Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

France-based Areva, Fresno Nuclear Energy Group to study new generation reactor in California

[Full disclosure: I am a native of California. California once had several universities with nuclear engineering programs and research reactors. Currently, there are two nuclear plants in California (San Onofre and Diablo Canyon).]


Associated Press
12/29/09 10:29 AM PST PARIS — French nuclear engineering company Areva SA said Tuesday that it plans to work with Fresno Nuclear Energy Group on developing one or two new-generation reactors in California's Central Valley.

Areva said FNEG is a group of investors that wants to acquire the so-called EPR, or European Pressurized Reactor, technology for California.

EPR reactors are under construction in France, Finland and China, and the certification process is under way in the United States and Britain.

Areva has been plagued by delays in Finland, where the first EPR was supposed to be online this year. The last deadline for the 1,600-megawatt EPR unit was 2012 but Areva has since said the project's final cost and completion date remain uncertain.

In California, Areva said that next year the two companies will begin a series of studies identifying the most feasible site for a new nuclear power plant, and will work together on the initial development and permitting process.

Areva said that six companies — Constellation, PPL, AmerenUE, Amarillo Power, AEHI and Duke Energy — have chosen the EPR for a total of eight potential reactor construction projects, pending U.S. certification.

Financial terms of what Areva dubbed a "letter of intent to formalize cooperation" with FNEG weren't disclosed.

Monday, December 28, 2009

South Korea Wins Landmark Gulf Nuclear Power Deal

[FYI, the APR-1400 reactor proposed is similiar to the Palo Verde reactors in Arizona.]


Published: December 27, 2009
Filed at 12:59 p.m. ET

Skip to next paragraph ABU DHABI/SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean group won a landmark deal to build and operate four nuclear reactors for the United Arab Emirates, beating more favored U.S. and French rivals to one of the Middle East's biggest ever energy contracts.

Under the $40 billion deal announced on Sunday, which Seoul said it hoped would kick-start an export drive for its nuclear technology, the first nuclear plant in the Gulf Arab region is scheduled to start supplying power to the UAE grid in 2017.

In stark contrast to the development program launched by northern Gulf neighbor Iran, the UAE's nuclear ambitions carry the blessing of its ally the United States.

A consortium led by state-owned utility Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) aims to complete the UAE's four 1,400 megawatt reactors by 2020.

The South Korean president's office described the deal as "the largest mega-project in Korean history," while KEPCO said it was also it was in talks with Turkey to export two nuclear power reactors to Black Sea areas.

The U.S. and the UAE have a nuclear cooperation pact and U.S.-based firm Westinghouse Electric, a unit of Japan's Toshiba Corp, was part of the winning consortium.

It also includes Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung C&T Corp and Doosan Heavy Industries. The UAE has pledged to import the fuel it needs for reactors -- rather than attempting to enrich uranium, the fuel for nuclear power plants -- to allay fears about enrichment facilities being used to make weapons-grade material.

Iran has long been at odds with the West over its declared plans to use enriched uranium to generate electricity, a program the United States and European allies fear is a cover to develop the ability to produce atomic bombs.

South Korea hopes to use nascent nuclear programs in the Middle East, which include developments in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as a springboard for expanding its nuclear industry, though the projects have fueled concerns within the international community over a regional arms race.

"We are now expecting much bigger opportunities in entering overseas markets as winning the UAE nuclear deal will play a role of convincing those countries in the Middle East and other regions which are thinking of importing nuclear power reactors," KEPCO said in a statement.


The UAE, the world's third-largest oil exporter, needs the nuclear power to help meet an expected rise in electricity demand to 40,000 MW in 2020 from around 15,000 MW last year, amid a petrodollar-fueled economic boom.

South Korea said it also hopes to build more plants in the UAE beyond 2020 to meet future demand.

"Considering the growth estimates in the UAE's power demand, South Korea expects to win additional projects to build nuclear power reactors in addition to this contract for four reactors," it said.

The South Korean group beat a French consortium and another group led by U.S. giant General Electric. The $20 billion Korean bid was $16 billion lower than the French group's bid, an industry source said.

In addition to the deal to design and build the plants, the Korean consortium expects to earn another $20 billion by jointly operating the reactors for 60 years.


The choice of South Korea surprised some analysts, who had expected the deal to go to one of the other consortiums for strategic reasons.

"The UAE's choice must have been based on strictly commercial terms because in terms of political clout in the region it's nil," said Al Troner, president of Houston-based Asia Pacific Energy Consulting.

"Korea has a good track record in terms of safety and price and it's a surprise to see the U.S. and France are not part of the bid because they are the ones with the more political strength in the Middle East."

The emirate of Abu Dhabi, which is driving the UAE nuclear program, holds most of the UAE's crude reserves, and has managed to avoid the worst of the global economic slowdown as well as the debt crisis that has hit neighboring Dubai.

Dubai's debt crisis had cast a shadow over financing prospects for other Gulf borrowers but analysts expect blue-chip names like Abu Dhabi and Qatar to weather the fallout.

"These are long-term projects and many of the finance providers will look beyond what is happening today," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi-Credit Agricole Group in Riyadh. "The UAE's nuclear program is a strategic project."

He said the UAE could issue bonds in future to fund the project, in addition to the usual mix of project financing methods such as export agencies and banks.

"I think by the time they do this (issue bonds), the Dubai storm will be over, plus Abu Dhabi would have a substantial windfall from oil revenues," he said..

(Additional reporting by Martin Dokoupil in Dubai)

(Writing by Simon Webb; editing by John Stonestreet)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Energy Solutions fight back against nuclear waste protest

[I have seen this specious argument on depleted uranium before. By such an argument, those worried about depleted uranium should supprot breeder reactors as they convert depleted uranium into shorter half-life plutonium ;-) ]


Last Update: 12/19 7:54 pm

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Energy Solutions responds to protest against nuclear waste protest.

"The one slogan they use to that depleted uranium grows more radioactive over time. That's true, but we're talking about 40,000 years," said Val Christensen, President of Energy Solutions.

Christensen also said groups like "Heal Utah" don't try to understand the science behind the safe storage of nuclear waste.

The protestors said they are voicing the concerns of many people around the state.

Can nuclear solve the global water crisis?

[A friend of mine once visited the desalination reactor in Kazakhstan and was quite impressed with the plant. Technically, every nuclear submarine is a desalinator as well...]


If a person doesn't drink clean water they will be dead in less than three days. That's why water is the most valuable commodity there is.

By Garry White, Commodities Editor
Published: 5:45PM GMT 20 Dec 2009

The water level in Lake Mead, which supplies more than 22 million people in the US, has been falling for some time.
As the global population expands, demand for water for agriculture and personal use will increase dramatically, but there could be a solution that will produce clean drinking water and help reduce carbon emissions as well. That process is nuclear desalination.

Many areas of the world are suffering from a water crisis – and it's not just arid, developing countries that are suffering. The Western US is particularly vulnerable and its water crisis is getting more severe by the day.

Las Vegas could be one of the first US cities to be hit by a serious water shortage, some are even questioning whether it can survive at all. The city gets 90pc of its water from Lake Mead, the body of water created by the Hoover Dam.

The water in Lake Mead, and the Colorado River which feeds it, has been falling for some time. It is slowly running dry due to overuse. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography believes there is a 50pc chance that the lake will be completely dry by 2021 if climate change continues as expected and future water usage is not curtailed.

Water is so important that, as a population grows and demand increases, there is a strong chance of conflict in the future.

According to the World Water Council, 260 river basins are shared by two or more countries.

"In the absence of strong institutions and agreements, changes within a basin can lead to transboundary tensions," the Council said. "When major projects proceed without regional collaboration, they can become a point of conflicts, heightening regional instability."

The World Water Council cites the Parana La Plata in South America, the Aral Sea, the Jordan and the Danube as examples.

It's not just tensions between countries that are a potential problem. Civil unrest caused by scarcity has already started.

In India on December 3, one man was killed and dozens injured during a protest over water rationing in Mumbai following the country's poor Monsoon. The prospect of further water riots is very real.

However, nuclear energy could help provide the solution for this thorny issue.

Oil-rich Middle Eastern nations are rushing to build new nuclear plants.

Anwar Gargash, a foreign affairs minister in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), said last month that nuclear power was "best able" to meet future power demand in his country. Demand for electricity is expected to double by 2020.

This followed comments from Saudi Arabia, which said it planned to generate up to a quarter of its electricity from nuclear power within the next 15 years.

Everyone thinks the trend for oil-rich nations to move towards nuclear power generation is about limiting domestic consumption so they can boost oil exports. However, that's just part of the story.

Saudi Arabia, for example, has very little water – and global warming is likely to make this situation much worse. This is a major problem because Saudi Arabia is about to see its population explode.

The overwhelming majority of the Saudi people are young. Almost 40pc of its population is under the age of 14, with just 2.5pc being in the over 65 bracket. This means its population is growing at about 2pc per year – and as the young start to have families of their own, the rate of population growth will increase.

In fact, many of the nations that are predicted to have the strongest growth in population over the next years are the areas where the water crisis is most acute.

For example, the UAE has the largest growth rate of any nation in the world – at 3.69pc, according to data compiled by the US government.

Nuclear reactors can be used to generate electricity – but they can also be used to desalinate water.

Nuclear desalination is not a new idea – it's a proven technology, thanks to Kazakhstan.

A single nuclear reactor at Aktau on the shore of the Caspian Sea successfully produced up to 135 megawatts of electricity and 80,000 cubic metres of potable water a day between 1972 and 1999, when it was closed at the end of the reactor's life.

Water has also been desalinated using nuclear reactors in India and Japan.

The problem with desalination is that it is very energy intensive. Most desalination today uses fossil fuels, contributing to carbon emissions.

However, because nuclear power generation does not emit carbon, it is a clean and efficient way of producing the most important commodity around. For countries experiencing rapid population growth, it could be a lifesaver.

Russia to start research on spacecraft nuclear engines next year


MOSCOW, Dec. 20 (Xinhua) -- Russia will start next year research on nuclear engines for spacecraft, the head of Russia's Federal Space Agency Roscosmos said on Sunday.

"Nuclear engines for spaceships are a very promising area. Such engines should be created to make flights to Mars and other planets," said Anatoly Perminov at the Baikonur space center in Kazakhstan, as cited by the Russian news agencies.

"Russia will start research work from 2010 in this sphere," he added.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said earlier that Russia will prioritize the development of nuclear energy, especially the use of nuclear technology in spacecraft.

Perminov also said previously that the development of Megawatt-class nuclear power systems for manned spacecraft was vital if Russia intends to maintain its leading position in the space industry.

He said the draft design of the spacecraft would be finished by 2012, and at least 17 billion rubles (more than 580 million U.S. dollars) were needed for further development over the next nine years.

Analysts believe the key scientific and technical problem in sending manned missions to the Moon and Mars is the development of new propulsion systems and energy supplies with a high degree of energy-mass efficiency.

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Work on nuclear plants gears up

[Typically I post the article text, but in this case I encourage readers to go to the website below. There is a nice photo showing Sanmen 1 under construction.]


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lloyd's Register: Lloyd's Register explores the reintroduction of nuclear propulsion for merchant ships


Research is focused on the application of nuclear propulsion to tankers, bulk carriers, container ships and cruise ships
Dec 10, 2009 (M2 PRESSWIRE via COMTEX) --

Early in 2007, Lloyd's Register began research into the implications of nuclear propulsion for merchant ships.

This initiative was built on Lloyd's Register's extensive experience in the traditional nuclear industries and from studies which led to the formation of its Rules for the Nuclear Propulsion of Ships.

The Rules, available from 1966 until 1976, were developed in response to the interest shown in nuclear propulsion in the early 1960s, which resulted in ships such as Savannah, and Otto Hahn, two ships that were technically successful.

At that time, operational and economic conditions were not conducive to commercial success of nuclear propulsion. But both ships, nevertheless, traded worldwide for some years.

Over the years, there has been a steady, slow development of nuclear propulsion for merchant ships -- principally with ice breakers -- but also extending to a lash barge carrier and a containership.

Indeed, two nuclear ice breakers presently are utilised on popular passenger cruises.

The steady increase in the price of fuel oil -- and the probable introduction of either a carbon-emissions trading scheme or a related tax -- now presents the possibility that nuclear propulsion could be more competitive.

Lloyd's Register's research programme is revisiting the technical challenges of nuclear propulsion for ships, as well as refuelling and waste-disposal issues.

The scope of the programme has been expanded to include public health, manning, training, operational, risk and regulatory requirements. The principle maritime sectors of focus are how these propulsion systems could benefit tankers, bulk carriers, container ships and cruise ships, although a range of other ship types may also benefit.

"The technology is there to commence building nuclear ships. The issues regarding their acceptability and the need for a cultural step-change in shipping still need to be addressed so that society is comfortable any risk is being managed", commented John Carlton, Global Head, Marine Technology & Investigations, Lloyd's Register.

Most nuclear-powered ships and submarines to date have relied on pressurised water reactor (PWR) technology and they have demonstrated an enviable record for reliability and safety when operated correctly.

However, other nuclear technologies soon may be available, including a range of high-temperature reactors, the pebble-bed concept, and designs developing on the original PWR concept.

Modern reactor technology has, since the early designs, progressively introduced enhanced safety and control features which make their use increasingly attractive and practical for merchant marine operations.

Nevertheless, the types of unmanned machinery spaces common in many modern ships are unlikely to be acceptable for nuclear-propelled vessels. Methods of crew-training also will need to undergo considerable modification.

In fact, a cultural shift will be essential in the marine engineering community if the lifecycle and environmental benefits of nuclear propulsion are to be realised, while managing the risks - both real and perceived.

Business models for ship purchases and operations also are likely to change significantly, since the majority of the costs are incurred earlier, during the build and commissioning stages.

In a nuclear-propelled ship, the fuel cost is included in the cost of the reactor. Ships that use conventionally enriched uranium then will be able to trade for up to five years before refuelling.

This refuelling period is not inconsistent with conventional survey periods, except the refuelling process would take about 30 days for a ship featuring a conventional PWR plant, under controlled conditions. The management of spent fuel, although established for the current industry in line with the conventional nuclear cycle, would also need to be thoroughly reviewed.

With conventional propulsion, the cost of the ship is broadly defined by its structure, outfitting and machinery; fuel costs are distributed throughout the lifecycle at frequent intervals.

The greenhouse gas challenge

Public concern for the environment in recent years has focussed on the way greenhouse gases are changing the world's climate. Although the marine industry contributes a relatively small proportion of those greenhouse gases in relation to the amount of goods and raw materials it transports, shipping's CO2 contribution from exhaust emissions is of growing concern.

A number of research initiatives have been introduced to mitigate this component of emissions from slow- and medium-speed diesel engines.

Lloyd's Register has been actively looking for the technological solutions to the challenges arising from ship propulsion to help the marine industry reduce its carbon footprint. Nuclear propulsion is one such technology, one that nullifies the industry's CO2 contribution.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

UPDATE 1-EDF to head French nuclear deal in Abu Dhabi


* EDF could take command of French nuclear bid-Proglio

* Bid to be submitted on Dec. 10-Proglio

* French consortium has already lowered price-sources

* Abu Dhabi nuclear plant project estimated at up to $40 bln

By Gilles Guillaume and Nina Sovich

PARIS, Dec 9 (Reuters) - EDF (EDF.PA) is set to take the lead in a fresh bid by a French consortium to sell at least two nuclear reactors to Abu Dhabi, the new head of the French nuclear power giant said on Wednesday.

"What is envisaged today, although nothing is set yet, is a management structure for the project, in which EDF would head up the project in association with GDF Suez," Henri Proglio told reporters on the sidelines of a conference.

Power and gas group GDF Suez (GSZ.PA), oil major Total (TOTF.PA) and Areva (CEPFi.PA), the world's biggest nuclear reactor maker, bid for the Abu Dhabi contract nearly two years ago, and were initially seen as the race's frontrunners.

But the French consortium -- which EDF joined earlier this year after a request by the United Arab Emirates to French President Nicolas Sarkozy -- have recently appeared to be losing ground to a rival bid by Korea Electric Power Corp (015760.KS).

A consortium comprising General Electric (GE.N) and Japan's Hitachi (6501.T) is also bidding.

In an effort to compete with the cheaper South Korean offer, the French consortium reduced its price in November, two sources with direct knowledge of the situation have told Reuters, adding they were now waiting for Abu Dhabi's decision.

But Proglio, chief executive of the world's largest single operator of nuclear power plants, told reporters on Wednesday that a bid would be submitted on Dec. 10.

Last month, Proglio blasted the French consortium for what he called its lack of coherence, so EDF taking a commanding role and the price cut could be seen as a last-minute move to land the deal.

"EDF has been strongly encouraged, at the highest political levels, to take the lead of the pack," said a source close to the bid, who asked not to be named.

French newspaper Les Echos reported on Wednesday, citing no sources, that EDF could take a 45 percent stake in the project, with GDF Suez holding an identical stake, and Total taking the remaining 10 percent.

"EDF was called to the rescue," Les Echos said, adding that the board of EDF had met on this issue on Tuesday and that GDF Suez's board would also meet later on Wednesday.

The consortium would not be expected to invest as part of this new plan, being paid by Abu Dhabi for their services instead, Les Echos said.

A spokeswoman for EDF declined to comment. (Writing by Marie Maitre; Editing by David Cowell)

Raila holds talks with nuclear Agency


Written By:PMPS , Posted: Tue, Dec 08, 2009

The International Atomic Energy Agency has agreed to partner with Kenya in the country´s quest to develop nuclear energy as an alternative source of power.

During talks with Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the agency's headquarters in Vienna Tuesday, the new Director General of the IAEA Mr Yukiya Amano said he is keen to have the agency become a useful tool in addressing needs of developing nations that have little access to advanced technology.

Mr Odinga held talks with the IAEA director after opening the 13th Session of the General Conference of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization UNIDO, in Vienna.

The Prime Minister said he had instructed the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology to work closely with the atomic energy agency in areas like agricultural development, health, especially cancer treatment, and energy generation.

Mr Odinga said energy is a basic need for a country's economic development.

He said reliance on hydro-electric power has however failed Kenya as it fluctuates, making the country's economy unable to compete with big and competing African economies like South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria.

"Unreliable rainfall patterns has affected our power generation and left us badly exposed. We have to look into alternative sources of power and nuclear looks a credible, long term alternative," Mr Odinga said.

"We are exploring geothermal, wind, solar and biofuels. But we have decided as a government that we must pursue nuclear also for purposes of longer term needs," he added.

He asked the atomic energy agency to help Kenya build the capacity by training local scientists on development of nuclear power.

He also asked the agency to partner with the Ministry of Higher education to educate Kenyans on the use of nuclear for peaceful purposes so as to dispel the stigma currently attached to nuclear science.

"When you talk about nuclear energy among laymen, people think of nuclear weapons. They think we are going to war. We must begin to educate our people that there are peaceful and productive uses for nuclear science. It is not just for weapons," the PM said.

He asked the atomic energy agency to set up a program that will see Kenyans come for training with the agency in readiness for Kenya's pursuit of nuclear energy.

Responding, Mr Amano said the use of nuclear power has been limited to the Developed Countries, which he said should not be the case.

He congratulated Kenya for considering nuclear energy to cushion the country from fluctuating effects of hydro power.

"You don't need to worry. Almost everyone in the developing world lacks expertise in this area and everyone else is just beginning to think of going nuclear. So you have begun at the right time," Mr Amano said.

He said capacity building would be important as the country prepares to pursue nuclear energy, adding that his agency could help with funding and drafting of relevant legislation dealing with installation and use of nuclear energy.

He said Kenya would also have to commit to support a code of conduct and regulations governing use of nuclear power for peaceful means.

"We will have to give priority to building the human capacity in your country and training. I assure you of support," Mr Amano said.

He said setting up nuclear power is expensive but in the long run, it is cheaper than all the other alternatives once it is in place.

Industrialization Minister Mr Henry Kosgey is accompanying the Prime Minister to the UNIDO conference.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Survey says state regulators like nuclear power

[Looks like nuclear energy is improving its position with state utility regulators.]


4 December 2009-- A survey says that U.S. state utility regulators prefer nuclear power over any other source.

Between August and October RKS Research and Consulting polled 97 state utility commissioners and 10 regulatory commission professional staffers across 52 jurisdictions about electric and natural gas issues. The results show that 35 percent of regulators chose nuclear power as a source that balances low energy costs and environmental impact. Natural gas was preferred by 18 percent of those polled, wind by 16 percent and coal by 8 percent. One in ten polled said they were unsure.

The survey also found regulators willing to permit utilities to contract directly with natural gas providers for their fuel. Around two-thirds of regulators said they strongly support the need for new ratemaking methodologies.