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

Tuesday, 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