Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

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

Thursday, November 4, 2010

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

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


Anna King (2010-11-04)

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

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

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

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

I'm Anna King in Richland.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

IChemE nuclear experts back new build study

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


28 October 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Designs should be mature and licensing issues resolved prior to construction

A highly qualified design and planning team is essential

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

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


Friday, October 22, 2010

Construction of new Tsuruga units delayed

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


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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

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

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


For release on: 11 October 2010

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

Megan Maguire Kelly
+1 610-356-4600 x7030

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 11, 2010

Self-sustaining nuclear energy from Israel

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


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

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

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

Building on proven nuclear technology

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

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

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

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

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

Collaborating on alternative, renewable solutions

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fee Dispute Hinders Plan for Reactor

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tens of thousands take part in Munich anti-nuclear protest

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


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

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

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

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

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

Public 'simply does not accept'

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

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

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

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

Reprocessing idea abandoned

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

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

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

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

Why we must embrace sustainable generation of nuclear energy

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—The writer is Minister for Higher Education.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

China starts up 1st 4th generation nuclear reactor

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

King says Tonga should move to nuclear power


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to rid reactors of uranium risk


Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks grapple with legacy of highly enriched fuel.

Declan Butler

As the month-long conference reviewing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty comes to an end this week in New York, efforts to minimize the world's nuclear arsenal are centre stage.

But many countries at the meeting, held every 5 years, are calling for action on an underappreciated but pressing risk: getting rid of the legacy of hundreds of research reactors, mainly civilian, that use weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU).

The total quantity of HEU in research reactors is small compared with military stocks, but still amounts to a few hundred tonnes — more than enough to pose a threat, as a nuclear bomb can be made with just a few dozen kilograms. Security can often be lower at research reactors, which are typically operated by universities and civilian labs, raising fears that nuclear material could fall into the hands of terrorists.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been helping countries convert their reactors to use low-enriched uranium (LEU), but cannot force them to do so. Nations including the United States want a renewed worldwide effort to speed up this process; in April, President Barack Obama hosted an international nuclear security summit in Washington DC, which agreed in principle to the ambitious goal of locking down unsecured civilian nuclear material within 4 years.

Yet progress in converting HEU reactors to LEU has been slow (see map). Despite the renewed momentum for change, many of the resolutions supporting reactor conversion at this month's conference contained key caveats, such as "where this is technically and economically feasible".

Nature discussed the problem and possible solutions with Pablo Adelfang, head of the IAEA Research Reactor Section.

Pablo Adelfang.How important are HEU reactors for research?

Very. Research reactors are the cornerstone of nuclear science and a stepping stone towards nuclear power. They are unique tools for testing materials and fuel, and for training scientists and engineers. Other civilian HEU reactors, which share many of the design characteristics of HEU research reactors, produce vital medical radioisotopes.

How secure are HEU stocks against theft?

Security standards have improved widely. Some of the HEU is so highly irradiated that it would quickly kill anyone trying to steal it. But there is a dispute over what levels of irradiation make HEU self-protecting. Some material that has been cooling in a pool is less lethal, and one could imagine terrorists taking the risk of stealing it.

Why are reactors difficult to convert?

HEU reactors used for research and to produce medical radioisotopes have uranium enrichment levels of the order of 90% fissile uranium-235 atoms and just 10% uranium-238. [Unenriched uranium is largely non-fissile, containing about 99% uranium-238.] The problem is that the volume of the core of these existing HEU reactors, and their component fuel elements, are fixed by their initial design. You cannot increase the size of the core, which would be one way to achieve almost the same number of uranium-235 atoms in the core using LEU (typically about 20% enriched). In any case, that would amount to designing a new reactor.

So the only option for conversion is to design LEU fuels with higher densities of uranium. The challenge has been to increase fuel density while ensuring that fuels can be easily fabricated and will perform properly under irradiation to accommodate released fission gases, for example. Fortunately, almost all HEU research reactors were designed as relatively low-power, low-fuel-density reactors. That means the high-density LEU fuels already available are adequate for converting them. But that leaves 20 or so higher power, higher performance HEU reactors, which would require LEU fuel of much higher density to match the uranium-235 loading of their HEU cores.

How are researchers trying to create higher density LEU fuels?

The highest possible density for a uranium fuel is pure uranium metal, but it is unstable under reactor conditions. So it is alloyed with other elements, typically molybdenum at 7–8%. The density of a uranium–molybdenum alloy is very close to that of pure uranium.

But in tests in 2003, the first promising next-generation LEU fuel — in which the uranium–molybdenum powder was dispersed in a heat-conducting aluminium matrix — failed badly. The fuel reacted with the matrix, became amorphous, and was unable to retain fission gases, which gathered together in big bubbles, causing breakaway swelling of the fuel and pillowing of the fuel plates. One solution was to add pure silicon to either the fuel or the aluminium. Another, the main route being pursued, was to use aluminium as a cladding rather than a matrix, with a thin layer of zirconium separating it from a sheet of uranium. Final development and qualification of this latter fuel should take just a couple of years. It would allow conversion of all but about ten HEU reactors.

Is cost an obstacle to conversion?

Converting a reactor can cost from US$1 million to $10 million, depending on its type. The main expenses are purchasing new fuels and making changes to the reactor's safety and operating systems. These costs are met by most countries, although the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, a programme launched in 2004 by the US energy department to improve nuclear security worldwide, provides technical and funding support to lower-income countries.

The IAEA cannot demand conversion, but should countries wish to convert, we will provide technical support. There is some reluctance from scientists because they fear that conversion might reduce reactor performance. To reassure them, the IAEA does a detailed reactor assessment, including calculating any changes in performance.

What's happening with medical reactors?

Less progress has been made in converting the targets used for medical radioisotope production to LEU, although South Africa is converting one. Other countries, including Argentina and Australia, are already using LEU for this purpose. I think that the companies who produce radioisotopes are inclined to convert, but they are concerned about costs and the effect on the price of their products. A 2009 report by the US National Academies, however, found that there was no technical obstacle to converting, and that it would cause at most a 10% increase in the cost of medical imaging.

What should happen next?

We need to move on from debating whether it is economically or technically viable to convert HEU reactors and targets, and push ahead with doing it. The non-proliferation stakes are too high to do otherwise.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mexico eyes up to 10 new nuclear plants by 2028


Thu May 13, 2010 2:12am

LA JOLLA, Calif., May 12 (Reuters) - Mexico may build up to 10 new nuclear power stations by 2028 under one scenario being evaluated by the state electricity monopoly, the company said in a presentation on Wednesday.

Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission, or CFE, currently has four scenarios for new power generation capacity from 2019- 28 that range from a heavy reliance on coal-fired power plants to meet growing demand to a low-carbon scenario that calls for big investments in nuclear and wind power, said Eugenio Laris, who is in charge of investment projects at the company.

Mexico currently operates a single nuclear power station at Laguna Verde in the state of Veracruz along the Gulf of Mexico.

Construction of the plant, which entered commercial operation in the 1990s, took nearly 20 years and the high cost of developing nuclear power stations has so far deterred the CFE from building another.

However, the government of President Felipe Calderon has made tackling climate change a priority. Calderon has promised to make voluntary cuts in carbon dioxide emissions by reducing natural gas flaring and through more efficient use of energy. He has indicated his willingness to further cut Mexico's carbon emissions with financial assistance from wealthier nations.

Under the most aggressive scenario, nuclear energy would supply nearly a quarter of Mexico's power needs by 2028, which would allow the country's carbon emissions from power generation to remain virtually unchanged from 2008 despite projections of substantially higher demand.

By contrast the coal-reliant scenario calls for the building of 14 coal-fired generation stations that would double carbon emissions over the same period. (Reporting by Robert Campbell; Editing by David Gregorio)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Saudi Arabia to Create First Nuclear City in Kingdom


April 18, 2010 – Saudi government officials recently announced plans to build the first ever peaceful nuclear energy program in the Kingdom. The King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy will be located in Riyadh and is designed to meet Saudi Arabia’s growing needs for energy and desalinated water. Nuclear reactors built on the site will provide renewable, clean energy while simultaneously desalinating drinking water for the country’s citizens. The use of nuclear energy also means more sustainable and export-oriented plans for the Kingdoms’ vast hydrocarbon resources. In an effort to encourage private investment in the new city, all machinery and equipment imported for scientific activities will be exempted from taxes and tariffs. The new King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy will be supervised by a 13-member council, which will be responsible for national policy on nuclear energy development, supervising all commercial use of nuclear power, and handling of radioactive waste, as well as representing Saudi Arabia to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Several African States actively preparing to join the nuclear energy club


By: Keith Campbell
1st April 2010

How many countries in Africa have operational nuclear reactors? And just how many operational reactors are there on the continent? The answers are seven and eleven. Not many, but more than generally realised. The countries concerned are Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.

South Africa has three reactors – one research reactor, at Pelindaba, west of Pretoria and two pressurised water reactors which power the French-designed and built Koeberg nuclear power plant (NPP) near Cape Town. The other countries operate only research reactors, one each, except for Algeria and Egypt, which have two each. (Research reactors do not generate electricity and are much smaller and simpler than the reactors used in NPPs). But this situation is set to change quite significantly over the next 20 years.

All these countries, except Ghana and Libya, attended last month’s International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy, in Paris, as did Namibia, Senegal and Tunisia. All, except South Africa, were represented by Ministers. And all these countries, including Ghana and Libya, are interested in developing or, in the case of South Africa, expanding, nuclear power.

Indeed, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been providing assistance to Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia, besides other African states, for studies regarding the adoption of nuclear energy as a means of generating electricity by these countries.

Further, during the past 20 or so months, the governments of Algeria, Libya and Tunisia have signed agreements with the government of France establishing frameworks within which France will provide these countries with the expertise necessary to allow them to add nuclear power to their national energy matrices. Egypt has had such an agreement with France for some time now – although dormant for a number of years, it has more recently been reactivated.

The agency responsible for implementing these assistance programmes is the French International Nuclear Agency (abbreviated to AFNI in French), which was set up in June 2008 and is an institution of the country’s Atomic Energy Commission. The AFNI is responsible for for bilateral relations between France and countries which are starting nuclear energy programmes. It does not handle relations with countries which already have nuclear energy. Thus, the AFNI is not involved in French nuclear energy relations with South Africa.

The main role of the AFNI is to build the nuclear capacity in the partner countries. It identifies competences that these new nuclear energy countries already have, and what they lack. Assistance is set up according to each partner country’s needs. The AFNI is a governmental organisation and not a company and is run on a not-for-profit basis. It is not an aid agency – the partner country, not France, pays for the AFNI’s services.

Algeria and Libya are at the very beginning of this cooperation process and have not yet made specific requests for assistance. Egypt and Tunisia are more advanced in the process. Egypt is seeking help in the training of personnel in the nuclear energy field. Although it signed the framework agreement with France in April 2009, Tunisia has already made specific requests of France, apparently focused on matters regarding nuclear energy infra- structure. The AFNI has responded with proposals and is awaiting Tunisian agreement.


At least four African Ministers addressed last month’s conference in Paris. “The use of energy is important, especially for countries in development,” stated Namibian Mines and Energy Minister Erkki Nghimtina. “Nuclear power plants are one of the options to produce energy and water. A growing number of countries recognise the role of nuclear energy,” pointed out Egyptian Electricity and Energy Minister Hassan Younes. “Civil nuclear power is increasingly a viable alternative to fossil fuels, which are very polluting,” affirmed Moroccan Energy, Mines, Water and Environment Minister Amina Benkhadra. “Our energy production is mainly [fossil fuel] thermal. It has been hit hard by the volatility in energy prices,” reported Senegalese Energy Minister Samuel Amete Sarr. “Alternative forms of energy, in parti-cular nuclear, will play an important role in the future.”

Egypt should have had NPPs decades ago. Younes explained that his country first considered nuclear energy in the 1960s and by the 1980s had developed ambitious plans for NPPs. However, this programme was brought to a complete halt by the 1986 nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, in Ukraine.

But times have changed. “Egypt is a medium-sized energy user and a regional hub. Electricity reaches 99% of the Egyptian population. Egypt has been motivated to reconsider nuclear power because of our limited fossil fuel resources and near [full] capacity on hydropower,” elucidated Younes. “Nuclear is technically and economically viable and will help reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Egypt has a programme to establish 4 000 MW of nuclear power by 2025.” (For comparison, South Africa’s Koeberg NPP has a design capacity of 1 800 MW from its two 900-MW reactors).

The Egyptian government is, in cooperation with the IAEA, taking the necessary steps to inaugurate its NPP programme, and will establish an independent nuclear regulatory authority. The country supports all initiatives to increase access to nuclear energy, provided it is done in accordance with the requirements and regulations of the IAEA and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). (Egypt signed the NPT in 1981). “Egypt appreciates the assistance from the IAEA to developing countries,” affirmed Younes.

Namibia also plans to adopt nuclear power as a source of energy over the next 15 to 20 years. “We have made a decision to build a nuclear power plant,” confirmed Nghimtina. “We’re saying it will be built in the future. It will be a long process. But we have to start preparing now. Our policy is that, by 2030, Namibia will be an industrial country, and to be an industrial country you need energy.” There is no firm target date yet for the commissioning of the projected nuclear power plant; however, this is likely to happen in the second half of the next decade, although an earlier date is not impossible.

In his address to the Paris conference, Nghimtina pointed out that “Namibia produces large quantities of uranium, but struggles to meet its electricity needs”. The country currently generates about 400 MW of electricity, but this figure falls by some 35% during the dry season because of the country’s dependence on hydroelectricity and the reduction in the river flow during the dry period.
“There is a significant shortfall between local generation and local demand,” he pointed out, with the result that Namibia imports as much as 60% of its power from South Africa and other Southern African Development Community countries. “Namibia has decided to diversify its energy mix.”

The country’s variable rainfall and frequent droughts (as well as occasional floods) were factors causing Namibia to look at the option of nuclear energy. Namibia is now seeking to create a comprehensive legal framework for nuclear energy and set up an independent nuclear regulator.

“Morocco, a developing country that is growing fast, does not have energy sources,” highlighted Benkhadra in her speech. “We would like to diversify our energy mix, including renewables and energy efficiency, but we hope, by 2020 to 2030, to have nuclear energy.”
The country’s electricity demand is increasing at 8% a year and its generating capacity will have to increase threefold to fivefold by 2030.

“We have voted a number of laws which have legislated for the [nuclear] sector,” she reported. “We intend to set up a nuclear safety commission.” Morocco believes that developing countries, provided they adhere to the NPT, must have access to the new nuclear technologies, which are characterised by greater safety and security.

The country has a nuclear study centre and, thanks to its 2-MW research reactor, some training and experience in nuclear. “Human resources are vital to the development of this form of energy,” she pointed out. “We have been working with universities and a number of our universities now have nuclear power training courses.” Moroccans are also taking practical training courses in partner insti- tutions abroad.

“We realise that launching nuclear power for electricity generation will require greater efforts still. We think that training is absolutely vital. It is part of a long-term vision. Govern-ment must take responsibility. We need to develop skills, linked with know-how transfer from [NPP] vendor countries.” Benkhadra paid tribute to the IAEA, France and the US for their support for Morocco in the nuclear sphere.

Senegal ratified the major international conventions of the IAEA in 2008 and has adhered to the NPT. The country plans on implementing an infrastructure development programme between 2012 and 2020 (until 2012 Senegal is focused on reducing its debt). Hopefully, this will see the commissioning of an NPP in 2020.

“We have already produced our first report on nuclear safety and the disposal of nuclear waste,” said Sarr. “We have established a legal framework for the use of radioactive sources. We have shown our determination to move towards civil nuclear energy in a rational way.”

The country is interested in international cooperation in order to strengthen its human resources. Sarr also emphasised that nuclear has been recognised as an alternative source of energy for Africa by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (better known as Nepad).


NPPs are major and long-term investments. “The timescale is almost a hundred years from planning to decommissioning,” said Benkhadra of Morocco’s NPP project.

Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of the Paris Bourse-listed French energy group GDF-Suez also stressed that a modern NPP programme would last a century, from the start of planning to the finishing of post-decommissioning clean-up. “Nuclear projects are extremely capital intensive, but their operating costs are much lower. Their construction time is two to four times longer than conventional plants, but their operational life is also much longer – two to three times longer.” Given such a timescale, some kind of government involvement or support in an NPP programme is necessary, as, over such a period, “only governments can provide stability”.

For many developing countries, the capital investments required for NPPs are very big in comparison with the size of their economies. As French President Nicholas Sarkozy pointed out in his speech opening the conference, the fact that civilian nuclear power required an initial investment of billions of euros followed by very low operating costs necessitated long-term funding at reasonable rates.

“The conditions of financing can have a major impact on the final cost of the electri- city – hence, the importance of State credit financing agencies,” stated the head of the Bilateral Relations and International Business Development Service of the French Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Employment, Jean-Marie Paugam. “France has 30 years of experience, starting from South Africa in the 1970s. We have learnt some lessons. You have to start thinking of finance very early in the process, especially countries with no experience in nuclear. Second, you need a straightforward approach. You need a good balance between debt and capital and risk-sharing between the government and the private sector.”

Paugam argued that the best solution to the financing issue seemed to be export credit guarantees from the NPP vendor countries, although, he added, this was not the only solution. An alternative was private finance backed by government guarantees.

A major problem for developing countries seeking to adopt nuclear energy was that, currently, the major international financing agencies and regional development banks did not fund nuclear projects.

In his speech, Sarkozy announced that he was going to push international financial institutions to “eliminate the ostracism of nuclear energy in international financing”. He said: “Civil nuclear energy is an economic choice . . . . Frankly, I do not understand why international financial institutions and development banks do not finance civil nuclear energy projects. The current situation means that countries are condemned to rely on more costly energy that causes greater pollution. I propose to change all this. The World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the regional development banks must make a wholehearted commitment to finance such projects.”

He also attacked the fact that, currently, countries using nuclear energy could not obtain carbon credits through the Clean Development Mechanism, describing this situation as a “scandal” and blaming it on “outdated ideology”. These carbon credits could only be used to finance the other forms of decarbon-ised energy. As a consequence, developing countries’ investment choices were distorted. “We have a complete bias in investment decisions, which impact on the poorest countries. Therefore, I propose that carbon dioxide credits be used to finance all forms of decarbonised energy under the new global architecture after 2013.

“The quasi-theological opposition between nuclear energy and renewable-energy sources is out of date,” he asserted. “We need both. Of course, nuclear energy cannot reverse climate change on its own, but it will be necessary. It is a lie or an illusion to say otherwise.”

•Keith Campbell attended the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris as a guest of the French government.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

U.S., Vietnam sign nuclear energy agreement


Published: March 30, 2010

HANOI, Vietnam -- The United States and Vietnam signed an agreement today that may pave the way for U.S. firms to help build nuclear plants in the Southeast Asian country as it strives to meet booming energy demand.

The new agreement addresses nuclear safety and nonproliferation concerns and is a prerequisite to a deal that could allow companies like Westinghouse and General Electric to participate in Vietnam's nuclear energy sector.

"This is an important moment in our bilateral relations," U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak said during a signing ceremony with Le Dinh Tien, Vietnam's vice minister of science and technology.

Michalak also announced that Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will attend a nuclear security summit hosted by President Barack Obama in Washington next month.

Today's agreement was a "key step" in advancing nonproliferation goals and developing the peaceful use of nuclear energy in Vietnam, Michalak said.

Vietnam's demand for power is expected to grow by 16 percent a year until 2015, according to government projections, and the country's booming economy has made it difficult for supply to keep pace with demand.

Vietnam has already signed nuclear energy cooperation agreements with Russia, China, France, South Korea, India and Argentina, Tien said.

"This is an important step to further cooperation between Vietnam and the U.S. on nuclear energy," Tien said.

In November, Vietnam's National Assembly approved the construction of two nuclear power plants in the central province of Ninh Thuan.

Last year, Vietnam signed a deal with Russia under which a Russian firm will help build the first plant. Construction is to start in 2014 and be completed in 2020.

Michalak said it could take six months to a year to negotiate a broader agreement that would facilitate the participation of U.S. firms in Vietnam's nuclear power sector.

"U.S. companies can provide the most efficient technology, the most advanced equipment and the most comprehensive services available," Michalak said.

Michalak said it was "only fitting" for the former foes to deepen their cooperation this year, 35 years after the end of the Vietnam War and 15 years after they re-established diplomatic ties.

-- The Associated Press

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Bill Gates, Toshiba in early talks on nuclear reactor


Tue Mar 23, 1:37 am ET
TOKYO (AFP) – A company backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Toshiba are in early talks to jointly develop a small nuclear reactor, the Japanese electronics giant said Tuesday.

The Nikkei business daily earlier reported that the two sides would team up to develop a compact next-generation reactor that can operate for up to 100 years without refueling to provide emission-free energy.

The daily said the joint development would focus on the Traveling-Wave Reactor (TWR), which consumes depleted uranium as fuel. Current light-water reactors require refueling every few years.

"Toshiba has entered into preliminary talks with TerraPower," said Toshiba spokesman Keisuke Ohmori. "We are looking into the possibility of working together."

Gates is the principal owner of TerraPower, an expert team based in the US state of Washington that is investigating ways to improve emission-free energy supplies using small nuclear reactors.

Unlike the current reactors at mega power plants, the smaller types could be introduced by cities or states or in developing countries more easily.

Ohmori said Gates, together with other TerraPower executives, had visited a Toshiba laboratory for nuclear power research near Tokyo last year.

"TerraPower is developing a small nuclear reactor and Toshiba is developing a different kind of small reactor. They were interested in Toshiba's technology and aiming at practical realisation" of small reactors, he said.

Ohmori said the two sides had just begun to "exchange information" but stressed that "nothing concrete has been decided on development or investment."

Gates is expected to use his personal wealth to back the development of TWRs and his investment could reach several billion dollars, the Nikkei said.

The news boosted Toshiba's share price by around four percent Tuesday.

The Nikkei said TerraPower had decided to join hands with Toshiba as it lacks the know-how to manufacture nuclear power equipment.

Toshiba, which owns US nuclear plant maker Westinghouse, has developed a design for an ultracompact reactor that can operate continuously for 30 years.

The company is preparing to apply for US approval to start constructing the first such reactor as early as 2014 and put it into practical use by the end of the decade, Ohmori said.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nuclear press confirmed for Sheffield Forgemasters

[This article presents a good snapshot of the state of ultra-forging capabilities around the globe.]


17 March 2010

A UK manufacturer will be able to supply ultra-heavy forgings for nuclear power plants after a strategic government loan announced today.

The crucial addition of an £80 million ($122 million) loan was the final part of a two-year effort to finance a 15,000 tonne press at Sheffield Forgemasters capable of producing and finishing the largest reactor pressure vessels.

The government support, from the £950 million ($1.4 billion) Strategic Investment Fund, makes the up largest portion of the £140 million ($210 million) cost of the press. Other contributions came from reactor vendor Westinghouse and Lloyds Banking Group.

Sheffield Forgemasters already holds the 'N-Stamp' accreditation from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, "enabling it to roll out production of the largest forgings within as little as three years from the press' installation," according to chief executive Graham Honeywell.

With plans in the UK for a new Areva EPR to operate at the end of 2017, and three more following at 18-24 month intervals, it is conceivable that even early units could feature main forgings made in Britain.

The rest of the UK's build program comes later, with perhaps another by six to eight reactors by 2025. Reactor designs for the these units are yet to be selected, and Westinghouse is hopeful of some contracts. It said the new press "Puts the UK at the heart of its supply chain" and is consistent with its "buy where we build" approach to business. It has already used Sheffield Forgemasters to make main pump casings for Chinese projects.

According to a report by the Nuclear Industry Association, UK companies could supply about 50% of components for the country's forthcoming reactors but this figure could reach 70% with the right investments, the new press being one key example.

The UK government is pleased that major components could be made domestically, but both it and Sheffield Forgemasters are also looking at exports. The company said it is now in 'pole position' to capitalize on worldwide demand for new reactors in coming years. Only a few other companies have the same kind of capability, it said. Firms such as Japan Steel Works, Doosan Heavy Industries of South Korea and China First Heavy Industries.

However, Doosan is planning a new large press to operate from around 2012, as is OMZ Izahora of Russia. Other entrants in the ultra-heavy market could include India's Bharat Heavy and Larsen & Toubro as well as Shanghai Electric.

Sheffield Forgemasters was not troubled by the future plans of other suppliers, commenting of other firms that "none will be able to achieve production in the same timescales..." in part due to the accreditation and experience some of them need to successfully supply the nuclear industry. Another factor will be the state-controlled nature of some firms and that domestic demand in China, Russia and India could keep their manufacturers fully booked.

The supply chain investment comes as part of the UK government's Low Carbon Transition Plan, which has already seen the establishment of the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Centre and a 'Low Carbon Economic Area' for civil nuclear in the north west of England. The government said: "Together, these will create a region of excellence in the civil nuclear supply chain."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Monday, March 15, 2010

Joining the Nuclear Club

[This is an interesting perspective on the UAE project and it even discusses the economic indifference line with respect to oil exports vs nuclear construction costs]


Despite an embarrassment of hydrocarbon riches, the U.A.E. is having trouble meeting domestic energy demands

It may seem odd for a country sitting on one of the world's largest oil and gas reserves, but the United Arab Emirates has an energy problem—one that it hopes to solve by building nuclear power plants.

Most of the power stations in the U.A.E. run on natural gas at present. But the country is running short of this commodity. Much of the gas that the country produces has already been sold through long-term export contracts or is being used to help extract oil or produce petrochemicals. The U.A.E. is already importing gas from neighboring Qatar, the only country in the region that doesn't face a gas shortage.

On top of this, every barrel of oil or cubic meter of natural gas that the country burns to meet its own energy needs is a barrel or cubic meter that it can't sell. With oil prices hovering around $70 to $80 a barrel, that adds up to quite an opportunity cost. Far better to export the country's hydrocarbon wealth and use some of the proceeds to invest in new energy sources to meet growing domestic demand.

Eckart Woertz, chief economist at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, says: "The idea behind developing nuclear energy is to have nuclear power for the base load [the minimum level of demand on an electrical supply system over 24 hours] and save gas, which is needed for petrochemicals, reinjection into oil fields and peak load generation."

The recently formed Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp., or Enec, the government body in charge of implementing the U.A.E.'s nuclear plans, predicts that domestic energy demand will rise by 9% a year between 2007 and 2020 to reach 40,858 megawatts (see accompanying chart). That is more than double the installed capacity now.

In recent years, the U.A.E., like its Gulf neighbors, has spent billions of dollars on developing infrastructure and industries such as aluminum, steel and petrochemicals to diversify the local economy and create jobs. This has increased energy demand. A growing population, combined with the region's harsh climate, where temperatures can easily exceed 50 degrees Celsius in the summer, has led to a surge in the use of air conditioning and water desalination plants.

This has prompted the U.A.E. to review its energy. In 2006, Abu Dhabi launched the Masdar green initiative to establish the emirate as a hub for alternative-energy resources and sustainable technologies. The aim is to generate 7% of Abu Dhabi's energy needs from renewables by 2020. However, this won't be sufficient to address the shortfall the country is facing in base load power.

Other options were studied but not considered feasible. Coal-fired power plants were ruled out because of their impact on the environment and the supply risks created by having to ship large amounts of coal through the narrow Strait of Hormuz. Another option, burning liquid fuels such as diesel or crude oil, was also rejected.

"Running power plants on fuel oil or crude oil is expensive and environmentally damaging," says Mr. Woertz of the Gulf Research Center. "The opportunity costs are considerable. It's more profitable to sell the oil on international markets."

According to Hans-Holger Rogner, head of the planning and economic studies section at the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.A.E.'s nuclear-power plans will be economically feasible despite the high construction cost if crude prices stay above the $70-a-barrel mark. The price tag for the country's first complex of four nuclear reactors, each with 1,400 megawatts of capacity, is $20.4 billion.

"If they sell the oil that they don't use on the world market for $70 a barrel, then a nuclear reactor is feasible," says Mr. Rogner. "It's clear, however, that if oil drops below $30 or $40, then it won't be as economical."

The country's nuclear-energy aspirations come at a critical time. Tensions in the region have been heightened by the controversial nuclear program in Iran, which is believed to harbor ambitions to develop atomic-weapon capabilities.

Unlike the Islamic republic, the U.A.E. has gone a long way to allay fears over nuclear security. The government has ruled out any fuel enrichment or reprocessing in the country, the two activities that could lead to the weaponization of nuclear fuel. The policy is enshrined in the U.A.E. Nuclear Law signed in October 2009.

"They don't have any fuel-cycle ambition, which is important for proliferation, and of course reduces anxieties in the whole region," says Mr. Rogner.

Last year, the U.A.E. and the IAEA signed the Additional Protocol to the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement, which establishes a procedure for inspecting nuclear facilities and operations. Bilateral nuclear cooperation pacts were signed with the U.S. and France. Separately, the government has set up a regulatory body headed by William Travers, the former executive director for operations of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Last month, the U.A.E. also announced that it had appointed former U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix as the head of the country's new nuclear advisory board of experts.

Late last year, Enec awarded the contract to build the four nuclear plants to a team comprising Korea Electric Power Co., units of Samsung and Hyundai, and Westinghouse. The group beat off competition from U.S. and French companies. The first reactor, based on existing Korean plants, is due to be operational in 2017.

"These are leading companies that have construction experience with the design, and as such we look at it confidently," Mr. Rogner says.

Still, some questions remain, notably where the fuel for the nuclear plants will come from, especially in the long term.

"Just as countries in the West mull over where to get their crude from, people here will have to think about where to get the uranium from 20 to 30 years from now," says Mr. Woertz. "Uranium supplies are short, only 60% of world-wide demand is satisfied by mine production. The rest comes from dwindling stockpiles. If reprocessing facilities are not expanded rapidly, there is a problem."

The U.A.E. is seeking to conclude long-term arrangements with "reliable and responsible governments and contractors" for the secure supply of fuel. And Padraic Riley, Enec's director of external affairs and communications, says the government body is "developing fuel strategies and will have a robust supply chain."

If it fails, the U.A.E. may find itself searching for new electricity sources once again.

— Mr. Klaus is assistant managing editor, Middle East, for Dow Jones Newswires in Dubai. He can be reached at oliver.klaus@dowjones.com.

Friday, March 12, 2010

EB to have a hand in development of future U.S. nuclear power plants: Groton submarine builder tapped for its expertise in design, engineering work


Mar, 12, 2010 10:30 AM - Day, The (New London, CT)

Mar. 12--GROTON -- Electric Boat is part of a team that will propose a design for the next generation of U.S. nuclear power plants.

Building new nuclear reactors that can provide a source of clean energy is a key element in President Barack Obama's climate-change strategy.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced earlier this week that General Atomics in San Diego and Westinghouse Electric Co. in Pittsburgh would each be awarded $20 million for conceptual designs and planning for a smaller nuclear power plant capable of producing electricity and processing heat for industrial applications.

The results will help the Obama administration decide whether to proceed with the effort and build a demonstration plant.

EB has a tentative agreement with General Atomics to provide its expertise in modular design and manufacturing for the proposal.

"This is a relatively small effort that could involve a limited number of EB engineers and designers through this summer, whose task would be to ensure that any design is produceable and affordable," EB spokesman Robert Hamilton said in a statement. "We continue to look at commercial nuclear power as an adjacent market that might present some opportunity to the highly-skilled design and manufacturing work force resident at Electric Boat."

EB President John P. Casey has said in the past that he would look at nonmilitary endeavors as options for future work, including what role the company could play in the growing nuclear power industry.

About 16 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions come from industrial-process heat applications. Steam from nuclear reactors could help reduce those emissions.

"This investment reflects President Obama's commitment to building the next generation of nuclear reactors that will create thousands of jobs and supply the clean energy to power our economy," Chu said in a statement. "It's time for America to recapture the lead in the nuclear energy industry and lay the foundation for a stronger, cleaner and more competitive economic future."

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said it was exciting to see that "Connecticut could be part of our country's energy solutions." He added that it was important to develop an energy system that is carbon-free and not dependent on foreign oil, to "help solve a lot of America's energy problems."

The conceptual designs are expected to be complete by Aug. 31.


Monday, March 8, 2010

Israel to declare nuclear energy ambitions in Paris


Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau is in Paris to attend a conference on harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful use.

Amiram Barkat8 Mar 10 10:33

Minister of National Infrastructures Uzi Landau will announce in Paris this week that Israel wants to generate electricity by nuclear power. He left for Paris last night to attend a conference on harnessing nuclear energy for peaceful use hosted by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy invited Israel to participate in the two-day conference today and tomorrow. Landau is attending as the emissary of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and will announce in a speech that Israel wants to generate electricity from nuclear power. This will be Israel's first official announcement on this matter.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is organizing the conference with the support of the OECD. The conference sessions will cover electricity production by nuclear energy for civilian use. Many national leaders will attend the event.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 8, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010



UAE. The UAE today announced the establishment of an International Advisory Board (IAB) to be headed by the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Hans Blix, reported the official news agency WAM, citing a statement from the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.

The IAB will oversee progress of the nation’s nuclear energy plan and issue reports on potential improvements to the scheme.

The board will provide the UAE nuclear program with the benefit of the expertise and knowledge of a highly select group of internationally recognized experts in the fields of peaceful nuclear energy, WAM said.

Hans Blix, who served as the Director General of the IAEA for four terms, from 1981 till 1997 will chair the panel of advisors. Blix, a former Swedish former diplomat and politician, will lead the nine-person board, which will meet twice a year.

Additional members of the board include Jacques Bouchard, special advisor to the Chairman of the French Commissariat L'Energie Atomique, and former Chairman of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF). Dr. KunMo Chung, who served twice as Minister of Science and Technology in South Korea, Ambassador Thomas Graham, who serving as a senior U.S. Diplomat was involved in negotiation of every major international arms control and non-proliferation agreement during the period 1970-1997. He is currently the Executive Chairman of the board of Lightbridge Corporation, a company which holds patents on a new type of nuclear power fuel based on thorium.

Other members include Takuya Hattori, President of Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc. (JAIF), Lady Barbara Judge, Chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority. Lady Judge previously served as Commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Dr. Mujid Kazimi, Professor of Nuclear and Mechanical Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Kazimi previously served as Head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT.

Jukka Laaksonen, Director General of Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland and Sir John Rose, Chief Executive of Rolls- Royce plc, a major nuclear component and service provider in UK are also members of the IAB

The IAB is expected to hold its first meeting in February, 2010.

Monday, February 15, 2010

F.D.A. to Increase Oversight of Medical Radiation

[A few numbers for perspective: 400 chest x-rays is approximately 2-4 rem. The US average amount of radiation dose effect per person is about 0.4 rem per year with some regions having higher average natural doses of about 3 rem per year (e.g., Kerala, India). Higher cancer rates are not statistically detectable in populations with average doses below 10 rem per year.]


Published: February 9, 2010
The federal Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it would take steps to more stringently regulate three of the most potent forms of medical radiation, including increasingly popular CT scans, some of which deliver the radiation equivalent of 400 chest X-rays.

With the announcement, the F.D.A. puts its regulatory muscle behind a growing movement to make life-saving medical radiation — both diagnostic and therapeutic — safer.

Last week, the leading radiation oncology association called for enhanced safety measures. And a Congressional committee was set to hear testimony Wednesday on the weak oversight of medical radiation, but the hearing was canceled because of bad weather.

The F.D.A. has for weeks been investigating why more than 300 patients in four hospitals were overradiated by powerful CT scans used to detect strokes. The overdoses were first discovered last year at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where patients received up to eight times as much radiation as intended.

The errors occurred over 18 months and were detected only after patients lost their hair.

In making the announcement, the F.D.A. said it hoped to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure from three medical imaging procedures: CT scans, which provide three-dimensional images; nuclear medicine studies, in which patients are given a radioactive substance and doctors watch it move through the body; and fluoroscopies, in which a radiation-emitting device provides a continuous internal image on a monitor.

“These types of imaging exams expose patients to ionizing radiation, a type of radiation that can increase a person’s lifetime cancer risk,” the F.D.A. said. “Accidental exposure to very high amounts of radiation also can cause injuries, such as skin burns, hair loss and cataracts.”

Patients today receive far more radiation than ever before. The average lifetime dose of diagnostic radiation — excluding therapeutic radiation — has increased sevenfold since 1980, prompting widespread concerns that certain procedures are overused and that they needlessly expose patients to an increased risk of cancer. Children and women are particularly vulnerable.

Last month, The New York Times documented the harm that can result when complex machines that generate radiation are programmed incorrectly and when basic safety procedures are not followed. The Times also found that a patchwork of laws and regulations to protect patients are weak or unevenly applied.

The F.D.A. has long had jurisdiction over medical devices, but it has made limited use of its power. Consumer groups, for example, have repeatedly contended that the agency allows manufacturers to sell new devices without first having to prove their safety and efficacy.

In its announcement, the agency said it might require manufacturers of CT scanners and fluoroscopic devices to incorporate new safeguards into the design of their machines and to provide better training to medical personnel. The agency said it plans to hold a public meeting on March 30 and 31, “to solicit input on what requirements to establish.”

Among the proposals under consideration: that devices display, record and report equipment settings and radiation dose; that an alert be issued when the radiation dose exceeds an optimal dose for most patients; and that devices be required to capture and transmit radiation dose information to a patient’s electronic medical record and to national dose registries.

The F.D.A. said it would also work with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to incorporate new safety practices into the accreditation process of imaging facilities and hospitals.

“I think it is very timely in light of concerns about radiation exposure and the possibility of overexposure,” said Dr. James Thrall, professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and chairman of the American College of Radiology. “I think it will nudge the industry.”

A major issue, Dr. Thrall said, is that “there is nothing on the machine that tells the technologist that they’ve dialed in a badly incorrect radiation exposure.”

Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said manufacturers were generally supportive of the agency’s proposal. “We are using a variety of tools available to us — both regulatory in nature and collaborative in nature — to maximize benefits,” Dr. Shuren said.

The Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, an association of manufacturers of radiological equipment, issued a statement supporting the F.D.A. initiative, while calling for mandatory accreditation of advanced imaging facilities and for establishing minimum standards for personnel who perform medical imaging exams and deliver radiation therapy treatments.

“There is a patchwork of licensure and registration across the country,” said David N. Fisher, managing director of the manufacturers alliance, “and we believe in setting standards for physicians, physicists, technologists — all sorts of operators, the whole shooting match.”

Just last week, the American Society for Radiation Oncology called for the nation’s first central database for the reporting of errors involving linear accelerators — machines that generate radiation — and CT scanners.

In some states, radiation accidents involving CT scans, fluoroscopy equipment and radiotherapy devices need not be reported to the authorities.

Kristina Rebelo contributed reporting.

Utilities' proposed strategy includes look at nuclear power

[Having lived in Connecticut for seven years, I found this an interesting article. Though I believe it is unlikely any new reactors will be built in the Northeast anytime soon.]


Patricia Daddona
Feb 15, 2010 (The Day - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --

Connecticut should focus on studying the pros and cons of nuclear power, developing a policy for renewable resources and targeting certain energy efficiency programs for funding, according to a report funded by the state's two major utilities.

The Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating outline these recommendations as vital to the state's future energy strategy in a 341-page Integrated Resource Plan first released in January. The report was prepared by the Brattle Group, an economic consultant based in Cambridge, Mass.

This past Thursday, the Connecticut Energy Advisory Board held a public hearing on the plan in New Britain. That session will be followed by public input in a docket to come before the state Department of Public Utility Control over the next few months, said Jeffrey Gaudiosi, the advisory board's vice chairman. The DPUC regulates the two utilities.

Both utilities support the renewable policy and energy efficiency recommendations, but United Illuminating recommends completing a detailed study of the possible costs and benefits of nuclear power, based on the Brattle Group's analysis of the potential advantages of a "nuclear strategy."

"I very strongly suggest that the (advisory board) carry out that recommendation," said Stephen Goldschmidt of Guilford. "We need to provide facts that can address what are often irrational fears and biases about nuclear generation and be sure that Connecticut policymakers are not ignoring the overwhelming benefits of nuclear energy. It has to be studied now."

Goldschmidt, an independent electric power consultant, spoke as a private citizen, but acknowledged that he has consulted for United Illuminating on this and previous resource plans.

The Millstone nuclear complex in Waterford "has room for several more plants," Goldschmidt said, but emphasized that he was recommending a study first, not building a reactor.

The resource plan analyzes the pros and cons of a hypothetical new reactor at Millstone, where two reactors generate about 2,100 megawatts of electricity, enough to power more than 500,000 homes.

The plan also finds nuclear power could help reduce greenhouse gases, make the state less reliant on natural gas, and bring down the cost of electricity, though new plants are expensive and controversial to build, and produce radioactive waste for which there is no permanent national repository.

Susan Olsen, a board member of People's Action for Clean Energy, at first questioned how "saddling future generations" with radioactive waste can be justified, but later said she wouldn't oppose a study "as long as we study the whole cost."

Several environmental groups and members of the public spoke out against the utilities' preference for "targeting" certain types of energy-efficiency programs for funding, saying state law and common sense call for funding all available options to benefit the most people.

Obama to announce financing for two nuclear reactors

[The article below is discussing the Vogtle 3/4 reactors.]


WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama will announce on Tuesday plans for the government to help finance the construction of two nuclear reactors -- the first in nearly 30 years, a top US official said.

Obama, who has advocated reducing foreign energy dependency and cutting back on greenhouse gases, will use a 2005 law that authorizes the Energy Department to guarantee loans to projects that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Obama "has long believed that nuclear power should be part of our energy mix," a senior administration told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The 18.5 billion dollars in existing loan guarantee authority will be used to help finance the construction and operation of two new nuclear reactors at a Southern Company plant in Burke, Georgia.

There have been no new nuclear power plants built in the United States since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the eastern state of Pennsylvania.

Currently only 20 percent of the country's energy needs are met by nuclear power.

The operation will result in some 3,000 construction jobs, and eventually some 850 permanent jobs, the official said, citing company figures.

According to the official, Obama's 2011 budget "triples loan guarantees for nuclear-power plants to more than 54 billion dollars."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Expert: Middle East needs nuclear energy


Gerhard Hope , February 10th, 2010

Growth in renewable energy production is insufficient to meet the Middle East’s growing electricity demand, with nuclear energy the only realistic long-term option, according to Lister Petter group chairman Dr Robert Hawley.

Lister Petter is a supplier of diesel and gas engines, generating sets and pumps.

Renewable energy accounts for 4% of total power generation in the region at present, which is expected to increase marginally to 5% by 2030.

“Compared to the region’s growing electricity needs, this is a small amount. Only nuclear energy can provide the quantity of power that is required,” said Dr Hawley, speaking yesterday at the Middle East Electricity exhibition.

“Electricity is a vital ingredient of a sustainable society in terms of transportation and heating and cooling, for example. Global electricity demand is expected to double by 2030 to over 33 000 Terawatt hours, with the global population expected to reach nine billion by 2015.

“The most dramatic growth will be in the developing regions of China, India, Russia and the Middle East, where there will be a subsequent struggle to meet the demand for installed capacity, due to rapid urbanisation and the rising aspirations and increasing consumerism of its relatively young populations.”

Dr Hawley said the only realistic options to meet this demand were to expand renewable energy sources, increase the efficiency of the existing generation and transmission network, carbon capture and storage, carbon offset permits, electricity rationing or nuclear power.

Nuclear power stands to play a major role as part of a sustainable future energy mix. “Ideally there has got be a mix of major power stations and smaller generation capacity, which is ideal for water heating, for example. But solar power cannot meet the electricity needs of major industries, and hence the need for a mix of sources,” Dr Hawley said.

There is likely to be a global increase in nuclear power generation as security of energy supplies remains high on the political agenda. “Uranium can be sourced from stable countries like Canada and Australia. It is also one of the most plentiful natural resources available, with the only major issue being its extraction.”

Dr Hawley said that the Middle East could also turn to large-scale nuclear energy so it could conserve its oil reserves as a valuable export commodity, instead of consuming these locally. “The Middle East’s recent decision to implement a nuclear programme, with a South Korean consortium awarded the contract to build four reactors, is therefore the most pragmatic and ultimately sustainable approach,” he concluded.

Monday, February 8, 2010

North African country attracted by SA nuclear reactor technology


By: Keith Campbell
8th February 2010

Updated 1 hour 28 minutes ago The Algerian Atomic Energy Commission (Comena is its acronym in French) has expressed interest in South Africa’s pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR) technology.

The PBMR is a fourth-generation high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology, named after the spherical shape of its fuel elements, that is being developed by South Africa’s PBMR Company.

“We plan to build 1 000 MW(electrical) of nuclear capacity by 2022 and 2 400 MW(e) by 2027,” said Comena chairperson Dr Mohammed Derdour on a visit to the PBMR Company. “Since this power is needed for both electricity generation and desalination, the pebble-bed technology seems to be an extremely attractive option.”

Although the country, which is the second-largest in Africa, is a major oil and gas producer, it wants to diversify its energy base and economy away from hydrocarbons. Currently, oil and gas contribute 30% of Algeria’s gross domestic product and account for 98% of its export earnings.

Algeria is a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty but does not yet operate any nuclear power plants. “Algeria has atomic energy agreements with Argentina, China, France and the US,” he reported. “We also have two research reactors, which were built by Argentina and China respectively.”

Comena is interested in constructing nuclear plants, about the size of a PBMR, near villages in more remote areas, which would be used for both power generation and desalination. Desalination would be relevant for both coastal villages and inland villages where the ground water resources are saline.

South Africa and Algeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in 2003 on cooperation in nuclear and radiation sciences.

“We believe the PBMR technology is ideal for a country such as Algeria with its need for clean water,” affirmed PBMR Company CEO Jaco Kriek. “We would very much welcome Comena’s involvement in the PBMR Company.”

The future of the predominantly State-owned PBMR Company has lately been in doubt, with the Solidarity trade union recently claiming that the South African government would not be providing any further funding for the project and that the company would run out of money in April.

The PBMR Company denied that the government had yet taken any decision, saying that its future and that of high-temperature reactor technology development in South Africa was being reviewed by government, in cooperation with national State-owned electricity utility Eskom and the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (better known as Necsa and also State-owned).

Last Thursday, the PBMR Company announced that it had signed an MoU with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan concerning the exploration of cooperation regarding the construction of the first PBMR for a customer, whether in South Africa or abroad.

Edited by: Creamer Media Reporter

Thursday, February 4, 2010

SAfrica's PBMR signs nuclear deal with Mitsubishi


Thu Feb 4, 2010 11:32am GMT
* PBMR nuclear tech firm signs Japanese agreement * Mitsubishi to help with research, development

CAPE TOWN, Feb 4 (Reuters) - South African nuclear technology firm PBMR has signed an agreement with Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd to advance the construction of the country's first pebble bed nuclear reactor.

Considered by scientists to be at the forefront of pebble-based nuclear technology, South Africa plans to build its first plant by 2018 as Africa's biggest economy cuts its reliance on coal and tries to end a chronic power shortage.

"The main objective of the memorandum of understanding is to explore cooperation to enable the construction of the first PBMR reactor for a customer in either South Africa or abroad," the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) company said in a statement.

Mitsubishi Heavy (7011.T: Quote) did the basic design and research and development of a helium-driven turbo generator system and core barrel assembly, the major components of PBMR's original 400 MW thermal, direct-cycle design.

This concept was changed last year to a 200 MW design that delivers super-heated steam through a generator, said PBMR, which hopes to attract business from firms active in Canada's oil sands and petrochemicals group Sasol (SOLJ.J: Quote).

"We firmly believe that high temperature reactors will be one of the viable future reactors," Akira Sawa, executive vice-president and general manager of nuclear energy systems at Mitsubishi Heavy, said in the statement.

Sawa said his firm would undertake research and development work to help ensure the success of the project, which deals with the next generation of nuclear reactors. For a factbox on PBMR technology, click on [ID:nLN504919]

"There are... important additional technological development opportunities that can be exploited (and) the possibility that PBMR may in future still want to pursue the direct cycle, gas-turbine design, should also not be ruled out," he said.

U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric, majority owned by Japan's Toshiba Corp (6502.T: Quote), South African power utility Eskom [ESCJ.UL] and South Africa's Industrial Development Corporation have invested 7 billion rand since 1999 proving the PBMR technology. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; editing by James Jukwey)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Israeli minister proposes cooperation with France, Jordan on nuclear power plant


Feb 01, 2010 (BBC Monitoring via COMTEX) --

[Report by Ehud Zion Waldoks: "Israel, France Discuss Joint Nuclear Power Project With Jordan"]

National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said Sunday he had recently raised the idea of cooperating with Jordan on a nuclear power plant in a recent meeting with French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo.

For his part, Borloo said he would bring up the notion with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Landau said during a press conference on renewable energy at the ministry on Sunday [31 January].

Jordan has announced that it has begun environmental impact assessments ahead of building a plant near Aqaba in the South.

France is a world leader in nuclear power and has garnered a vast wealth of technical know-how. Eighty per cent of French electricity is produced by nuclear power plants.

Israel has ruled out nuclear power plants until now because of its undeclared nuclear weapons state status. Building a plant would mean that Israel would have to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and throw open its Dimona reactor to international inspections, something it has been reluctant to do.

During the press conference ahead of the Eilat-Eilot International Renewable Energy Conference to be held in mid-February, Landau also floated an idea for a collaborative regional power generation project.

"Egypt could provide land in Sinai, Israel could provide the technology and a US or European entrepreneur could build a solar power plant. We are certainly not lacking in ideas," Landau said.

Landau seemed to indicate that this was a potential initiative rather than one that his ministry was actively pursuing.

Both Landau and ministry chief scientist Shlomo Wald called the goal of 10 per cent of energy from renewable sources by 2020 "ambitious, but doable."

Wald said they would rely on proven technologies such as solar-thermal in the initial phase to create installed megawatts at the Ashelim and Timna sites in the Negev. However, he said the ministry was also actively supporting next generation technologies, like concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) and new solar-thermal applications.

Regarding the necessity for another coal-fired power plant in Ashkelon, Landau said it was "irresponsible" to base 70 per cent of the country's energy needs on natural gas. Coal was still the baseline fuel because it was the most reliable in comparison to natural gas and renewables.

Furthermore, he argued, building the new plant would enable the Israel Electric Corporation to take the eight older coal-fired power plants offline for six to seven months to retrofit them with new filters to reduce pollution. He cited a cost of $2b. for this project.

"At the end of the process, the situation will be dramatically better for Ashkelon residents and all of the citizens of Israel," Landau declared.

Source: The Jerusalem Post website, Jerusalem, in English 1 Feb 10