Welcome to AtomWatch - world nuclear power news and analysis

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Israel utility IEC considers building nuclear, solar plants instead of 2 GW clean coal facility

[In addition to the famous Dimona facility, Israel still has a nuclear engineering department at Ben Gurion University.]


26 January 2010 - Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) is considering building a 1200 MW nuclear power plant and a 1000 MW solar array, instead of building a coal fired power plant due to come online in 2020.

Globes reported that IEC's current development plan for 2020 includes the construction of an Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plant, in addition to the coal fired power plant planned for construction near Ashkelon which is due to come onine in 2015.

However, IEC said that the company was considering building a 1200 MW nuclear power plant and a 1000 MW solar energy plant instead.

IEC deputy CEO and VP production and transport Moshe Bachar said that the transition to environmentally friendly energy sources was essential, and that higher electricity rates were inevitable. "In the coming years, we will have to create a mix of fuels, while conserving the environment and saving energy sources, despite the expected rise in demand for electricity. The era of cheap electricity is over," he said.

Bachar said that Israel's future energy economy would be based on environmentally friendly energy sources: nuclear power, natural gas, and renewable energy. The company will only use coal fired power plants as back-up and to secure electricity supplies.

The idea for building a nuclear power plant again came up for discussion at government ministries, after Jordan announced plans to build a nuclear power plant near Aqaba.

If IEC decides to build a nuclear power plant and a solar energy plant, it will face technical hurdles, regulatory difficulties, and major opposition from private power producers.

Firstly, a nuclear power plant would require Israel to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Secondly, IEC's massive entry into the renewable energy industry contradicts the policy of the Public Utilities Authority (Electricity) and the Ministry of Finance, which ban this out of concern for unfair competition against private power producers, reported Globes.

Environmental organizations would also probably oppose a nuclear power plant on the grounds of risk of radiation in the event of a breakdown, sabotage, or a strong earthquake. Finally, a 1000 MW solar power array, using current technology, would need 5000 acres of land and cost $4 bn to build.

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Computer Model Shows Nuclear Fission


By Tudor Vieru, Science Editor

25th of January 2010, 09:11 GMT

Scientists at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) announce the development of a new computer algorithm that allows for them to visualize the reactions that go on inside a nuclear reactor in finer detail than ever before. The neutron transport code UNIC, which is still under development at ANL, will provide researchers in the end with the most detailed view of a reactor's core possible, without them actually jumping inside a reactor.

Modeling the complex interactions of a nuclear reactor is one of the most complex tasks in physics today. It requires hundreds of angles of approach, thousands of energy groups, billions of spatial elements, as well as the introduction of all these things into a complex geometry. Naturally, all these elements cause the memory on most computers to get rapidly exhausted. Simulations therefore take many weeks and months to run, and even then the results are not the most accurate possible. In fact, most of the times, researchers use approximations in formulating their conclusions.

“The UNIC code is intended to reduce the uncertainties and biases in reactor design calculations by progressively replacing existing multilevel averaging techniques with more direct solution methods based on explicit reactor geometries,” ANL computational scientist Andrew Siegel, who is also the leader of the lab's reactor simulation group, explains. UNIC has already been run at some of the most advanced supercomputing facilities in the world, including the energy-efficient IBM Blue Gene/P at Argonne and the Cray XT5 at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Engineers and nuclear physicists could use the UNIC algorithm to create safer, more environmentally friendly nuclear reactors, which could benefit a large number of countries in the world. As carbon dioxide becomes an increasing threat, oil and natural gas will be shunned from the market more and more, and renewable energies will take their place. Nuclear fission is one of the safest bets, but new nuclear reactors have not been built in a while. A video of a more detailed simulation of the Zero Power Reactor experiment is available online here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Shaw and Westinghouse Reach Critical Milestone at Unit 1 of Sanmen AP1000™ Nuclear Site in China

[Photo weblink of the containment vessel lower head being set at Sanmen 1.]


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

French nuclear deals need bespoke flavour

[The article does not really mention this, but another factor for the Koreans is that they have more recent construction experience.]


* France should adapt reactor offer to clients-analysts

* EPR for Europe, U.S. and China; cheaper reactors elsewhere

By Marie Maitre and Nina Sovich

PARIS, Jan 6 (Reuters) - France could miss out on more multi-billion dollar deals to build new nuclear power plants unless it changes its current nuclear export strategy and adapts its technological offer to local needs, analysts said.

French nuclear firms should stop pushing expensive state-of-the-art reactors to developing countries and instead market the EPR -- Areva's flagship nuclear reactor -- to rich countries where top-notch safety systems are politically key, they added.

Countries such as India or the Gulf states should be offered older, cheaper technology, analysts said, adding Areva should also work on quickly finalising a smaller type of reactor with new technology to broaden its range of products.

A consortium led by EDF and GDF Suez, and including Total and Areva, were dealt a blow in December when the United Arab Emirates picked a South Korean group to build four reactors.

Two sources close to the deal told Reuters that Abu Dhabi chose a South Korean consortium, led by Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO), because the 1,650 megawatt (MW) EPR was too expensive.

While the Korean consortium offered to build four 1,400 MW reactors for $20 billion, the French offered to build its bigger and more modern reactors for $36 billion.

The emergence of a powerful new player has turned up the pressure on French groups, which still hope to secure orders for a third of all new reactors to be built worldwide by 2030.

Other rivals bidding to stop them include Toshiba unit Westinghouse Electric, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and General Electric Co..

The loss of the high-profile UAE deal raises the question of whether the French consortium was flexible enough to present a range of options to Abu Dhabi or simply presumed the oil-based nation had deep pockets and would pay for the EPR.

"This was not simply a question of cost," French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde told the Les Echos paper on Tuesday.

"The French offer was probably not the best calibrated."


Analysts said France had to change its nuclear bidding strategy, with some asking why the French consortium did not offer Abu Dhabi existing technology, such as one of the second-generation nuclear power plants operating in France.

"They will have to wonder if they need to offer Rolls-Royces all the time," said Jefferies analyst Alex Barnett.

France offered the EPR -- a third-generation reactor developed after nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, and which offers enhanced safety systems by better isolating the core reactor in case of a meltdown.

"The obvious response to the Koreans would have been to offer a second-generation reactor. Some of the latest ones are relatively young. They're also proven," said UBS analyst Per Lekander.

Sources with direct knowledge of the situation, however, said Areva was unlikely to change its strategy.

"(They are) never going to sell second-generations again. (They are) now aiming for higher safety standards, and as they stand, second-generations cannot be sold anymore in the U.S. or Europe, which are (its) key markets," one of the sources said.

Areva declined comment on the loss of the Abu Dhabi deal, but pointed to a smaller 1,100 MW reactor -- Atmea -- that it is developing and which is set to be ready by 2011, and another 1,250 MW model -- Kerena -- whose design is not yet defined.

Both reactors are also third-generation models, but until they are ready, France will pin its hopes on sales of the EPR.

This export drive, however, could be hampered by recent bad publicity.

The first EPR, currently under construction in Finland, has been beset by cost overruns and delays that caused Areva to take a charge of 2.3 billion euros ($3.29 billion) for the project last year.

A second unit being built in France is reportedly behind schedule, sources said, although EDF and Areva deny this. More importantly, three nuclear regulatory bodies chastised both Areva and EDF for a design fault in November.


Another source insisted cost issues were behind the UAE loss. Asked whether the French nuclear consortium should have modified its offer when it appeared that the EPR was losing ground to the Koreans', the source said: "No, Abu Dhabi asked for an EPR."

"They wanted it but at the price of (KEPCO's winning design) APR1400, and this was simply not possible. They had to make a choice between a product that was too expensive and a product they liked less but at a price they were willing to pay."

"They wanted a Mercedes but at the price of a Kia," he added, referring to the German luxury car maker and the South Korean manufacturer of smaller and less expensive autos.

These smaller and less glamorous reactors, however, have worked for decades in South Korea with a good safety record.

For a Wrapup on the UAE nuclear deal click on For an Analysis on French nuclear export hitches see For more on the EPR ($1=.6985 Euro) (Additional reporting by Muriel Boselli, editing by Marcel Michelson and Simon Jessop)

2010-01-06 14:36:44