Nuclear Insights Monthly - February 21, 2017

Environment

US: Endless nuclear power can be found in the seas

February 20, 2017 - Climate change is such an urgent issue that despite problems with radioactive waste, nuclear power is once again viable until renewable solutions like solar and wind are more widely adopted. The ocean is a good source of uranium fuel, but it exists in such small quantities that extracting it hasn't been economically feasible. However, Stanford researchers have developed a new technique that can capture up to three times more, meaning we might soon get a new source of uranium that could help keep CO2 in check.


A surprising amount of uranium exists in the ocean in the form of positively charged uranyl ions (no jokes please). The total is estimated at 4.5 billion tons, enough to power current plants for around 6 millenia. However, there's only around a grain of salt per quart (three parts per billion) and so far, it's been too time-consuming and expensive to extract it in decent quantities.


The best way to get uranium out of salt water is to dip plastic fibers coated with an organic chemical called amidoxime into seawater. The uranyl ions stick to the amidoxime, and can later be extracted and refined into uranium fuel. The key to its practicality is how quickly ions can be capture, how much sticks and how often the fibers can be reused.


The Stanford team came up with a conductive hybrid carbon and amidoxime fiber prototype that's better in all three of those areas. By sending electric pulses down the fiber, it was able to absorb up to nine times as much uranyl as previous fibers without becoming saturated. Over an 11-hour test at Half Moon Bay, the team captured three times as much uranium and the fibers had thrice the lifespan of standard amidoxime.


In 2012, a Japanese team estimated that their seawater extraction technique, using previous tech, could be developed for about $300 per kilogram. That was about three times the commercial price at that point, but right now, the price is around half of that. "We have a lot of work to do still, but these are big steps toward practicality," said the paper's co-author, Li Cui. "For much of this century, some fraction of our electricity will need to come from sources that we can turn on and off. I believe nuclear power should be part of that mix."


Source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/20/endless-nuclear-power-can-be-found-in-the-seas/

New Nuclear Builds

UAE: The UAE’s nuclear push

February 19, 2017 - The United Arab Emirates will soon be the first Arab state with a nuclear power program and the first to join the civilian nuclear club in more than a quarter of a century. Barring any delays, the country’s first reactor is scheduled to be operational by May 2017, after further inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the fuel is used only for peaceful purposes. So far, the project is on budget and on schedule. The remaining three 1,400 megawatt South Korean­-designed reactors are under construction and will be gradually connected to the grid by May 2020.


Along with such progress have come concerns about Arab states using their forthcoming nuclear capabilities to build a weapon sometime in the future. Last year, Israel’s former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, stated that “We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on the brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb.” A year before that, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that the “Iran deal will provoke other countries in the region to pursue equivalent nuclear capabilities, almost certainly Saudi Arabia.” And during one of her speeches to Goldman Sachs in 2013, according to transcripts released by Wikileaks, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The Saudis are not going to stand by. They’re already trying to figure out how they will get their own nuclear weapons. Then the Emiratis are not going to let the Saudis have their own nuclear weapons… and then the race is off.”


But the UAE, which is the farthest along among the Arab states in reaching its nuclear power goals, has made a convincing case that it needs nuclear power to address its rising demand for energy, reduce its fossil fuel dependence, and free up more oil for exports. To assuage worries about its intentions, in an April 2008 white paper, Abu Dhabi made a commitment to forgo uranium enrichment. The same was reflected in its 2009 “123” nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States (named after Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954), whose language barring enrichment and reprocessing is often referred to in the nuclear community as the “nonproliferation gold standard.” That agreement opened the doors for international cooperation, and during 2008–13 the UAE signed agreements with Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom that involved the transfer of technology, experts, nuclear materials, and instruments. In 2009, the Korea Electric Power Corporation won a contract to build the reactors.


The UAE’s arguments for its nuclear program make sense. Although the oil-rich country is heavily reliant on fossil fuel and has traditionally preferred a nuclear-free Gulf, it is feeling the pressure to diversify its energy mix to protect the nation’s natural resources and preserve them for exports. It is estimated that, once completed, the country’s new reactors will meet up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity demand. Further, there is a great amount of public support for developing nuclear technology as a way to create jobs and reduce pollution. (The UAE currently ranks eighth on the World Bank’s listing of countries by CO2 emissions per capita.) According to the latest public opinion poll on nuclear technology, conducted in 2012, 82 percent of Emiratis favored developing nuclear power and 89 percent supported the building of a nuclear plant. In addition, 89 percent felt that the peaceful use of nuclear energy was either “extremely important,” “very important,” or “important” for the UAE.


Of course, the UAE and other Arab states are not blind to the Iranian nuclear threat, especially in light of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Polling found that the Emiratis are even more skeptical than the Saudis of the JCPOA, with 91 percent stating they do not support the deal and 71 percent saying the deal is “only good for Iran, but bad for the Arab States.” Further, since the nuclear deal permits Iran to pursue unrestricted uranium enrichment in the future for peaceful means, other countries in the region have justification for their own enrichment programs.


Although, in the end, the Arab Gulf countries cautiously and conditionally threw their support behind the Iran nuclear deal, there are some indications that the UAE might be interested in renegotiating the “123 agreement” in the JCPOA’s wake. For example, after the deal was signed, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, indicated that his country might reevaluate its position on domestic enrichment, possibly indicating that it no longer felt bound by its agreement with the United States. According to California Congressman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who is also chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, al-Otaiba told him in a 2015 telephone call, “Your worst enemy has achieved this right to enrich. It’s a right to enrich now that your friends are going to want, too, and we won’t be the only country.”


Indeed, the JCPOA has put the UAE in an uncomfortable position, particularly if it feels that the agreement it signed with Washington carries less favorable terms than the one the United States signed with Iran. Apparently, the UAE's adherence to the "123" deal was a target of criticism from other Arab governments for that very reason. In the case of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a full nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States is currently pending because both countries, thus far, have resisted U.S. pressure and have insisted on leaving their uranium enrichment option open.


But Iran isn’t the only reason why we might be at the beginning stages of an Arab arms race. The Saudis don’t want to be “one-upped” by the Emiratis, so they too have embarked on a very ambitious nuclear plan (especially with oil prices at around $50 a barrel), involving 16 nuclear reactors to be built by 2032. Riyadh has already signed nuclear cooperation agreements with China, Russia, and South Korea, among others, and has announced that it will select the nuclear power plant site “very soon.” Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey are also planning to develop independent nuclear energy programs. There is also the risk that the UAE will share its nuclear know-how in the future with other countries in the Middle East that are less committed to nonproliferation. The UAE officials have already said that the country is willing to share its nuclear expertise with other newcomers to the nuclear club, such as Turkey and Jordan


For Iran’s Arab neighbors, the JCPOA may have served the interests of Western powers, but it has done little to curb Iran’s regional conduct or arguably its longer-term nuclear ambitions. It is impossible to isolate and disconnect the Arab state’s nuclear rationale from the broader regional context. The JCPOA, if it remains intact, buys Iran’s neighbors a decade during which they can continue with their nuclear push to better prepare themselves for Tehran’s rise. In the long-term, the UAE’s civilian nuclear program can reduce the costs associated with developing military programs. If the UAE, at some point in the future, decides that it must have military nuclear capabilities, the soon-to-be operational civilian nuclear program—which includes the plants, technologies, materials, human capital, and accumulated expertise—can pave a relatively quick and easy pathway to nuclear arms.


Of course, the international community has tools to confront this danger, primarily thanks to the UAE’s dependence on foreign manpower and infrastructure expertise: only 57 percent of the workers at the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation are Emirati. But the government has recognized this over-reliance on expatriates, and is now pushing for the “Emiratization” of all areas of operation. Further, an actual decision by the UAE to opt for nuclear weapons depends on a few factors; chief among them are Washington’s and Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear obligations under the JCPOA and the degree to which the United States is attentive to its ally’s security concerns.


At any rate, it would not serve the UAE’s interests to renegotiate or walk away from its nonproliferation obligations any time soon. Doing so would only endanger the completion of its own nuclear program. There is also the question of whether the JCPOA will remain intact under President Donald Trump, given his pledge to scrap the deal. Either way, it will be at least a decade before the UAE could even consider developing nuclear military capabilities. So at least for now, we should very much stay calm and let the UAE carry on, as it seems unlikely that the UAE’s nuclear energy program poses any immediate proliferation risks.


Source: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2017-02-19/uaes-nuclear-push

Nuclear Policy & Economics

US: Dominion’s Nuclear ‘Bailout’ a Do-or-Die Moment for Opponents

February 21, 2017 - Environmental groups opposed to subsidies for nuclear power may be facing a do-or-die moment in Connecticut.


Lawmakers there want to help Dominion Resources Inc.’s Millstone plant, a move they say is needed to preserve jobs and maintain the generator’s zero-emissions power. Dominion is lobbying for the aid, though it hasn’t said the station faces the kind of economic headwinds that led Exelon Corp. to announce plant closings in Illinois. Exelon ultimately won subsidies there.


Opponents say they fear throwing a government lifeline to a generator that isn’t drowning would make it that much more difficult to stop similar measures under consideration in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania. States are mulling ways to prop up nuclear plants as wholesale power prices collapse amid competition from cheap natural gas-fired generation and a sharp rise in renewable energy.


“You get that precedent set here and then it might become a bad model that is easier to put in place elsewhere,” Bill Dornbos, a senior attorney at the Acadia Center, an environmental group, said by phone. “That’s a real concern. It is a risky door to open.”


Concerns have already spread to the federal level, where an agency that oversees power markets is set to review the impact of nuclear resources subsidized for their carbon-free electricity. Cheryl LaFleur, the acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said this month that the department will hold a discussion with states, companies and power grid operators on such payments.


13-Year Low


Booming gas production from reserves in the Northeast helped drive revenues in New England’s energy market to the lowest in 13 years in 2016, according to ISO New England Inc., operator of the six-state market. Millstone will be just one of two nuclear plants left in the region after Entergy Corp. closes its Pilgrim station in Massachusetts in 2019 amid falling profits.


State aid “is spreading like a bad Dutch Elm disease in the forest,” John Shelk, president of the Washington-based Electric Power Supply Association, said by phone. “The nuclear folks are seeing an opportunity to get a little extra sugar in their coffee at the expense of other people.”


US Nuclear Power Plants retiring. Source: US EIA

Connecticut state Senator Paul Formica, a Republican whose district includes Waterford where the reactor is located, introduced legislation in January that he said would allow Millstone to sell power to Connecticut’s utilities at above-market rates. The measure, similar to a bill that failed last year, is needed to preserve, "an engine of economic growth" that provides jobs and supplies over half of Connecticut’s power, he said in a statement.


“We often wait until the problem sits directly under our nose, instead of taking proactive solutions to move ahead a year or two before we actually see what’s happening,” Formica said by phone. “Do we want to take that chance at Dominion?"


Entergy Shops More Nuclear Power Plants That It Plans to Close


Opponents of the Connecticut bill are reaching out to state legislators and the consumer advocate, and planning protests at the capitol, according to Nancy Burton, director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone.


"We shouldn’t give bailouts for a dying industry," Burton said by phone.


While Millstone isn’t at immediate risk of retirement, it’s “certainly a potential outcome if power prices stay as depressed as they are," Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said by phone. “The pressure on nuclear power plants across the Northeast is real."


Federal License


Millstone, the state’s only nuclear plant, has commitments to supply New England through at least 2020. Its two reactors are licensed by federal regulators to run until 2035 and 2045. The generator provides $1.5 billion in economic benefits annually to Connecticut while supporting almost 4,000 jobs, according to Dominion’s website.


Exelon and Entergy set a precedent for other operators when in August they won subsidies totaling about $500 million a year from New York for three plants. In December, Illinois approved a $235 million-a-year lifeline for the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear facilities after Exelon announced plans to shutter the reactors.


"There’s a lot of concern about giving a big company like Dominion extra money without proof on the table that they actually need it," John Flumerfelt, a spokesman for Calpine Corp., a competing power generator, said by phone. “While some plants were very much on the rocks, Millstone is not showing any signs that it’s actually in that much trouble.”


Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-21/dominion-s-nuclear-bailout-a-do-or-die-moment-for-opponents

US: Endless nuclear power can be found in the seas

February 20, 2017 - Climate change is such an urgent issue that despite problems with radioactive waste, nuclear power is once again viable until renewable solutions like solar and wind are more widely adopted. The ocean is a good source of uranium fuel, but it exists in such small quantities that extracting it hasn't been economically feasible. However, Stanford researchers have developed a new technique that can capture up to three times more, meaning we might soon get a new source of uranium that could help keep CO2 in check.


A surprising amount of uranium exists in the ocean in the form of positively charged uranyl ions (no jokes please). The total is estimated at 4.5 billion tons, enough to power current plants for around 6 millenia. However, there's only around a grain of salt per quart (three parts per billion) and so far, it's been too time-consuming and expensive to extract it in decent quantities.


The best way to get uranium out of salt water is to dip plastic fibers coated with an organic chemical called amidoxime into seawater. The uranyl ions stick to the amidoxime, and can later be extracted and refined into uranium fuel. The key to its practicality is how quickly ions can be capture, how much sticks and how often the fibers can be reused.


The Stanford team came up with a conductive hybrid carbon and amidoxime fiber prototype that's better in all three of those areas. By sending electric pulses down the fiber, it was able to absorb up to nine times as much uranyl as previous fibers without becoming saturated. Over an 11-hour test at Half Moon Bay, the team captured three times as much uranium and the fibers had thrice the lifespan of standard amidoxime.


In 2012, a Japanese team estimated that their seawater extraction technique, using previous tech, could be developed for about $300 per kilogram. That was about three times the commercial price at that point, but right now, the price is around half of that. "We have a lot of work to do still, but these are big steps toward practicality," said the paper's co-author, Li Cui. "For much of this century, some fraction of our electricity will need to come from sources that we can turn on and off. I believe nuclear power should be part of that mix."


Source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/20/endless-nuclear-power-can-be-found-in-the-seas/

UAE: The UAE’s nuclear push

February 19, 2017 - The United Arab Emirates will soon be the first Arab state with a nuclear power program and the first to join the civilian nuclear club in more than a quarter of a century. Barring any delays, the country’s first reactor is scheduled to be operational by May 2017, after further inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure the fuel is used only for peaceful purposes. So far, the project is on budget and on schedule. The remaining three 1,400 megawatt South Korean­-designed reactors are under construction and will be gradually connected to the grid by May 2020.


Along with such progress have come concerns about Arab states using their forthcoming nuclear capabilities to build a weapon sometime in the future. Last year, Israel’s former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, stated that “We see signs that countries in the Arab world are preparing to acquire nuclear weapons, that they are not willing to sit quietly with Iran on the brink of a nuclear or atomic bomb.” A year before that, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that the “Iran deal will provoke other countries in the region to pursue equivalent nuclear capabilities, almost certainly Saudi Arabia.” And during one of her speeches to Goldman Sachs in 2013, according to transcripts released by Wikileaks, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The Saudis are not going to stand by. They’re already trying to figure out how they will get their own nuclear weapons. Then the Emiratis are not going to let the Saudis have their own nuclear weapons… and then the race is off.”


But the UAE, which is the farthest along among the Arab states in reaching its nuclear power goals, has made a convincing case that it needs nuclear power to address its rising demand for energy, reduce its fossil fuel dependence, and free up more oil for exports. To assuage worries about its intentions, in an April 2008 white paper, Abu Dhabi made a commitment to forgo uranium enrichment. The same was reflected in its 2009 “123” nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States (named after Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954), whose language barring enrichment and reprocessing is often referred to in the nuclear community as the “nonproliferation gold standard.” That agreement opened the doors for international cooperation, and during 2008–13 the UAE signed agreements with Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom that involved the transfer of technology, experts, nuclear materials, and instruments. In 2009, the Korea Electric Power Corporation won a contract to build the reactors.


The UAE’s arguments for its nuclear program make sense. Although the oil-rich country is heavily reliant on fossil fuel and has traditionally preferred a nuclear-free Gulf, it is feeling the pressure to diversify its energy mix to protect the nation’s natural resources and preserve them for exports. It is estimated that, once completed, the country’s new reactors will meet up to a quarter of the UAE’s electricity demand. Further, there is a great amount of public support for developing nuclear technology as a way to create jobs and reduce pollution. (The UAE currently ranks eighth on the World Bank’s listing of countries by CO2 emissions per capita.) According to the latest public opinion poll on nuclear technology, conducted in 2012, 82 percent of Emiratis favored developing nuclear power and 89 percent supported the building of a nuclear plant. In addition, 89 percent felt that the peaceful use of nuclear energy was either “extremely important,” “very important,” or “important” for the UAE.


Of course, the UAE and other Arab states are not blind to the Iranian nuclear threat, especially in light of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Polling found that the Emiratis are even more skeptical than the Saudis of the JCPOA, with 91 percent stating they do not support the deal and 71 percent saying the deal is “only good for Iran, but bad for the Arab States.” Further, since the nuclear deal permits Iran to pursue unrestricted uranium enrichment in the future for peaceful means, other countries in the region have justification for their own enrichment programs.


Although, in the end, the Arab Gulf countries cautiously and conditionally threw their support behind the Iran nuclear deal, there are some indications that the UAE might be interested in renegotiating the “123 agreement” in the JCPOA’s wake. For example, after the deal was signed, the UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, indicated that his country might reevaluate its position on domestic enrichment, possibly indicating that it no longer felt bound by its agreement with the United States. According to California Congressman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), who is also chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, al-Otaiba told him in a 2015 telephone call, “Your worst enemy has achieved this right to enrich. It’s a right to enrich now that your friends are going to want, too, and we won’t be the only country.”


Indeed, the JCPOA has put the UAE in an uncomfortable position, particularly if it feels that the agreement it signed with Washington carries less favorable terms than the one the United States signed with Iran. Apparently, the UAE's adherence to the "123" deal was a target of criticism from other Arab governments for that very reason. In the case of Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a full nuclear cooperation agreement with the United States is currently pending because both countries, thus far, have resisted U.S. pressure and have insisted on leaving their uranium enrichment option open.


But Iran isn’t the only reason why we might be at the beginning stages of an Arab arms race. The Saudis don’t want to be “one-upped” by the Emiratis, so they too have embarked on a very ambitious nuclear plan (especially with oil prices at around $50 a barrel), involving 16 nuclear reactors to be built by 2032. Riyadh has already signed nuclear cooperation agreements with China, Russia, and South Korea, among others, and has announced that it will select the nuclear power plant site “very soon.” Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey are also planning to develop independent nuclear energy programs. There is also the risk that the UAE will share its nuclear know-how in the future with other countries in the Middle East that are less committed to nonproliferation. The UAE officials have already said that the country is willing to share its nuclear expertise with other newcomers to the nuclear club, such as Turkey and Jordan


For Iran’s Arab neighbors, the JCPOA may have served the interests of Western powers, but it has done little to curb Iran’s regional conduct or arguably its longer-term nuclear ambitions. It is impossible to isolate and disconnect the Arab state’s nuclear rationale from the broader regional context. The JCPOA, if it remains intact, buys Iran’s neighbors a decade during which they can continue with their nuclear push to better prepare themselves for Tehran’s rise. In the long-term, the UAE’s civilian nuclear program can reduce the costs associated with developing military programs. If the UAE, at some point in the future, decides that it must have military nuclear capabilities, the soon-to-be operational civilian nuclear program—which includes the plants, technologies, materials, human capital, and accumulated expertise—can pave a relatively quick and easy pathway to nuclear arms.


Of course, the international community has tools to confront this danger, primarily thanks to the UAE’s dependence on foreign manpower and infrastructure expertise: only 57 percent of the workers at the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation are Emirati. But the government has recognized this over-reliance on expatriates, and is now pushing for the “Emiratization” of all areas of operation. Further, an actual decision by the UAE to opt for nuclear weapons depends on a few factors; chief among them are Washington’s and Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear obligations under the JCPOA and the degree to which the United States is attentive to its ally’s security concerns.


At any rate, it would not serve the UAE’s interests to renegotiate or walk away from its nonproliferation obligations any time soon. Doing so would only endanger the completion of its own nuclear program. There is also the question of whether the JCPOA will remain intact under President Donald Trump, given his pledge to scrap the deal. Either way, it will be at least a decade before the UAE could even consider developing nuclear military capabilities. So at least for now, we should very much stay calm and let the UAE carry on, as it seems unlikely that the UAE’s nuclear energy program poses any immediate proliferation risks.


Source: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2017-02-19/uaes-nuclear-push

Operations & Maintenance

US: Dominion’s Nuclear ‘Bailout’ a Do-or-Die Moment for Opponents

February 21, 2017 - Environmental groups opposed to subsidies for nuclear power may be facing a do-or-die moment in Connecticut.


Lawmakers there want to help Dominion Resources Inc.’s Millstone plant, a move they say is needed to preserve jobs and maintain the generator’s zero-emissions power. Dominion is lobbying for the aid, though it hasn’t said the station faces the kind of economic headwinds that led Exelon Corp. to announce plant closings in Illinois. Exelon ultimately won subsidies there.


Opponents say they fear throwing a government lifeline to a generator that isn’t drowning would make it that much more difficult to stop similar measures under consideration in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania. States are mulling ways to prop up nuclear plants as wholesale power prices collapse amid competition from cheap natural gas-fired generation and a sharp rise in renewable energy.


“You get that precedent set here and then it might become a bad model that is easier to put in place elsewhere,” Bill Dornbos, a senior attorney at the Acadia Center, an environmental group, said by phone. “That’s a real concern. It is a risky door to open.”


Concerns have already spread to the federal level, where an agency that oversees power markets is set to review the impact of nuclear resources subsidized for their carbon-free electricity. Cheryl LaFleur, the acting chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said this month that the department will hold a discussion with states, companies and power grid operators on such payments.


13-Year Low


Booming gas production from reserves in the Northeast helped drive revenues in New England’s energy market to the lowest in 13 years in 2016, according to ISO New England Inc., operator of the six-state market. Millstone will be just one of two nuclear plants left in the region after Entergy Corp. closes its Pilgrim station in Massachusetts in 2019 amid falling profits.


State aid “is spreading like a bad Dutch Elm disease in the forest,” John Shelk, president of the Washington-based Electric Power Supply Association, said by phone. “The nuclear folks are seeing an opportunity to get a little extra sugar in their coffee at the expense of other people.”


US Nuclear Power Plants retiring. Source: US EIA

Connecticut state Senator Paul Formica, a Republican whose district includes Waterford where the reactor is located, introduced legislation in January that he said would allow Millstone to sell power to Connecticut’s utilities at above-market rates. The measure, similar to a bill that failed last year, is needed to preserve, "an engine of economic growth" that provides jobs and supplies over half of Connecticut’s power, he said in a statement.


“We often wait until the problem sits directly under our nose, instead of taking proactive solutions to move ahead a year or two before we actually see what’s happening,” Formica said by phone. “Do we want to take that chance at Dominion?"


Entergy Shops More Nuclear Power Plants That It Plans to Close


Opponents of the Connecticut bill are reaching out to state legislators and the consumer advocate, and planning protests at the capitol, according to Nancy Burton, director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone.


"We shouldn’t give bailouts for a dying industry," Burton said by phone.


While Millstone isn’t at immediate risk of retirement, it’s “certainly a potential outcome if power prices stay as depressed as they are," Dominion spokesman Ken Holt said by phone. “The pressure on nuclear power plants across the Northeast is real."


Federal License


Millstone, the state’s only nuclear plant, has commitments to supply New England through at least 2020. Its two reactors are licensed by federal regulators to run until 2035 and 2045. The generator provides $1.5 billion in economic benefits annually to Connecticut while supporting almost 4,000 jobs, according to Dominion’s website.


Exelon and Entergy set a precedent for other operators when in August they won subsidies totaling about $500 million a year from New York for three plants. In December, Illinois approved a $235 million-a-year lifeline for the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear facilities after Exelon announced plans to shutter the reactors.


"There’s a lot of concern about giving a big company like Dominion extra money without proof on the table that they actually need it," John Flumerfelt, a spokesman for Calpine Corp., a competing power generator, said by phone. “While some plants were very much on the rocks, Millstone is not showing any signs that it’s actually in that much trouble.”


Source: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-21/dominion-s-nuclear-bailout-a-do-or-die-moment-for-opponents

Small Modular Reactors

US: Consortium calls for public-private SMR support

February 20, 2017 - A consortium of small modular reactor (SMR) developers and customers has issued a policy statement setting out the benefits of public-private partnerships to facilitate the commercialization and export of US-designed SMRs.


The SMR Start consortium, which was launched in January 2016, said SMRs were a "strategic option" for the US to meet the need for new generation capacity from the mid-2020s onwards. Commercialization of new nuclear technologies involves large upfront first-of-a-kind costs and a relatively long timeframe to complete licensing and design activities, the consortium said. Investment of such amounts, over the timeframes required and without contractual commitments, presented a "unique challenge" to companies, the consortium said.


Public-private partnerships - similar to those that provide support for the introduction of other new energy technologies - would help ensure the successful commercialization of SMRs, the consortium said, stimulating the private investments required to ensure that the technology continues to advance and is capable of competing in overseas markets without additional direct support once the technology matures. "Such partnerships are an appropriate policy due to the public benefits derived from SMRs that are not valued in the energy markets, such as carbon-free generation and improved electricity grid reliability", it said.


The policy document called on the US government to establish public-private partnerships to support the development of two or more SMR designs, the deployment of four or more commercial SMR facilities domestically, and the development of a domestic supply chain to support the SMR market, including the export of SMRs.


It said the US Department of Energy's (DoE's) SMR Licensing Technical Support (LTS) program, providing initial funding of up to $452 million on a cost share basis, was "much appreciated but not sufficient in the current business environment to achieve large-scale SMR commercialization." It called for the LTS program, scheduled to end in fiscal 2017, to be expanded to cover design finalization as well as licensing and to be extended to fiscal 2025, "with a commensurate increase in funding".


Public-private partnerships could support the deployment of SMRs through a combination of production tax credits, power purchase agreements and loan guarantees, the consortium said. Technology development could be supported through grid security and reliability programs and accelerated through access to and support from national laboratories.


Investment tax credits (ITC) could support investments in SMR design and construction, and "kick-start" a supply chain and the manufacturing of components for both domestic and international SMR markets. "One SMR designer has invested in excess of $300 million in a state-of-the-art purpose-built SMR manufacturing facility in the US", it noted. "An SMR ITC should be established to incentivise investments in US SMR manufacturing facilities. This is similar in amount to the ITC for renewable energy sources", it said.


"Private companies and DoE have invested over $1 billion in the development of SMRs. However, more investment, through public-private partnerships is needed in order to assure that SMRs are a viable option in the mid-2020s. In addition to accomplishing the public benefit from SMR deployment, the federal government would receive a return on investment through taxes associated with investment, job creation and economic output over the lifetime of the SMR facilities that would otherwise not exist without the US government's investment," the consortium said.


SMRs can generally be described as nuclear reactors with a typical capacity of 300 MWe equivalent or less, designed with modular technology using module factory fabrication, allowing economies of series production and short construction times. The DoE has supported their development through several initiatives.


Earlier this year NuScale Power submitted the first-ever SMR design certification application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with a preferred site identified at the Idaho National Laboratory for a potential first-of-a-kind reactor. The regulator has also accepted for review from the Tennessee Valley Authority an application for an early site permit for a potential SMR at Clinch River in Tennessee. The application was developed with the support of the DoE's LTS program.


SMR Start was established by SMR vendors and potential customers to advocate for SMRs in the USA. Its members are Areva, Bechtel, BWXT, Dominion, Duke Energy, Energy Northwest, Fluor, Holtec International, NuScale Power, Ontario Power Generation, PSEG Nuclear, Southern Nuclear, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. The US Nuclear Energy Institute collaborates with the consortium on policies and priorities relating to SMR technology.

Source: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-US-consortium-calls-for-public-private-SMR-support-2002177.html

Supply Chain

Canada: SNC-Lavalin awarded contracts worth almost $28 million in support of Bruce Power Major Component Replacement

February 21, 2017 - SNC-Lavalin (TSX:SNC) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded contracts worth almost $28 million from Bruce Power, in support of Bruce’s Major Component Replacement (MCR) project over the last three months.


Under two of four discreet contracts, SNC-Lavalin’s Nuclear team, based in Mississauga, ON, will perform significant engineering scopes for detailed design of fuel channel and feeder reactor components. The design of these core components will enable the reactors, staring with Unit 6 and applicable to the remaining units, to continue to produce safe, reliable and affordable carbon-free power for another 30 years.


Under the third contract SNC-Lavalin will provide engineering, procurement and project management support services to assist Bruce Power in delivering automated and manual tooling to remove and reinstall fuel channel reactor components.


Finally, Bruce Power awarded SNC-Lavalin a contract for preliminary design of visual inspection and vacuuming tools which will be used by Bruce Power to clean and inspect the internal structure of the calandria vessel, providing assurance all components are fit for use to continue generating power.


“We are pleased to continue our long-standing relationship with Bruce Power,” said Preston Swafford, Chief Nuclear Officer & Executive Vice President, Nuclear for SNC-Lavalin. “As OEM of Canadian CANDU technology, we are committed to successfully delivering this important component of Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP).” These contracts were won under a Master Services Agreement signed by the two companies in 2016.


Bruce Power’s MCR program includes the life extension of six Bruce Power units announced in December 2015. “Extending the life of the Bruce Power site will ensure the electricity it provides Ontario families and businesses continues to be part of the solution over both the short and long-term to provide a source of low-cost, reliable electricity,” said Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power’s President and CEO.


As an important resource for Bruce Power’s multi-year investment program, SNC-Lavalin will continue to work closely to support the MCR project, which optimizes the operational life of the Kincardine nuclear site. The Bruce Power CANDU units produce over 30% of Ontario’s electricity at 30% less than the average residential price.


Source: SNC Lavalin Press Release

US/Japan: Toshiba pulling plug on US nuclear reactor plan

February 20, 2017 - Toshiba appears set to withdraw from a plan to build two nuclear reactors at a U.S. power plant amid sizable write-downs on American nuclear operations and lengthy construction delays.


The Japanese manufacturer had been contracted to build the third and fourth reactors for U.S. utility NRG Energy's South Texas Project, taking Toshiba's advanced boiling water reactors abroad for the first time. Toshiba looks to pull out of the project, and will decide later what to do with its stake in the joint venture that serves as the developer.


The reactors were to debut as early as 2016. But delays on the project have brought heavy costs for Toshiba, including write-downs totaling 72 billion yen ($638 million at current rates) logged in fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014. Ground has not been broken on the units, while work such as civil engineering lies outside Toshiba's purview. Further losses are unlikely, according to a source involved with the project.


Orders received by Westinghouse for new nuclear facilities in the U.S. and abroad will proceed, with some modifications to curb risks, Toshiba said.


NRG has suspended the bulk of work toward construction on the South Texas Project due to heightened nuclear safety regulations, and the company said it will end further investment. Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings was initially to take part in the project, but later reconsidered.


Toshiba had sought a way to complete the two reactors even after NRG backed away from the plan. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued licenses to build and operate the units in February 2016. But the Japanese company in May ended its alliance with Chicago Bridge & Iron, a partner on the project, and later withdrew an application to renew the certification of its reactor design -- a necessary step toward construction. Chicago Bridge & Iron is embroiled in a lawsuit with Westinghouse over the latter's acquisition of a CB&I unit.


Toshiba's involvement in a liquefied natural gas terminal in nearby Freeport, Texas, will not be impacted by the halt on nuclear construction, a source familiar with the matter said.


Source: http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Toshiba-pulling-plug-on-US-nuclear-reactor-plan

Waste Management & Decommissioning

UK: First Sellafield fuel pond sludge encapsulated

February 20, 2017 - Drums of radioactive sludge from Sellafield's Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) - the world's oldest nuclear storage pond - have been processed in the site's encapsulation plant for the first time. The waste is now ready for long-term disposal.


Sellafield Limited announced the "momentous move" on 14 February. The first 500-litre drum of sludge had been transferred from the pond to the encapsulation plant in December 2016. Cement was then added to the drum, which was mixed with the sludge using a stirrer "much like a big food mixer". Once the mixture had cured, a cement cap was added and the drum was sealed with a lid. The first drum was then transferred remotely to a storage facility where it will be kept until the planned national geological disposal facility is available.


Eric Bowe, head of encapsulation plants at Sellafield, said: "This is a great achievement for us; it is the first drum of historic sludge to be encapsulated and stored ready for long-term storage. This is one of the first examples of a legacy facility producing a waste ready for a geological disposal facility - it's a cradle-to-grave solution."


The PFSP pond - built and commissioned between 1948 and 1952 - and the adjoining decanning building provided the storage and cooling facility for irradiated fuel and isotopes from the two Windscale pile reactors. The PFSP processed 2100 tonnes of pile fuel and 300 tonnes of Magnox fuel. The placement of material in the pond - the first nuclear fuel storage pond to be constructed at Sellafield - ceased in the 1970s. Extensive refurbishment and re-equipping took place in the 1980s and decommissioning started in the 1990s.


The subdivided outdoor storage pond is some 100 metres long, 25 metres wide, 7 metres deep and contains over 15 million litres of water, making it the world's largest open-air nuclear storage pond. The PFSP contains skips of irradiated fuel and waste, each skip containing 6-12 cubic metres of material. The removal of sludge - consisting of algae, corrosion products and wind-blown material - that had accumulated in it began in 2008. Fuel removal began in September 2011.


The initial sludge removal involves pumping the material into a purpose-built treatment plant next to the pond, before transfer to the drum filling plant. It will take several years to remove all of the sludge in the pond.


Sellafield Ltd said the sludge removal project is being delivered ten years ahead of schedule and for half the predicted £200 million ($249 million) cost. A ten-year project to dewater the pond will start in 2019, while sludge is still being removed.


Source: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-First-Sellafield-fuel-pond-sludge-encapsulated-2002174.html