Nuclear Insights Monthly - March 28, 2017

New Nuclear Builds

UK: Foreign companies flock to build nuclear plants in the UK

March 25, 2017 - Nuclear energy faces an uncertain future globally as concerns over safety and cost dog the industry. But in the UK, foreign investors are queueing up to back projects. The latest is South Korea. Its biggest power company is in talks to join the consortium backing a nuclear power station in Cumbria, in a sign of the continuing allure of Britain’s atomic ambitions to international companies. Kepco said last week it was interested in taking a stake in NuGen, which is 60% owned by Japan’s Toshiba and 40% by France’s Engie, confirming what had been an open secret in the industry for months.


Kepco’s president, Cho Hwan-eik, said that once the terms of a potential deal were ironed out, “we will be the first to jump into the race”.


The idea of a Seoul-based company developing the Moorside plant near Sellafield is not as strange as it might seem. The UK government needs new nuclear power stations to meet greenhouse-gas reduction targets and keep the lights on as ageing coal and atomic plants are retired. This month, officials reiterated how important nuclear will be to Britain’s future energy security, with projections that showed 38% of power coming from nuclear by 2035, up from 24% last year.


Potential investors have been drawn by the UK government’s enthusiasm and a nuclear standstill elsewhere, amid lingering safety fears in the wake of the Fukushima disaster and cost overruns at the Flamanville site in France which is using a new reactor design. As a result, South Korea has joined Japan, China and France in showing interest in British nuclear.


“It’s pretty simple. We are the only people building new nuclear power stations and we have by far the biggest new nuclear programme outside China for the next 10 years,” said Peter Atherton, an analyst at consultancy Cornwall Energy. “The civil nuclear programme globally doesn’t have any orders.”


One expert, Mycle Schneider, called the UK the “last hope” for the nuclear construction giants of the world. The Paris-based nuclear consultant said: “In Korea the political situation will dramatically change after the upcoming elections, [probably] not in favour of the nuclear industry. Success overseas will help survival at home. The Japanese industry clearly has no future at home and little prospects abroad [because of Fukushima].”


The UK has also dangled the prospect of economic support for foreign nuclear builders. French state-owned EDF, which is building two new reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset at a cost of £18bn, struck a subsidy contract with the government that will see it guaranteed twice the wholesale price of electricity for 35 years. The deal means Hinkley would be an “absolute goldmine” when operational, Atherton said.


He said UK financial support was not dissimilar to the deal Kepco has in the United Arab Emirates, where it is building four new reactors paid for by the UAE’s state-owned utility. “The economics of the project, and the economic risks of the project, fall on the host government,” said Atherton.


There is also the prospect that the UK government could take a stake in one of the new nuclear sites. Leaks to Japanese media revealed officials in London and Tokyo had discussed the UK offering state finance to a project led by Japan’s Hitachi to build reactors next to the site of an old one at Wylfa in Wales.


Another lure for foreign companies is the prestige of having their reactor design pass the UK’s strict regulatory and licensing process. Antony Froggatt, a nuclear expert at the thinktank Chatham House, said: “It gives you that important status for getting orders elsewhere.”


That is particularly true of the Chinese state-owned company, which is providing a third of the money for Hinkley and whose design for a reactor at Bradwell, Essex is expected to complete the UK regulatory process in 2021.


“It would be important because it would be first time that reactor type was built outside China, so having it approved by the UK regulator would be significant,” said Atherton.


Kepco’s motives for the Moorside interest are not yet clear. It may want to get a foothold in the UK and provide the finance to build AP1000 reactors designed by Toshiba subsidiary Westinghouse, with the Office for Nuclear Regulation expected to give clearance for the technology imminently after a four-year process.


But it is thought to be more likely that Kepco would want to build its own South Korea-designed reactors at the site. Froggatt said: “The question is, does Kepco want to build AP1000s? The answer is no, it doesn’t want to build them. If it went ahead, I assume they’re buying the site and infrastructure. I assume they would put their own reactor through the licensing process.”


Kepco has a good recent track record of building reactors abroad. The first reactor in UAE is due to be connected to the grid this year, which Schneider said would be an “outstanding achievement” if achieved. In total, it operates 25 and is building three at home. The UK may be joining that list.


Source: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/mar/25/foreign-firms-flock-to-build-nuclear-plants-in-uk

UK: Cumbria nuclear power plant project may be put back to 2030, stalling UK nuclear ambitions

March 25, 2017 - Britain's nuclear ambitions were thrown into doubt last night amid fears that a change of control at Moorside could set the project back by ‘years’.


The Cumbrian plant is one of the UK’s three key nuclear power projects, alongside Hinkley Point and Sizewell.


It is to be built by NuGen, a firm 60 per cent owned by Toshiba, which will also supply the three reactors through its subsidiary Westinghouse.


But the Japanese company has been dogged by concerns over its financial stability. And speculation is growing that US-based Westinghouse will trigger bankruptcy protection rules within days to restructure.


South Korea’s Kepco last week signalled it may step in to rescue the Moorside plant. But local campaigners say that if Kepco scraps plans to use Westinghouse reactors in favour of its own, the power station would be unlikely to be switched on until after 2030.


Martin Forwood of Core, which opposes further nuclear development in the Sellafield area, said: ‘Why would Kepco or any other new sponsor take on someone else’s reactors?’


NuGen’s target of a 2024 launch has already slipped by more than two years. Forwood said the approval process for new reactors would further delay it by ‘four or five years’.


He said more delays may continue to discourage other businesses, adding: ‘West Cumbria has vast potential for renewable energy – wind, wave and tidal power – that we can start building today.’


Source: http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-4349226/Britain-s-nuclear-plans-2030.html

Nuclear Policy & Economics

US: Nuclear energy caucus forms in challenging times

March 26, 2017 - A group of state lawmakers formed the Nuclear Energy Caucus last week as part of an effort to keep nuclear power part of Pennsylvania’s mix of energy sources.


Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp., ranking Democrat on the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, is a member of this caucus. He said a main goal of his is preserving the 1,000 jobs at the Susquehanna power plant in Salem Twp. owned by Talen Energy.


Nuclear power is as important to Pennsylvania’s future as the Pa Solar Park in Nesquehoning and wind farms in his district, said Yudichak.


“Pennsylvania is unique,” he said. “We have a very robust and diverse energy portfolio.”


Pennsylvania has five nuclear plants, making it the second largest state with nuclear capacity, the caucus said.


The goal of the caucus is to develop policies that promote nuclear energy as part of Pennsylvania’s energy mix, which includes oil and gas drilling, wind power, solar power, hydro power, coal mining and using coal refuse.


Industry struggling


Sen. Ryan Aument, R-36, Lancaster, points out that the nuclear industry nationwide is struggling.


Five nuclear plants have ceased production since 2013 while an additional seven plants have announced plans to close by 2019, said Aument. Given Pennsylvania’s status as a top nuclear power producer, it’s important the caucus promotes the use of nuclear energy, he added.


The caucus arrives at a time when the nuclear industry’s economic problems are an issue in neighboring New York and Ohio. Some nuclear plants have experienced problems selling their electricity on the market at a price that covers the costs of generating it. Competition from cheaper natural gas is a key factor.


New York has approved a surcharge on customers’ electric bills to provide a subsidy to help keep its nuclear plants open. Supporters say the subsidy recognizes that nuclear energy is a renewable power source and doesn’t produce carbon emissions. The subsidy is being challenged in state courts.


Ohio is considering legislation where customers would pay a surcharge to underwrite zero-carbon emissions credits given to nuclear plants.


The nuclear industry shouldn’t get a bailout from ratepayers, said activist Eric Epstein, chairman of Three Mile Island Alert.


‘Cannot compete’


“It’s become clear the nuclear industry cannot compete in the market,” he said. “It’s environmental attributes are negligible.”


The storage of high-level radioactive wastes is a major problem with nuclear plants, added Epstein.


Nuclear plant owners recouped investment costs after Pennsylvania enacted an electric deregulation law in 1999, he said.


The new caucus hasn’t discussed any legislation, let alone a subsidy or tax credits for nuclear plants, said Yudichak.


Source: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/nuclear-energy-caucus-forms-in-challenging-times-1.2172406

Regulations & Safety

UK: Hitachi-GE and Westinghouse set for GDA completion

March 22, 2017 - UK regulators expect to complete the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of the AP1000 and the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) in March and December this year, respectively. They have also reported the start of the GDA of the UK HPR1000, which they expect to complete in 2021.


In their latest periodic report assessing new nuclear reactor designs, covering the period November 2016 to January 2017, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), the Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales, have provided an update on work they have been carrying out on their GDA of the Westinghouse and Hitachi-GE reactor designs, as well as the start of a GDA for General Nuclear System's UK HPR1000.


Horizon Nuclear Power - established in 2009 and acquired by Hitachi in November 2012 - plans to deploy the UK ABWR at two sites - Wylfa Newydd, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in South Gloucestershire.


NuGeneration (NuGen), the UK joint venture between Japan's Toshiba and France's Engie, plans to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity at Moorside, in West Cumbria using AP1000 nuclear reactor technology provided by Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba.


The UK EPR design became the first reactor design to complete the GDA process and receive a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability from the Environment Agency in December 2012. Under a deal agreed in October 2015, China General Nuclear (CGN) will take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy's £18 billion ($28 billion) project to construct Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, which will comprise two Areva EPR units. In addition, the two companies will develop projects to build new plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, the latter using Chinese reactor technology - the HPR1000. General Nuclear Systems is a joint venture between CGN and EDF, developed to deliver the Bradwell project in Essex.


According to the report, the ONR will "realign" its regulation of new nuclear build from April, to be "technology facing rather than lifecycle based (GDA, licensing, construction)", and will provide more information on this in future updates of its work.


UK ABWR


During the period, the ONR "continued the step 4 detailed assessments and moved towards ensuring technical convergence and beginning to finalise assessment requirements as the project moves into its final year".


Hitachi-GE has now submitted over 90% of its GDA 'deliverables' and those remaining relate largely to the Pre-Construction Safety Report (PCSR), according to the report. This is a further indication, it says, that the project is completing the assessment phase. The regulators expect to conclude detailed technical work in the summer and move into drafting the step 4 reports that will underpin a decision on whether to grant a DAC and SoDA in December.


The Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales began a 12-week public consultation in December, which sought views on the environment agencies' preliminary conclusions following detailed assessment of the UK ABWR design, and on the environmental aspects of the design. Their consultation ended on 3 March.


"There have been no new, significant technical issues emerging in this period," the report said. "We have concluded work on the fuel export design as reported in our last progress update and progressed assessment relating to the one outstanding Regulatory Issue in Probabilistic Safety Analysis.


"Furthermore, we expect a significant number of Regulatory Observations (ROs) to be closed in the coming period. For these reasons, we have moved the delivery confidence for the project from amber/green to green; reflecting regulatory confidence in the likely success of the project concluding in December 2017. In addition, at this stage we do not anticipate new significant technical matters to be identified by our assessments, although we cannot preclude it, and we consider that overall the project is stable."


In terms of the fuel export design, the ONR sought independent technical advice on the extant design and 'optioneering' and as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) analysis provided by Hitachi-GE.


"Our final conclusion is that Hitachi-GE has made a robust case for the current design and its optioneering work is commendable. There are some residual matters around managing the risk of foreclosing future design options, which we will take forward with Hitachi-GE. For PSA, progress has been made and we have been able to close some aspects of the RI actions and supporting ROs," the report said.


AP1000


There has been a "significant increase in pace, progress and delivery" in the period for the AP1000 GDA. For example, Westinghouse provided 163 formal submissions that represent about 20% of its total submissions for the GDA closure phase.


"We have reported the compression of the program for this project in earlier reports, and although Westinghouse has been able to meet its schedule, the back-end loading of work has placed considerable pressure on ONR resources. The ONR team has maintained pace and undertaken an extensive amount of assessment in this short period of time to enable Westinghouse to complete the GDA in March 2017. To support this accelerated pace the level of communication and interaction between the Westinghouse and regulatory teams has also increased at all levels within the project," the report said.


ONR and Westinghouse have also provided "enhanced management attention on critical path topic areas", it added, and implemented weekly management progress updates across the teams, all with a view of enabling Westinghouse to complete the GDA successfully on time.


This increase in pace and delivery has "dramatically improved" the Westinghouse position and increased the likelihood of the project completing on time at the end of this month, it said.


"As we signalled in our last update, ONR undertook a project wide health check/deep dive in January 2017. We have improved our delivery confidence from amber/red to amber/green as a key outcome from that review. The sheer volume of work undertaken by ONR in this period has contributed to this change in position," it said.


In the area of structural integrity there is still technical work outstanding, however. "This therefore remains a project risk although we are confident of a way forward. There have been other technical hurdles within the period, but for the majority of areas ONR has been able to work expediently with Westinghouse to resolve them," the report said.


HPR1000


The regulators received a request from the government to commence a GDA of the UK HPR1000 reactor technology on 10 January. This followed work by the regulators and General Nuclear System (GNS), the requesting party acting for China General Nuclear and EDF, on the pre-requisites for GDA.


"The regulators confirmed to the Department for Business, Energy and Industry that GNS were in a good position to commence the GDA and there is confidence that they have the capability and capacity to complete the process in a reasonable timeframe. The UK HPR1000 GDA formally started on 19 January 2017," the report said.


Following completion of the GDA, which is expected in 2021, it is proposed that UK HPR1000 reactors will be deployed at the Bradwell B site in Essex.


The regulators have "mobilised a team" and begun preparatory work for a technical workshop in China this month.


Source: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-GE-Hitachi-and-Westinghouse-set-for-GDA-completion-22031701.html

Canada: Waste site impact report sent to CNSC

March 21, 2017 - Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has submitted a draft environmental impact statement for its latest project to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).


The Near Surface Disposal Facility Project (NSDF) is for the siting and construction of a facility which would be used for the disposal of low level radioactive waste and a small amount of intermediate level waste.


The public will be able to review this environmental impact statement and submit comments on it for the next 60 days through the CNSC website. Written comments in either official language must be submitted by May 17, 2017.


CNL hopes to break ground in 2018, and have the NSDF ready for operation in 2020.


Patrick Quinn, corporate communications director for CNL, said the NSDF will allow them to decommission and demolish more than 100 buildings and structures at Chalk River Laboratories – a necessary step to revitalize the site – by providing a safe and permanent disposal site for waste from 65 years of science and technology and the laboratories’ continuing operations.


He said the vast majority of the waste which would be stored there, some 90 per cent, is already stored, or would be produced, out of activities at the Chalk River site.


“Approximately five per cent would be waste originating from the Whiteshell Laboratories, in Manitoba and other AECL sites, such as the prototype reactors Douglas Point and Gentilly-1; and less than five per cent would be commercial sourced inventories, for example from Canadian hospitals and universities, a service that has been underway for decades,” Quinn said.


If the site meets all of the approvals and comes into being, it will operate for about 50 years, anticipated to begin in 2020 and closing up in approximately 2070. Closure activities are expected to start in 2070 and continue through to 2100, after which the NSDF Project will transfer into the post-closure phase, in which it will be monitored and maintained for the next 300 years, after which it would be decommissioned


The site will be constructed to resist groundwater and any sort of disruption for that long time period.


During operations, leachate from the engineered containment mound will be collected and treated to remove radiological and non-radiological contaminants. Tritium concentrations discharging to the Ottawa River will not exceed the drinking water guideline. Surface water quality monitoring will be conducted as part of CNL’s Environmental Monitoring Program to verify water quality predictions.


Quinn said the submission of the draft Environmental Impact Statement to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is a requirement of the Environmental Assessment process for the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project.


“In order for the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project to move forward, the Environmental Assessment, which is carried out under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and regulated under the authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, must be completed,” he stated.


Following receipt of public comments on the draft EIS, CNSC staff will consider all submissions received in making its determination on whether the EIS is satisfactory or whether further information is required from the proponent.


Should further information be required, the proponent will be requested to submit the necessary information until CNSC staff are satisfied with a final EIS.


In addition, CNSC staff will provide responses to all comments received from members of the public and Indigenous groups. Following receipt of a final EIS, CNSC staff will prepare a CEAA 2012 EA report (EA report), to inform the Commission's EA decision. The EA report will be available to the public and Indigenous groups 60 days prior to the Commission's EA public hearing, which is anticipated to be held in January 2018. Public participation will be offered through the submission of written and/or oral interventions.


Written comments, deadline May 17, 2017, can be sent to:


Nicole Frigault

Environmental Assessment Specialist

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

P.O. Box 1046 Station B

280 Slater Street

Ottawa (ON) K1P 5S9

Telephone: 613-995-7948 or 1-800-668-5284

Fax: 613-995-5086


Email: cnsc.ea-ee.ccsn@canada.ca


The draft environmental impact statement, supporting documents and associated links can be viewed at the following link:


http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=118381


Source: http://www.thedailyobserver.ca/2017/03/21/waste-site-impact-report-sent-to-cnsc

Small Modular Reactors

Indonesia: ThorCon Molten Salt Reactor Would Be Viable For Indonesia, Study Concludes

March 15, 2017 - Three state-owned Indonesian companies – Pertamina, PLN and Inuki – have completed a technology pre-feasibility study which has concluded that a molten salt reactor design proposed by US-based Martingale could deliver safe, cheap, clean energy, could be built now, would be economically viable, and would have the potential to replace coal power plants.


Martingale signed an agreement in 2015 with the Indonesia Thorium Consortium to develop the ThorCon reactor with Indonesia. The ThorCon team has now begun discussions with Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) to review the ThorCon design. If Batan approves the design it will recommend to the government that ThorCon be Indonesia’s first nuclear power plant. The Indonesia Nuclear Professional Association has agreed to be project manager for a technical assessment of the technology.


ThorCon representative Bob Effendi said the technical assessment will enable the Indonesian government to “open the door” for nuclear power, as called for in a national plan which says nuclear power plant construction should start in 2019 and be operating by 2025. ThorCon is a liquid-fuel nuclear reactor design, which uses uranium and thorium fuel dissolved in molten salt.


ThorCon requires no new technology because it is a straightforward scale-up of the successful molten salt reactor experiment (MSRE) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US and is using the MSRE as its pilot plant. There is no technical reason why a full-scale 250-MW prototype cannot be operating “within four years”, Martingale said.


Source: http://www.nucnet.org/all-the-news/2017/03/15/thorcon-molten-salt-reactor-would-be-viable-for-indonesia-study-concludes

US: X-Energy Steps Into The Ring With Its Advanced Pebble Bed Modular Nuclear Reactor

March 27, 2017 - X-Energy, LLC has pebbles to burn. Last week, the company announced that it has started the conceptual design phase for its Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) pebble bed modular reactor.


The Xe-100 is an innovative advanced nuclear power plant design, that uses its own made-in-the-USA proliferation-resistant spherical nuclear fuel elements, called pebbles. The Xe-100 is a 200MWt (75MWe) reactor that takes less time to construct because of factory-produced components. It cannot meltdown and is walk-away safe under any accident scenario without the need for human intervention.


Partnering with Southern Nuclear to provide some heavy nuclear lifting, X-energy held a Conceptual Design Readiness Review on March 8 to validate the design, provide preparatory documentation, analysis tools, scope, management processes and overall team readiness. All the things needed to seriously get started and to get the attention of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).


This reactor is ideal for high-temperature applications in industry such as desalination, and is modular for flexibility in power needs and applications like load-following renewables, since it can ramp up and down quickly.


The complete Xe-100 power plant has a small physical footprint, only 200 meters by 100 meters with a small emergency planning zone essentially within its own gates, and a reduced water requirement which means it can be installed in a much wider range of potential locations compared to other clean energy systems.


But the real innovation is its nuclear fuel – the pebbles.


X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor uses tennis ball-sized pebbles (see figure) made of thousands of TRISO micro-fuel particles which consist of fissile U-235 surrounded by pyrolytic graphite, which acts as the moderator - slowing down fast neutrons so they more efficiently split the U-235 nucleus. The graphite is further surrounded by a coated ceramic layer of silicon carbide for strength and containment of the fission products.


Thousands of pebbles are amassed to create the reactor core, and are cooled by a gas, such as helium, nitrogen or carbon dioxide, that doesn’t chemically react with the fuel pebbles. As the pebbles become used, they drop out of the bottom of the core, and are replaced from above, such that the reactor does not need to shut down to refuel.


Because the reactor is designed to handle high temperatures like 1,600°C, it can cool by natural circulation and still survive any accident. High temperatures provide higher thermal efficiencies and up to 50% more power per unit of fuel than traditional reactors that don’t get much above 400°C.


This reactor has the additional feature that the gases do not dissolve contaminants or absorb neutrons as water does, so the core has almost no radioactive fluids.


Last year, the United States Department of Energy awarded X-energy a five-year $53 million Advanced Reactor Concept Cooperative Agreement to move the Xe-100 development forward.


“This is an important and wonderful milestone. Since being founded in 2009, our goal has been to be the world leader in HTGR design as well as the fuel to power these reactors,” said X-energy founder and CEO Dr. Kam Ghaffarian. “Moving our Xe-100 puts us well on the way to meeting our goal of deployment within 10 years.”


Southern Nuclear, a subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO), brings a long history of nuclear capabilities and operations to the table. Southern Nuclear operates a total of six nuclear reactors for Alabama Power and Georgia Power, and has two new nuclear units under construction at Plant Vogtle.


“Southern Nuclear and X-energy are well-aligned to allow advanced nuclear capabilities to be a viable part of energy solutions,” said Southern Nuclear Regulatory Affairs Director Brian Whitley.


New reactor designs are pretty advanced and ready to be rolled out. Whether they’re variations on the traditional light-water reactor (NuScale), new molten salt designs (IMSR), air-cooled, liquid metal, or advanced fast-reactors that burn everything from spent fuel from old reactors to Iraqi tank armor (TerraPower; General Atomics), SMRs like the Xe-100 build on the successful experience of previous designs and the redundant safety systems developed over the last 60 years.


These are not your father’s reactors.


But small modular reactors must get over the initial market humps that plague all new technologies, and must quickly become cost-competitive. This hurdle is something a new organization called SMR Start is trying to address by using proven public-private partnerships that have succeeded with other technologies like renewables.


Today’s energy markets are characterized by low natural gas prices, heavily subsidized renewable generation and low growth in electricity demand. American vendors also compete in the international markets for the deployment of SMRs and other advanced nuclear reactor designs. Unfortunately, most countries like Russia and China directly subsidize their nation’s nuclear technologies in order to penetrate global markets.


The low price of natural gas poses a challenge to low-carbon technology deployment, and a production tax credit (PTC) for nuclear would help to value the carbon-free benefits of SMRs and close this price gap as it has for renewables. Power purchase agreements would help to create demand for new, low-carbon technologies in an era of slower demand growth.


PPAs between SMR operators and federal facilities would align with the directive to support low-carbon technologies codified in Executive Order 13693 from 2015 that recognizes SMRs as a source of clean energy.


But what really matters to the public is safety. The small size and large surface area-to-volume ratio of SMRs, make the plant size very small, and along with other innovative designs like the Xe-100, allows natural processes to cool it indefinitely in the case of a complete power blackout, with no humans needed to intervene, no AC or DC power, no pumps, and no additional water for cooling.


Translation – no meltdowns!


And that is why we need to move forward fast on these new nuclear reactors.


Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2017/03/27/x-energy-steps-into-the-ring-with-its-advanced-pebble-bed-modular-nuclear-reactor/#6e7020a745d1

Waste Management & Decommissioning

Canada: Waste site impact report sent to CNSC

March 21, 2017 - Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has submitted a draft environmental impact statement for its latest project to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).


The Near Surface Disposal Facility Project (NSDF) is for the siting and construction of a facility which would be used for the disposal of low level radioactive waste and a small amount of intermediate level waste.


The public will be able to review this environmental impact statement and submit comments on it for the next 60 days through the CNSC website. Written comments in either official language must be submitted by May 17, 2017.


CNL hopes to break ground in 2018, and have the NSDF ready for operation in 2020.


Patrick Quinn, corporate communications director for CNL, said the NSDF will allow them to decommission and demolish more than 100 buildings and structures at Chalk River Laboratories – a necessary step to revitalize the site – by providing a safe and permanent disposal site for waste from 65 years of science and technology and the laboratories’ continuing operations.


He said the vast majority of the waste which would be stored there, some 90 per cent, is already stored, or would be produced, out of activities at the Chalk River site.


“Approximately five per cent would be waste originating from the Whiteshell Laboratories, in Manitoba and other AECL sites, such as the prototype reactors Douglas Point and Gentilly-1; and less than five per cent would be commercial sourced inventories, for example from Canadian hospitals and universities, a service that has been underway for decades,” Quinn said.


If the site meets all of the approvals and comes into being, it will operate for about 50 years, anticipated to begin in 2020 and closing up in approximately 2070. Closure activities are expected to start in 2070 and continue through to 2100, after which the NSDF Project will transfer into the post-closure phase, in which it will be monitored and maintained for the next 300 years, after which it would be decommissioned


The site will be constructed to resist groundwater and any sort of disruption for that long time period.


During operations, leachate from the engineered containment mound will be collected and treated to remove radiological and non-radiological contaminants. Tritium concentrations discharging to the Ottawa River will not exceed the drinking water guideline. Surface water quality monitoring will be conducted as part of CNL’s Environmental Monitoring Program to verify water quality predictions.


Quinn said the submission of the draft Environmental Impact Statement to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is a requirement of the Environmental Assessment process for the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project.


“In order for the Near Surface Disposal Facility Project to move forward, the Environmental Assessment, which is carried out under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and regulated under the authority of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, must be completed,” he stated.


Following receipt of public comments on the draft EIS, CNSC staff will consider all submissions received in making its determination on whether the EIS is satisfactory or whether further information is required from the proponent.


Should further information be required, the proponent will be requested to submit the necessary information until CNSC staff are satisfied with a final EIS.


In addition, CNSC staff will provide responses to all comments received from members of the public and Indigenous groups. Following receipt of a final EIS, CNSC staff will prepare a CEAA 2012 EA report (EA report), to inform the Commission's EA decision. The EA report will be available to the public and Indigenous groups 60 days prior to the Commission's EA public hearing, which is anticipated to be held in January 2018. Public participation will be offered through the submission of written and/or oral interventions.


Written comments, deadline May 17, 2017, can be sent to:


Nicole Frigault

Environmental Assessment Specialist

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

P.O. Box 1046 Station B

280 Slater Street

Ottawa (ON) K1P 5S9

Telephone: 613-995-7948 or 1-800-668-5284

Fax: 613-995-5086


Email: cnsc.ea-ee.ccsn@canada.ca


The draft environmental impact statement, supporting documents and associated links can be viewed at the following link:


http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=118381


Source: http://www.thedailyobserver.ca/2017/03/21/waste-site-impact-report-sent-to-cnsc

US: Bechtel, GEH team up on European decommissioning

March 22, 2017 - USA-based firms Bechtel and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) have today announced the formation of an alliance to offer decommissioning and dismantling services for nuclear power plants in Germany and Sweden.


The alliance will provide a full range of decommissioning services including pre-shutdown planning, licensing, project development and management, dismantling, demolition, waste management and site closeout.


Wilmington, North Carolina-based GEH says it offers comprehensive decommissioning project expertise, including experience gained from reactor internals replacement projects in Japan and segmentation scope for extended power uprate reactor internals replacement projects in the USA.


Virginia, USA-headquartered engineering, project management and construction company Bechtel has more than 30 years of experience in clean-up, decommissioning, remediation and closure at more than 500 contaminated sites across the world, including US Department of Energy sites in five states and at the UK's Sellafield site.


GEH executive vice president of nuclear services Lance Hall said: "The alliance of GEH and Bechtel provides customers a complete offering of decommissioning services that draws upon the comprehensive experience, resources and project management expertise of both companies." He added, "As plants in Germany and Sweden shut down, this alliance will support customers through the end of the nuclear power plant lifecycle."


James Taylor, general manager of Bechtel's environmental business, said, "Bechtel has performed work from design to dismantlement for more than 150 nuclear plants over the last 60 years. This experience will be critical to delivering quality as Germany and Sweden move forward."


In January, GEH was awarded a three-year contract by Sweden's OKG AB to dismantle the reactor internals of units 1 and 2 at the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant. Under the contract, GEH will segment the reactor pressure vessel internals of both units. The work includes dismantling, cutting and packing the reactor internals for final disposal. The segmentation project is expected to be completed by the beginning of 2020.


Various decommissioning partnerships have been announced since Germany and Sweden introduced legislation for the early shutdown of their nuclear power reactors.


In 2015, EOn and Vattenfall signed an agreement to cooperate in the decommissioning and dismantling of their jointly owned nuclear power plants in Germany. The same year, Westinghouse and German construction company Hochtief AG teamed up to offer decommissioning, decontamination and remediation services for Germany's nuclear power plants.


In 2012, Sweden's Studsvik and Westinghouse launched a consortium known as NDCon to offer decommissioning services, initially focused on Germany and Sweden.


Source: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Bechtel-GEH-team-up-on-European-decommissioning-2203175.html

US: The White House Revives a Controversial Plan for Nuclear Waste

March 21, 2017 - Near the southern tip of Nevada is a ridge politicians have been fighting over for 30 years.


Yucca Mountain was designated the permanent underground storage site for nuclear waste in 1987. It had an ambitious mission—to entomb high-level radioactive waste safely for at least 10,000 years—and a tentative opening date of 1998. But the process of even approving its construction has dragged on through four presidents. In 2011, the Obama administration officially mothballed the project.


Then it was Trump’s turn. In a proposed budget last week that otherwise slashes non-defense spending, the Trump administration found $120 million to restart an approval process for Yucca Mountain. The project that former Nevada senator Harry Reid, perhaps its fiercest critic, denounced as “dead” is back.


“You’d have to say the glass is half full for Yucca Mountain,” said David Blee, the executive director of the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council, a consortium of nuclear industry companies that support the project. While not exactly exuberant, it’s the most optimistic assessment of Yucca Mountain in years.


Considerable challenges are still head for reviving the project. Assuming Congress approves the $120 million, the federal government faces deeply entrenched opposition in Nevada. The state has filed 218 contentions against the Department of Energy’s application for the storage site, detailing both technical and legal concerns. Going through the contentions will take an estimated four to five years of hearings and cost the federal government $2 billion—all before the shovel even hits the ground.


Nevada’s governor and five of its six members of Congress have already come out swinging against the latest attempt to revive Yucca Mountain. “Republican, Democrat, independent—there is enormous opposition to Yucca Mountain,” said Robert Halstead, executive director of Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects.


The state’s objections to Yucca Mountain originate with how it got chosen in the first place. When Reagan signed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, the country’s nuclear weapons program had left tons of radioactive waste, and spent fuel from nuclear power plants was also piling up. The law directed the Energy Department to study several sites around the country, but politicians didn’t want to pay for the expensive and lengthy technical assessments of all the potential sites. So in 1987, Congress amended the Nuclear Waste Policy Act to designate Yucca Mountain as the one permanent storage site.


Why Nevada? The three finalist sites were in Texas, Washington, and Nevada. At the time, the speaker of the House represented Texas and the majority leader Washington. The amendment became known as the Screw Nevada Bill. “Clearly, the mistake we made in 1987 was jamming it down the throat of the Nevadans.”


Nevadans also have safety concerns. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the federal agency that approves radioactive-waste storage sites, published a long-delayed report in 2014 deeming Yucca Mountain safe. But critics worry that groundwater in Yucca Mountain could corrode the canisters that store nuclear waste, causing a radioactive leak.


Planning a 10,000-year storage site is bound to be complicated; if built, it would need to last longer than any piece of infrastructure in history. But efforts really sputtered out after Reid became Senate majority leader and Obama took office—both of whom are opposed to the project. They never had enough votes to outright kill it, despite Reid’s boasts, because Yucca Mountain was written into law. So they stalled.


“The Obama administration was a paper exercise,” said Blee. “At the end of the day it succeeded in generating a lot of paper but no concrete action.” For example, the Energy Department needs a license to build Yucca Mountain from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In 2010, Obama’s energy department tried to withdraw its application for Yucca Mountain. The NRC voted 2-2 on whether the department could actually withdraw it, which resolved nothing. Meanwhile, Washington simply stopped funding the offices working on Yucca Mountain. Staff were reassigned, and offices emptied out.


The Obama administration also appointed a Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear waste that recommended a “consent-based process” for finding a new location in a state that was not so vigorously opposed to it. That process never got off the ground.


Since Obama never undid any laws about nuclear waste, the path for Yucca Mountain is still there. Trump’s proposed budget takes a small step forward. If passed, it would provide funding to rehire staff at the Energy Department to get the Yucca Mountain application through.


The House would likely pass such a budget easily. In fact, it has sneaked Yucca Mountain funding into budget bills in the past. “There has been a firewall of support in the House for Yucca Mountain,” said Blee. Illinois congressman John Shimkus, a strong backer, also plans to introduce legislation solving land- and water-rights issues around Yucca Mountain.


The Senate is trickier. A sticking point is whether to fund an interim storage project while Yucca Mountain winds its way into existence—there’s support in the Senate for it but not the House. In the past, Senators Lamar Alexander and Dianne Feinstein have also introduced bipartisan legislation on nuclear waste issues. With Reid as majority and then minority leader, it never got far. Nuclear industry lobbyists suggested that any pro-Yucca Mountain bill could contain financial incentives for the state of Nevada. (Local Nye County officials, where the facility would be located, support Yucca Mountain because of the jobs it would bring in.)


Once the Energy Department and the NRC have both the budget and staff, they actually need to go through the long-delayed approval process. Here is where Nevada’s 218 contentions come in, and the state is gearing up for a fight.


In fact, it’s been gearing up for a while—since Reid announced his retirement after an eye injury in 2015. “I knew that morning when I heard the news of his decision to retire following the injury that the Yucca Mountains proponents in Washington—in Congress and in trade groups like the Nuclear Energy Institute, the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council, and the two professional societies, the American Nuclear Society and the American Physical Society—that they would all immediately start fantasizing about, ‘Oh, now we can have Yucca Mountain again!’” said Halstead.


The 218 individual contentions run the whole gamut, from volcanic-hazard estimates to corrosion risks to legal concerns about how the government has handled the process. The state is also preparing 30 to 50 new contentions to stop the project.


Assuming that the NRC approves the project, the state will put up more roadblocks. “The first thing we’re going to do is go back court and sue them over the radiation protection standard,” said Halstead. Nevada contends that standards the government used to decide that Yucca Mountain are safe are too lax. In a statement responding to Trump’s budget, Nevada’s attorney general, Adam Laxalt, also said to expect “many years of protracted litigation in which we are confident we will ultimately prevail.”


If the Energy Department does get its license for Yucca Mountain, it would also need to develop a plan for operating the facility, including a monitoring program to guard against radioactive leaks. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has said he wouldn’t rule out Yucca Mountain. On Monday, House members Greg Walden and John Shimkus sent Perry a letter detailing how to move forward on the project.


President Trump himself has made no clear public comments about Yucca Mountain, and it’s unclear how committed the administration will be in the budget process. One of Nevada’s major concerns about the project is tourism. Nuclear waste from all over the country would converge on Yucca Mountain, which is about 100 miles from Las Vegas. Days before Trump’s inauguration, the project’s critics offered up a new line of attack: Trains hauling nuclear waste would be running near Trump International Hotel Las Vegas.


Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/03/yucca-mountain-trump/519972/