power plants is due to close by 2023 and the government wants potential investors to propose sites that would be suitable for new build to start before 2025 to fill the looming power generation gap.
"Nuclear power is an essential part of our future energy mix. Alongside a ten fold increase in renewables and investment in clean coal technology, it will help wean us off our dependency on oil and protect us against the politicisation of energy supplies," Business Secretary John Hutton said.
"So, we must do everything we can to remove any remaining barriers and open up the UK as the most attractive place in the world to invest in nuclear power," he said in a statement on Tuesday.
The government proposes that the Strategic Siting Assessments should consider among other factors the risks posed by earth tremors, tsunamis, storm surges, coastal erosion and sea level rise over at least the next 100 years.
The final selection criteria should be ready by early 2009. The government will then invite proposals for sites to be included in a National Policy Statement on nuclear power to be published in 2010.
If planning approval is given, building work could begin in 2013-2014 with power generation starting in 2017-2020.
Nuclear supplies about 19 percent of Britain's electricity, with two plants in Scotland, one in Wales and six in England.
London's nuclear new build plans do not apply to Scotland because Scottish Ministers decide upon power generation projects larger than 50 megawatts and nuclear plants typically have the capacity to generate more than 1,000 MW.

(Source: Guardian)

UK: Nuclear power plants could be built in protected areas

A new generation of nuclear power stations could be built in flood-risk or "environmentally protected" areas, under proposed rules set out by the Government today.

Green safeguards are listed among "discretionary" criteria ministers intend to use to decide where to put the controversial reactors - not those that would instantly rule out a site. Prime Minister Gordon Brown is believed to want up to eight new reactors as part of a global "renaissance of nuclear power" to help end reliance on fossil fuels.

Under the Strategic Siting Assessment system proposed by Business Secretary John Hutton, nominations for "credible" sites backed by nuclear firms will be invited early next year. They would then be judged against a list of criteria before being put forward for planning permission - possibly using a controversial planned fast-track approach for major projects.

Sites at risk of earthquake or near heavily populated areas would be instantly ruled out according to the planned rules - due to be finalised in the coming months after consultation. But concerns of flood risk, coastal conditions and "environmentally-protected" status would be considered "less absolute" and could be overridden.

They would be used to "to form a balanced view of the site's suitability" for inclusion on a list of "strategically suitable" venues due to be published in 2010. The Government hopes building work could start as early as 2013, with the first electricity being produced four years later.

Mr Hutton said: "Nuclear power is an essential part of our future energy mix. And, alongside a ten-fold increase in renewables and investment in clean coal technology, it will help wean us off our dependency on oil and protect us against the politicisation of energy supplies. "So, we must do everything we can to remove any remaining barriers and open up the UK as the most attractive place in the world to invest in nuclear power. The strategic siting assessment is the next step towards a Nuclear National Policy Statement. This will help to speed up planning applications while making clear that safety and engagement with local communities are key."

Details of a planned environmental assessment of the nuclear new-build project were also published today, which showed it would examine "the likely significant effects on the environment including biodiversity, population and human health, fauna and flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage and landscape."

There will also be a Habitats Regulations Assessment to monitor the potential effects on areas protected as part of the European Union's Natura 2000 project. The Department for Business dismissed reports earlier this month that it had already drawn up a list of sites alongside existing reactors - including Sizewell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Dungeness, Hinkley Point, and Bradwell - as the most suitable places.

(Source: The Independent)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Exotic materials using neptunium, plutonium provide insight into superconductivity

[So often the discussion of plutonium revolves around its nuclear properties we forget it has chemical properties of interest to research as well...]


Physicists at Rutgers and Columbia universities have gained new insight into the origins of superconductivity – a property of metals where electrical resistance vanishes – by studying exotic chemical compounds that contain neptunium and plutonium.
While superconductivity holds promise for massive energy savings in power transmission, and for novel uses such as levitating trains, today it occurs only at extremely cold temperatures. As a result, its use is now limited to specialized medical and scientific instruments. Over the past two decades, scientists have made metals that turn superconducting at progressively higher temperatures, but even those have to be cooled below the temperature of liquid nitrogen.
Still, physicists believe room temperature superconductivity may be possible. The work reported by the Rutgers and Columbia physicists is a step in that direction – shedding new light on the connection between magnetism and superconductivity.
“The exotic compounds we’re studying will not become practical superconducting materials; however, by studying them we can learn the trends that govern a material’s transition to superconductivity” said Piers Coleman, physics professor at Rutgers.
Coleman, along with Rutgers graduate student Rebecca Flint and Columbia postdoctoral research scientist Maxim Dzero, are publishing their findings in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature Physics. Their paper has been posted to the journal’s advance publication web site at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nphys1024.
The compounds they’ve studied are made out of elements in the actinide series, including neptunium and plutonium. In these materials, active electrons are in “f-orbitals.” In contrast, materials that make up today’s highest-temperature superconductors, including copper or iron, have active electrons in “d-orbitals.” The f-electron materials generally have lower superconducting temperatures than their d-electron counterparts; but they are easier to make and may be easier to understand.
“Electrons must bind together into pairs called ‘Cooper pairs’ for materials to become superconducting,” Flint said. “In earlier studies, a small amount of magnetism was lethal to this pairing; however, in these materials, magnetism is not bad. It actually appears to play a central role in driving the pairing effect.”
These new superconductors are part of a class of materials referred to as “heavy electron superconductors,” metals that are filled with tiny, atomic-sized magnets known as “spins.” When electrons pass through this forest of magnets, they slow down and move sluggishly as if they were extremely heavy.
“In most heavy electron superconductors, the electrons have to get heavy before they go superconducting,” said Coleman. “But in the highest temperature versions, the electrons get heavy and become superconducting at the same time.”
To understand this effect, the scientists have proposed a new type of electron pairing. “We’ve found that the electrons form much stronger pairs if they team up with one of the tiny atomic magnets – a combination that might be called a quantum-mechanical ‘menage a trios,’” said Coleman. “The spin in the middle brings the pair of electrons close together, and a stronger pair means superconductivity at higher temperatures.”-Rutgers University

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Indian manufacturer looks outwards

[It appears that more countries are increasing their forging capabilities to counter the supply bottleneck]


Larsen & Toubro (L&T) seems ready to increase its capacity for domestic and international nuclear forging contracts. Its future entry into the nuclear component market would further reduce what had previously been considered a bottleneck in the supply chain.

Nuclear components for Russian-designreactors at an OMZ facility (Image: OMZ)L&T was reported yesterday to be in talks with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) over a possible $463 million venture in nuclear forgings. The Bloomberg report, which was based on a telephone interview with Sudhinder Thakur of NPCIL, said discussions on a venture had been going on during recent months.

An L&T spokesman would not substantiate the report to World Nuclear News, but noted that "positive signs are on the horizon" while the "nuclear deal is on the anvil." This refers to international action surrounding the US-India nuclear cooperation deal, which should ultimately result in India enjoying trade with a range of other nations for the first time since 1970. India's safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency will be put before the agency's board on 1 August, and the change in trade arrangements is expected to follow before the end of the year.

With India isolated in terms of trade, the country's engineers had to design and produce nuclear power plant components alone. In that environment L&T produced components for pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Rajastan, Madras, Kalpakkam, Narora, Kakrapar, Kaiga and Tarpur: a total of 17 reactors. It has also secured contracts for 80% of the components for the forthcoming fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam. The company has a 90,000 square metre workshop and can produce control rod drive mechanisms, steam generators, valves and reactor pressure vessels. It can also undertake engineering, procurement and construction contracts on new nuclear power reactors.

In June last year, L&T received authorization to use the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' (ASME's) N-stamp to fabricate nuclear-grade pressure vessels and core support structures. It is allowed to use the stamp, which is an internationally recognised quality standard, on products assembled at its Powai campus in Mumbai.

Supply chain impact?

The possible future entry of L&T into an international market for nuclear components would further relieve what was previously described as a bottleneck in the nuclear supply chain. While Japan Steel Works is still seen as the leading large forging manufacturer, several other firms also compete.

OMZ of Russia and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan are both doubling capacity to produce large components, while Sheffield Forgemasters of the UK is considering installing a nuclear-capable forge. In France, capabilities will expand at the Cruesot Forge, which is owned by an Areva subsidiary. Doosan Heavy Industries of Korea can produce the parts and is supplying reactor pressure vessels to China for the two AP1000s beginning construction, although Chinese planners are sure to develop domestic capacity for their needs at least. The inevitable entry of an alternative India-based supplier will add further choice for reactor buyers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

N-power plant remains offline / Pressure mounting to resume operations at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site

A year has passed since the Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake, but the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is not likely to resume operations soon.

On July 16 last year, a quake measuring 7 on the Japanese seismic scale of 7 was registered at the compound of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. The quake's epicenter was close to the plant.

Four of seven reactors there were in operation or were being brought online. However, they all automatically stopped operating after the powerful jolts.

During the quake, an outdoor electric transformer caught fire and radioactive material from a spent fuel storage pool leaked into the sea. However, main plant equipment, including reactors, sustained no major damage.

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspected the plant twice and confirmed that it had not suffered serious damage.

Diligent attention to safety during the plant's design is believed to have been instrumental in preventing a disaster. However, it takes time to confirm whether unseen damage and warping in machines and buildings have occurred.

Earthquake reinforcement to withstand tremors with a ground acceleration of up to 1,000 gals--including additional support structures for pipes--began at the plant last month. During last year's earthquake, acceleration of up to 680 gals was detected.

At present, it is unclear when the plant will resume operations and TEPCO has yet to announce even a target resumption date.

The seven nuclear power reactors, which together are capable of generating the most kilowatts (8.21 million) of electricity anywhere the world, will remain shut down this summer.

The operational suspension also has dealt a blow to the local economy.

When he was asked at a June press conference whether there was still room for implementing fiscal reconstruction measures, such as integrating city-owned facilities, Kashiwazaki Mayor Hiroshi Aida said,"We did everything we could [to cut expenses]."

The city's financial situation is in tatters. As of fiscal 2006, revenues related to the nuclear plant accounted for about 20 percent of the city's 46 billion yen total general account revenue.

Because of the power plant's operational suspension, however, the city will not receive its annual 500 million yen from the prefectural government as allocation from revenues from the prefectural nuclear fuel tax in fiscal 2008. In addition, the city will not be able to receive tax revenues from TEPCO. TEPCO will not be required to pay corporate taxes because it has plunged into the red.

Starting in fiscal 2009, Kashiwazaki's general account will have a negative balance. Even if the nuclear plant resumes operations in fiscal 2010, the city likely will be saddled with a debt of about 2.5 billion yen, as the city has to begin redeeming bonds it issued for reconstruction after the disaster.

Aida said the city is in a state of fiscal emergency.

Kariwamura's financial situation is no different. About 65 percent of Kariwamura's fiscal 2006 4 billion yen general account revenues were related to the nuclear power plant.

Kariwamura Mayor Hiroo Shinada said he hoped TEPCO would return the plant's operations to their original state as soon as possible.

The nuclear plant has a significant economic impact on the area. According to TEPCO, about half of the plant's 7,600 employees were locally hired.

Construction projects awarded to local companies and purchases from local firms totaled 3.86 billion yen in fiscal 2005.

A 51-year-old man who works for a company that does jobs for the nuclear power plant said a prolonged suspension would reduce his company's work.

Many local people are calling for an early resumption of plant operations, saying without it there will be fewer people on the streets and the city will suffer.

When can TEPCO resume plant operations?

Approval from the Kashiwazaki mayor, Kariwamura mayor and prefectural governor is needed for TEPCO to reopen the plant. All three seats are up for election between October and December.

In the past year, it was discovered that TEPCO did not thoroughly survey faults near the nuclear plant and its earthquake-resistance measures were insufficient. This led some voters to express concern about the plant's safety.

While the mayors and governor are worried about fiscal problems, they remain cautious about restarting the plant.

Between March and May, TEPCO resumed operations at two electrical power generation facilities at its Yokosuka thermal power plant. If the reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa do not go back online, other thermal power plants would compensate for the lost electrical generating capacity, but would emit an extra 30 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to expert estimates.

Chikyu o Kangaeru Kai, an association of scholars and business leaders that considers environmental problems, in May proposed to the prime minister that operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant be resumed as soon as possible.

The association, chaired by former Education, Science and Technology Minister Akito Arima, said the nuclear power plant could reduce CO2 emissions.

Few people pay attention to where their electricity is produced. With the greater metropolitan area facing an electricity shortage this summer, it is time for us to think about these issues.

TEPCO must demonstrate to the public that it has implemented surefire safety measures if it wants to resume the plant's operations. However, TEPCO and the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry have to make better efforts to help the public understand the need for nuclear power plants.

(Source: Yomiuri Shimbun)

Bulgaria Kozloduy asks IAEA to check nuclear fuel

Bulgaria's sole nuclear power plant, Kozloduy, will invite the U.N. nuclear watchdog IAEA to check the quality of its fuel in a bid to disprove accusations it uses dangerous recycled material, officials said on Thursday.

Kozloduy's executive director Ivan Genov said the plant was the target of a campaign aiming at damaging the future of nuclear energy in Bulgaria.

"For weeks, Kozloduy has been discredited by a campaign, which started with rumours about a radiation cloud," Genov told a news conference.

Last month, a persistent rumour in Internet chat rooms and blogs about an alleged major radiation incident at Kozloduy scared Bulgarians. The government has denied the rumour and launched a criminal investigation to find those who spread it.

Earlier this week, Georgi Kotev, a nuclear scientist and long-term Kozloduy employee, accused the plant in his web blog and several media interviews of using second-hand fuel.

"These claims are absurd," Genov said.

Bulgaria imports all of its uranium fuel for Kozloduy from Russia, the plant says.

The 2,000 megawatt Kozloduy, which accounts for over 35 percent of Bulgaria's power production, will ask the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to check the fuel it uses to prove its image is clean.

Bulgaria is among the European Union member countries that believe atomic energy is part of the solution to climate change, as proponents say it emits almost no greenhouse gases.

The country permanently shut four older Soviet reactors at Kozloduy in the past several years as a condition for joining the EU. As a result, it lost its position of a major power exporter in the Balkans.

Kozloduy, on the Danube, now has two remaining reactors.

Sofia plans a second 2,000 MW nuclear power plant on the Danube in Belene to restore its electricity exporting position and meet growing domestic demand.

Opinion polls show most Bulgarians support nuclear energy. Several green groups and parties oppose the Belene plan.

(Source: Reuters)

France orders tests on all nuclear power stations after leak

Fears over France's nuclear reactors have been raised as the government orders ground water tests at its 58 power stations, after a uranium leak at one polluted local water supplies.

The safety lapse at a plant in Provence run by French nuclear giant Areva has raised questions over President Nicolas Sarkozy's drive to roll out reactors around the world – in Britain but also in states with less stringent safety norms.

"I don't want people to feel that we are hiding anything from them," said ecology minister Jean-Louis Borloo as he announced the blanket tests.

Residents in Bollène in the Vaucluse, southern France – a top tourist area – have been told not to drink water or eat fish from nearby rivers, after 74kg of liquid uranium was spilled on July 7 at the Tricastin nuclear plant.

Swimming and water sports were also banned along with irrigating crops with the contaminated water, which reached two rivers.

French authorities last week ordered the closure of a nuclear treatment facility at the plant, which also has a nuclear reactor, after liquid was spilled during its transfer from one container to another.

The site is run by Socatri, a subsidiary of Areva, whose president, Anne Lauvergeon, is due to visit.

Areva aims to dominate the design and construction of at least eight new power stations which are to be fast-tracked in England over the next decade.

According to Gordon Brown, they are essential to reduce Britain's dependency on fossil fuels, but environmentalists have already raised safety fears, saying the Areva reactor design is 'untried and untested'.

Ben Ayliffe, head of nuclear campaigns at Greenpeace, said: "Such unpredictable and nasty side effects are the risks you take with nuclear.

"We believe the leak in France resulted from human error.

"Liquid uranium was accidentally poured onto the ground. We're not talking about dishwater here. This is a dangerous radioactive material.

"The risk of accidents like this in the UK should be enough to make reasonable people baulk at the thought of having more nuclear power stations here."

Although ranked as only a level-one incident on a scale from zero to seven, Mr Borloo said he wanted government nuclear safety inspectors to look into the environmental conditions at all sites, in particular the state of the surrounding ground water.

"I'm told that everything is under control, but I want to be sure," Mr Borloo told Le Parisien newspaper.

French environmental group Sortir du nucléaire welcomed the move, but said that tests should be carried out by an independent body not linked to the industry or the French state – its main shareholder.

France has the world's second largest network of nuclear reactors after the United States and they generate more than 80 per cent of its electricity.

While the spill at Tricastin did not affect the reactor, Mr Borloo stressed that "there is no room for negligence" in nuclear energy.

France's IRSN nuclear safety institute said it had located four areas with abnormally high levels of uranium in the ground water and that this could not have been caused by the Tricastin leak alone.

This has led to suggestions that military nuclear waste buried nearby in an underground storage site from 1964 to 1976 may be to blame.

In 1998, a study by French nuclear body Cogema estimated that up to 900kg of uranium had leaked into underground water supplies from the site, and that another 1,700 kilogrammes were still buried there.

However, IRSN said the pollution "incident" had "nothing to do with this mound of waste" – located roughly a mile further south.

It has been declared all vegetables and crops irrigated just after the leak fit for consumption, but residents around Bollène, where the power station is located, said they feared for their health.

"We've been drinking water from this water table for 20 years," said Sylvie Eymard, who cultivates herbs and vegetables on a farm within sight of Tricastin's cooling towers. Most of her plants have died due to the water restrictions.

"We've done chemical tests before, but never thought of a radiological risk.

"I can't help thinking about the possible consequences of this pollution on my children", she told Le Parisien.

The municipality is supplying tanks of drinking water and local stores have sold out on mineral water, while some residents have stocked up on iodine pills – usually taken as protection against airborne radioactive particles.

"The local population is worried and no longer believes official figures", said André-Yves Becq, the deputy mayor. He said Socatri inspectors "suspiciously" told one family that dangerously high levels of contamination in its water supply were due to a "dirty measurement instrument".

France is fiercely proud of its nuclear prowess thanks to mainly state-owned energy giants Areva, Electricité de France and newly merged GDF Suez. The country has already embarked on the construction of a new generation of higher-yield EPR reactors.

In April, Mr Sarkozy hailed French nuclear technology as "one of the safest in the world' while on a trip to Tunisia – the latest in his nuclear sales tour of mainly Muslim states including Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, but also China.

"Without energy, you will not know growth. Without growth, you will not have development. You will have poverty, under-development and unemployment, and thus terrorism. Everything is linked", he claimed.

(Source: Telegraph.co.uk)

US to move to renewable sources in 10 years? Al Gore's interview to CBS

(whole interview can be viewed here)
Concern climate change, take care of the national security, decrease the cost of energy for the economy - these are the 3 rabbits Al Gore plans to kill by persuading the US citizens to shift to renewable power sources (wind and solar) within 10 years time.
Perfect goals, but still there are questions I did not hear the exact answers to the following questions:

1) Who is going to finance the shift of one of the worlds largest economies to sources of power that still need scientific development and a lot of construction to be efficient and cover all the gaps that coal and oil previously did?
Scientific development takes time and money, so does the construction. And all that costs a lot of money, comparable to a budget of some middle-size European country. A lot of PR will be needed to find enough financial resources in the US and outside for such a program.

2) 10 years???
Considering the number of coal and oil powered plants, it is obvious that 10 years time does not sound realistic. I'd believe more a step-by-step program of replacing some of the dirtiest energy sources by clean ones, but not complete transition to one type of energy. Hydropower and nuclear offer environment-friendly solutions that also might be used and must be used in conditions of world energy challenge. A transition to cleaner energy sources is a program of development for at least 20-30 years.

3) Al Gore says the main drawbacks of nuclear power as a climate change problem solution are the high costs of construction, and environmental risks connected to storage of waste. Again, he sees nuclear power plants as vulnerable points for terrorist attacks.
Would be interesting to compare the costs of changing power of the entire New York City (let's say) by wind and solar power and a cost of construction of a nuclear power plant that would produce the same amount of energy. Can anybody show the figures, something like a technical calculation?
Nuclear waste storage. The technology development so far goes into direction of complete recycling of nuclear waste. Otherwise, permanent storages deep under the surface are safe enough even in case of terrorist attack.
And yes, terrorists. If one looks at the root of the problem of terrorism, it is found first and most in the foreign policy of the US, so to say they create it themselves. If the US did not interfere into the internal affairs of other countries so much, they would have much less enemies. Of course, there are fears that Iran might get nuclear weapons - but isn't it possible that Iran is just like the US is trying to gain energy independence? That is a complex question, but with an existing division of countries to "friends" and "enemies" there would always be "risks" and tensions, while ones are "more equal in their rights" then others. That might be something for the developers of the US energy program to think about as well.

4) What about the consumer side?
Solution to energy problems might also be in the consumer field. Go over to more energy saving technologies, like replace the old bulbs with energy-saving ones, and you will see the result. The US has a huge potential of decreasing their consumption of electricity. And I am surprised that is not part of the PR campaign.

In general, this program sounds interesting but not very realistic. Sounds like talking wind :))

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lithuania set for clash with Brussels over nuclear power plant

Lithuania has stepped up pressure on the European Commission by deciding to hold a referendum on whether to extend the lifespan of the Ignalina nuclear power plant, despite having agreed - as a condition of entry into the EU - to shut the station down at the end of 2009.

On Monday (14 July), 88 out of 141 Lithuanian parliamentarians supported a call for a non-binding plebiscite on the issue, while five MPs were against and eleven abstained. The referendum is due on 12 October, the same day as the general parliamentary elections.

"Our motive is the difficult situation facing Lithuania," Vytautas Bogusis, who tabled the referendum idea, told AFP. He added that the situation after Ignalina is closed was likely to be "catastrophic" as electricity prices would "rise fourfold".

The chair of the parliament economic committee, Birute Vesaite, told Reuters that the country "should not remain silent and wait until the others take [its] electricity market share".

Lithuania seeks to postpone the closure of Ignalina's remaining parts until 2012, when a new nuclear power plant is supposed to be up and running at the same site.

However, any move to violate existing commitments is certain to bring Lithuania on a collision course with the European Commission, the guardian of European law.

Under its accession treaty, the Baltic state committed itself to closing the Chernobyl-like nuclear power plant. The first unit was closed in December 2004, while the remaining unit - covering 70 percent of the country's electricity demands – may only operate for another 17 months.

According to European Commission energy spokesperson Ferran Tarradellas Espuny, a delay would require re-negotiation of the accession treaty and approval by all EU governments. "Of course, it is Lithuania's right to have a referendum, but it is not going to change anything," he told Reuters.

Lithuania is not the only EU country putting the EU's executive body under pressure over prior commitments linked to nuclear energy.

Slovakia agreed to shut down two reactors in Jaslovske Bohunice - one in 2006, the second by the end of 2008. Prime Minister Robert Fico wrote a letter to commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in June, calling for more flexibility due to growing dependency on external electricity sources.

Nuclear power covers some 40 percent of Slovakia's electricity demand. The commission has, however, refused to enter debate on the issue.

(Source: EUObserver)

Nuke plant still at 25 percent power after mishap

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is sending experts to begin an investigation Monday into circumstances surrounding a leak in one of the cooling towers at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and to verify that it is safe to continue operations.

NRC Executive Director for Operations Bill Borchardt is also traveling to the plant to consult with the inspectors and plant officials Monday and report back to Chairman Dale Klein and other members of the commission, according to a statement released Sunday.

Vermont Yankee nuclear plant remained at only 25 percent power Sunday in the wake of discovery of problems in cooling towers and continued low flow of the Connecticut River, which it draws water from.

On Friday, the plant's operators reported a leak in a pipe in one of its cooling towers, and said later that investigation revealed problems in the other tower -- broken or degraded pipe brackets on five so-called "saddles" that support the main pipe that brings river water to the top of the tower.

The nuclear plant has two cooling towers, each consisting of eleven cells. Only one cell in the west unit is considered to be safety-related.

"While Friday's leak was not in the one cooling cell considered safety-related, we know there is significant public interest in this event. We need to independently verify that the safety-related cell is structurally sound," Samuel J. Collins, an NRC regional administrator, said in the statement.

"It appears that that broken or degraded bracket was not due to decay but appears to be related to stresses in the design of the new interface between the bracket and the previously replaced column in that area," said spokesman Rob Williams.

Both towers remained out of service Sunday. As a result, power -- which had been reduced to 47 percent after Friday night's incident -- had to be reduced further Saturday because of low river flow, so that Vermont Yankee stayed within the limits of its river water temperature discharge permit, Williams said.

Last August, a cooling tower cell collapsed in a shower of wood, water and debris.

Plant owner Entergy informed the NRC that Friday's leak "occurred when the supply header, which carries 90,000 gallons per minute of water, sagged after the underlying horizontal support beam broke away from the vertical column to which it was bolted," the NRC said in the statement.

"Minor cracks were also found to supporting members on two of the west cooling tower cells, including one that sustained a pipe break and partial collapse last August," according to the statement.

Williams said Sunday it was unknown how long it would be before repairs were accomplished and the plant restored to full power.

(Source: The Boston Globe)

Greenpeace Founder Comes Full Circle on Nuclear Power - Now on ElectricTV.net

Dr. Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, reconsiders the global benefits of nuclear energy in the latest edition of ElectricTV.net. A joint production of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), ElectricTV.net is the only Web TV program dedicated to reporting the latest developments in the electrical construction and information systems industries.
Says Dr. Moore, now chairman and chief scientist of the Vancouver-based consultancy Green Spirit Strategies, the protest against nuclear energy that began in the 1970s was "so focused on nuclear weapons and nuclear war that we lumped all things nuclear in the same category as being evil. We made the mistake of not recognizing that nuclear energy was a beneficial use, [that] it was a clean energy source that does not produce greenhouse gas and air pollution like the fossil fuels do."
Also on the program are a feature on the construction of the first uranium enrichment facility to be built on U.S. soil in thirty years; a spotlight on Helmets to Hardhats, a unique program helping returning veterans find successful careers in the building and construction trades; and a piece exploring the truth about compact fluorescent lamps.

(Source: Market Watch)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Nuke plant makers cast eye abroad: With global warming in the spotlight, greenhouse gas emitters turn to atomic power

The voice of Atsutoshi Nishida, president of Toshiba Corp., rose an octave as he talked about the electronic giant's quest to build atomic power plants.

"Our plan calls for us to either sign or start constructing 33 nuclear power plants by 2015," Nishida said in May. "The figures are conservative, however."

Atomic plant construction has become a key strategy at Toshiba, which purchased U.S. reactor builder Westinghouse Electric Co. in 2006 for $5.4 billion.

"In 2030, Toshiba and Westinghouse will aim for ¥1 trillion in sales," Nishida said.

As global warming gains the political spotlight worldwide, including at the Group of Eight summit in Hokkaido, major greenhouse gas emitters are looking at nuclear power as an effective way to cut pollution.

If the global community wants to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, 32 nuclear reactors will have to be built every year and nations will need to make greater use of wind and solar power, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

As of January, there were 435 nuclear reactors operating worldwide and 96 either under construction or in the planning stage, according to the nonprofit organization Japan Atomic Industrial Forum.

There are three worldwide alliances of nuclear plant builders all scrambling to boost their share in an ever-expanding market, and Japanese companies have joined all three.

"In the worldwide nuclear plant market, Japanese companies are not well-known," said Tomoko Murakami, head of the atomic energy group at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan.

That is why they are joining with the big nuclear plant builders to expand overseas, as in the case of Toshiba and Westinghouse, she said.

Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric Co. merged their reactor divisions last year and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. agreed in 2006 to cooperate with France's Areva SA, the world's largest nuclear plant maker, to jointly develop reactors.

"GE creates the plant design and Hitachi supplies plant parts," Murakami said. "It seems to be working."

The Toshiba-Westinghouse alliance holds about a third of the global atomic plant market, while the Hitachi-GE group has about 25 percent and Mitsubishi Heavy-Areva roughly 15 percent, she said.

Although Mitsubishi Heavy is partnered with Areva, they remain rivals in many fields. This leaves the Japanese company, known for its pressurized water reactor technology, to be basically on its own when it expands overseas.

Mitsubishi Heavy, which lost out to Toshiba in a bidding war for Westinghouse, plans to invest about ¥50 billion in the reactor business between business 2008 and 2010.

"We aim to sign two contracts a year. This will increase (our) global share to up to 25 percent" by 2030, Akira Sawa, general manager of Mitsubishi Heavy's nuclear energy system division, said in May.

The Hitachi-GE group, known for its boiling water reactors, hopes to get orders for a third of future U.S. atomic plants.

The fortunes of Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy are closely linked to Japan's 55 reactors and the nation's reliance on atomic power in line with an energy security policy initiated after the oil crises of the 1970s.

This linkage has helped nurture their reactor technology and allowed them to gain a foothold in the global market, observers say.

However, Tomohiko Kita, who heads JAIF's information and communications division, said the trend would have been unpredictable a decade ago.

"For a long time, nuclear power was believed to be in a downtrend," Kita said, adding that the business went through a "winter" in the 1990s when there were few new projects.

"But due to rising oil prices, the need for energy security and the need to curb carbon dioxide emissions, nuclear power started to gain more attention starting around 2003," he said.

No nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. for the past three decades, due in no small part to the fear generated by the partial core meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania on March 28, 1979.

But U.S. policy took a significant turn when George W. Bush became president and announced in 2001 that the federal government would push nuclear power as a key energy source.

In April, Southern Co., the biggest U.S. power producer, contracted for two reactors in Georgia with Westinghouse and other companies looking to build the first nuclear plant in the U.S. in 30 years.

The market is not limited to the U.S. and other rich countries in Europe.

Atomic power demand is rising rapidly in emerging nations, including China and India. According to JAIF, 16 plants are planned or under construction in China and 14 in India.

But whether the Japanese companies can increase their presence in the U.S. and Europe as well as emerging nations remains to be seen.

Government-level diplomacy is usually effective to promote reactor sales if they are national projects.

When French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited China last November, he reportedly signed an 8 billion euro Areva nuclear plant deal with his Beijing counterpart, Hu Jintao.

Murakami of the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan acknowledges that politics, brand name and marketing power are keys to increasing global share.

But in the end it all boils down to whether the companies can continue to develop high-quality technology in building plants, she said.

"Japanese companies have supplied key components for the U.S., Europe, China and other nations," she said, and developing high-quality technology will be the key to survival.

(Source: Energy Central)