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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.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pink in Tourmalines from Natural Irradiation

[Another example of radiation being a part of the natural environment.]


-- JCK-Jewelers Circular Keystone, 1/28/2009 1:46:00 PM
The Gemological Institute of America Laboratory has determined that the pink zones in blue to blue-green, copper-bearing tourmaline gemstones were produced by fluids containing naturally occurring radioactive material.

The GIA lab members, responding to concerns in the trade over samples of these particular tourmalines with surface-reaching growth tubes surrounded by intense pink "sleeves," investigated several of these tourmalines in the past year.

In all instances where pink coloration was observed, the growth features surrounded by the pink color reached the surface of the stones, according to the GIA lab team led by chief gemologist John I. Koivula. In cases where growth tubes did not reach the surface, no pink color was seen. When these pink zones were viewed down their length, the color was observed to bleed out into the surrounding tourmaline host, becoming weaker until it gradually faded away. If post-growth matter in the tube created a blockage, coloration occurred only to that point. In addition, any cracks extending from or between the growth tubes also showed a pink color.

Radiation is known to produce pink-to-red color in tourmaline. The coloration of surface-reaching features in tourmaline by invading radioactive fluids has not been reported in the literature; however, there have been reports of both smoky quartz and green diamonds with coloration that was caused by exposure to naturally occurring radioactive fluids. This mechanism explains all the observations of pink and red in these tourmalines.

"Since radiation is the cause of pink color in tourmaline, the presence of these features should not be attributed to any type of intentional diffusion, but rather to the influx of radioactive fluids in their post-growth environment," Koivula said.

All the copper-bearing tourmaline samples with this feature observed thus far have come from Mozambique. This suggests that this type of inclusion feature may be characteristic of that locality.

The presence of the pink zones in these otherwise blue to blue-green gems also provides proof that the host tourmalines were not heat treated, since the temperature needed to treat copper-bearing Mozambique material exceeds the published stable temperature for pink-to-red color in tourmaline, the lab team said.

Other members of the lab team involved in the investigation are: Kevin Nagle, Andy Shen and Philip Owens.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Nuclear Energy Boosting Power Throughout World; Legislation Would Allow Hawaii to Consider This Option

[It appears that consideration of nuclear is expanding. Hawaii has traditionally been reluctant to study the use of nuclear energy.]


By Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD, 1/27/2009 11:46:15 AM
Author's note: Hawaii's State Legislature House Bill 1 proposes to task the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism with creating a framework for permitting nuclear power plant installations in Hawaii. By State Constitution, nuclear power plants are prohibited in Hawaii --although there are at least a couple of nuclear powered U.S. Navy vessels in Pearl Harbor at any time. A two thirds vote by the Legislature can amend the Constitution. The following text is my testimony in favor of this bill.

The scarcity and cost of fossil fuels makes the development of expensive nuclear energy a cost-effective if not essential proposition.

France and Japan are leading examples of reliance on nuclear power with minimal ill effects.

At the first oil crisis in 1973, only 1% of Japan’s electricity was produced by nuclear energy.

By the second oil crisis of 1979, 4% was from nuclear; in 2000 the ratio was up to 12% and the 2010 goal is 15%. As of 2005, Japan had 52 operating nuclear plants, 3 in construction and 8 in planning and design.

France is even more ahead: Its 59 nuclear plants produce 88% of the country’s electric power. There are about 440 nuclear power plants on the globe. France, Japan and the U.S. combined produce over 55% of the nuclear power energy on the globe.

The advantage of nuclear power is that it produces large amounts of dependable and easily controlled electric power like hydroelectric, coal-fired or oil-fired power plants. Solar, wind and wave energy have huge limitations in terms of capacity and reliability; practically all deployments are still experimental and heavily subsidized.

No question that solar, wind and wave energy will be partners for the long-term energy sustainability in Hawaii, but they are unlikely to be the providers of the majority of the needed power.

They too have their environmental downsides such as requirements of very large areas for deployment, major susceptibility to hurricanes and/or tsunamis, large construction costs and all the noxious shortcomings of building, maintaining and disposing of expansive and expensive arrays of batteries which have a rather short life span.

One advantage of compact power plants is that since they are largely self sufficient (i.e., they do not need a tanker to anchor by regularly to refuel the plant) they can be placed off shore in what ocean engineers call “large floating structures.” Thus, a nuclear power plant can be 20 miles away into the ocean (still easily accessible) and provide electricity to Oahu with a cable. There are undersea power plant transmission lines in excess of 40 miles.

However, this bill is not about building nuclear power plants. This bill simply provides a way for us to take the blindfolds off and begin to address the real issues of Hawaii sustainability, twenty or more years into the future. This bill will allow us to begin assessing the potential and work towards answers to questions, issues and challenges of nuclear energy in Hawaii.

Panos D. Prevedouros, PhD is a Professor of Civil Engineering with the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Atomic Show on Gas Crisis in Europe

Dear readers and contributors,

Here comes the link to recent Atomic show where Rod Adams and I had the pleasure to discuss some of the issues of nuclear situation in Europe in relation to recent gas crisis. Enjoy!

Fun flash game - operate an NPP

A game that simulates an NPP operation. Not as complex as the real one - but still gives a good idea what NPP operation is about. Demo can be downloaded here. Have fun!

Russian company to build Belarusian nuclear power plant

The Russian company Atomstroyeksport will act as the contractor to build a Belarusian nuclear power plant, the press secretary of Belarusian Energy Ministry, Lyudmila Zyankovich, has told Belapan.

The BBC said that talks were held between Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Syamashka and the chief executive of the [Russian] state corporation Rosatom, Sergey Kiriyenko, in Minsk.

"As a result of the talks, the sides agreed to sign an intergovernmental accord on the peaceful use of nuclear energy between the countries in the first quarter of 2009. Having signed the document, the countries will be able to start direct talks on the contract for the turnkey construction of the first Belarusian nuclear power plant," Zyankovich noted.

During the talks, Syamashka said, "The Belarusian authorities are ready to implement the project for the nuclear plant construction, with Atomstroyeksport as the general contractor". "By agreement of the parties, it was stated in the protocol that the intergovernmental accord on the construction of nuclear plant should be worked out, agreed upon and signed in the current year," Zyankovich stressed.

(Source: Power Engineering)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bulgaria raises the Kozloduy nuclear power plant question again

Calls for the restart of units 3 and 4 of Bulgaria’s only nuclear power plant, in Kozloduy on the Danube, have received fresh impetus from both President Georgi Purvanov and Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

Ever since their closure at midnight on December 31 2006, as a precondition for Bulgaria’s European Union membership, the issue has been exploited by a number of politicians who have cited Bulgaria’s energy security and the country’s lost role as “the energy centre of the Balkans”.

Numerous internal investigations have all confirmed that the two units are entirely safe and that Bulgaria suffered an injustice by being effectively forced to agree on their closure to qualify for EU membership.

Such a stand boosted the popularity of the ultra-nationalist Ataka party, exploiting people’s dreams of resurrecting Bulgaria as a key energy provider and exporter of electricity to other countries in the region.

The executive, on the other hand, has always been more restrained on the issue, mindful that such a plan would need the support of all 27 member states. And, as Economy and Energy Minister Petar Dimitrov put it on January 16, “Austria and Greece are firmly against the relaunch of the units”.

Purvanov has carefully avoided talk of a referendum on the issue, aware that the result would be a foregone conclusion. Instead he has always proposed joint checks on the safety of the Soviet-designed units, to be performed by Bulgarian and EU experts.

Change of heart
The start of the year saw Purvanov abandoning the idea for joint checks and embracing a referendum on the relaunch of the plant’s units. Delivering a lecture on Bulgaria’s national security on January 16, he did not exclude the possibility of a referendum.

Purvanov found justification for this in the energy crisis following Russia’s decision to cut off supplies of natural gas to Europe and Bulgaria via Ukraine on January 6. Although nuclear energy has little relation to natural gas, the issue was used to reignite debate on Kozloduy.

The crisis had an extremely negative impact on Bulgaria’s large-scale plants. Dimitrov estimated losses to be about 169 million leva for the fortnight the crisis lasted.

From a legal point of view the crisis did bring fresh hopes for a re-examination of Kozloduy’s closed units, an impossible prospect before the crisis. Citing Article 35 from Bulgaria’s treaty of accession to the EU, Purvanov saw the opportunity for a new round of talks on the issue, something the European commission has always opposed on the basis that Bulgaria should adhere to its promises. But Purvanov interpreted the treaty very differently, noting that Article 35 stipulated that, should Bulgaria face an exceptionally difficult economic scenario in the first three years after EU accession, it was entitled to take protective measures.

The country joined the EU on January 1 2007, so Bulgaria could, theoretically, invoke this article until the end of this year. According to Purvanov, such measures could include the relaunch of the two units. Slovakia, by contrast, who also said it wanted to relaunch two units at its Bohunice nuclear power plant following the energy crisis, could not do so because its accession treaty does not contain such a clause.

Soon after Purvanov made his idea public, Kozloduy’s management said that it could restart one of the units within a month, but it only had sufficient nuclear fuel to last five months. For the second unit to become functional additional fuel would have to be bought from Russia.

Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev, although initially cautious, decided to back Purvanov and said that the Government had asked the plant’s management to start preparing for the relaunch. Dimitrov even said that Bulgaria would ask the EC for permission to do so. So far the EC has not come out with an official position but Ferran Tarradellas, spokesperson for the European Commissionaire for Energy Andris Piebalgs has discounted the possibility. Instead he has floated a possible compensation package for Bulgaria after the crisis ends.

On January 21, Ramadan Atalai, chairperson of the energy committee in the Bulgarian Parliament, hinted at a broader strategy. “We can take advantage of the situation and not concentrate our efforts solely on the relaunch of the two Kozloduy units, but maybe seek other forms of compensation instead,” he told Bulgarian National Television.

Political support
Other than Stanishev’s Bulgarian Socialist Party and Ataka, Purvanov has failed to secure support from other parties in Parliament. The right-wing opposition, the party responsible for accepting the closure of the two units when it was in power, has deliberately avoided the issue, especially five months before parliamentary elections. Instead the right-wing parties asked for a revision of contracts the BSP signed with Russia’s Gazprom in 2007.

The BSP’s coalition partner, the National Movement for Stability and Progress, is looking ahead and betting on the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant, party official Solomon Passi told BNT.

Most of Purvanov’s support outside Parliament came from the newly formed political alliance Napred, backed by energy tycoon Hristo Kovachki. At a January 18 rally in Sofia, Napred asked for the restart of the Kozloduy units, a sign that the issue will be a key topic in the forthcoming election campaign.

Article 35
“If, until the end of a period of up to three years after accession, difficulties arise which are serious and liable to persist in any sector of the economy or which could bring about serious deterioration in the economic situation of a given area, Bulgaria or Romania may apply for authorisation to take protective measures to rectify the situation and adjust the sector concerned to the economy of the internal market.”

(Source: Sofia Echo)

Slovakia Gives up on Restarting Nuclear Reactor

After its supplies of Russian natural gas have been restored, Slovakia has given up on its efforts to restart the nuclear reactor at the Jaslovke Bohunice power plant, the BGNES news agency reported Friday citing the Slovak Ministry of Economy.

Slovakia's Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek is quoted as saying that the country no longer had the grounds for turning on the reactor as now its Russian natural gas supplies through the Ukraine had been stabilized.

On January 10, the Slovak government declared the beginning of the technical procedure to restart the Soviet-made reactor as the country was in a severe energy crisis caused by the cutoff of Russian gas because of the Russia-Ukraine pricing dispute.

The stopping of the reactor was one of the conditions placed on Slovakia when it joined the European Union. The power plant that was opened in 1970 did not meet the official EU regulations according to technical experts. The first block was shut down towards the end of 2006, while the second was closed as recently as December 31, 2008.

The European Commission threatened Slovakia with sanctions in case it restarted the Bohunice reactor.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria's Parliament voted Friday morning to authorize the government to conduct talks with the Commission on the potential reboot of Units 3 and 4 of the Kozloduy NPP. The Bulgarian MPs decided that even though the Russian gas supplies were restored, the country should be entitled to turn on the two Soviet-made 440 MW reactors as a compensation for its losses from the gas shortage crisis as well as from the global financial crisis.

(Source: Novinite)

A nuclear response to our energy problems


A nuclear response to our energy problems

By Oleg Deripaska

Published: January 21 2009 19:23 | Last updated: January 21 2009 19:23

When you are trapped in the middle of an unprecedented storm, all efforts are focused on the short-term but essential task of simple survival. Long-term challenges, no mat­ter how serious, are pushed into the background.

So it is no surprise, as the world tries to come to grips with the severest financial crisis for generations, that energy security and climate change have fallen down the agenda. This is doubly true when the dramatic rise in the price of oil that helped fuel these concerns last year has collapsed as the global downturn has reduced demand.

But the current crisis, though severe, will pass. The global economy will recover. When it does, we will find that the challenges of powering our homes, businesses and economies in a secure and sustainable way have not disappeared but have become more urgent. We must not be fooled into believing a temporary fall in the price of oil is an answer to the world’s energy problems.

Oil prices will not continue to fall even in the short-term. Opec, the producers’ cartel, has already indicated that it will continue reducing production. Perhaps even more important, the present financial difficulties seem also certain to reduce the amount of oil available in the long term.

Across the world, oil companies are cutting back on the capital investment needed to replace their ageing infrastructure. Lower prices mean less incentive, as well, to build new refineries and pipelines, to develop harder-to-reach oil fields and to invest in exploration.

The result is likely to be less oil and higher prices all at a time when world demand for energy will start to accelerate. And whatever the short-term problems in the global economy, the long-term trends for energy demand are all upwards.

Between now and 2050, the world population is forecast to grow from 6.6bn towards 9bn. China, India and the other emerging economies will continue to expand. They will need more power to fuel their industries. Their citizens will spend their new wealth on more travel and consumer goods.

Nor will the challenge of global warming go away. The scientific community warns we are running out of time to prevent irreversible changes to our climate. They call for huge cuts in the amount of carbon we are pumping into our atmosphere.

This is simply not possible if we continue our love affair with fossil fuels and continue to spread prosperity.

It is against this long-term background that we must continue to focus on the importance of nuclear energy. If we are serious about meeting the challenges of energy security and climate change, we cannot allow the ambitions of doubling nuclear capacity by 2030, expanding it to new markets and developing new types of reactors to fade.

Nuclear power, of course, should not be viewed as the only answer. We need to invest right across the board so we can obtain more energy from other low-carbon sources. But we have to be realistic about what these can offer. No renewable source yet has the capacity to generate the amounts of power needed to replace large fossil fuel plants.

As we enter a global recession, cost is also an important factor. The new generation of nuclear reactors is cheaper than its predecessors and produces energy at a considerably lower cost than other low-carbon energy sources.

Nuclear power, for example, can be as much as three times cheaper than wind and five times cheaper than solar power. The new generation of lead-bismuth-cooled fast reactors that we expect to come on stream in Russia after 2015 will make nuclear even more competitive, delivering safe, reliable and emission-free energy at the lowest possible cost.

What we also know is that nuclear power emits virtually no greenhouse gases. The complete nuclear power chain – including the mining of uranium, shipping fuel, constructing plants and managing waste – produces about the same amount of carbon dioxide as the full life-cycle emissions of wind and solar power. The current 440 nuclear power reactors worldwide would increase the annual amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere by up to 600m tonnes if the power had to be generated by fossil fuels.

Our world faces enormous energy challenges, including growing global demand, doubts about oil supplies, extremely volatile prices and an urgent need to produce and use energy in ways that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A big increase in nuclear power has to be part of the solution. It would be a bad mistake if the financial crisis led us to postpone the decisions and investment needed to provide the world with a viable source of safe, secure and environmentally friendly energy.

The writer is chairman of the super­visory board of Basic Element and was part of a group of business leaders co-ordinated by the World Economic Forum that made climate policy recommendations to the Group of Eight industrialised nations leaders in Hokkaido

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - A nuclear response to our energy problems

Siemens to exit Areva NP


Siemens plans to pull out of Areva venture

FT.com / Companies / Utilities - Siemens plans to pull out of Areva venture

By Peggy Hollinger in Paris and Daniel Schäfer in Frankfurt

Published: January 23 2009 11:02 | Last updated: January 23 2009 11:02

Siemens plans to pull out of its nuclear joint venture with France’s Areva, in yet another blow to the often strained Franco-German attempts to build industrial partnerships.

The German conglomerate notified the state-owned Areva and French government officials two days ago of its intention to exercise its option to sell its 34 per cent stake in Areva NP, the nuclear engineering arm of the French group.

Siemens’ departure is likely to be viewed with a degree of relief inside the presidential Elysée Palace, as it lifts one significant obstacle to its hopes for a new French energy champion. At one stage, the government had considered merging Areva with French turbine maker Alstom, a direct competitor to Siemens, but this was considered unworkable under the status quo.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had made clear to French President Nicolas Sarkozy back in 2007 her objections to any attempt to force Siemens out of Areva in order to enable a French solution.

Areva would not comment on Friday and Siemens would only say that the subject would be discussed at a supervisory board meeting on Monday.

But people close to the subject said the German group had become frustrated by the French government’s failure to decide on Areva’s future. Under a review that has been under way, on and off, since Mr Sarkozy’s election in May 2007, the government has also been looking at a capital increase with both French and foreign partners as well as a partial privatisation. Market conditions have ruled out the latter option and Paris has delayed any decision on a capital increase.

Siemens had wanted to swap its stake in the nuclear engineering subsidiary for a significant holding in the parent group, which has operations stretching from uranium mines to fuel reprocessing and waste management. Paris, however, has delayed any decision, and the global economic crisis may have encouraged the German group to pull out of this minority position.

According to the French financial daily Les Echos, the stake could be worth about €2bn.

The question of how Areva will finance its investments remains pressing. One government official told the Financial Times that though no decision on Areva’s future was imminent, the moment was “approaching”.

Areva has said it will need €14bn to meet its investment needs in the four years to 2012. Anne Lauvergeon, chief executive, has always favoured a partial privatisation, and has been fiercely opposed to any merger with Alstom. Siemens’ departure, however, weakens its defence against Alstom. Les Echos also reported that the group had approached oil services group Technip about a possible merger, but this was rejected by the government.

It is possible that Total, the oil group, already a 1 per cent shareholder, could form part of a French solution to Areva’s financing needs by increasing its holding. The oil major is keen to increase its knowledge of the nuclear industry and has a partnership with GdF-Suez, the French power group, to bid for nuclear contracts in Abu Dhabi.

On Thursday, Total said it would be prepared to take a minority stake alongside GdF-Suez in the next nuclear project in France – the country’s second EPR heavy duty reactor, designed by Areva – should its partner win the contract.

The government is expected to announce the winner in the coming weeks, and may even launch plans for a third project. EDF is lobbying hard to win the contract for building the first of the two new reactors, and reports suggest that the second will go to GdF-Suez.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

UPDATE 1-France could order two nuclear power plants


By Benjamin Mallet and Emmanuel Jarry

PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - France could build two new nuclear power stations or share the work on the one already planned between government-backed utilities EDF and Suez-GDF.
An official at the Elysee presidential palace said on Thursday that a decision on at least one new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) nuclear power plant would be taken in the next few weeks.
He said the office was reviewing the location of the reactor and a possible joint investment by the two utilities.
The Les Echos newspaper said on Thursday that the government is considering two new reactors and would award one to EDF and the other to Suez-GDF, which would then team up with Germany's E.ON.
France has a leading position in the world for nuclear power stations and both utilities, in which the state has a stake, could obtain big export orders if the EPRs are a success.
Big construction projects are also a way to create jobs.
The crisis around Russian gas supplies via Ukraine has highlighted the strategic importance of energy independence and France now generates about 15 percent of its total energy needs and 80 percent of electricity with nuclear plants.
State-owned electricity giant EDF is already building an EPR in the north of France, near Flamanville, which will have capacity of 1,600 Megawatts. It will now cost 4 billions euros ($5.20 billion), at 2008 euros, after a upward revision of the 3.3 billion euro initial budget.
The government already has plans to order a second EPR for Flamanville. EDF and GDF Suez are contenders for that contract.
State-controlled nuclear energy group Areva is building an EPR in Finland and is also facing cost-overruns and delays due to the complexity of the new type of reactor.
EDF had planned to team up with big electricity users such as building materials group Saint-Gobain and steel group ArcelorMittal.
EDF bought almost all of British Energy and assets from Constellation Energy to be able to build nuclear stations in Britain and the United States.
EDF stock was up 2.5 percent and GDF rose 1.5 percent at 1027 GMT.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

EC Firmly against the Restart of Kozloduy Units 3 and 4

The Bulgarian Government insists on restarting the units

Brussels would not allow Bulgaria to switch on the NPP units in Kozloduy that were traded against the country's accession to the EU in 2007. The European Commission does not believe the re-start of units third and fourth could help Bulgaria solve the gas crisis problems in short terms, Ferran Tarradellas, Spokesman of the EU Energy Commissioner, Spiebalgs told the Bulgarian National Radio yesterday.
He pointed out that the European Commission was doing the necessary for the real solution of the problem via immediate restoration of gas supplies. The spokesperson also said that by now no official demand had been received in Brussels for the restart of the nuclear units from Bulgaria. Sofia's stand on the reopening of the decommissioned units came in the words of Bulgaria's Prime Minister, Sergey Stanishev who said that the option was being considered closely but all sides of the issue should be taken into account.
"Reopening of third and fourth units means that Bulgaria will lose the compensations that Europe pays for their untimely decommissioning," said Bulgaria's Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev yesterday.
He added that such an initiative may create tension between Bulgaria and the European Union and that analysis should be made on the Bulgarian projects and initiatives that would not be financed as a result of that tension. The Prime Minister believes the gas crisis was almost over. To his words very precise calculation of the possible economic profits and losses should be made if such a decision is made and reminded that the expiry date of the units is 2010.
On the other hand Bulgaria's Minister of Energy, Petar Dimitrov told the bTV that the official pledge of the Bulgarian Government for temporary re-decommissioning of the fourth nuclear units would be submitted on February 10. To his words PM Stanishev will then present Bulgaria's stand in Brussels.

Source: Standart

Gas crisis brings nuclear energy to the forefront

Slovakia, Bulgaria, Italy, Britain even Germany are among those countries giving nuclear energy another look, following the dispute between Russia and Ukraine, which has cut the flow of Russian natural gas to Europe has alarmed governments about the issue of energy security. Slovakia and Bulgaria, among the worst hit by the gas cutoff, announced last week that they may reopen Soviet-era reactors that had been dismantled in recent years, before the countries joined the European Union. “We consider restarting (the reactor) as extraordinarily actual and acute. When a critical moment occurs we will make the step,” Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said. Brussels will listen to the arguments of Slovakia on the need to restart the country’s Bohunice nuclear power plant and then assess the situation, the Commission said on November 12. Slovakia had agreed to close the Bohunice plant as part of its EU accession agreement but now is seeking alternative energy sources.

“The (EU Energy) Commissioner (Andris Piebalgs) will hear the Slovak authorities’ explanation and in the light of the explanation ... he will assess the situation,” Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger was quoted by the press as saying. Meanwhile, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said on January 16 that his country will start technical preparations to re-open one of its shut nuclear reactors at Kozloduy if the gas crisis continues, but only with the European Union’s consent. “The government decided to start technical preparations to re-open one of its shut nuclear plant reactors if the gas crisis continues over an unforseeable period of time,” Stanishev was quoted by the press as saying. Preparations would take about 45 days, he added. But he noted: “We cannot act unilaterally and put our partners in front of an accomplished fact.” “A dialogue with the European Commission and the member states is necessary,” he said. Brussels, however, is highly unlikely to approve Bulgaria’s ans Slovakia’s appeals to reopen their nuclear reactors, experts say. Only two 1,000-megawatt reactors remain in operation at Bulgaria’s sole nuclear power plant at Kozloduy, after the country shut four other 440-magawatt units at the plant in 2003 and 2006 to secure EU accession. Even German politicians are openly discussing the advantages of nuclear energy. “It’s increasingly becoming apparent that we have to lay greater emphasis on resources available in Germany,” Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) quoted German Economics Minister Michael Glos as saying earlier in January.

“I want to draw attention to the fact that we still have a number of nuclear power stations in Germany which, unfortunately, are going to be turned off in a few years just for political reasons.” On January 12 in Brussels, he was seconded by one of his state secretaries, Peter Hintze, who told a meeting of European Union energy ministers, “We need to take another calm look at the atomic energy issue, which is currently on hold.” The German government is bound by a 1999 agreement to shut down the country’s nuclear power stations by 2020, but the cessation of deliveries of Russian natural gas to Europe because of gas crisis has provoked deep concerns regarding over-dependency on a single source of energy. “What we are experiencing in supply breakdowns did not occur even during the many decades of the Cold War,” Heintze complained. Moreover, the Czech Republic - which is less dependent on Russian gas than its neighbours - appears to be planning to expand its use of nuclear energy, despite the moratorium on the construction of new nuclear reactors that was part of Prague’s EU accession agreement, the daily Hospodarske Noviny reported on January 16.

This is a policy turnaround by the Green Party-ruled Environment Ministry, the paper writes, as the ministry had previously opposed any move in this direction. One of the reasons is the gas crisis. France, which derives nearly 80 percent of its energy from its 58 nuclear reactors, is looking prophetic now. The French chose atomic energy after the oil crisis of the 1970s. “The French must be delighted that the country didn’t bet only on gas when we see what is happening with the gas,” the head of French energy supplier EDF, Pierre Gadonneix, said on French radio last week. EDF and other European utilities, notably the German energy giants E.ON and RWE, are investing heavily in nuclear energy in Europe, with projects in Britain and Finland. However, environmentalists say that increased nuclear energy use is not as good an idea as it may seem. “Nuclear energy is used to generate electricity while 90 percent of Russian gas imports to Europe are used for heating. They’re two different things,” Greenpeace official Jan Beranek was quoted by AFP as saying. Also environmentalists point out that while nuclear power may not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, the long-term problem of disposing of nuclear waste remains a major challenge. “Moreover, countries such as Bulgaria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic depend on Russian fuel for their nuclear plants which means that the issue of dependence on Russia is not solved. “These countries would do better to improve their energy efficiency,” he said.

Source: New Europe

Monday, January 19, 2009

Czech Industry minister: Focus on nuclear power proved correct by gas crisis

The Czech Republic should put more focus on nuclear power in the future, not on gas, and this idea has been proved correct by the current gas row between Russia and Ukraine, Czech Industry and Trade Minister Martin Riman said in a discussion programme on Czech Television Sunday.

Orientation on nuclear energy sources is also part of the draft state energy policy.

"It is impossible to follow the path of gas power plants," said Riman (ruling Civic Democrats ODS). He, however, added that it was necessary to extend possibilities of gas flow to the country.

Around 80 percent of Czech gas consumption is now secured by shipments of Russian gas via Ukraine and Slovakia, the rest of gas is transported from Norway.

The main advantage of nuclear fuel is the fact that it can be easily stored in many years ahead, according to Riman.

He also spoke about reserves of coal, with coal mining limits introduced in 1991. He said the cabinet is not going to lift the limits. It is only opening a debate on their cancellation.

"Writing off the reserves would be a big tragedy," said shadow industry minister Milan Urban (opposition Social Democrats CSSD).

As for nuclear power, Urban said CSSD wanted the new energy policy to be discussed in parliament, but Riman did not agree saying it was not a systemic step.

Economist Vladimir Dlouhy said the draft energy policy should not be approved by parliament because of a number of groups lobbying among deputies to push through their interests. Dlouhy said it was necessary to launch a discussion on the full use of domestic sources of energy.

The new energy policy, whose draft was published by the weekly Ekonom a few days ago, reckons with lifting coal mining limits and use of all uranium reserves available.

The share of nuclear power is expected to rise from the current third to around 50 percent of Czech production by 2030 and gas power plants should make up 5 percent of the total, about the same amount as today.

The ruling Green Party and its chairman Environment Minister Martin Bursik are opposed to the draft. The document has to be reworked substantially, according to Bursik.

(Source: Prague Daily Monitor)

Atomstroiexport revises Turkey nuclear tender bid

Russia's Atomstroiexport, the only bidder in a tender to build Turkey's first nuclear plant, has revised its bid after initially offering to sell power at three times the current rate, Turkey's Energy Minister said.

Energy Minister Himli Guler told reporters on Monday that state power company Tetas was preparing a report on the revised offer from Atomstroiexport, which won the nuclear power licence tender with Turkish partner Park Teknik and Russia's Inter Rao.

Details of the new bid were not announced.

Atomstroiexport had offered to sell power at an average price of $0.2116 per kilowatt hour, Yasar Cakmak, head of state power company Tetas, told a news conference earlier in the day.

The average wholesale price in Turkey is about $0.079 per kilowatt hour. Atomstroiexport's bid would include covering its construction costs and a forecast for power prices over the life of the station, which could cost as much as $8 billion to build.

Turkey wants to build three nuclear plants to cover about 5 percent of the country's electricity needs and cut its reliance on energy imports. Its demand has been growing at a rate second only to China's.

Environmentalists and some economists say nuclear power is too expensive and could create health hazards in a country crisscrossed by earthquake faultlines.

The government took nearly three months to approve the Atomstroiexport bid after no other companies submitted bids in the September tender. It has pledged to revamp a nuclear-tender law to attract more interest before it holds other tenders.

Guler also said the government was preparing draft legislation that would allow for a second nuclear tender for a site along Turkey's Black Sea coast in the north.

Atomstroiexport's licence is to build a power station on Turkey's southern, Mediterranean coast that will have a capacity of about 3,000 to 5,000 megawatts.

(Source: Reuters)

Canada, UK eye nuclear power deal with India

After the US, it is the Canadians and British who are eyeing nuclear power deals in India. Officials from the nuclear power industry of
the United Kingdom and Canada will be here from Monday to talks on the subject.

The two teams are being led by high-profile ministers — British secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform Peter Mandelson and Canadian minister of international Trade Stockwell Day.

The UK, where no new plants have been built in the past two decades despite 20 per cent of the country’s electricity being generated from nuclear power, has changed its policy recently and is planning more plants. Britain needs to import reactors from France, US or Russia.

The British delegation includes officials from the Nuclear Industry Association, the umbrella group for the industry, Rolls Royce Nuclear, Urenco Enrichment Co, Thompson Valves, Weir Power, as well as representatives from allied academic and legal fields. The Canadian delegation includes officials from Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, nuclear reactor designers, Cameco Corp which is uranium supplier and SNC-Lavalin Nuclear, a nuclear engineering firm.

India’s cooperation with Canada had ended after the first nuclear test in 1974 when it was accused of taking plutonium from the Cirus reactor that it had got from Canada under the “atoms for peace” programme.

However, New Delhi maintained that this was not true. Canada has supported the Indo-US nuclear deal and helped in passing the India-specific safeguards agreement at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

India’s 30-year nuclear isolation ended with the signing of the India-US nuclear deal and the change in guidelines for trade with India by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

US electronics giant Westinghouse and Indian construction firm Larsen & Toubro signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Friday to set up a joint venture to build nuclear reactors in India. India also plans to award contracts to companies from France and Russia. By 2030, India plans to increase its nuclear capacity 15-fold, to 63,000 megawatts, at an estimated cost of $80 billion.

(Source: The Economic Times of India)

Protest rally wants restart of Kozloduy nuclear power plant units

While university students were protesting outside Parliament on January 18 2009, several thousand people gathered outside the National Palace of Culture (NDK) to ask for the restart of units 3 and 4 of Bulgaria's only nuclear power plant in Kozloduy on the Danube River.

The units were shut down as part of the deal for Bulgaria's accession to the European Union in 2007 and ever since then the issue whether it was the right thing to do has been the subject of much debate in Bulgaria.

The halted Russian natural gas supplies to Bulgaria since January 6 2009 has made President Georgi Purvanov and Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev put the issue back on the agenda.

The NDK rally was organised by the newly-formed political alliance Napred, featuring several minor parties in opposition, as well as the Lider party backed by energy tycoon Hristo Kovachki, who owns the coal-powered Bobov Dol thermal power plant and a number of coal mines.

The rally started at NDK and ended outside the Cabinet building and was also backed by the of the country's main trade unions, Podkrepa and the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions in Bulgaria (CITUB), who refused to join university students' protest on January 14 2009.

Unlike the students' rally, which saw no communication between the protesters and members of the Cabinet, the Napred protest was warmly received by Stanishev. TV cameras showed Stanishev receiving a delegation of the Napred protesters in his office, where he told them what the Government was doing to cope with the energy crisis.

On January 19 2009, Kovachki told Bulgarian National Television that Bulgaria need not concentrate its efforts solely on the restart of Kozloduy's units 3 and 4 but on trying to restart some of the mothballed units of its thermal power plants, such as the one in Bobov Dol.

The same as with Kozloduy Bulgaria, had to shut down units at thermal power plants for environmental reasons. When the Bobov Dol units were shut down, the thermal power plant was still owned by the state. As of January 2009, however, the plant was officially sold to Kovachki for the price of 100 million leva.

“We have made commitments to the EU to switch the production of some of the thermal power plants from coal to natural gas within a few years, which for me makes no sense,” Kovachki told BNT.

According to him, Bulgaria had coal supplies that could still be used in thermal power plants. As for the issue whether natural gas was more environmentally clean way of producing energy than coal, he said that installations must be built in order to reduce the level of pollution.

(Source: Sofia Echo)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Radiation in emissions control spotlight

[Thought this article interesting as it highlights how radioactive materials are managed and regulated in other industries and not just nuclear.]


By Upstream staff

Photo by Marit Hommedal

The Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, the country's Pollution Control Authority and Radiation Protection Authority have recommended that a zero emissions target for petroleum activities be broadened to include radioactive discharges.

The three agencies, in a report for the Norwegian enviroment and oil ministries, said measures to prevent discharges of produced water, which can contain naturally-occurring radioactivity, should be considered.

However, they said that no new general requirements need be introduced.

Cuttings and drilling fluid would also be included in the zero emissions target.

In the report, the agencies said: "The petroleum [sector] has achieved substantial environmental improvements. Discharges of environmentally hazardous chemical additives from the Norwegian shelf have been reduced by more than 99% over the past 10 years."

Estimates - based on figures provided from players active on the Norwegian continental shelf - indicate that preventing discharges to sea from all fields on the shelf could cost as much as Nkr46 billion ($6.4 billion). This figure also includes costs associated with emissions to air.

The report said that Norwegian studies have not been able to link any adverse environmental impact to the small amounts of radioactive elements in produced water, but added: "Nevertheless, we do not know enough about the long-term effects, and further research is required to determine whether radioactivity in produced water can result in [adverse effects]."

The agencies also said that while they have not recommended new general requirements forthe injection of produced water offshore, they believed specific measures should be considered on a field-by-field basis.

The report singled out the Troll B and C fields, saying that new evaluations were needed regarding the injection of produced water at the fields, which together account for about 40% of Norway's radioactive discharges offshore.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Poland aiming at own nuclear power by 2020

Poland's prime minister says the ongoing natural gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine is pushing his government to speed up plans to build nuclear power plants.

Donald Tusk said his Cabinet decided Tuesday to step up construction of its first-ever nuclear power plants, and that he expects them to produce power by 2020.

Tusk added that Poland will further seek to reduce its dependence on Russian gas imports, including through construction of a liquid gas storage system and a gas port.

Poland was one of several nations to see a drop in natural gas deliveries as part of the dispute between Moscow and Kiev. Warsaw was largely able to make up the shortfall through an increased inflow from pipelines running through Belarus.

(Source: Tri-Parish Times)

Russia will fulfill duties on Iran’s nuclear power plant

Russia will fulfill its commitments on completing Iran’s first nuclear power plant in Bushehr despite of any pressures, said Iranian Ambassador to Russia Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi.

Speaking in an interview with the Russian newspaper Zavtra Online, the ambassador said Iran did not believe that the Russian side has deliberately delayed completion of the 1,000-MW power plant.

Based on the previously agreed timetable, the power plant which is being built in cooperation with Russia, was to become operational in fall of 2008. However its construction was delayed for various reasons including some difficulties occurred in delivering its remaining equipment and necessary fuel.

Sajjadi regretted that completion of the project has been prolonged.

“However, this was not only the fault of the Russian side, but some countries that should produce equipment of the power plants have, sometimes failed, surprisingly, to fulfill their commitments,” explained the ambassador.

He stressed that certain states would not miss a chance to disturb promotion of Iran-Russia ties.

“We will not be surprised if the U.S. offers to construct new power plants in Iran in half of their real price, if U.S. officials see that Moscow will build them for the country,” Sajjadi said.

Iran is to increase the number of its nuclear power plants to help electricity generation to meet the country’s energy demands.

Sajjadi denied U.S. allegations that Iran was to develop nuclear weapons saying producing those weapons “has no place in Iran’s defensive doctrine.”

Referring to Iran’s complete cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the ambassador said that the IAEA’s inspectors had “free access” to Iran’s nuclear sites and facilities and the agency was fully informed of their activities.

As for the U.S. and Israeli threats against Iran, Sajjadi said, “Iran is not Iraq or Afghanistan. If the U.S. enters any adventurism against Iran, then we would threaten its interest worldwide.”

(Source: Tehran Times)

Vattenfall CEO sees nuclear issue moving in Germany

The issues of climate change and energy security will play an increasingly important role in a German debate on whether to extend nuclear power beyond 2021, Vattenfall chief executive Lars Josefsson said on Wednesday.

At a news conference announcing the appointment of former International Energy Agency head Hans Blix to Vattenfall's nuclear safety council, Josefsson said the debate about nuclear power in other countries had advanced further than in Germany.

The chief executive of the Swedish parent company spoke in Germany where its Vattenfall Europe subsidiary provides power to northern and eastern parts of the country. He noted Poland and others plan to expand nuclear power use.

"The discussion in Germany will continue," Josefsson said. "There are two important components of the discussion: the climate change problem and, secondly, energy security. These two issues will push the discussion forward in Germany."

Nuclear supplies just under 30 percent of Germany's power needs with about half coming from coal and a small but growing share from renewable energy. So far the government is sticking to a 2001 law to phase out nuclear reactors by 2021.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats want to extend the use of nuclear power and have the backing of German industry, which is worried about future energy supplies. But the Social Democrat coalition partners oppose any change in the law.

"The issue of extending nuclear power use in Germany is a political question," Josefsson said.

He added: "In Germany it is not possible to build new nuclear power plants at the moment. Which energy sources Germany uses in the future is a question for the Germans to decide.

"As a company with international operations, we're seeing that many countries are putting together plans to build new nuclear power plants. Poland, for example, wants to build new nuclear power plants.

"We're saying 'we're ready and have the know-how," he said. "In the battle against climate change, we believe nuclear power is indispensable. If Germany comes to a different conclusion, that's okay for Vattenfall. We live in a dynamic world."

Josefsson said Vattenfall as a group aims to provide climate-neutral power by 2050 at the latest, up from about 50 percent CO2-free energy production currently.

He said the 2050 target will be met with three sources: renewables, carbon capture and storage (CCS) coal, and nuclear.

"Our goal is only achievable with all three," he said. The Nordic countries naturally have a large share of hydropower.

On Tuesday, Poland's Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Poland's top utility will oversee construction of up to two nuclear plants as part of a wider push for diversification.

Separately, Vattenfall Europe AG chief executive Tuomo Hatakka said he could not say how long Germany's Kruemmel and Brunsbuettel nuclear plants would remain offline.

Both have been grounded for repairs and checks since a fire in 2007, which triggered short circuits.

This has caused embarassment for Vattenfall but has also allowed the operator to wait out if Germany's anti-nuclear laws are reviewed should there be a change of government in 2010.

(Source: Reuters)

German E.ON, RWE team up to build UK nuclear plants

Rival German utilities RWE (RWEG.DE) and E.ON EONG.DE have joined forces to build new nuclear power stations in Britain.

E.ON UK and RWE npower said on Wednesday they wanted to build and operate at least six gigawatts of nuclear power stations in the UK as part of the British government's plan to replace ageing reactors.

"We welcome and support the UK's decision to expand its power generation by introducing a new generation of nuclear power stations," E.ON chief executive Wulf Bernotat said.

"We are pleased to be working with RWE, who we see as a skilled, experienced and reliable partner to develop new nuclear power in the UK."

E.ON and RWE own and operate nuclear power plants in Germany but have been looking abroad to build and operate new ones because the German government plans to close all the country's reactors by 2021 and has no plans to build new ones.

Germany's two biggest utilities, normally fierce competitors, said their combined financial strength would help pay for the expensive and lengthy contruction process.

"E.ON is the ideal partner for UK development given that our businesses have complementary strengths and capabilities, and a successful track record in nuclear power," Andrew Duff, Chief Executive of RWE npower, said.

"The UK power industry needs significant investment to replace ageing coal and nuclear plant and to drive the change to a lower carbon economy ... Large infrastructure projects can bring major benefits to the UK economy through jobs, direct investment and supply chain opportunities."

French nuclear energy giant EDF (EDF.PA) has led the push to replace Britain's atomic energy facilities and is buying British Energy (BGY.L), the owner of most of the existing plants, so it can build at least four new power stations at those sites. RWE npower got grid connection rights for a 3.6 gigawatt nuclear plant at Wylfa in north Wales last year and may buy farmland close to the existing power station to build it on, while E.ON has bought land at another site at Oldbury in Gloucestershire.

"Nuclear energy is a growing part of the global energy supply for the foreseeable future. It forms a key part of RWE's strategy to deliver growth and to reduce CO2," RWE's CEO Jurgen Grossmann said.

"This creates attractive business opportunities for RWE." E.ON picked Areva (CEPFi.PA) and Siemens (SIEGn.DE) as partners to build new reactors in Britain in April 2008 but the new joint venture could also use other reactor builders.

"The joint venture retains an open position on the reactor technology for individual sites it acquires and will make a selection based on a thorough assessment of the technical and commercial merits," E.ON and RWE said in a statement.

E.ON also said on Wednesday it was part of a new plan to build a nuclear power plant in Finland.

(Source: Reuters)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

PMBR exports first nuclear fuel particles for testing


By: Esmarie Swanepoel
13th January 2009

Updated 2 hours 24 minutes agoTEXT SIZE Nuclear design company Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) has successfully manufactured coated fuel particles, which would form the basis of high temperature reactor fuel, containing 9,6% enriched uranium.

The fuel particles, which were created during December, have been shipped to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in the US, where the particles would undergo irradiation testing at the Idaho National Laboratory, the PBMR said in a statement on Tuesday.

CEO Jaco Kriek noted that this achievement would give the PBMR huge credibility as a participant in the Next Generation Nuclear Plant project, in which it was partaking, and added that the manufacturing of fuel particles was a key driver of the company’s partnership in the Westinghouse-led consortium.

The fuel particles were developed at PMBR’s Fuel Development Laboratories, in collaboration and under the nuclear license of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation. Kriek said that the successful manufacturing of the coated particles was the culmination of several years of intense development work at PBMR’s laboratories.

“We have conducted extensive development work and we are satisfied that the coated particles that were produced for testing will provide proof and assurance that the PBMR will perform to its predicted best-in-the-world safety capabilities, in the process heat and electricity markets, as well as cogeneration applications.”

The fuel was based on the design and manufacturing process employed in the latest, high-quality fuel, which was used in the German working-group research reactor, that was successfully operated for 21 years.

The fuel design consists of low-enriched uranium, triple coated isotropic particles contained on a moulded graphite sphere. A coated particle consists of a kernel of uranium dioxide, surrounded by four coating layers.

About 15 000 of these coated particles, which are about one millimetre in diameter, are mixed with graphite powder and a phenolic resin, and is pressed into a 50 mm diameter sphere. A further 5 mm of pure carbon is then added to for a nonfuel zone, and the resulting spheres are sintered and annealed to make them hard and durable.

The fuel would ultimately be used in the PBMR, which is a high temperature, gas-cooled reactor, with a closed-cycle, gas turbine power conversion system.

Edited by: Esmarie Swanepoel

SA's next nuclear power plant to come on stream by 2019


January 13, 2009

By Agnieszka Flak

Johannesburg - South Africa expects its next nuclear power plant to come on stream by 2019, two years later than initially planned by Eskom, which has dropped plans to build the facility due to financial woes.

While Eskom was hoping nuclear energy would supply one quarter or 20 000 megawatts of South Africa's expanded generating capacity by 2025, the government says a target of 6 000MW in the same period is more feasible.

South Africa will have to keep reverting to more coal to supply its growing demand in the meantime.

Nelisiwe Magubane, the deputy director-general at the minerals and energy department, said: "We appreciate what Eskom had as a plan, but we need to be practical and see what can be done in that time: 6 000MW seems much more feasible."

South Africa's power utility operates Africa's sole nuclear power plant, Koeberg, with a total capacity of 1 800MW. Magubane added that an additional 3 200MW of the planned 6 000MW was due in 2019.

The government, which took over after Eskom bowed out, said that the two-year delay was needed to properly initiate the process.

Some experts said the government could have helped Eskom raise funding for the nuclear project through debt guarantees.

But Magubane said the government wanted to launch a process that differed from the utility's one-time proposal to ensure it could build up the fleet over time.

South Africa would approach various countries that have made nuclear part of their energy mix to copy their models. These countries include France, Britain, the US, South Korea and Russia.

Nuclear is a major part of South Africa's energy diversification plan to cut its reliance on coal, which now supplies the lion's share of electricity.

Magubane said the government would revise its nuclear plans, taking into account the economic slowdown.

"In the next 20 years we need to decommission quite a number of coal-fired power plants, so we need to have a plan on what it would be that would replace that ageing fleet," she said. "So it's not a question of whether we can afford it or not ... It's a fact that we will be needing that."

But the cost, coupled with the long lead time of between seven and 10 years to build a new nuclear plant, means South Africa will have to pump up its coal production in the meantime, even though that will harm the country's ambition of drastically reducing its carbon footprint.

South Africa's progress on renewable energy has also been slow, hindered by financial constraints, as well as the limited amount of energy that they produce.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gas crisis, a PR coup for French nuclear industry

France's vast nuclear power network has largely shielded it from the Russian gas crisis, handing the country's atomic energy sector an unexpected public relations coup.

With 80 percent of its electricity generated by nuclear power stations, the highest proportion in the world, France was able to reassure nervous households and industry after the Russia-Ukraine dispute cut off gas supplies to Europe.

The gas crisis coincided with exceptionally cold weather in France, testing its power system to the limit as households turned up their heaters to maximum.
"The French must be delighted that the country didn't bet only on gas when we see what is happening with the gas (crisis)," EDF's Chief Executive Pierre Gadonneix said on French radio last week.

France has been a staunch advocate of nuclear power since the 1970s oil crisis which led it to build up Europe's largest network of 58 reactors.
State-owned electricity giant EDF is now marketing this savoir-faire (expertise) worldwide, as demonstrated by high-profile moves into Britain and the United States over the past few months.

France hopes to lead a global renaissance of atomic power as countries seek to fight global warming -- nuclear is virtually carbon dioxide free -- and aim to boost their energy independence.

China, South Africa and Italy are the next targets for EDF, which has said it wants to finance, build and operate European-designed new-generation reactors across the globe.

"The Russian-Ukraine gas crisis is a strong new selling point for the French nuclear industry," said Jean-Marie Chevalier, head of the geopolitical energy centre at Paris Dauphine University.

"The crisis will allow the French nuclear sector to alert countries such as Germany or Italy, which are highly dependent on gas, of an energy landscape full of uncertainty," he said.

German decision makers, who are faithful energy partners with Russia, are now likely to present more independent scenarios, including a review of plans to shut nuclear reactors.

"When you see upcoming European projects, 58 percent of them are fossil fuel-based power plants, including 40 percent which are gas-fired plant projects," said Colette Lewiner, head of utilities at French consultancy firm Capgemini.
"This will only increase Europe's dependency on Russian gas," she said, adding that Europe should on the contrary be raising its share of nuclear.

While its neighbours may be forced to study ways of cutting their dependency on Russian gas, France must prepare to increase its imports, as it builds new fossil fuel-fired power plants to better cope with demand during peak times.
But France imports just 15 percent of its gas needs from Russia, and thanks to its diverse supply sources, this low level of exposure should be maintained.
French energy demand broke new records last week as domestic heating demand soared, testing national peak supply capacity to the limit.

EDF, which last week warned power cuts might occur in remote parts of the grid, created new peakload capacity of 3,100 megawatts over the last three years and says a further 1,900 MW is needed by 2012, equivalent to two nuclear reactors.
The insufficient slack in the French power system meant last week's surge in demand required heavy imports of electricity from Germany's gas and coal-fired plant network.

"The current energy trend is for diversification and I tend to believe that France is too dependent on nuclear energy," Chevalier added.
"For peak needs, nuclear is not a solution because it's not economical to use atomic power for just a few days per year," Capgemini's Lewiner said.

(Source: Guardian)

Slovakia to restart nuclear power plant

Slovakia is going to restart a nuclear power plant it shut down in late 2008 so that it can cope with cuts in Russian gas supplies. The country closed the plant to comply with its European Union accession agreement. Prime Minister Robert Fico said the gas cuts have made this necessary. He said the country was facing a collapse of its power grid. The government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday.

(Source: Radio Netherlands)

Here is the first sign of a tendency I mentioned in the previous post. There will be more of that soon, I am sure.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A thought watching the news about the gas shortages in Europe

The gas scandal between Russia and Ukraine, and, as a result of that, supply stop to several EU countries, is on top of the news since the new year, and I would like to comment a bit on that.
I remember myself several years ago when similar situation happened in Belarus. Russia just cut off gas supply for us for 3 days. That was winter time, cold as usual. And we had our neighbors from upstairs asking to boil them some water. We happened to be the only family in the house of 36 apartments that had an electric stove.
Russian gas is getting more and more expensive, and its delivery troublesome (the current situation with transit is not just an occasion - it is a tendency when a country uses gas supply as a political instrument). Building more gas pipelines for Western Europe will mean more dependence on Russian gas.
Nowadays, I sit in Sweden in my warm apartment and cook on an electric stove. I did not see any gas stoves here, heating is supplied from burning wood pellets and household garbage. The only gas equipment is camping gas (for a forest occasion).
I was thinking why not constructing a few more NPPS in those EU countries that are now so dependent on Russian gas, and slowly replacing gas equipment by electric, instead of investing into new expensive pipelines on the sea bottom in order to continue buying expensive gas?

Japan nuclear plant usage rises to 4-month high

The average nuclear power plant
utilisation rate at Japan's 10 nuclear power companies rose to a
four-month high of 62.5 percent in December, government data
showed on Friday, amid signs that utilities coordinated their
operations to meet rising demand in the peak winter season.

The average run rate for calendar 2008 was 58.0 percent, the
lowest since 57.4 percent in 2003, an official with the Ministry
of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) said.

Japan's nuclear usage has remained relatively low after Tokyo
Electric Power Co (TEPCO) (9501.T), Japan's top utility, shut
down its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, the world's
biggest, after a major earthquake in July 2007.

Higher nuclear usage helps curb consumption of costly thermal
power energy, such as oil, coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

The December run rate compared with 58.9 percent a year
earlier and was the highest since 71.4 percent in August 2008.
The run rate for calendar 2007 was 64.4 percent.

Nine Japanese utilities and an electricity wholesaler, Japan
Atomic Power Co, have 55 nuclear power generators for commercial
use, with a total generating capacity of 49,315 megawatts, the
world's third highest.

The following is a list of nuclear power generators and the
nuclear power plant utilisation rate for December, the three
months ended in December, and calendar 2008, based on the METI


Company Run rate (%)

Hokkaido Electric Power Co (9509.T) 74.6

Tohoku Electric Power Co (9506.T) 59.1

Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T) 42.8

Chubu Electric Power Co (9502.T) 46.4

Hokuriku Electric Power Co (9505.T) 69.1

Kansai Electric Power Co (9503.T) 91.9

Chugoku Electric Power Co (9504.T) 36.7

Shikoku Electric Power Co (9507.T) 102.0

Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) 85.4

Japan Atomic Power Co 43.2

October-December 2008

Company Run rate (%)

Hokkaido Electric Power Co (9509.T) 59.1

Tohoku Electric Power Co (9506.T) 74.9

Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T) 42.2

Chubu Electric Power Co (9502.T) 46.3

Hokuriku Electric Power Co (9505.T) 69.1

Kansai Electric Power Co (9503.T) 75.1

Chugoku Electric Power Co (9504.T) 36.6

Shikoku Electric Power Co (9507.T) 81.8

Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) 86.2

Japan Atomic Power Co 48.4

January-December 2008

Company Run rate (%)

Hokkaido Electric Power Co (9509.T) 63.6

Tohoku Electric Power Co (9506.T) 71.4

Tokyo Electric Power Co (9501.T) 43.2

Chubu Electric Power Co (9502.T) 57.6

Hokuriku Electric Power Co (9505.T) 41.8

Kansai Electric Power Co (9503.T) 66.9

Chugoku Electric Power Co (9504.T) 69.0

Shikoku Electric Power Co (9507.T) 84.2

Kyushu Electric Power Co (9508.T) 81.0

Japan Atomic Power Co 44.2

(Source: Reuters)

Serbian energy minister recommends expert discussion on nuclear power

Even though there is a ban on the construction of nuclear plants in Serbia until 2015, there is no ban on scientific institutions addressing the question and evaluating whether Serbia needs a nuclear power plant, Minister of Energy Petar Skundric told Novosti. He said that construction of nuclear power plants should not be taboo, that the question should be regarded as any other in the energy sector.

Even though the moratorium has been imposed on the construction of nuclear power plants until 2015, scientists believe that Serbia should start by defining its energy policy. In the next few years, we must decide how much energy we will produce and consume in the future.

Discussion on the construction of nuclear power plants brings Serbia to its feet. Opponents as well as supporters stand up; the public recalls the Chernobyl disaster. Another problem is storage, as the storage of nuclear waste is a problem for many countries.

Yet scientists say that we should not shun nuclear power, that there are four plants within a 600-kilometre radius from Belgrade. The last public uproar was when Croatia announced that a nuclear power plant could be built near Erdut, very close to the Serbian border.

"Serbia must know that it is just the same if a nuclear power plant is raised on the left or right side of the Danube, and we should say that Albania plans to build four nuclear power plants," said Skundric. However, there must be agreement and consensus between states, as stipulated by the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context.

Skundric said it was necessary to discuss all this, but that we could not do so on our own. "We cannot do this without international know-how, but there is still scientific potential among our experts in Vinca," said Skundric.

Scientists say it is necessary to renew staff urgently, that Serbia is short on people who work in atomic physics. In any case, a nuclear power plant will not be built in Serbia in the next 12 years: That is how long it takes from decision-making to construction.

By the way: Everyone Building, No Questions Asked

After France, Britain, Italy, and the Czech Republic, Slovenia is seriously considering the construction of a new nuclear reactor, and Bulgaria is building one. In the EU, 35 per cent of power is supplied from nuclear power plants from 150 reactors, most of them in France - 59.

Recently, China announced the construction of 32 nuclear power plants in the next 15 years, and Russia plans to build a floating nuclear reactor. More than 100 of the world's 443 reactors are in the United States.

Source: Electric Light and Power

US nuclear trade team to visit India next week

A US trade mission, which will include representatives of General Electric, Westinghouse and USEC Inc, will visit India this week to hold talks with the government on how to leverage spinoffs from the Indo-US civil nuclear agreement, Shyam Saran, the prime minister’s special envoy on the Indo-US nuclear deal, has said.

Although the signing of the Indo-US deal on October 10, 2008, will remove the technology-denial regimes for nuclear material as well as dual-use technologies and open a plethora of opportunities for private players, it is too early to comment if foreign companies can set up nuclear power plants, according to Saran.

He added the government was cautious in this regard since India’s civilian and nuclear programmes were enmeshed. Under the separation plan that is part of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the separation will be completed by 2014.

However, in the interim, the private sector can participate in collaborative ventures with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). However, the government did not have a “closed mind” on private sector participation, he added.

Saran, speaking at the Fifth Indo-US Economic Summit in New Delhi, said with the path being cleared for India to freely access the international nuclear market, it could scale up nuclear power production to 20,000 Mw by 2020 and can reach 60,000 Mw by 2030.

Currently, nuclear power comprises less than 4 per cent of India’s total power output. The nuclear deal will also help the Department of Atomic Energy shift gears by procuring adequate uranium from nuclear supplies and operationalise its three-stage nuclear programme from the current uranium-based reactors to thorium- and plutonium-based reactors.

Saran said India and foreign companies would now be in the position to strengthen manufacturing capabilities for certain components in nuclear and allied industries.

India’s lack of access to dual-use technologies had affected it in many civilian and non-military areas, especially in the private sector, said Saran. On liability and insurance, he said the matter would be considered by the Union Cabinet.

India has to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage for US firms to do business in India, according to Eric Anthony Jones, first secretary (economic affairs), US Embassy.

(Source: Business Standard)