Category: Other

Supply chain event goes from strength to strength

1,500 visitors from UK and overseas took advantage of face-to-face networking at this year’s NDA Estate Supply Chain Event, the most successful so far and possibly the largest of its kind in Europe.

The Manchester event is organised jointly by the NDA and its Site Licence Companies with the key goal of creating greater visibility of opportunities for suppliers, and for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in particular.

The day, themed ‘Connect and Collaborate’, was formally opened by Baroness Verma, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Energy & Climate Change, who spoke about the importance of the supply chain and of such events in contributing towards creating the right environment for business success. The Baroness also toured the exhibition stands and spoke individually to many of the exhibitors.

The main hall featured 260 exhibition stands, staffed by a wide range of technical and service suppliers, alongside information stands representing the NDA, all the SLCs, government bodies and regeneration organisations.

An Innovation Zone show-cased leading-edge nuclear technologies and hosted a number of demonstrations during the day. The NDA’s R&D team also launched a new brochure outlining the benefits to decommissioning of investment in technological initiatives.

Among the other popular features for 2014 were:

  • a first-time attendance by the Ministry of Defence, Defence Equipment and Support and Submarines Operating Centre, with a presentation by Rear Admiral Mike Wareham
  • presentation of NDA Estate awards to recognise suppliers who have gone the ‘extra mile’, worked on successful collaborative projects or deployed innovative technology

Ron Gorham, the NDA’s Head of Supply Chain Optimisation and SME Champion, said:

“This event is now in its fourth year, and is becoming an important fixture in the calendar for businesses in the nuclear decommissioning market.

“We are absolutely delighted that so many people were able to attend this year. We listened carefully to feedback from 2013 and aimed to provide more space for business stands and informal discussions.

“The success of our mission depends on vibrant, dynamic businesses that can provide solutions to the many challenges we have across the NDA Estate. We remain committed to working with our supply chain, from the largest to the smallest players, to improve opportunities for involvement in decommissioning.”

The event is part of a series of initiatives developed over the past three years to encourage and support the supply chain. These include a simplification of contract flow-down requirements, adopting HMG’s Contract Finder as the single, web-based portal for forthcoming tendering opportunities, a requirement for prompt payment of sub-contractors, establishment of national and regional steering groups for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and a mentoring scheme for smaller businesses.

It was fantastic. The quality of exhibitors and delegates in attendance was at a level very rarely seen at any event held in the UK” Thomas Graham& Sons

Another superb event – the best yet” PaCTeC EPS Ltd

“The perfect forum for raising our business profile and it really exceeded all of our expectations” MechaTech Systems

“We managed to engender quite a bit of interest in our work”Institute for Collaborative Working

Source: NDA 

Workers plead with MPs to save Eggborough power plant

Workers plead with MPs to save Eggborough power plant

Hundreds of workers at the Eggborough power station (pictured) have joined forces to call on their local MPs to help save the plant and 800 jobs.

The 2,000MW facility has been working to covert from coal to biomass for over two years – which was due to start last month – but is expected to shut down one of the units this September. That’s because it failed to win funding from the Government as part of the new Contracts for Difference (CfD) support scheme as a result of a change in the selection criteria.

DECC ranked 10 renewable projects to get fast-track support starting this year but the Eggborough power plant conversion was excluded from the list. In a letter to local MPs, Eggborough workers said: “We at Eggborough are very proud to have ‘kept the lights on’ for the last 40 years and we wish to continue to help meet the needs of the UK and avert ‘capacity crunch’ and blackout fears. Please look into this matter and let us know if there is anything you can do to help.”

Read  more here http://www.energylivenews.com/2014/02/13/workers-plead-with-mps-to-save-eggborough-power-plant/

Source: Energy Live News

Chernobyl fuel transfer milestone

Chernobyl fuel transfer milestone

The transfer of undamaged used fuel to an on-site interim storage facility from units 1 to 3 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine has now been completed.

Chernobyl - 250 (ChNPP)
Used nuclear fuel from Chernobyl 1, 2 and 3 has been progressively removed from plant cooling ponds and the reactor cores as part of an overall decommissioning program, separate from dealing with the destroyed unit 4. During the entire operation of the Chernobyl plant, more than 21,000 used fuel assemblies accumulated at the site.On 28 September, the final undamaged used fuel assembly from unit 1 was transferred to one of the five compartments in the cooling pool of the existing wet-type interim storage facility 1 (ISF-1). Since December 2011, a total of 1333 used fuel assemblies were transferred from the unit. The transfer of all undamaged fuel from unit 3 to ISF-1 was completed in September 2010, while the last from unit 2 was moved in November 2012.Workers continue to address the issue of removing some damaged fuel assemblies which remain in units 1 and 2, the plant said, without specifying the nature of the damage or the number of assemblies remaining.Read the full article here http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Chernobyl_fuel_transfer_milestone-0210134.html

Source: World Nuclear News

Fukushima leaks: Japan pledges $470m for ‘ice wall’

Fukushima leaks: Japan pledges $470m for ‘ice wall’

Japan is to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into building a frozen wall around the Fukushima nuclear plant to stop leaks of radioactive water.

Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said an estimated 47bn yen ($473m, £304m) would be allocated.

The leaks were getting worse and the government “felt it was essential to become involved to the greatest extent possible”, Mr Suga said.

The plant was crippled by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The disaster knocked out cooling systems to the reactors, three of which melted down.

Water is now being pumped in to cool the reactors, but storing the resultant large quantities of radioactive water has proved a challenge for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).

‘Closely watching’

Under the government plan, a wall of frozen earth will be created around the reactors using pipes filled with coolant to prevent groundwater coming into contact with contaminated water being used to cool fuel rods.

Graphic: How an 'ice wall' could work

Water treatment systems will also be upgraded to tackle the build-up of contaminated water, officials said.

Dr Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, told the BBC that the situation at the nuclear power plant was an “unprecedented crisis” and that it was “getting worse”.

He said the plan to freeze the ground around the site was “challenging”, and a permanent solution was needed.

The technique has only been used on a small scale to control pollution before but not with radioactive contamination, he added.

The damage to the plant has necessitated the constant pumping of water to cool the reactors – a process which creates an extra 400 tonnes of contaminated water every day.

That water is being stored in temporary tanks at the site. Last month Tepco said that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from one of the tanks, in the most serious incident to date.

The increase in storage of radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear plantSatellite images show how the number of water storage tanks has increased in the past two years. The tanks store contaminated water that has been used to cool the reactors.

But in recent months there have also been leaks from pipes and there are concerns that water is seeping from damaged reactor buildings into the ground.

Last month, Japan’s nuclear regulator classified the severity level of radioactive water leak issues at Fukushima as a three on the seven-point International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Ines).

The triple meltdown at Fukushima two years ago was classed as a level seven incident, one of only two nuclear events ever rated that highly – along with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union.

“The world is closely watching whether we can dismantle the (Fukushima) plant, including the issue of contaminated water,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“The government is determined to work hard to resolve the issue.”

The funding pledge comes days before a decision is due on the host nation for the 2020 summer Olympic Games, for which Tokyo is a candidate.

Meanwhile, one of Japan’s only two nuclear reactors still online was shut down on Tuesday for mandatory inspections.

The shutdown of Kansai Electric’s Oi Unit 3 reactor will leave the plant’s Unit 4 reactor the only one still functioning in Japan. Unit 4 must also be taken offline later this month for routine assessment.

Restarting Japan’s other nuclear reactors remains a highly controversial issue, but the government is working to get this done to fill an energy gap.

Graphic of water tank contamination at Fukushima
Water from the storage tanks has seeped into the groundwater and then into the sea. Efforts to use a chemical barrier to prevent sea contamination have not worked.
Source: BBC News

Areva signs up to support Japanese industry

Areva signs up to support Japanese industry

French nuclear company Areva is to work with Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JFNL) to bring the Rokkasho-mura recycling plant into commercial operation under a new strategic agreement. Franco-Japanese partnerships have been further strengthened by the signature of a cooperation between Areva and Atox.

Abe and Hollande press conference (Kantei)_460
The agreements were signed during a state visit to Japan by French president Francois Hollande, which saw Hollande and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe exchange cooperation agreements and reiterate the two countries’ dedication to nuclear power cooperation (Image: kantei.go.jp)

A joint statement signed in the presence of French president Francois Hollande and Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe pledges ongoing cooperation between Areva and JNFL in preparation for the commercial startup of the Rokkasho-mura plant, including active testing, the start-up itself, capacity ramp-up and plant optimisation. The two companies will also work together to facilitate the efficient operation of JNFL’s KA vitrification facility. Areva will also use the technical expertise gained from its long-term experience of operating the Melox mixed oxide fuel (MOX) fabrication plant in France to support JNFL in constructing and commissioning its own MOX plant.

The statement also sees the two companies pledge to share information on safety improvements at their respective reprocessing plants and to work towards strengthening a strategic partnership between the La Hague and Rokkasho reprocessing plants. The partnership will also include “joint actions for the development of new business of mutual interest for both parties.”

Commissioning of the Rokkasho plant, which is based on the Areva’s La Hague technology, has been making slow progress since 2006. The accompanying vitrification unit was designed by JNFL, and was successfully demonstrated in tests earlier this year.

A second cooperation agreement sees Areva and Japanese nuclear maintenance company Atox agreeing to work together to strengthen a two-year old relationship on dismantling and cleanup operations. This will be achieved in the context of a future joint venture aimed at developing innovative solutions for environmental remediation, primarily aimed at the Fukushima site and area.

Details have yet to be finalised but Atox said that it is planning to locate the joint venture at its development centre in Kashiwa in Chiba prefecture.

Source: World Nuclear News

Resurgence of the Nuclear Reactor, The Coming Uranium Bull Market

Resurgence of the Nuclear Reactor, The Coming Uranium Bull Market

In August 1956, the Calder Hall Power Plant in Seascale, England began generating electricity and earned the distinction of being the world’s first commercial nuclear power plant. It was a humble beginning for nuclear power; the plant only had a 50-megawatt (MW) output capacity, whereas the smallest US plant today has a 478 MW capacity. Nonetheless, Calder Hall represented the launch of a new era in energy that promised to bring electricity too cheap to meter.

But early on, the promising power source had its detractors. They objected to the high initial cost of constructing nuclear plants, the problems of radioactive waste disposal, and the risks of nuclear accidents and nuclear proliferation.

The detractors had an impact. The heavy regulation they pushed for and the litigation they initiated extended construction times and drove up construction costs. But despite their efforts, over 100 reactors had been placed in service in the United States by 1974.

Then came 1979 and a landmark event – the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island. In the aftermath, public opinion turned solidly in favor of the anti-nuclear movement, several construction projects were canceled, and no new US building permits for nuclear power plants were issued for the next 33 years.

Though the US abandoned nuclear expansion in the 1980s, other countries forged ahead. Worldwide startups peaked in 1984 and 1985, as over 30 plants were brought online in each of those years. However, escalating regulatory and litigation costs and pressure groups were not unique to the US. By the 1980s, it was becoming difficult to cost-justify new projects. On top of all that, the Chernobyl accident occurred in 1986, and the world had its own Three Mile Island moment.

In the 1990s, global startups fell to an annual average of less than six per year; in the first decade of the new century, average annual startups were just over three per year. In fact, since 1990 there have barely been enough startups to offset shutdowns.

Graph

The recent flurry of closures was caused to a great extent by yet another accident. After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, 2011 and the ensuing catastrophe at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, several countries began to rethink their nuclear energy policies. In May 2011, Germany announced that it would abandon nuclear energy entirely, shutting down all 17 of its plants by 2022. In June 2011, Italian citizens voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum to cancel plans for new reactors. The Japanese Cabinet, though unclear about a specific plan, has issued a white paper calling for less reliance on nuclear power.

So is nuclear on its last legs? It would appear so… but before we make the funeral arrangements, let’s take a closer look.

A Nuclear Renaissance

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, much of the attention in the Western world has been on the nuclear power debate, plant shutdowns, and project cancelations. Meanwhile, those in developing countries recognize the harsh reality that something has to be done to produce more power. Driven by population growth and increasing standards of living, future demand for energy in those countries will be strong, if not overwhelming.

The International Energy Agency forecasts that global demand for electricity will grow by a staggering 70% between 2012 and 2035. The increase will come predominantly from developing countries – over half is expected from China and India alone.

Serious pollution problems mean that those developing countries cannot produce all that electricity by burning coal. Amir Adnani, Uranium Energy Corporation’s CEO, says, “The plans to develop nuclear power in China and other countries are very much driven by a set of realities that is very different and very acute. People are dying every year in China, literally choking to death, because of all the toxins that are being put into the environment by burning coal.”

This explains why China, India, and the Russian Federation are quietly forging ahead with nuclear energy expansion while the West and Japan fret over it. As you can see in the table below, those developing countries are dominant leaders in the construction of nuclear facilities.

Country
Nuclear Plants in Operation
Nuclear Plants Under Construction
Argentina
2
1
Armenia
1
0
Belgium
7
0
Brazil
2
1
Bulgaria
2
0
Canada
19
0
China, Mainland
17
29
China, Taiwan
6
2
Czech Republic
6
0
Finland
4
1
France
58
1
Germany
9
0
Hungary
4
0
India
20
7
Iran
1
0
Japan
50
3
Korea
23
3
México
2
0
Netherlands
1
0
Pakistan
3
2
Romania
2
0
Russian Federation
33
11
Slovakian Federation
4
2
Slovenia
1
0
South Africa
2
0
Spain
8
0
Sweden
10
0
Switzerland
5
0
Ukraine
15
2
UAE
0
1
United Kingdom
16
0
United States
104
1
Total
437
67

Source: European Nuclear Society

It typically takes about six years to complete a plant once it is under construction, so the 67 facilities shown above should be producing electricity soon. In addition, over 100 reactors are at various stages of planning and permitting.

So it looks like the needs of developing countries will be more than enough to revitalize and sustain the nuclear-power industry. As for the developed countries, many still heavily rely on nuclear energy, and that won’t change anytime soon. In fact, the reliance may only increase in the coming years.

Though many developed countries have been cool at best and hostile at worst toward nuclear energy expansion, a more conciliatory approach may be required in the future. That’s because many of the same people who are concerned about the risks and costs of nuclear power are even more concerned about global warming. That means fossil fuels and the carbon dioxide they emit must be limited.

But what will be used other than fossil fuels? The hope was wind and solar, but the inefficiencies, high costs, and intermittent nature of these two energy sources make them unlikely candidates for widespread use. What’s left is nuclear.

On February 9, 2012, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a license for two new nuclear reactors in Georgia, the first in over 30 years. This could be a sign of more approvals to come. But what could eventually really ignite a nuclear expansion are the promising technology advancements that are being developed.

Nuclear Technological Developments

Small Modular Reactors:

You’ve heard of the mini-brewery and the mini-steel mill; now meet the mini-nuclear reactor. Commonly known as “small modular reactors” or SMRs, these reactors are tiny compared to conventional ones. However, with capacities reaching up to 300 MW (power sufficient to supply 45,000 homes) they pack plenty of punch to have practical commercial application. Here are some advantages that SMRs offer:

  • They are cheaper to construct and operate than conventional reactors.
  • They can be standardized and factory built, a much more efficient process than on-site construction.
  • They can be set up in groups to provide however much power an area needs. Grouping would allow for a unit to be taken offline for repairs, maintenance, or replacement without an interruption of service. On the flip side, more units can be easily added if an area’s power needs increase.
  • They can basically run themselves with little on-site supervision.
  • They can be stored underground, which enhances security.

Most important, because they are small and use less fuel, they are easier to cool, which greatly reduces the risk of a meltdown.

SMR

Small Modular Reactor

Some SMRs can even run on what was once considered nuclear waste. For example, a Bill Gates-backed company, TerraPower, is developing a reactor that burns depleted uranium. Depleted uranium burns very slowly, so TerraPower’s reactor could theoretically run for decades without the need for a fill-up. This is an exciting development. Unfortunately, the TerraPower reactor only exists as a prototype on a PC. This means that it will take several years before it could possibly make its debut on the power grid.

In fact, most SMRs are still in the very early stages of development, with many challenges to be met and many questions to be answered. However, the concept has enough promise to induce the US government to invest in its pursuit. If it proves to be viable, this technology could really shake up the energy scene.

Thorium Reactors:

Imagine a cheap, plentiful atomic fuel that could provide safe, emissions-free power for hundreds of years without refueling and without any risk of nuclear proliferation. That fuel is thorium, and proponents claim it eludes many of the pitfalls of today’s nuclear energy.

Robert Rapier, chief technology officer and executive vice president at Merica International, says:

“Longer term, commercialization of thorium reactors would dramatically reduce (although not totally eliminate) the risk of nuclear-weapon proliferation. Thorium is abundant relative to uranium, and thorium does not have to undergo the enrichment process that uranium requires. Further, thorium reactors have little risk of melting down because climbing temperatures will decrease the power output, eliminating the runaway reaction possibility present in a uranium-fueled reactor. Thus, these reactors would naturally tend toward the fail-safe state. The primary disadvantage is that thorium reactors are still mainly at the experimental stage, and therefore commercial viability has not yet been clearly demonstrated.”

Pebble-Bed Reactors:

The pebble-bed reactor concept was first introduced way back in the 1940s. The US, Germany, and South Africa have experimented with the technology over the years, but it is the Chinese who have persisted in the experiment and plan to implement the technology in two reactors near the Yellow Sea.

Under the pebble-bed design, uranium fuel rods are replaced with tennis-ball-sized graphite spheres that contain tiny beads of uranium, and helium (instead of water) is used as a coolant. A New York Times piece provides a simple explanation of how the technology works:

“Rather than using conventional fuel rod assemblies…(pebble-bed reactors) use hundreds of thousands of billiard-ball-size fuel elements, each cloaked in its own protective layer of graphite.

“The coating moderates the pace of nuclear reactions and is meant to ensure that if the plant had to be shut down in an emergency, the reaction would slowly stop on its own and not lead to a meltdown.

“The reactors (are) cooled by non-explosive helium gas instead of depending on a steady source of water – a critical problem with the damaged reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. And unlike those reactors, (pebble-bed) reactors are designed to gradually dissipate heat on their own, even if the coolant is lost.”

Challenges remain for pebble-bed reactors, and some environmentalists oppose the technology. They point to the fact that the volume of radioactive waste increases under the pebble-bed design, but do concede that pebble-bed waste is far less radioactive per ton than spent uranium fuel rods.

These technological developments in the nuclear-reactor space are promising and certainly worth keeping an eye on… but it’s unlikely that anything disruptive will hit the mainstream anytime soon.

So from an investment standpoint, this means that the best and most immediate way to play the nuclear trend is not the companies that make the reactors, but the companies that mine the fuel for the reactors.

The Coming Uranium Bull Market

There are a number of supply and demand circumstances that appear to be forming a perfect storm for bullish uranium prices. From the demand side, the 67 new reactors that we discussed earlier will be coming online in the near future.

On the supply side, there isn’t enough uranium being mined to meet current reactor requirements, let alone new facility requirements. According to the World Nuclear Association, there was a 40-million-pound uranium production gap in 2011. It is unlikely that that gap will be closed at current prices; miners claim that their production costs average $85 per pound. With spot prices at about $40 per pound, miners have no incentive to bring new capacity online.

Another factor affecting the supply side is the coming end of the Megatons to Megawatts program. Under this arrangement, the US and Russia agreed to convert high-enriched uranium from Russia’s dismantled weapons arsenal into low-enriched uranium for use in power plants. This secondary source provides about 15% of the US’s annual supply of uranium. However, the program will expire later this year and when it does, the production gap will widen. Guess what will happen to uranium prices…………………?

DECC seeks views on radioactive disposal facility

DECC seeks views on radioactive disposal facility

DECC seeks views on radioactive disposal facility

The UK Government is inviting views on the site selection process to find a host community for an underground disposal facility for radioactive waste.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) issued a call for evidence yesterday of the on-going Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) programme.

It follows Cumbria County Council’s decision earlier this year to vote against allowing nuclear waste to be disposed beneath the Cumbrian countryside. Allerdale Borough Council and Copeland Council, however, voted in favour of assessing potential sites for the geological disposal facility (GDF).

Energy Minister Baroness Verma said: “The Government remains firmly committed to geological disposal as the right policy for the safe and secure long-term management of higher-activity radioactive waste. We also continue to hold the view that the best means of selecting a site for a geological disposal facility is an approach based on voluntarism and partnership.

Read the full article here http://www.energylivenews.com/2013/05/14/decc-seeks-views-on-radioactive-disposal-facility/

Source: Energy Live News

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