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Archive 2012

 NORTH AMERICA  

 USA  

 US approval for new nuclear plant
US safety regulators have approved the construction of two new-generation reactors at Vogtle by Georgia Power. The vote by the five-member Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) concludes a four-year process that confirmed the safety of building a pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. It is the first combined construction and operating licence (COL) from the NRC under new procedures. Parent company Southern Nuclear applied to build Vogtle 3 & 4 in April 2008, then signed an engineering, procurement and construction contract with Westinghouse and Shaw. Work at the site is well advanced, and ready for first concrete. The company has a federal loan guarantee for its 45.7% of the $14 billion project; its main partners are Oglethorpe Power (30%) and Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (22.7%). The 1200 MWe (gross) reactors are expected to start-up in 2016 and 2017.
WNN 9/2/12. US nuclear power

 Two more US reactor construction licences approved
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the issue of two further construction and operating licences for a pair of 1200 MWe AP1000 reactors at the V.C.Summer plant in South Carolina. SCE&G (Scana) and Santee Cooper applied for the licences four years ago, and expect to start formal construction in May, to bring the units on line in April 2017 and in 2018. Work is already well under way at the site, on containment vessel and cooling towers.
WNN 2/4/12. US nuclear power

 USA pauses new reactor licensing
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has suspended issuing licences for new nuclear plants and also licence renewals until the requirements of a recent court decision on wastes are “appropriately addressed”. However, no licensing decisions for new plants were expected before mid 2013 anyway, and all licensing reviews and related proceedings are unaffected.

In June the US Court of Appeals in DC found that the NRC's rules related to the temporary storage and permanent disposal of nuclear waste stood in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. This requires that either an environmental assessment be prepared for all major government agency actions. The court found that the NRC's 2010 update to the Waste Confidence Decision - which allows for the temporary storage of used nuclear fuel on-site at nuclear power plants even after licence expiry - could not provide sufficient guarantee that a final waste repository would be ready "when necessary", or indeed ever built at all (following the Administration’s 2009 order to stop work on the Yucca Mountain repository, contrary to 1987 legislation). It further found that the NRC had failed "to properly examine the future dangers and key consequences" of storing fuel on nuclear sites for up to 60 years after operating licence expiry. The NRC has yet to determine whether it will appeal the decision or how it will respond. However, some response from NRC is required in order to validate current policy.
WNN 8/12/12. US nuclear policy

 French plans for US nuclear bridgehead rebuffed
Capping off a succession of setbacks, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has confirmed that plans by Areva and Electricite de France (EdF) to build a fleet of European reactors in the USA have run their course and are on the verge of defeat. The last active proposal, to build a single US-EPR reactor at Calvert Cliffs alongside Constellation Nuclear Energy’s two units there, has effectively been rejected due to foreign ownership.

The proponent, Unistar Nuclear Energy was originally a 50-50 joint venture of EdF and Constellation, but in 2010 Constellation Energy (now merged with Exelon) backed out of the arrangement and EdF took over 100% of Unistar. It also owns 49.9% of Constellation Nuclear Energy. Under the 1954 Atomic Energy Act no nuclear power plant can be “owned, dominated and controlled by foreign interests,” and the NRC’s licensing board has now ruled that this applies regardless of various creative efforts to get around it, and a two-year search for US equity partners. If there are no developments in 60 days the NRC will cease its work on licensing the Maryland project. Almost one billion dollars has been invested in the project so far. A second Unistar proposal, for a US-EPR at Nine Mile Point in New York, has licensing suspended.WNN 11/10/10, 31/8/12. US nuclear power
 

 US industry ready to act on reactor safety enhancements
US utilities are preparing to act on three US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) orders to meet immediate post-Fukushima safety enhancements, likely to cost about $100 million across the whole fleet. The first order will require the addition of equipment at all plants to help respond to the loss of all electrical power and the loss of the ultimate heat sink for cooling, as well as maintaining containment integrity. Another requires improved water level and temperature instrumentation on used fuel ponds. The third order applies only to the 33 BWRs with early containment designs, and will require 'reliable hardened containment vents' which work under any circumstances. The measures are supported by the industry association, which has also proposed setting up about six regional emergency response centres under NRC oversight with additional portable equipment.

Meanwhile the NRC has reported that 90 of 104 US nuclear reactors "fully met all safety performance objectives" for licensing, nine needed to resolve one or two items, and five needed greater attention.
WNN 27/2/12. Russia NP
 

 US high-level Commission reports on used fuel
The Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future set up early in 2010 following President Obama's political decision to abort work on a repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada has issued its final report, highlighting shortcomings in national policy. "Put simply, this nation's failure to come to grips with the nuclear waste issue has already proved damaging and costly. It will be even more damaging and more costly the longer it continues." Congress expects the Department of Energy (DoE) to develop a new strategy for managing used nuclear fuel and other nuclear waste within six months in response to the report. The US industry has welcomed the report.

The Commission recommended a consent-based approach to siting future nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities. Secondly, responsibility for the USA's radioactive waste management program should be transferred to a new organisation, independent of the DoE. Thirdly, the way in which the funds already paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund are treated in the federal budget should be changed to ensure they are used for their intended purpose. (These funds were estimated to be some $24 billion as of early 2010.) The report calls for "immediate efforts to commence development of at least one geologic disposal facility and at least one consolidated storage facility, as well as efforts to prepare for the eventual large-scale transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste from current storage sites to those facilities." The report also supported long‐term recycling and advanced fuel‐cycle technologies, which would reduce the amount of used fuel needing disposal while recovering valuable unused materials for re‐use in new fuel, but noted that these measures would not change the fundamental waste management challenge.

There are currently over 65,000 tonnes of used nuclear fuel stored at about 75 operating and shut-down reactor sites across the USA, with an additional 2000 tonnes arising annually. The DoE is also storing a further 2500 tonnes of used fuel and considerable high-level waste from military programs at a few government-owned sites.
WNN 27/1/12 US policy, US fuel cycle

 Legal basis for US waste management upset by court challenge
Due to the failure of the US Administration to proceed with developing the Yucca Mountain waste repository the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had set up arrangements reflecting its confidence that used fuel could be stored safely at reactor sites for at least 60 years after a plant closes, and that a repository would become available “when necessary”. The US Court of Appeals in Washington has upheld a challenge to this waste confidence measure, saying that the NRC “rulemaking at issue here constitutes a major federal action necessitating either an environmental impact statement or a finding of no significant environmental impact." It also rejected the rule because the NRC did not examine individual storage sites in its initial environmental assessment, but simply conducted a generic analysis of environmental risks across the board at
nuclear plants, which was less than the National Environmental Policy Act required. This will now need to be rectified so as to validate current policy and allow the licensing of new reactors and life extensions to existing ones.
WNN 11/6/12. US Policy

Government deal rescues American Centrifuge
USEC and the US Department of Energy (DoE) have signed a raft of new agreements to completely reorganise the American Centrifuge program and rescue it from financial limbo. The DoE is to provide a total of $280 million towards a research, development and demonstration (RD&D) program, while USEC will provide $70 million. This infusion will support building and operating a 120-machine cascade that would be incorporated in the full commercial American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) in Piketon, Ohio, which is planned to operate 96 such cascades. The DoE interest is secured by various provisions including a non-exclusive, royalty-free licence in centrifuge intellectual property for government purposes, and title to much of the plant. USEC expects that “by the end of next year, this RD&D program will fully demonstrate that the American Centrifuge technology is ready for commercial deployment."
WNN 14/6/12. US nuclear fuel cycle

US laser enrichment plant moves towards licence
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission NRC has published a favourable environmental review of the Global Laser Enrichment project, and its safety evaluation found that its programs for the physical protection of special nuclear material and classified matter, material control and accounting provided an adequate basis for both safety and safeguards of facility operations. Following a July review by the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, a full licence is expected in August. The company, bringing together GE, Hitachi and Cameco, will then decide on proceeding with a full-scale commercial enrichment facility at Wilmington, North Carolina. The project, using the third-generation Australian SILEX process enriching up to 8% U-235, could be operational from 2014, and ramp up to annual capacity of 6 million separative work units (SWU) in 2020.
WNN 1/3/12, U Enrichment, US Fuel Cycle
 

 Laser enrichment plant licensed in USA
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has licensed General Electric-Hitachi’s Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE) to construct and operate a uranium enrichment plant using Australian SILEX laser technology in Wilmington, NC. The application was lodged in mid 2009, and the licence allows enrichment to 8% U-235 in a plant up to 6 million SWU/yr capacity. GLE will now decide in the light of commercial considerations on whether to proceed.
WNN 26/9/12. Uranium enrichment

 Urenco USA applies for increased capacity
Further to last week’s item on Urenco USA and South Korea (see Korea below), the company has applied for a licence to increase its capacity from 3.7 to 10 million SWU per year, though announced plans are for only 5.7 million SWU/yr at this stage. Current capacity is about 2 million SWU, as construction continues.
WNN 28/11/12. US fuel cycle 

 US reactor gets reprieve as court affirms national role over local politics
A US federal court in Vermont has ruled that Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant may continue to operate beyond the end of its original 40-year licence in March, as approved by the national regulator. This grants Entergy a long-awaited victory over its host state of Vermont which contrived to close it down. The case involved claims made by Entergy which challenged a state's right to make rules about the perceived safety and economic performance of a plant.

The first claim related to several state enactments that would have forced the plant to shut down at the end if its original licence, in two months time. Entergy argued that these were rooted in concerns over safety, and therefore pre-empted by the Atomic Energy Act which places sole control over US nuclear and radiation safety matters in the hands of a national regulator. In March 2011 the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a 20-year license extension for the plant. A second claim related to plans from the state that would have forced the plant to sell electricity to state utilities at below market rates or risk being forced to shut down. Entergy claimed that Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has exclusive jurisdiction to regulate the sale and transmission of wholesale power, and that no state institutions should be permitted to interfere with this. Vermont Yankee is a merchant plant, not owned by the state, and therefore should be free to sell electricity on to the market both inside and outside of the state at whatever price it can. This determines its profitability and ultimately its ability to survive. The single 620 MWe reactor is currently responsible for about 70% of the electricity produced in Vermont.

The three-day court hearing took place in September last year and a decision was originally expected within weeks. In July, the company had sought a preliminary injunction to allow it to keep operating while the court case played out, claiming this was necessary for them to make important decisions – such as whether to buy fuel. However the judge rejected these claims. The court finally ruled in Entergy's favour – acknowledging the pre-eminence of the Atomic Energy Act in governing safety matters, and effectively preventing the state from interfering with the plant's electricity sales contracts.
WNN 20/1/12. US nuclear power

US to support small reactor development
The US Department of Energy (DoE) has allocated $452 million over five years to help the design and licensing of one or two small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) designs through new cost-sharing arrangements with industry. This will support first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing. To that end, it has issued a draft Funding Opportunity Announcement to solicit inputs from industry, aiming at a deployment date for the reactors of 2022. Small, compact reactors of up to 300 MWe in capacity have a number of potential advantages in terms of safety, construction and siting, as well as potential economic benefits. Smaller ones can be made in factories and transported by rail and road to generation sites, being added progressively as modules of a large plant, reducing both capital costs and construction times. Westinghouse intends to apply for its own 225 MWe SMR, while Babcock & Wilcox's 125 MWe mPower and NuScale Power's 45 MWe design are also in contention. The NRC is currently involved in pre-application discussion on both latter types in anticipation of a design certification application for the NuScale reactor soon, followed by one for the mPower design in 2013.
WNN 23/1/12. Small nuclear power reactors

 US companies bid for small reactor support
In January the US Department of Energy (DOE) called for applications from industry to support the development of US light-water small modular reactor (SMR) designs, allocating $452 million over five years for one or two projects. Four applications have now been made, from Westinghouse, Babcock & Wilcox, Holtec and NuScale Power, for 225 MWe, 180 MWe, 160 MWe and 45 MWe units respectively. These must be capable of construction and operation within ten years. For each design supported, DOE will pay up to half of the cost of engineering and licensing. DOE is expected to announce its decision in September. Plans for building two of the designs are already well advanced, with Westinghouse lining up to build a lead unit at Ameren Missouri’s Callaway site, and B&W working with Tennessee Valley Authority to deploy up to four units of its mPower design at Clinch River. In addition Holtec and NuScale (with Fluor) have agreements with DOE to build demonstration SMR-160 and NuScale SMR units respectively at Savannah River. Other SMR designs will have modest support through DOE’s Reactor Concepts RD&D program.
WNN 22/5/12. US Nuclear policy

 USA chooses small reactor design for support
The US Department of Energy has announced that it has chosen to support the Babcock & Wilcox mPower design, to be developed with Bechtel and TVA. Through a five-year cost-share agreement, the DOE will invest up to half of the total project cost, with the project’s industry partners at least matching this. The amount will be negotiated between DOE and B&W, out of a total $452 million available for one or two light-water reactor designs. The DOE is to offer second-round funding to other applicants. The three that missed out – Westinghouse (225 MWe SMR), Holtec (SMR-160) and NuScale (45 MWe PWR) all expressed strong interest in that possibility.

The B&W mPower reactor is a 180 MWe integral PWR designed to be factory-made and railed to site where it would be installed below ground level, have an air-cooled condenser giving 31% thermal efficiency, and passive safety systems. The integral steam generator is derived from naval designs. A 60-year service life is envisaged. B&W draws upon over 50 years experience in manufacturing nuclear propulsion systems for the US Navy, involving compact reactors with long core life. The mPower is modular in the sense that each unit is a factory-made module and several units would be combined into a power station of any size, but most likely 500-750 MWe, constructed in three years.
WNN 21/11/12. Small reactors

New US licence extension and uprates
After a 28-month review, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licence for Energy Northwest’s Columbia 1173 MWe nuclear power plant in Washington state for 20 years, to 2043. This is the 72nd licence renewal among the 104 US reactors. Also, the company has confirmed that last year an increase of 22 MWe resulted from replacement of the plant’s main generator rotor and condenser, with cooling tower upgrading.
Energy NW 18 & 23/5/12, WNN 25/5/12. US NP

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a 20-year licence extension for Entergy’s 688 MWe Pilgrim nuclear power plant at Plymouth, Massachusetts, after the longest licence review of any of the 73 applications now processed - NRC staff devoted over 20,000 hours to it. Pilgrim’s licence was due to expire in June, but it can now operate to 2032. It was bought by Entergy in 1999.
WNN 28/5/12, Entergy 25/5/12. US NP

Progress Energy has uprated its Shearon Harris reactor in North Carolina by 1.66% to 915 MWe net, and replacement of the high-pressure turbine will give it another 14-18 MWe later, towards eventual 970 MWe in 2015. In 2010 the company installed the little-used generator from the Three Mile Island-2 plant to upgrade Shearon Harris.

Florida Power & Light is uprating its two St Lucie reactors. Unit 1 has had a 129 MWe uprate from 839 MWe net, by replacing pumps, the main transformer, high- and low-pressure turbines and other components. Unit 2 had 31 MWe added last year, and about 70 MWe is pending this year.
WNN 1/5/12, Progress 7/6/12. US NP

Uprates of 123 MWe have been approved by the Nuclear Regulator Commission for Florida Light & Power’s 693 MWe Turkey Point 3 & 4 reactors. The first will be implemented shortly, and that for unit 4 later in the year. The company spent $1.3 billion to the end of 2011 on uprate projects at the two Turkey Point reactors and two at St. Lucie to gain a total of 490 MWe net capacity. In addition to the Turkey Point increases, about 90 MWe are expected to be added at the St Lucie units in 2012, and a final 123 MWe of capacity will be gained across the four in 2013.
WNN IT, Nucleonics Week 26/4/12. US NP

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a 17% uprate for Florida Light & Power’s St Lucie 2 reactor, from about 882 to 1002 MWe gross. The second and larger part of this is now being implemented. Earlier this year the company uprated unit 1 similarly, by 129 MWe.
WNN 25/9/12. US NP

Industry Alliance keeps US high-temperature reactor hopes stoked
As momentum from the 2005 US Energy Policy Act has dissipated, and the Department of Energy has quietly backed away from earlier commitments to build a demonstration next-generation nuclear plant (NGNP) at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) by 2021, others are keeping the dream alive. The NGNP Industry Alliance was set up in 2009 to include major reactor vendors, utilities and potential end users of high temperature heat. It has now announced the selection of a preferred technology - Areva's Antares, which is based on General Atomics' Gas-Turbine Modular Helium Reactor, with prismatic fuel - ie the fuel particles less than a millimetre in diameter are embedded in hexagonal graphite blocks (in contrast to the pebble bed design). Both INL and the Alliance concluded that both fuel designs would work, but the reactor design chosen as modules (4) for a 1000 MWe plant would make it 30% cheaper to build. The Alliance is targeting 2015 for a construction permit application, with Entergy now the lead applicant. The gas-cooled reactor would initially be operated with secondary steam cycle.
WNN 15/2/12. Small reactors, US Nuclear Policy

USA investigates reactor life extension beyond 60 years
The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy has released plan for its Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program to identify and research issues related to extension of the operating life of US power reactors beyond 60 years. The DOE-sponsored R&D program based at Idaho National Laboratory is to be "performed in close collaboration with industry R&D programs, to provide the technical foundations for licensing and managing the long-term, safe and economical operation of current nuclear power plants." In particular it will "inform major component refurbishment and replacement strategies, performance enhancements, plant license extensions, and age-related regulatory oversight decisions."
WNN 3/2/12 US nuclear policy

 US nuclear alliance formed
Seven US utilities with 13 Westinghouse pressurized water reactors totaling 16 GWe within the same Nuclear Regulatory Commission region have set up the Stars Alliance LLC as a legal entity, to rationalize their management. Stars Alliance members and their plants are in Arizona, Texas, California, Missouri and Kansas.
WNN 1/8/12. US NP

 California nuclear plant woes
Southern California Edison’s San Onofre 2 & 3 nuclear power reactors have been shut down since the end of January because of faults in their relatively new steam generators supplied by Mitsubishi. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation team has now pointed at "faulty computer modelling" and "manufacturing issues" as contributing to the rapid deterioration of the steam generator tubing. In total some 386 tubes had thinned by more than 35% from their original state - a level that required mandatory plugging - while hundreds more were plugged as a precaution. Each steam generator contains 9727 tubes and is designed to cope with the loss of some of these throughout its 30-40 year life, however the speed of degradation since 2010 was surprising and presented a possible safety issue if a large failure were to suddenly occur. Both units remain shut down with no clear timetable for their return to service, taking 2150 MWe net offline.
WNN 20/7/12. US Nuclear Power, California

 US reactors weather cyclone in good order
Some 34 nuclear plants along the east coast of the USA were in the path of hurricane Sandy, but none was seriously affected by it. While seven were already shut down for maintenance, 24 plants continued to operate safely, and two were shut down due to transmission grid damage: Indian Point 3 and Nine Mile Point 1, and Salem 1 was shut down due to storm conditions affecting the non-nuclear side of the plant. Exleon declared an alert for two days at its shut-down Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey due to high water levels affecting cooling water intakes.

As the major storm approached, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had increased oversight at nine nuclear plants in the states of Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut. More than 8 million people lost power from the storm and utilities are facing a recovery effort larger than for any other storm including last year's Hurricane Irene which led to major reforms in storm planning and storm response. Restoration of full service in many cases is not expected for weeks.
WNN 30/10/12. US NP 

 Outrage over mining ban near Grand Canyon
US senators, congressmen, mining companies and nuclear industry representatives have criticised a final decision by the Department of Interior to ban new uranium mining on over 4000 square kilometres of federal lands near the Grand Canyon. This withdrawal for 20 years followed over two years of evaluations. It does not prohibit previously-approved uranium mining, but it does rule out new projects on claims and sites with valid existing exploration rights. Other natural resource development will still be allowed, and hardrock mining including uranium near the Grand Canyon can continue. Bureau of Land Management projections suggest that up to 11 uranium mines, four of which are currently approved, could still be developed in the withdrawal area over the next 20 years based on valid pre-existing rights. Without the withdrawal, the studies projected that the area could have seen as many as 30 uranium mines in the same period.

A group of US senators and congressmen has denounced the decision, saying that it disregards the 1984 Arizona Wilderness Act, agreed through negotiation with environmental groups, which permanently locked away from mining over 2600 sq km outside the Grand Canyon designated as wilderness, while affirming the compatibility of mining with conservation interests in other areas. They also noted that the Interior Department's own studies had found "no conclusive evidence" that mining operations in the area were harmful to the Grand Canyon watershed, so the announcement was "a needless overreaction to a fictitious problem." The Nuclear Energy Institute condemned the ban, citing the lack of any scientific justification and the lack of any suggestion in the studies that uranium mining near the Grand Canyon would compromise the excellent environmental record of today's mining operations.
WNN 10/1/12 US uranium mining

Areva pioneers integrated fuel supply in USA
The Monticello nuclear power plant will have a decade of front-end nuclear fuel services provided by Areva after a $500 million deal. From 2015, Areva will provide Xcel Energy with six fuel reloads for the Monticello reactor, over a decade. This integrated arrangement contrasts with the normal routine of the utility buying uranium from a mine in a fluctuating market, then having it converted, enriched, and fabricated on a toll basis. The Areva contract also covers engineering work to enable the 600 MWe (gross) GE-designed boiling water reactor to use Areva's Atrium 10XM fuel design. These changes are part of an uprate plan to increase Monticello's output to 829 MWe gross. The reactor started operation in 1971 and is licensed to 2030. Westinghouse-Toshiba as well as Areva provide similar integrated fuel supply deals in emerging markets.
WNN 5/1/12 US nuclear fuel cycle

 New technology to revive uranium from phosphates
A new plant is being commissioned in the USA to demonstrate uranium recovery as a by-product of phosphate production for fertiliser. Historically some 20,000 tU has been recovered thus, but old processes became uneconomic. A transportable demonstration plant in two large shipping containers was built in Australia and is now being commissioned in Florida. The PhosEnergy process is being commercialised by Australian company Uranium Equities (UEQ, 27%) and Canadian uranium producer Cameco (up to 73%), under a strategic alliance agreement. Subject to evaluating performance to the end of 2012, Cameco and UEQ are seeking to enter commercial arrangements with phosphate producers where the process would provide a technical solution for the recovery of uranium from phosphates. The capital required to install the process would be in exchange for off-take from the facility. In the USA alone, some 2300 tU/yr is potentially recoverable from phosphates as by-product, and worldwide more than three times this from the 140 million tonnes of phosphate processed annually. Morocco has by far the largest known resources of uranium in phosphate rock.
WNN 13/4/12. U from phosphates

 US plans to ban new coal-fired power plants
The US Environment Protection Agency has published rules to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants to 454 g/kWh, achievable by gas-fired plants but not coal-fired ones without carbon capture and storage (CCS). CCS, if practical, would greatly increase the cost. Existing coal-fired plants, which supply almost half of US electricity, and those under construction are exempt. The rules need to be finalised before coming into effect, and considerable opposition is expected leading up to the November elections.

 US drought highlights biofuel impact on food production
In the year that the first mass-produced electric vehicles are being sold in the USA, giving electromobility from base-load electricity sources such as coal and nuclear, the US drought has provoked the UN Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to call for the USA to suspend its biofuel production from corn. Under the US Energy Independence & Security Act 2007, 49,270 megalitres of ethanol from corn and biodiesel from soybeans must be blended into gasoline in 2012 (the quantity is escalating towards 136 GL in 2022). This Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirement will account for more than the usual 40% of the reduced US corn crop, which is then not available for food, especially export. Also, corn prices have tripled since the RFS was introduced in 2005, and further nearly doubled this year. Along with US livestock producers, 156 House members and 25 senators have appealed to the US Environment Protection Agency to waive the ethanol standard on fuels. Also the energy return on investment (EROI) for ethanol from corn is very low – 1.1 to 1.5, and much of the input is oil. http://www.allgov.com/Top_Stories/ViewNews/UN_Calls_on_US_to_Halt_Biofuel_Production_as_Drought_Devastates_Corn_Crop_120812
AllGov 12/8/12. Renewables

 

 Canada  

 Canada-China bilateral safeguards agreement
A number of agreements have been signed to expedite Canadian trade with China, including now a bilateral safeguards agreement to supplement the standard international safeguards. This will enable Canadian uranium to supply utilities in China. In particular Cameco will be able to proceed with two 2010 contracts to supply 20,000 tU worth about US$ 3 billion.
WNN 10/2/12. Safeguards

Canadian reactor restarted after 17-year outage
Bruce Power has restarted its 750 MWe Bruce A2 Candu reactor after rebuilding it. First power was in 1976, but the reactor was laid up in 1995 due to a maintenance accident when lead contaminated the core. Unit 1 was then laid up in 1997 to allow operational focus on newer plants at that time. In 2005 it was decided to refurbish all four Bruce A units, and the cost for units 1 & 2 came to C$ 4.8 billion. Both are now being returned to service.
WNN 19/3/12. Canada NP

 Canadian reactors returning to service
Three Canadian Candu reactors are returning to service after extended lay-offs. The latest is Point Lepreau in New Brunswick, where the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has authorised restart of the 635 MWe Candu 6 unit after 16 months of refurbishment blew out to more than four years and went well over budget, reportedly to C$ 2.4 billion.

In Ontario, Bruce A2 received restart permission in March but problems with the generation side of the plant have delayed its return to service. More recently Bruce A1 has been given permission to restart. Both have been laid up since the mid 1990s, and their refurbishment has cost about C$ 4.8 billion.
WNN 24/7/12. Canada NP 

The 750 MWe Bruce A1 reactor has been grid-connected after 15 years being laid up then refurbished. Unit 2 is due back on line by year end. The project to rebuild the two Candu units cost almost C$ 5 billion.

Quebec Hydro's 635 MWe Gentilly 2 reactor had been earmarked for a similar refurbishment, and a five-year licence extension was approved last year, but the provincial government has decided to close it instead at the end of the year.
WNN 21/9/12. Canada NP

The 750 MWe Bruce A2 reactor has been reconnected to the Ontario grid after 17 years being laid up then refurbished. Its twin, unit 1, was grid-connected in September. The project to rebuild the two CANDU units cost almost C$ 5 billion.
WNN 18/10/12. Canada NP 

 Canadian reactor returns to service after four years
The 635 MWe Point Lepreau Candu-6 reactor in New Brunswick has been grid-connected after a 54-month refurbishment which ran about $1 billion over budget and took three times as long as originally planned. Its operation will be extended by 25 years. The provincial government is attempting to get the federal government to cover the cost overruns. For the first time in 17 years all 20 of Canada’s reactors are now operating, with 14,169 MWe net on line.
WNN 25/10/12. Canada NP 

 Site licence for new reactors in Ontario
After six years study and deliberation, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has issued a licence to Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to prepare a new site adjacent to its 4-unit Darlington nuclear power plant for two new reactors. A further licence will be needed to actually build the plant. This is the first such licence in 25 years. In June, OPG signed agreements with Westinghouse and SNC-Lavalin/ Candu Energy Inc. to prepare detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for two potential nuclear reactors – EC6 and AP1000 types respectively - at Darlington. The Ontario government, which owns OPG, will then decide on whether to proceed and with which design. OPG is paying the two companies up to C$ 26 million for the estimates over 14 months.
WNN 20/8/12. Canada NP

Environmental approval for new Canadian mine
Canada’s Minister of Environment has given approval for a deep open pit mine at Midwest, near McClean Lake in Saskatchewan. The partners, principally Areva Resources and Denison Mines, are also evaluating other potential mining methods, including conventional underground and surface jet bore drilling, using the Surface Access Borehole Resource Extraction (SABRE) mining technology. The deposit has indicated resources of 16,500 tonnes of uranium at 4.66%U. Milling will be at McClean Lake, 15 km away. There are no present plans to commence mining.
Denison 16/8/12, WNN 20/8/12. Canada uranium
 

 EUROPE  

 European “stress tests” on course
The 147 nuclear reactors in the EU's 27 member states, plus 15 reactors in Ukraine and five in Switzerland, are being assessed against aspects of nuclear plant safety highlighted by the Fukushima accident. Operators reported to their national regulators who then reported progress to the European Commission by the end of 2011. Information was shared among regulators throughout this process before the 17 final reports went to peer-review by teams comprising 80 experts appointed by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) and the European Commission. The EC and ENSREG identified four main areas for improving EU nuclear plant safety:
- assessing natural hazards and margins beyond the original design basis;
- giving more importance to periodic safety reviews and evaluation of natural hazards;
- undertaking urgent measures to protect containment integrity; and
- measures to prevent and mitigate accidents resulting from extreme natural hazards.
They reported that "all countries have taken significant steps to improve the safety of their plants, with varying degrees of practical implementation." The EC and ENSREG are producing an action plan to implement the main recommendations of their report and to participate fully in the International Atomic Energy Agency's post-Fukushima action plan.
WNN 27/4/12. Safety of nuclear plants

 Balkans electricity supply crisis
Due to a second year of drought conditions impacting hydro power generation, there is a major electricity shortage in southeastern Europe, notably the Balkan states, Albania and Romania. Romania’s Hidroelectrica, with 6400 MWe of hydro capacity, has declared force majeure on all its 29 supply contracts. Despite low water levels in the Danube, there is enough water there to cool power plants, and nuclear plants in Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Romania are maintaining output. Imports from Hungary and Slovenia are alleviating the Balkan situation, and as prices rise, more of the region’s gas-fired capacity is being utilised.
EIEE 10/8/12. Hungary

 UK  

 UK issues first new nuclear site licence, publishes Energy Bill

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has granted a site licence for EDF Energy's planned Hinkley Point C power station in Somerset. It is the first new site licence to be awarded for a UK nuclear power station in 25 years, although further consent will be needed before construction of the two Areva EPR units can begin. The licensee is NNB Generation Co (EDF Energy 80%, Centrica 20%). ONR took 16 months to assess the company's "suitability, capability and competence to install, operate and decommission a nuclear facility." Local government has also given permission to prepare the site. Prior to the ONR process, parliament had confirmed selection of this plus seven other UK sites for new nuclear plants and introduced planning reforms to allow plant construction to be expedited. EDF Energy expects to make its final investment decision on Hinkley Point C by the end of the year, depending critically on energy market reforms which will determine whether the company can be assured of selling a continuous supply of power profitably in a market that is increasingly affected by subsidised and preferential intermittent input from renewables.

The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has published its long-awaited Energy Bill, designed to support low-carbon generating sources including nuclear power. In a statement released jointly with the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and RenewableUK, the UK Nuclear Industry Association says that the bill “provides much needed investment certainty.” The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said that it brought the UK a step closer to building the major infrastructure projects needed, and that “With a looming energy gap for 2015, creating a stable regulatory framework for the energy sector is absolutely crucial for investor confidence and we look forward to the announcement next year on the details of the incentives, without further delays.”
WNN 26/11/12. UK

 UK completes design assessment of Areva EPR
The UK Environment Agency and Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) have completed a five-year design assessment of Areva’s EPR reactor design and issued a Statement of Design Acceptability and Design Acceptance Confirmation respectively. The approvals will enable EdF Energy to proceed with site licensing for the EPR, initially at Hinkley point in Somerset. ONR estimates that the GDA process for EPR has involved 27,000 days of assessment time and thousands of technical documents. The cost of around £35 million ($56 million) per reactor design is charged back to the proponent companies.
WNN 13/12/12. UK

 

 UK's Horizon Nuclear sold to Hitachi
The UK project company Horizon Nuclear Energy has been bought by Hitachi Ltd for £696 million (USD 1.12 billion). It is set to build two or three nuclear reactors at Wylfa in NW Wales and at Oldbury in Gloucestershire near Bristol, both government-approved brownfield sites. Up to 8000 MWe of capacity is involved. With Hitachi ownership, the technology choice will now be the GE-Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), well-proven in Japan, being built there and in Taiwan, licensed in the USA, and planned for Lithuania. The company will seek UK approval through the Generic Design Assessment process, which will take four to five years. Construction time for the four operating Japanese ABWRs was 37 to 43 months. Hitachi will be supported by UK-based Rolls Royce and Babcock International and Canada's SNC-Lavalin. By the time construction begins it will seek an operating power utility as partner and perhaps other investors to take a half share in Horizon.

Horizon attracted substantial international interest after RWE and E.ON announced in March their intention to sell the joint venture following Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power. The UK Government has placed new nuclear capacity at the heart of its energy strategy to cut carbon, boost energy security, and stabilise power prices for households, since it is the cheapest low-carbon option.

Underlining the importance of nuclear energy to Britain, the government has announced the creation of a Nuclear Industry Council, intended to help UK nuclear exporters compete internationally on the basis of "a strong industrial strategy." Chairing the council will be shared by government ministers and Nuclear Industry Association chairman Lord Hutton. An early priority will be publishing a Nuclear Supply Chain Action Plan, which is already under development.
WNN 30/10/12. UK

 Russia confirms commercial nuclear interest in UK
Russia's state atomic energy corporation Rosatom is interested in entering the UK nuclear market and is beginning preliminary work to do so. This includes discussion with the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation regarding generic design assessment for the latest version of the VVER-1200 reactor, the VVER-TOI, designed for international markets and certification. Rosatom sees more opportunity in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, and can provide both technology and funds. Once the design certification is sorted, a 4-5 year process, Rosatom would probably use the same build-own-operate (BOO) project model as in Turkey, and could finance up to 85% of the project, though other European utilities would be minor shareholders. There is apparently no intention to buy into Horizon Nuclear Power, which has secured sites at Oldbury and Wylfa but now lacks major backers since RWE and E.On pulled out. Other approved UK sites are available. China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), with Toshiba, maintains interest in taking over Horizon, probably to build Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, as in China.
WNN 6/6/12, Nucleonics Week 7/6/12. UK
 

  Russia and China probe UK nuclear plant opportunity
Following the withdrawal of German-based RWE and EOn from the project company Horizon Nuclear Energy, both Rosatom directly, and China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) with Toshiba, have indicated strong interest in taking their place to build several new nuclear plants in the UK. Horizon has two approved brownfield sites: Oldbury and Wylfa, for some 6000 MWe of new nuclear capacity. SNPTC brokered the acceptance of the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor in China, and this is now most of the way through generic design assessment in UK. Westinghouse, once owned by the UK government, is owned by Toshiba. The major US nuclear utility Exelon is reported to be involved in the proposal as potential operator, but it could neither confirm nor deny this to WNN.
WNN 4/5/12. UK

 Conditional £2 billion contract for new UK plants
EdF Energy has selected the consortium of Bouygues and Laing O’Rourke for £2 billion of works in building the Hinkley Point 3 nuclear plant in Somerset. The work is subject to planning consent and EdF Energy making a final investment decision by the end of the year.
WNN 19/6/12. UK

 UK reactor life extensions for 4 units
EdF Energy has announced it will extend the operating life of its Hunterston (Scotland) and Hinkley Point B (Somerset) nuclear power stations by seven years, to 2023. Each has a pair of Advanced Gas Cooled reactors running at 70% of original design capacity - about 430 MWe. The company is planning similar life extensions for all its AGR units. It will seek a 20-year life extension for its only UK PWR, Sizewell B, taking it to 60 years, as for similar US plants. The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation undertakes periodic checks of all reactors, and the next safety review for both plants is in 2015.
WNN 4/12/12. UK  

 UK closes oldest reactor
Unit 1 at the UK's Oldbury plant - the world's oldest operating nuclear power reactor - has been closed after 44 years of power generation. The 217 MWe Magnox unit started operation in 1968 but is no longer economic to run. Its twin was shut down last year. The reactors will be defuelled over the next year, but final demolition will not be until late in the century. Construction of a new plant by Horizon Nuclear Power - a 50-50 joint venture of RWE and E.On - is planned at the site. Two larger Magnox units remain in service - the last of the first-generation plants.
WNN 29/2/12. UK

 UK shuts down second-last Magnox reactor
Wylfa-2, one of the reactors at Britain’s last Magnox nuclear power station, has been closed down a few days ahead of scheduled permanent closure. It started up in 1971. Its twin is expected to operate until its fuel runs out in 2014. The UK built 26 Magnox reactors, and the 490 MWe Wylfa units were the last and biggest. Two others were built in Italy and Japan, and France’s first six reactors were very similar. Wylfa is a site for planned new reactors.
WNN 26/4/12. UK
 

 RWE and EOn pull plug on UK nuclear project
The two major German-based utilities RWE and EOn have announced that they will not proceed with building nuclear power plants in the UK, and will seek new investors for their 50-50 UK joint venture Horizon Nuclear Power, set up in 2009. Horizon was planning to build a 3500 MWe nuclear plant at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and about 5000 MWe at Wylfa in Wales. The companies cited the cost of losing 5517 MWe of their German nuclear capacity with EUR 2.8 billion writedown as contributing to their change of plan, though they will continue with smaller energy investments in UK. EdF Energy is proceeding with plans to build four 1670 MWe EPR reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk.
WNN 29/3/12. UK
 

 UK electricity market reform sketched out
Draft legislation has been published to reform the UK's electricity market and thus secure the necessary investment for a low-carbon energy mix including new nuclear. The government estimates that £110 billion of new investment needs to be attracted to develop the low-carbon generating capacity required ion the next ten years while meeting the country's climate change goals. New nuclear, along with renewables and fossil fuels abated by carbon capture and storage (CCS) are recognised in the document as the three families of low-carbon generation with roles to play. All have high capital cost, so investors must have some assurance of commercial returns.

At the heart of the bill are measures to support low-carbon generation through feed-in tariffs (FIT) with contracts for difference (CfD). CfDs are long-term contracts which provide revenue certainty to generators with returns stabilised at a fixed level known as a strike price. This system of revenue support is to be complemented by a capacity market, to ensure the availability of sufficient reliable capacity to meet demand. The capacity market and CfD incentives will be supported by an emissions performance standard, effectively preventing the construction of new coal plants emitting more than 450g of carbon per kilowatt hour, and a carbon price floor (announced in 2011), to increase the price paid for emissions. The UK National Grid is the independent system operator that will administer the two systems of the long-term low carbon incentives (CfDs) and the capacity market.
WNN 22/5/12. UK

Brits remain positive re nuclear power
A YouGov survey has found that 40% of the 1734 people polled feel that the UK government should use more nuclear power than at present, up from 35% in November 2011. Maintaining current levels was preferred by 21%, while 20% felt that there should be less nuclear power than at present (down from 27% in 2011). 54% of men, and only 26% of women, felt that there should be more nuclear. Of women, 23% supported the status quo, 25% called for a reduction in nuclear, and 25% were unsure. Apart from nuclear, 72% were in favour of increasing solar provision, 55% in favour of more wind farms, and 45% wanted less coal-fired power.
WNN 23/10/12. UK
 

 France  

 France looks to reactor life extension more than new build
France's Court of Audit has released a report on the costs of nuclear power in the country. It concludes that investing in new nuclear or other generating capacity would be too expensive and too slow to meet demand. Extending the operating lives of existing nuclear power reactors would be the most cost-effective option.

According to the report, France has so far spent €188 billion on nuclear energy. The total cost of building all the facilities needed for nuclear electricity generation in France (excluding Superphenix commercial prototype fast breeder reactor) is put at €121 billion. Of this, the cost of constructing the country's 58 second-generation power reactors - with a combined generating capacity of 62,510 MWe - is estimated to be €96 billion (average €1536 per kW, rising from €1070 in 1978 to €2060/kW in 2000). The projected cost for new EPR units is €3700/kW. The development of fuel cycle facilities - particularly reprocessing plants - cost France some €19 billion. A further €55 billion has so far been spent on research, while the construction, operation and decommissioning of Superphenix cost €12 billion.

French power reactors were originally licensed to operate for 30 years, and they are then subject to ten-year reviews to allow for life extension. So far, just two reactors - at Tricastin and Fessenheim - have received authorization to continue operating up to 40 years. In 2010 EdF invested €1.7 billion in maintenance, and plans to more than double this annually to 2025, including post-Fukushima upgrades. EdF expects that extending the life of its present reactor fleet will cost up to €860 million each, compared with some €6.6 billion for a new (though larger) EPR, making this the cheapest option for providing power to 2035-40. Operating costs in 2010 were 4.95 cents/kWh.
WNN 31/1/12. France

French safety approval for new reactor design
The French nuclear safety regulator ASN has approved the general design of the mid-sized Atmea1 nuclear reactor, following an 18-month review. The Atmea joint venture was established in 2007 by Areva NP and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to produce an evolutionary 1100 MWe reactor using the same steam generators as the EPR. It will be marketed primarily to countries embarking upon new nuclear programs, and has been short-listed for Jordan.
WNN 7/2/12. Advanced reactors

 French regulator imposes major upgrade requirements
The French nuclear safety authority ASN has announced a set of requirements for the country’s nuclear plants as a result of last year’s Fukushima accident. Though all 58 French reactors were checked against EU ‘stress tests’ in the months following the accident, and none failed these, the new requirements call for a substantial addition to mitigation provisions, so that there is a robust hard core of systems at each plant. In particular, EDF must install large diesel generators capable of resisting earthquakes, floods and other external events at all 19 of its nuclear power plant sites by 2018, and smaller units by the end of 2013. The 900 specified requirements apply to EDF, Areva and CEA (fuel and research facilities), and are to be completed progressively by 2018.
WNN 29/6/12. France

 France to reinforce its reactor fleet
Following the post-Fukushima "stress tests", the French safety regulator ASN said that while all the reactors "have a sufficient level of safety" to continue operation, this "requires increasing as quickly as possible their robustness in the face of extreme situations beyond safety margins they already have." EdF has started work to meet the new requirements though the final list will not be published until midyear. It expects the costs of the post-Fukushima modifications at its 58 nuclear power reactors to cost less than EUR 10 billion over ten years, bringing the utility’s total planned investment in its operating fleet over the next 30 years close to EUR 50 billion.

While the focus of additional safety in response to previous accidents was to develop universal excellence in nuclear operation, first across the USA through the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and then globally through the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), the Fukushima accident could not have been prevented by better operation, but rather by better appreciation of external risks and their on-site consequences. For this reason the fundamental drives in ASN's requirements are improvements in earthquake and flood protection, together with taking into account risk from nearby industrial activity, including major and potentially dangerous industries such as chemical processing, liquid natural gas storage, and hydroelectric dams. EdF will now have to prepare itself and its sites for potentially enormous failures at nearby facilities like these.
WNN 4/1/12 France

 ENEL bails out of nuclear partnership with EdF
Under a 2007 agreement with EdF, the Italian utility ENEL was to have a 12.5% share in the Flamanville-3 nuclear power plant, taking rights to 200 MWe of its capacity and being involved in design, construction and operation of it. The agreement also gave EdF an option to participate in construction and operation of future ENEL nuclear power plants in Italy or elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean. After the cost estimate for Flamanville blew out to EUR 8.5 billion, ENEL has now pulled out of that project and the partnership with EdF. It will be reimbursed EUR 613 million that it has contributed, plus accrued interest. ENEL said it would pursue it commercial business in France by other means.
WNN 5/12/12. France, Italy

 End of an era for old enrichment technology
After 33 years of continuous operation, Areva has closed down Eurodif’s Georges Besse enrichment plant. Apart from USEC’s Paducah plant in USA, which recently got a brief life extension to enrich depleted uranium tails, this is the world’s last mainstream diffusion enrichment plant. The 10.8 million SWU plant has been the largest single electricity consumer in France, using 50 times as much energy per unit output as newer centrifuge plants. The new EUR 3 billion Georges Besse II plant nearby is ramping up to full capacity of 7.5 million SWU in 2016.
WNN 8/6/12 France, U Enrichment

Areva tightens board procedures after big write-down
In 2007, when uranium prices were high, Areva paid $2.5 billion for a junior uranium company, UraMin, claiming large resource figures in Africa. Last year Areva wrote down the value of the acquisition by $2.05 billion, and almost halved the published resource figures at the main mine involved - Trekkopje in Namibia. Following an inquiry by Areva's Supervisory Board, procedures for such acquisitions have been tightened. While the UraMin purchase was "well within Areva's strategy" at the time and long-term, some due diligence and geological scepticism at top level was evidently lacking, and "the Supervisory Board did not sufficiently highlight the uncertainties expressed internally by the technical teams."
WNN 15/2/12. Namibia

 Germany  

  German utility highlights cost of political indulgence
E.On, one of Germany's major electric utilities, has briefed shareholders on its dilemma in power production. Much of its power generation is impacted by government policies favouring renewable energy over the most economical options, and by closing down some nuclear capacity as well as taxing the rest. Because any feed from solar or wind plants has priority when it happens to be available, other generating plant is run at sub-economic capacity levels. In particular, through summer gas-fired generation is sidelined during peak hours, making it "barely profitable to operate". "In most European markets, the gross margin for gas-fired units is approaching zero or is indeed already negative."

E.On's CEO pointed out that "Paradoxically, this benefits carbon-intensive lignite-fired assets which are more harmful to the earth's climate, whereas flexible, climate-friendlier assets are barely profitable". Despite considerable subsidies, E.On's renewables made a loss, and produced only 1% of the company's power. The company's reduced nuclear fleet gave the most income per unit of generation, making up 21% of power generation and bringing €599 million (34%) of the pre-tax earnings. This figure, however, will be slashed by Germany's extraordinary tax on nuclear fuel that EOn continues to contest in court.

The company summarised its position on the matter: "EOn is implementing the political majority's decision on an earlier phase-out of nuclear energy. At the same time, however, EOn believes that the nuclear phase-out, under current legislation, is irreconcilable with our constitutionally protected right to property and right to operate a business. In any case, such an intervention is unconstitutional unless compensation is granted for the rights so deprived. Consequently we expect appropriate compensation for the billions of euros in stranded assets created by this deprivation."

A day or two later Munich experienced its biggest power failure in two decades, reflecting the precarious situation arising from the country's abrupt policy U-turn in 2011, causing the loss of about 5 GWe of nuclear capacity in the south, with insufficient transmission capacity to compensate.

All of the country's four nuclear power utilities are pressing claims for compensation and in particular are suing the government over continuing with the nuclear tax introduced in relation to the 8- and 14-year licence extensions agreed in September 2010. Claims for compensation are also on the basis of write-down of plants, cancelled upgrades which were in train following the positive September 2010 policy change, and decommissioning costs brought forward.
WNN 14/11/12. Germany
German utilities report effect of policy change
Germany's abrupt change in nuclear policy cost €1.3 billion in RWE's results for FY2011. It also boosted power prices and raised CO2 emissions, the company said in its annual report to shareholders. Overall, RWE's electricity generation was 9% lower than the previous year, due in part to the overnight loss of freedom to operate its Biblis A and B nuclear power reactors, total 2407 MWe. Its overall CO2 emissions rose 8.2% from 0.732 to 0.787 kilograms per kWh due to Biblis closure. However, the price of EU CO2 emission allowances collapsed through 2011 and so reduced the financial impact of this setback. For the future, RWE is focusing research and development efforts on carbon capture and storage techniques because, "by the end of 2022, all German nuclear power stations will be offline and the gap they leave cannot be closed by renewable energy and increased electricity imports alone." Coal will feature prominently in Germany's electricity future, notwithstanding earlier CO2 reduction goals.

A week later EOn reported some of the financial and environmental implications on its operations. It recorded a €1.5 billion one-off cost for the overnight closure of its Unterweser, Isar 1, Krummel, and Brunsbuttel nuclear power reactors, which also directly resulted in it producing almost 12 billion kWh less than in 2010. Adding in the total costs of the ongoing nuclear fuel tax as well as accelerated decommissioning plans for the closed units, the total financial impact on EOn has been €2.5 billion over the last 12 months. The company turned its attention to the challenges of a "new operating environment" in August 2011, announcing the likely loss of 9000-11,000 jobs. EOn noted a setback in achieving its target to reduce specific emissions from power generation to half of 1990 baseline levels by 2020, with its carbon intensity in Europe rising due to nuclear shutdowns.

EnBW posted a loss of €867 million primarily because of the required permanent shutdown of two of its four power reactors and payments of nuclear fuel tax.

Vattenfall was also affected by the German decision, and took a $1.57 billion impairment charge after the German decision. It is trying to reach a compensation settlement with the German government, and will otherwise sue.
WNN 6 & 14/3/12, Nucleonics Week 15/3/12. Germany

 Germany to recover renewables costs from consumers
Four major German utilities and the Federal Network Agency and grid authority have announced that they are raising the surcharge that customers pay on their utility bills to fund renewable energy by a steep 47% next year, from € 3.592 c/kWh now to 5.277 c/kWh. This to cover the increasing proportion from renewables and the fact that the utilities are obliged to pay for each renewable kWh much more than they can sell it for. Utilities charge most customers the renewable energy sources (EEG) surcharge or "Umlage" to cover the difference. Some energy-intensive industries are exempt from this. Overall, the 2013 forecast EEG feed-in tariffs amount to about €18.5 billion, compared with projected revenues on the electricity market of about €2.6 billion. The difference between projected feed-in tariffs and marketing revenues forms the essential part of the EEG surcharge.

The government is reacting to the steady increase in renewables costs to consumers by capping the subsidies. Solar subsidies are capped at 52 GWe (compared with 30 GWe currently), and wind and biomass are set to follow. Last year, Germany raised the 2020 target from 35% to 40% of supply from renewables while raising payments for biomass, geothermal, & offshore wind. It maintained solar PV and onshore wind incentives, but has cut solar since.
Sustainable Business 15/10/12. Germany, Energy subsidies
 

 Belgium  

 Belgium cancels licence extensions for two reactors
Belgium's Council of Ministers has announced that Doel 1 and 2 – both 433 MWe pressurized water reactors (PWRs) that have been in operation since the mid 1970s - are to close in 2015 after 40 years of operation. Tihange 1, a 962 MWe PWR that will also celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2015, is to be permitted to operate to 2025 to avoid the risk of blackouts. Four other Belgian reactors are not immediately affected by the decisions, though they will reach 40 years in 2022 and 2025. In 2009 the government had decided to allow these three oldest units to extend their operating lives by ten years - while demanding in return that nuclear power producers pay an annual 'contribution' to the Belgian budget. The latest announcement reneges on "firm commitments" made between the Belgian state and GDF-Suez in a 2009 memorandum of understanding, and comes immediately after the Belgian nuclear regulator FANC ruled favourably on a technical report from GDF Suez subsidiary Electrabel on its preparation for the ten-year extensions. All Belgian reactors are operated by Electrabel.
WNN 5/7/12. Belgium

 Belgian reactor closed to check pressure vessel flaws
Belgium’s 30-year old Doel 3 reactor will remain shut down while regulators and others consider the significance of numerous flaws in the 20 cm thick steel reactor pressure vessel. These are parallel to the surface and evidently caused in the forging process rather than being due to ageing or embrittlement. They were revealed by new ultrasound inspection techniques. The shells of the Doel pressure vessel, along with about 20 others in several countries, were made in the 1970s by Rotterdam Dry Dock (RDM), now defunct. Ten of the RDM pressure vessels are in service in the USA. Plant owner Electrabel needs to demonstrate that the flaws are benign before the reactor can restart.
WNN 8/8/12. Belgium
 

  Czech Republic  

 Areva bid for Czech reactor ruled out
Czech utility CEZ has told Areva that its bid for the contract to construct two more units at the Temelin nuclear power plant has been disqualified as it "failed to meet statutory requirements." Areva said it will appeal the decision, which leaves Westinghouse and a consortium led by Russia’s AtomStroyExport vying for the contract. The Temelin site is already home to two Russian VVER-1000 reactors, in operation since 2000 and 2003 respectively.

Areva had put forward its EPR design, as licensed in Finland and France, and undergoing licensing in the USA and UK. Two units are being built in China. The AtomStroyExport bid involves Gidropress' MIR-1200 VVER model based on those now under construction at Leningrad and Novovoronezh power plants. Westinghouse's AP1000 is under construction in China and the USA, having design certification in the USA and interim approval in the UK. All three contenders submitted documentation late in June 2012, each with a commercial proposal, a technical proposal and a proposal for the supply of nuclear fuel.
WNN 8/10/12. Czech Rep  

 Switzerland  

 Spain  

 Spanish standoff on plant licence renewal
Spain’s Nuclenor has declined to meet a government deadline for applying to renew its operating licence for the Garona nuclear power plant until the government declares what the new electricity sector rules and taxes will be. The original plans for electricity reform called for heavy taxes on all generation, but especially nuclear. Protests have caused a rethink. While Garona meets all requirements set by national regulators, some EUR 120 million investment will be required to take it to the proposed July 2019 retirement. Nuclenor says that if its "doubts surrounding the economic feasibility … are cleared up, it would be in a position to request the license renewal" and make the investment. Otherwise it shuts down next year.
Platts 6/9/12. Spain
 

 Scandinavia  

 New Swedish reactors on horizon
Swedish utility Vattenfall has submitted an application to the country's nuclear regulator for approval to replace one or two of its existing reactors at Ringhals and Forsmark with new ones. However, a decision on whether to proceed with the new units is several years away.
WNN 1/8/12. Sweden
 

  Baltic states  

 Estonia and Latvia support Lithuania nuclear plant
Despite construction starting on Russia's Baltic nuclear power plant in next-door Kaliningrad, plans are proceeding for Lithuania's Visaginas nuclear plant which will replace the capacity lost by closure of its Ignalina nuclear plant due to requirements of EU accession. In July 2011 the government selected Hitachi as strategic investor, and GE Hitachi is to build a single 1350 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, several of which are operating and under construction in Japan and Taiwan. This is expected to operate from 2020. Last October the government formally notified the 
European Commission of plans for the new nuclear power plant at Visaginas to be built in collaboration with Estonia, Latvia and Poland. However, in December Poland withdrew from the project, saying that Visaginas Nuclear Energy's conditions were unacceptable to Poland, and it had other plans anyway. In March 2012 the prime ministers of Estonia and Latvia reiterated their support for the project and promised to work together to make sure progress is maintained. The Lithuanian parliament is due to approve a concession agreement in mid year.
WNN 9/3/12. Lithuania
 

 Lithuania signs up with Hitachi for new plant
The Lithuanian government has approved plans for its new nuclear plant, an LNG terminal and power grid connections to western Europe to greatly reduce its dependence on Russia’s gas and power supply. It has signed a concession agreement with Hitachi as strategic investor in its planned Visaginas nuclear power plant, providing a contractual framework for the project and giving Hitachi a 20% stake in it. Latvia is to take 20% of the project company and Estonia 22% for about EUR 1 billion each. Lithuania will retain 38%. A combined construction and operating licence is to be issued by July 2015, and a final investment decision then made. Poland was originally a participant but withdrew in December, saying that conditions were unacceptable and it had other nuclear power plans anyway. GE Hitachi expects to build a single 1350 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, several of which are operational and under construction in Japan and Taiwan.
WNN 10/4/12. Lithuania
 

 Lithuania uncertain about new reactor
A non-binding referendum held in conjunction with Lithuania’s national election has raised uncertainties for the Visaginas project to build a new nuclear power plant with Estonia and Latvia to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina plant, closed due to Lithuania’s accession to the European Union. The referendum question asked if voters wanted new nuclear power capacity built, and 63% said ‘no’ as they also voted against the incumbent government. The Social Democrats had forced the referendum in order to make Visaginas an election issue. It appears the former Homeland Union-Christian Democrat Party will be replaced, since Labor and Social Democratic parties did better electorally and may form a coalition. While both Labor and Social Democrats have opposed the project so far, they have not ruled out proceeding with it, and the matter will be decided by the incoming government. Without Visaginas, both Lithuania and its two Baltic neighbours will remain largely dependent on Russia for electricity, and the economic prospects of the 2400 MWe Baltic nuclear plant now under construction in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave, 50 km from Vilnius, will be boosted.
WNN 17/10/12. Lithuania
 

 Bulgaria  

 Bulgaria abandons Belene plans
After several years of rising uncertainty and failure to secure any Western investment, the Bulgarian government has aborted plans for a new 2000 MWe nuclear plant at Belene on the Danube Rive, and will instead add a third 1000 MWe reactor to its Kozloduy plant. Germany's RWE Power was to have been a 49% strategic investor in the project, but withdrew in 2009. The new Bulgarian government then decided that it could not afford its full 51% stake. Atomstroyexport has the manufactured components of the first Belene reactor ready to supply, pursuant to a 2008 contract, and these will now be built as Kozloduy 7. A smaller gas-fired plant will be built at Belene. An earlier set of VVER-1000 components destined for Belene was returned to Russia in 2007 and was installed as Kalinin 4, now operating.
WNN 29/3/12. Bulgaria
 

 Bulgaria widens scope for new nuclear plant
Following the cancellation of plans for a new nuclear power plant at Belene due to lack of finance, Bulgaria was left with a reactor pressure vessel, steam generators and related equipment supplied by OMZ Izhorskiye Zavody for a late-model Russian-design VVER-1000 reactor, and it initially proposed installing this kit at Kozloduy alongside two similar units. However, in April the Minister for Finance announced that the government had decided “to open up for investment the project for a new reactor 7 at the Kozloduy nuclear power plant. It will be built on market principles, that is, without government money or state guarantees.” (An earlier set of hardware for Belene was built in Russia as Kalinin-4, now operating.)

A request for proposals in June elicited responses from Areva, Areva/Mitsubishi, Bulgaria's Risk Engineering, Westinghouse and WorleyParsons. Now the project company KNPP-New Build plc has awarded a contract to Westinghouse to assess the feasibility of two options: a VVER unit using that Russian equipment already procured, but with instrumentation and control systems and fuel from Westinghouse, and a turbine-generator from Toshiba; and construction and operation of a western 1000-1200 MWe PWR, essentially Westinghouse's AP1000. The study will evaluate the site, radioactive waste and used fuel management, use of existing infrastructure, licensing, local economic aspects, and the economics of the alternative reactor options by March 2013.
WNN 28/8/12. Bulgaria
 

 Poland  

 Poland spreads nuclear power project over four companies
Four majority state-owned companies have signed a letter of intent for participation in the construction and operation of Poland's first nuclear power plant. A formal agreement could be signed by the end of the year, spreading the load from the main proponent Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) to include utilities Tauron Polska Energia and Enea, together with copper miner KGHM Polska Miedz SA. These will acquire up to 49% of the shares in the project company PGE EJ1, which will be future operator and licensee. The utilities will thus broaden their generation base from coal, and KGHM will acquire its own power supply in a similar fashion to the Finnish model through TVO and Fennovoima.
WNN 6/9/12. Poland

 Russia, Ukraine, Belarus  

 Construction starts on new Russian reactor to supply EU
First concrete has been poured for the Baltic nuclear power plant at Neman in Kaliningrad, the Russian exclave west of the Baltic states. It is a novel project for Russia in several ways: the first to be opened to investment by EU utilities (up to 49%), the first intended to export most of its output, and the first to use Western components such as an Alstom-Atomenergomash turbine generator. Rosenergoatom has said that the plant is deliberately placed "essentially within the EU" and is designed to be integrated with the EU grid. Most of the power is intended for Germany, Poland and Baltic states. Construction manager for the twin-unit AES-2006 plant using VVER-1200 reactors is Nizhny Novgorod Atomenergoproekt. Unit 1 is expected to start up in 2016 after 55 months construction.
WNN 27/2/12. Russia NP

 Local government confirmation of Russian fast reactor plan
The Sverdlovsk government has confirmed its approval of plans to build the latest and largest Russian fast neutron reactor at Beloyarsk, as unit 5. The BN-1200 design (of about 1220 MWe) is expected to be complete next year, partly funded by federal nuclear technology program, and construction is due to start in 2015. At present a BN-600 fast reactor has operated there for 22 years, and a BN-800 unit is under construction - two of which have been sold to China. Rosatom's Science and Technology Council in 2011 approved the BN-1200 reactor for Beloyarsk, and in May this year Rosenergoatom started environmental assessment for it. Its designer, OKBM Afrikantov, envisages about ten such plants by 2030, possibly including South Urals NPP. The Chelyabinsk regional government has apparently approved three BN-1200s to be built at South Urals plant, coming on line from 2021, but this is unconfirmed.
WNN 27/6/12. Russia NP
 

 Russia starts preparation for first large fast reactor
Rosenergoatom has started environmental assessment for the first BN-1200 fast neutron reactor as unit 5 at Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Zarechny municipality of Sverdlovsk Region. OKBM Afrikantov expects to complete the design in 2014, and construction is due to start about a year later. It will be a development of the BN-800, now under construction there (and with two sold to China). Beloyarsk-3 is a 600 MWe fast reactor which has been operating successfully for 31 years. Several more BN-1200 units are proposed - the Chelyabinsk regional government wants three to be built at South Urals plant.
Nuclear.Ru 14/5/12. Russia NP
 

 Russia pressing ahead with small fast reactor
As well as continuing its development of large sodium-cooled fast reactors (and selling two to China), Russia is pushing ahead with a small modular fast reactor cooled by lead-bismuth eutectic, the SVBR-100. Seven Alfa-class submarines have been powered by smaller versions of the same concept, giving 70 reactor-years experience of it, with another 10 on land. In 2009 AKME-Engineering was set up by Rosatom with 50% private equity from En+ Group to develop and build the SVBR.

The plan is to complete the design development and put on line a 100 MWe demonstration plant by the end of 2017, with total investment of RUR16 billion ($585 million). The site is to be the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR or NIIAR) at Dimitrovgrad - Russia's largest nuclear research centre. The SVBR-100 could be the first reactor cooled by heavy metal to generate electricity. It is described as a multi-function reactor, for power, heat or desalination. A power station with 16 such modules is expected to supply electricity at lower cost than any other new Russian technology, as well as achieving inherent safety and high proliferation resistance. Development also continues on BREST, a 300 MWe lead-cooled reactor design, and a more innovative small MBIR, all three under the January 2010 federal target program for advanced nuclear technologies.
AKME-E. Russia NP, Small nuclear reactors

 Russia announces plans for new fast reactor
Rosatom has announced that a pilot demonstration BREST-300 fast reactor with associated fuel cycle facilities is to be built at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk. RUR 25 billion ($809 million) has been budgeted for development and construction of the reactor and RUR 17 billion ($550 million) for the fuel cycle facilities. NIKIET expects to finish the BREST design in 2014, to allow construction over 2016-20. If it is successful as a 300 MWe unit, a 1200 MWe version will follow. BREST is a lead-cooled design, one of four projects in the RUR 110 billion ($3.6 billion) 2010 federal target program for new-generation nuclear technologies to 2020, designed to bring a new technology platform for the nuclear power industry based on fast neutron reactors. Rosatom's long-term strategy to 2050 involves moving to inherently-safe nuclear plants using fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle and MOX fuel.
WNN 4/10/12. Russia NP

New Russian reactor starts commercial operation
Kalinin 4, a 950 MWe VVER unit, has been handed over to Rosenergoatom for full commercial operation. It was grid-connected in December. Final cost was RUR 7 billion ($220 million) under budget - about 10% of total.
WNN 26/9/12. Russia NP
 

 Chernobyl shelter construction starts
Construction of Chernobyl’s New Safe Confinement structure has commenced and is due to be completed in 2016. The 20,000 tonne arch 108 metres high, 150 metres long and spanning 257 metres is being built adjacent to the destroyed unit 4 and will be moved into place on rails. It will cover both the reactor and the hastily-built structure over it. The arch frame is a lattice construction of tubular steel members, equipped with internal cranes. The design and construction contract for this was signed in 2007 with the French Novarka consortium and preparatory work on site was completed in 2010.

The hermetically sealed building, estimated by the Ukraine government to cost €935 million, will allow engineers remotely to dismantle the structure which has shielded the remains of the reactor from the weather since shortly after the 1986 accident. It will enable the eventual removal of materials containing nuclear fuel and accommodate their characterisation, compaction and packing for disposal, all with remote handling. This task represents the most important step in eliminating nuclear hazard at the site - and the real start of decommissioning.

The Chernobyl Shelter Fund, set up in 1997, had received €864 million from international donors by early 2011 towards this project and previous work there. It is managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
WNN 26/4/12. Chernobyl accident

Belarus approves contract for new nuclear plant
The Belarus government has approved a draft contract for the country's first nuclear power plant to be supplied by Russia's AtomStroyExport (ASE). The general contract defines the organization of construction, commissioning of the two units, and other conditions. Belarus earlier invited bids from Rosatom’s ASE, Areva and Westinghouse-Toshiba. ASE was reportedly the only bidder prepared to proceed and provide $10 billion financing to cover 90% of the overnight cost. The 1200 MWe AES-2006 model VVER pressurized water reactor design, developed by St Petersburg AtomEnergoProekt, has been selected for use at the twin-unit plant, to be built at Ostrovetsk in the Grodno region.

Belarus said that the cost of building the plant should not exceed the cost of building the similar Baltic nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad "under comparable conditions." Site works are under way with first concrete expected at the end of 2013 and operation of the first unit from 2018. Russia's policy for building nuclear power plants in such countries is to deliver on a turnkey basis, including supply of all fuel and repatriation of used fuel for the life of the plant. Following an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission in June, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported favourably on Belarus’ progress in establishing legal and regulatory infrastructure.
WNN 11/7/12. Belarus
 

 CENTRAL ASIA  

 Kazakhstan  

 Kazakh uranium production hits new high
In line with expectations, Kazakhstan's uranium production reached 19,450 tU (22,940 t U3O8) in 2011, about 35% of world production. Stage 2 of the northern Semizbai mine (49% CGNPC) was commissioned and the Budenovskoye-2 uranium recovery plant serving Akbastau and Karatau ISL mines (both 50% Uranium One) reached 3000 tU/yr capacity.
WNN 3/2/12. Kazakhstan
 

 EAST ASIA  

 China  

Nuclear power reactor construction resumes in China  
After an 18-month hiatus to investigate and reconsider safety, construction has started on three new reactors in China. Two are the mainstream CPR-1000 units of 1080 MWe, in each case the fourth unit at a site - Fuqing and Yangjiang - where work has been ongoing on another three reactors since 2008. The third start is a small innovative high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, or actually a pair of them designed to drive a single 210 MWe turbine generator. This is the Shandong Shidaowan HTR-PM project, with fuel as large 'pebbles', based on German technology from the 1980s, but now a world-leading technology. This HTR-PM is a demonstration plant to pave the way for a 3780 MWe power station there comprising 18 such units. The new construction starts bring the total under construction in China to 29 units and 30,000 MWe.

Following the Fukushima accident in March 2011, the State Council suspended approvals for new nuclear power stations and ordered comprehensive safety checks of all nuclear projects, including those under. It also suspended work on four approved units due to start construction in 2011, including the two above. In May 2012 a new safety plan for nuclear power was approved in principle. The State Council considered a report on civil nuclear facilities including changes made since the Fukushima accident, and affirmed that the fundamental principle of China's nuclear safety and radioactive pollution prevention is to put safety and quality first. It is now explicit that Chinese regulations are to fully incorporate the safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In an unprecedented move to improve the transparency of nuclear regulation the government then formally solicited public comments on its nuclear safety plan which must ensure that no 'serious incident' (INES Level 3) or greater occurs at any reactor. The plan was approved in October.
 WNN 13/12/12. China NP

 China grid connection and construction start
In China, the first unit of the Ningde nuclear power station in Fujian province has started supplying power to the grid, 58 months after construction start. This is a largely-indigenous CPR-1000 unit of 1037 MWe net. It brings to 16 the number of operating nuclear power reactors in China, with almost 13 GWe net on line. Ningde will eventually have six reactors, four of these in phase 1, costing some $7.2 billion and coming on line to 2015.

Further north in Jiangsu province, construction has started on the third Tianwan unit. This is a Russian AES-91 VVER type, of 1060 MWe gross, very similar to the two operating there since 2006-07. Unit 4 construction will follow in 2013. Atomstroyexport is providing the main nuclear reactor components comprising 30% of the $3.8 billion project, Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation is responsible for the balance including civil work, turbine island with equipment, and related infrastructure on the site. It has contracted much of this to China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC) companies. The turbine generator sets will probably be sourced from Dongfang Electric, using Alstom Arabelle low-speed technology.
WNN 29/12/12. China NP

 China flags return to new nuclear plant approvals
China’s premier has outlined a modified approach to nuclear power construction at a State Council meeting. In March 2011 new approvals and licensing were halted, though construction of 25 reactors continued, and two of these are now on line. It seems that the pace of approvals will be reduced, that only plants at coastal sites will be approved up to 2015, and that new reactors will have to comply with new-generation safety standards. A recent report from the Ministry of Environment suggested that China will need to spend RMB 80 billion ($13 billion) on improving nuclear safety at 41 operating and under-construction reactors over the next three years. Details are expected following the 18th National Congress.
Reuters 16/10/12, WNN 24/10/12. China NP 

 China approves revised safety goals
China’s State Council has approved in principle a new safety plan for nuclear power. This will clear the way for resumption of approvals for new power plant construction, suspended in March 2011 until there was assurance that existing plants were adequately designed, sited, protected and managed. The 14-month safety assessment process encompassed research reactors and fuel cycle facilities as well as nuclear power plants. The main issues remaining are for some nuclear power plants to meet new standards on flood protection and for some research reactors to meet new earthquake requirements. Over this period work on most of the reactors under construction has continued, and two of those have been connected to the grid, leaving 26 currently ‘under construction’.

The State Council on 31 May considered a report on civil nuclear facilities including changes made since the Fukushima accident, and affirmed that the fundamental principle of China’s nuclear safety and radioactive pollution prevention is to put safety and quality first. It said that it is now satisfied that 'safety from external risks such as floods and earthquakes has been fully demonstrated' while on other issues 'the relevant departments and enterprises quickly organized rectification and have achieved initial results.' It is now explicit that Chinese regulations are to fully incorporate the safety standards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
WNN 1/6/12. China NP
 

 China invites public comment on nuclear safety plan
The Chinese government is formally soliciting public comments on its nuclear safety plan, which was approved in principle by the State Council at the end of May. The government is testing public sentiment on nuclear power by releasing the safety plan for public comments, before moving to lift the March 2011 moratorium on approving new nuclear projects. The plan involves expenditure of CNY 79.8 billion ($12.6 billion) by 2015 across all of the country’s facilities, and must ensure that no ‘serious incident’ (INES Level 3) or greater occurs at any reactor. Feedback to the Ministry of Environmental Protection is due by the end of June.

Meanwhile the National Energy Administration has announced that it has ordered three nuclear power plants to tighten up emergency planning procedures – Qinshan, Ling Ao and Tianwan.
WNN 1/6/12, China Daily 20/6/12. China NP
 

 China launches safety projects
A series of research and development (R&D) projects has been launched by China's National Energy Administration (NEA) to improve safety-related technology and the country’s emergency response capabilities at indigenous nuclear power plants in the event of an extreme disaster beyond design basis. The 13 R&D projects are to be conducted by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) and the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University. They will include the development of passive emergency power supply and cooling water systems, development of passive containment heat removal systems, developing hydrogen control devices, measures for the prevention and mitigation of used fuel accidents, and analysing the impact of multiple simultaneous external events and response measures. Other projects will study the monitoring and treatment of contaminated ground and water. All are expected to be completed in 2013. Referring particularly to the CPR-1000 reactors being widely built in China, the NEA said that "Implementing the measures will comprehensively enhance safety of Generation II+ nuclear power technology in our country, and significantly reduce the core damage frequency and large early release frequency" to "internationally recognized levels" required for Generation III reactors.
WNN 21/2/12. China NP
 

 New Chinese reactor enters commercial operation
Unit 4 of the second phase of Qinshan nuclear power plant has started commercial operation, two months ahead of schedule. The 650 MWe CNP-600 unit is China’s 15th operational nuclear power reactor and was connected to the grid in November. Seven reactors are now operating at Qinshan in Zhejiang province 100 km south of Shanghai, and two more are under construction at Fangjiashan nearby. Also in the province, two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors are well advanced on a similar construction schedule at Sanmen.
WNN 10/4/12. China NP

 Major Chinese nuclear power company to list with IPO
China National Nuclear Power Co Ltd is planning an initial public offering (IPO) on the Shanghai stock exchange to provide funds for building new nuclear power plants. The company is the major subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), and runs nine reactors with total 6,049 MWe net and is building ten more. It is seeking CNY 174 billion ($27.4 billion) for construction of five further nuclear power projects in the Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian and Hainan provinces. Approval from the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) has been obtained.
WNN 7/6/12. China NP

 China gains confidence in uranium resources
China now claims to be "a uranium-rich country" on the basis of some two million tonnes of uranium being inferred or possible, though published known uranium resources two years ago were less than one tenth of this. New discoveries in the north and northwest in sandstones, and deep hydrothermal ones in southeast China, have changed the picture, according to the President of CNNC's Beijing Research Institute of Uranium Geology at the WNA China International Nuclear Symposium this week. In northern China, the exploration is focused on mineralisation spanning the sedimentary basins of Xinjiang Autonomous Region, ranging eastwards to those of Inner Mongolia. This has now become the prime uranium region of China. Significant deposits have been discovered in the Yili basin of Xinjiang, and in the Ordos, Erlian and Songliao basins of Inner Mongolia.
 China fuel cycle

 Huge boost for China power transmission
China’s State Grid Corporation (SGCC) has started construction of what it says is the largest capacity power line in the world, a 2200-km 800 kV DC link to Zhengzhou capable of carrying about 8 GWe and costing $3.7 billion. It is also spending CNY 300 billion ($47 billion) this year on other ultra high voltage (UHV) lines across the country - four AC and three DC - to link the energy sources in China’s west to the central and eastern regions. By 2015 SGCC is investing CNY 500 billion ($75.5 billion) to extend the UHV grid to 40,000 km. By 2020, the capacity of China’s UHV network is expected to be some 300-400 GWe, which will function as the backbone of the whole system.
RTT News 14/5/12. China NP
 

  Japan  

 Japanese election improves nuclear prospects
After a decisive victory in Japan's elections, with 294 out of 480 seats, the Liberal Democratic Party is likely to take a more positive view of restarting idled nuclear power plants than its predecessor (which won only 57 seats, down from 267, and had toyed with a nuclear phase-out policy). At present 48 of the country's operable nuclear power reactors are offline, resulting in electricity shortages and massive LNG and other fossil fuel import costs. All the nuclear plants have been subject to detailed safety appraisal following the Fukushima accident, but restarts are subject to permission from the new regulatory authority, which needs to establish its public credibility.
WNN 17/12/12. Japan

 Japan modifies populist energy plan as new regulator starts
Four days after announcing a nuclear phase-out by 2040, the cabinet backed away from its earlier support for a policy document from the Energy & Environment Council and the prime minister explained that flexibility was important in considering energy policy. The timeline was dropped. Reprocessing used nuclear fuel will continue and there is no impediment to continuing construction of two nuclear plants – Shimane 3 and Ohma 1. A new basic energy plan will be decided after further deliberation and consultation, especially with municipalities hosting nuclear plants.

The new Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has now taken over the role of the Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), with greater independence and modelled on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is under the Environment Ministry rather than the Ministry of Economy Trade & Industry. The new Nuclear Safety Investigation Committee (NSIC) which will review the effectiveness of the NRA and be responsible for the investigation of nuclear accidents is also under the Environment Ministry. The first task of the NRA is decide on reactor restarts.
WNN 19/9/12, JAIF 24/9/12. Japan

 Japan announces populist energy plan
Bowing to public nervousness, the Japanese government has announced an “Innovative Energy and Environment Strategy”, effectively a non-binding policy goal ahead of elections later this year. This aims for zero nuclear contribution to electricity by 2040, without any analysis of how this might be achieved. In the short term, reactors currently operable but shut down would be allowed to restart once they gain permission from the incoming Nuclear Regulatory Authority, due to be launched on 19 September, but a 40-year operating limit would be imposed. A “green energy policy framework” is promised by the end of the year, focused on burning imported gas (LNG) and coal, along with expanded use of intermittent renewables. In the past year Japan has been securing increased supplies of LNG, and increased fossil fuel imports were a major contributor to Japan’s record trade deficit of JPY 2.5 trillion ($31.78 billion) in the first half of this year. If implemented, the new strategy would largely wipe out Japan’s progress in meeting carbon emission reduction targets. However along with related policy questions around Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle, there is much scope for reconsidering what happens in almost three decades.

Japanese industry has pointed out that reducing reliance on nuclear power is unrealistic. "There is no way we can accept this - I cannot think this is technologically possible," chairman of the Keidanren, or Japan Business Federation, said of the new policy. The Japan Electrical Manufacturers' Association (JEMA) earlier said that it is essential to maintain an energy mix with a nuclear percentage of at least 20% to 25%. The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) said "it is important to continue the use of nuclear energy at a certain rate together with the nuclear fuel cycle, looking simultaneously at the issue of co-prosperity with siting areas." It asserted the need to rely on nuclear power for at least 20% to 25% of the country's total energy production, and that "each of the (low-nuclear) options poses quite serious issues as far as the burden on the Japanese public, the impact on the economy and practicability are concerned."

Leading UK environmentalist and author Mark Lynas said that the Japanese policy was "nothing short of insane." He complained that "politicians around the world - under pressure from populations subjected to decades of anti-nuclear fearmongering by people who call themselves greens - are raising the risks of catastrophic climate change in order to eliminate the safest power source ever invented."
WNN 14/9/12, France24 14/9/12, Reuters 8/8/12, JAIF 27/8/12. Japan 

 Japan reviews both energy and nuclear fuel cycle options
The Japanese government is in the process of reviewing its Basic Energy Policy, which may recommend that nuclear power's contribution to electricity be targeted at anything from zero to 36% for the medium term.

In addition, and within this, it has now announced a full review of nuclear fuel cycle back-end options, considering both economic and other criteria. The review committee will start by considering technical options: one scenario involves direct disposal of used reactor fuel, two scenarios involve this being reprocessed and with fuel materials recycled as mixed-oxide fuel. Two more scenarios look at the use of fast reactors and fast breeder reactors. A review of policy options is then to follow which will look at direct disposal of the used fuel, reprocessing of the country's entire stock, and a combination of the two. The last step will be to combine the two reviews, at the same time adding a time axis of mid-to-long term scenarios. This will quantify the amount of plutonium and used fuel generated by each option as well as looking at broader impacts such as energy security, the international perspective, and the impacts of the changes resulting from each of the potential policies.

In 2002, a new Energy Policy Law set out the basic principles of energy security and stable supply, giving greater authority to the government in establishing the energy infrastructure for economic growth. It also promoted greater efficiency in consumption, a further move away from dependence on fossil fuels, and market liberalisation. Then in 2004 the Atomic Energy Commission endorsed proceeding with the final commissioning and commercial operation of JNFL's 800 t/yr Rokkasho-mura reprocessing plant, costing some JPY 2.4 trillion (US$ 20 billion). The Commission rejected the alternative of moving to direct disposal of spent fuel, as in the USA. This was then seen as a major confirmation of the joint industry-government formulation of nuclear policy for the next several decades, but is now questioned.

Meanwhile a subcommittee of the Atomic Energy Commission has updated cost estimates for different used fuel options considering both 20% and 35% nuclear contributions to electricity in 2030. In each case reprocessing and recycle of used fuel is economically much better than direct disposal.
WNN 18/4/12. Japan

 Japanese shareholders stand firm on nuclear role
Annual general meetings of nine Japanese utilities with nuclear interests have all rejected proposals for cutting back on nuclear power generation. At Tepco’s AGM, shareholders voted to sell the Japanese government 50.11% of Tepco's voting shares and an additional 25.73% with no voting rights, for JPY 1 trillion (about $12.5 billion), paid through the Nuclear Damage Compensation Fund. Tepco's losses have been put at ¥781.6 billion ($9.8 billion) for financial year 2012. About half of this stems from the cost of compensation and clean-up, the other half is from the higher cost of generation in Japan's precarious power market. Assuming that substantial electricity price hikes and reactor restarts are approved, Tepco anticipates returning to profitability in financial year 2013-14. The first of the reactors which have been shut down – Kansai’s Ohi 3 - is due back on line on Sunday.
Asahi Shimbun 27/4/12. Japan

 Japan commissions new enrichment technology
After 15 months re-equipping the plant, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) has returned its Rokkasho enrichment plant to service, using new Shingata design centrifuges. The plant began operation in 1992 using older technology, and has restarted with 37,500 SWU/yr. A further 37,500/yr SWU is due on line at the end of 2012, and its design capacity of 1.5 million SWU/yr is expected to be reached about 2022. JNFL is owned by the power utilities.
JAIF 26/3/12. Japan

 Japan restarts first of shut-down reactors
Japan's Kansai Electric Power has restarted the Unit 3 reactor at its Ohi nuclear plant, and it is now at full power. This is the first to restart since all of Japan's reactors progressively came offline for refueling and safety checks. Ohi unit 4 is expected back on line later in the month.
WNN 2 & 5/7/12. Japan

 Japan restarts second idled reactor
Japan's Kansai Electric Power has restarted the Unit 4 reactor at its Ohi nuclear plant, the second to come back on line following the progressive shutdowns. Recent major public demonstrations against nuclear power however may slow down government approvals for further restarts.
Japan

Japan parliamentary commission reports on Fukushima
The faults of every player in last year's Fukushima crisis have been laid out by a parliamentary commission. No organisation was singled out as responsible - but rather Japanese culture itself. The report comes from Japanese Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), one of three bodies investigating the circumstances of the accident. The 88-page executive summary elaborated in detail the organisational, cultural and technical failings that allowed the accident to occur as a result of the large tsunami, as well as the issues that stymied the country's response.

The NAIIC Chairman wrote: "What must be admitted – very painfully – is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan.' Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the program'; our groupism; and our insularity.” The mindset of government and industry led the country to avoid learning the lessons of the previous major nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. "The consequences of negligence at Fukushima stand out as catastrophic, but the mindset that supported it can be found across Japan. In recognizing that fact, each of us (every Japanese citizen) should reflect on our responsibility as individuals in a democratic society."

Tepco had been aware since 2006 that Fukushuima Daiichi could face a station blackout if flooded, as well as the potential loss of ultimate heat sink in the event of a major tsunami. However, the regulator, NISA, gave no instruction to the company to prepare for severe flooding, and even told all nuclear operators that it was not necessary to plan for station blackout. During the initial response to the tsunami, this lack of readiness for station blackout was compounded by a lack of planning and training for severe accident mitigation. Plans and procedures for venting and manual operation of emergency cooling were incomplete and their implementation in emergency circumstances proved very difficult as a result. NISA was also criticised for its "negligence and failure over the years" to prepare for a nuclear accident in terms of public information and evacuation, with previous governments equally culpable. Then Tepco’s difficulty in mitigation was compounded by government interference which undermined NISA.
WNN 5/7/12. Fukushima accident
 

 Approval to restart first Japanese reactors
Following much deliberation and consultation, especially with local government, the Japanese prime minister has approved the restart of the first two of 50 shut-down nuclear power reactors. Kansai Electric Power is making preparations to restart the 1180 MWe Ohi-3 and 4 units early in July. The prime minister pointed out that the decision was to protect the livelihood of the Japanese people. The country faces a 12% shortage of electricity this summer while additional fossil fuel imports are costing it about $40 billion, or $333 per person, per year.
WNN 18/6/12. Japan

After a series of high-level meetings, the Japanese government has approved the restart of Kansai Electric’s Ohi 3 & 4 reactors, and will urge the Fukui governor and the Ohi mayor to endorse this decision. Without the twin 1180 MWe units, significant electricity shortages are likely in summer peak periods. Only one Japanese reactor is now operating and that will shut down for a scheduled outage in three weeks. Many utilities are relying on reserve fossil-fuel fired plants to keep the lights on, at considerable cost.
Platts 13/4/12. Japan
 

 Fukushima evacuation zone restrictions relaxed
Restrictions on several areas within the 20 km radius evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its northwesterly extension have been relaxed. These show dose rates caused by ambient radioactivity to be below 20 mSv/yr with continuous occupation - the government's benchmark for return. In these areas residents may now return to homes and businesses without the use of protective gear. This means that major repairs can be made to homes damaged by the earthquake of 11 March 2011, and businesses that do not draw custom from local people may now go back to work. Farming is allowed again in line with general restrictions on the wider area. In parallel, authorities will be working to restore infrastructure needed for normal life to resume. The only restriction is that people are not yet allowed to stay overnight. Areas with ambient levels between 20 and 50 mSv/yr northwest of the plant are still designated ‘restricted’, and residents can enter only briefly to conduct specific jobs without being monitored or using protective equipment. Japan's Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI) said that local governments have been strongly demanding early returns, to begin the restoration of the infrastructure that will support the return to normality.
WNN 2/4/12. Fukushima accident

 Further parts of Fukushima evacuation area opened up
The earlier revised zoning of evacuated areas has been extended to Iitate Village, a large area 28-45 km northwest of the Daiichi plant and contiguous with the northern part of Minami Soma city which was subject to re-categorisation in April. Most of Iitate’s residents can now return without protective equipment but not stay overnight, since annual exposure on a continuous basis would be no more than 50 mSv. However, one area (about 10 sq km) remains fully evacuated, as does two thirds of the area within the 20-km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Such areas add to those devastated by the tsunami, where rebuilding is very uncertain.
WNN 17/7/12. Fukushima accident
 

 UN reports on Fukushima radiation doses and effects
The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has reported that despite skin contamination of several workers, no clinically-observable effects have been reported and there is no evidence of acute radiation injury in any of the 20,115 workers who participated in Tepco’s efforts to mitigate the accident at the plant. Eighteen UNSCEAR member states provided 72 experts for the assessment. UNSCEAR is also surveying Fukushima prefecture and will compare its data with Japanese measurements of exposures of some 2 million people living there at the time of the accident. A final report of radiation effects will be presented to the UN late in 2013.

A preliminary report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) has made an estimate of the radiation doses that residents of Japan outside the evacuated areas have received in the year following the accident. The report's headline conclusion is that most people in Fukushima prefecture would have received a radiation dose of between 1 and 10 mSv during the first year. This compares with levels of about 2.4 mSv they would have received from unavoidable natural sources, and the regulatory limit of 1 mSv from nuclear plants in normal operation. In two places the doses were higher - between 10 and 50 mSv, still below any harmful level. Almost all were “below the internationally-agreed reference level for the public exposure due to radon in dwellings” (about 10 mSv/yr).
UNIS 23/5/12, WNN 24/5/12. Fukushima accident

 Fukushima health effects reviewed
Japan's Reconstruction Agency has reviewed the human toll of the evacuation caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident in March last year. The stresses of personal involvement in the evacuation, management and clean-up have emerged as the biggest factors in ill health for the people affected. The mental or physical burden of the forced move from their homes was the cause of 34 early deaths, almost all elderly. This figure compares with 1916 people from Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures that died during evacuation from areas hit only by the tsunami and the earthquake. (The figure is additional to the 19,000 that died in the actual tsunami.) The leading causes of most of those early deaths were disruption to the smooth operation of hospitals, the exacerbation of pre-existing health problems, and the general 'mental fatigue' from dramatic changes in life situation.

The Reconstruction Agency report also considered workers at Fukushima power plant. Of almost 1500 surveyed, many were stressed, due to evacuating their homes (70%), believing they had come close to death (53%), the loss of homes in the tsunami (32%), deaths of colleagues (20%) and of family members (6%) mostly in the tsunami. The death toll directly due to the nuclear accident or radiation exposure remains zero, but stress and disruption due to the continuing evacuation remains high.
WNN 28/8/12. Fukushima accident

 Tepco posts big losses
Tepco's losses have been put at ¥781.6 billion ($9.8 billion) for the financial year to the end of March 2012. About half of this stems from the cost of compensation and cleanup, the other half is from the higher cost of generation in Japan's precarious power market. Decreased electricity sales due to stringent conservation measures and reduced industrial production were compounded by much increased production costs from imported fossil fuels, not nearly offset by higher electricity prices – the first sought by Tepco in 32 years. Tepco supplies around one-third of Japan's electricity, and prior to March 2011 nuclear accounted for nearly 27% of the company's installed capacity, and a higher proportion of sales. Its new chairman-designate has pointed out that despite the government bailout of ¥1 trillion, without restarting its nuclear plants it will not recover economically.

Japan’s National Federation of Small Business Associations has asked the government to restart the nation's nuclear reactors to stabilize the power supply. It said that any large increase in electricity rates such as would be required without nuclear would devastate small businesses. A survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun says six of 34 heads of local government prefectures and municipalities that host Japanese nuclear energy facilities favor restarting the reactors, while five say they are against bringing them back online. The other 23 say they will base their decision on local leaders’ and residents’ approval of the restart of Kansai Electric’s Ohi plant. Ohi local government leaders have approved the restart, but a local mayor has yet to agree. The central government has already approved the restart.
WNN 14/5/12, NEI 14/5/2. Japan
 

 Official report on Fukushima identifies failures
Both government and Tepco came in for serious criticism in the 507-page interim report from the investigation committee on the crises at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daiini nuclear power plants after the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. A provisional English translation of the executive summary explained how government agencies were meant to have interacted and cases in which this broke down. It also explained some operational mistakes made by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) during the accident sequence.

Japanese law requires the quick establishment of a local nuclear emergency headquarters in the vicinity of the affected site. For Fukushima this meant the assembly of key staff at a facility about five kilometres away, but two factors prevented this from working properly: One was the devastation of the natural disasters that took out communications links while also preventing timely travel and the provision of food and water. The other was the lack of radioactivity filters at the building, which actually made it useless for a serious emergency of the kind that developed at Fukushima Daiichi. The report noted gravely that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) had been told in February 2009 to install proper filters at the facility but "did not take concrete steps" to do so.

Another mismatch between the management of nuclear emergencies and natural disasters emerged at the prime minister's office, where the main emergency headquarters were situated. There was insufficient communication between the nuclear and the natural disaster sides, and also NISA and the Ministry of Economics Trade and Industry (METI) did not set up adequate information flow from Tepco. Government communications to the public were accordingly delayed and ambiguous.

Tepco was criticised for two potential operating mistakes during the accident sequence. The first was misjudgement of the status of the unit 1 emergency cooling, which operators thought was working normally, but was not. By the time this was noticed and acted upon, major damage had occurred. At unit 3 a wrong decision by shift operators without advice from managers left it without cooling for over six critical hours. More broadly, Tepco had inadequate measures to cope with station blackouts, and had no plans for the seawater injection technique on which it came to rely.

An overall failing of Tepco, NISA, METI and its predecessors was to fail to plan for very large tsunamis. The site was licensed in the 1960s and 1970s on the basis of a 3.1 metre tsunami height, and although later studies indicated that 15-metre tsunami inundation was possible, no concrete steps were taken by any of the bodies to do anything about it.

Japan had established the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) for exactly the kind of nuclear emergency presented by the Fukushima accident. Although the earthquake disrupted SPEEDI's operation so that it could not give full results on radiation doses at various places near the accident site, it was still accurately predicting the path of the radioactivity. However, this excellent data was not communicated, and hence not used in planning evacuations.
WNN 30/12/11 Fukushima accident

 US Nuclear Regulatory Commission transcripts released
Some 3000 pages of transcripts of communications within the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission following the Fukushima accident have been released. They show that while the NRC correctly predicted fuel melting, it mistook the first hydrogen explosion for a containment rupture, and overestimated the seriousness of the problems arising in the fuel ponds. The NRC was clearly very frustrated by a lack of reliable information in the first few days.
Fukushima

  Last Japanese reactor shut down, restarts are pending local government approval
Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari 3, Japan’s last operating nuclear power reactor, has shut down for routine inspections, marking the first time in 42 years that Japan has not had a reactor generating electricity. Japan has 50 operable commercial units, all now idle. While the government has cleared some reactors for restarting, local governments continue to exercise a veto on this.
WNN 4/5/12. Japan
 

  Japan local government open to reactor restarts  

A survey by Mainichi Shimbun, a respected Japanese news bureau, has found that most leaders of local governments close to the country's nuclear power plants are in favour of restarting them if certain basic conditions are met. The February survey asked the governors of 20 prefectures and the mayors of 122 municipalities located within a 30 km radius of a nuclear power plant whether they approve or disapprove of the restart of the suspended reactors. A total of 137 local governments responded, and 57% conditionally approved restart, while only 17% opposed.

The conditions included: "an indication of safety measures and conditions of plants' restart by the government" (80%), "completion of stress tests" (62%), "approval by the local assembly," (46%), and "a clear explanation of the cause of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster" (44%). Reasons behind municipalities' approval of the restart varied from "to stabilize Japan's energy supply" (77%), to "because plants' safety will be secured through stress tests and other means," (53%). Apart from their answers to the multiple-choice questions in the survey, a total of 21% of all municipalities submitted additional comments on the topic, with most of them being critical of the central government. Among the 54 operational reactors in Japan, only two are now running, with most of the rest having been shut down for routine checks and maintenance but not yet allowed to restart.
Mainichi Daily News 1/3/12. Japan
 

 Japanese reactors await approval to restart  

While reviews of initial stress test results for Japanese reactors are progressing, it could still be some time before the first restart approval comes. The shutdown of unit 2 of the Ikata nuclear power plant for a mandatory periodic inspection means that only five of the country's 54 operational power reactors are now in fact operating. Another will shut down for inspection on 27 January. The others are mostly awaiting federal and local government approval to restart - 32 units are not operating as they have been shut for periodic inspection and have not yet been allowed to restart. A further 17 units, representing 15,990 MWe of capacity, have been shut down due to the tsunami or at the government's request. (Four units were written off due to the accident at Fukushima.) Continued delay in restarting is expected to boost gas prices significantly.

 
Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011, the Japanese government said that all reactors would be subjected to stress tests to be conducted in two phases before approval for restart could be given. Step one is being applied to those reactors which have been taken offline for periodic inspections to determine whether they could withstand large earthquakes and tsunamis. Under this step, utilities are required to examine the safety margin in accordance with guidelines set by the country's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC). This week Tepco submitted to NISA its first stress test results on two nuclear reactors, showing that Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units 1 and 7 would withstand an earthquake 1.3 times stronger than its design basis and survive a 15-metre tsunami. So far, seven Japanese nuclear utilities have submitted stress test results for 14 reactors, nearly one-third of the total number awaiting restart permission from NISA and local authorities.

Based on the results of these initial tests, the government is to decide whether a reactor shut for inspections can or cannot resume operation. Step two of the tests will involve a comprehensive safety assessment of all reactors and will be conducted to enhance the reliability of regular safety checks. These tests will be similar to the stress tests co-ordinated by the European Commission. Next week an IAEA team is to visit Japan to asses the stress tests and their evaluation by NISA.
WNN 16/1/12, Nucleonics Week19/1/12. Japan

 Tepco gets further cash injection for Fukushima
The Japanese government has approved amendments to Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco's) ten-year special business plan which effectively puts it, at least temporarily, under state control. The government will provide Tepco with ¥1 trillion ($12.5 billion) in state funds in return for a majority stake in the company which will enable it to push through reforms of it. The transaction will bring the total amount of public funds provided to Tepco to some ¥3.5 trillion ($43.8 billion), subject to approval by Tepco’s shareholders, who have little alternative. Tepco is struggling to meet massive compensation and clean-up costs following the tsunami-caused Fukushima accident last year. Under the special business plan - submitted by Tepco and the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund in April - the company will receive the additional funds from major creditors, as well as aid of ¥850 billion ($10.6 billion) from a government-backed body for use in compensation payouts. As part of this, Tepco will be required to increase its electricity prices by 10 to 17%, make management changes, sell some of its assets, and undertake cost-cutting measures of ¥3.3 trillion ($48.1 billion) over the next ten years. The company is relying on restarting its large Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant to maintain some cash flow.
WNN 10/5/12. Fukushima accident

 
Japan trade figures show up nuclear loss
Huge energy imports last year caused Japan to record a rare trade deficit. Manufacturing was hit by the tsunami, but the use of fossil fuels to replace shut-down nuclear plants as nuclear share dropped from 30% to 5% of electricity generation was a bigger factor. Even with constraints on electricity use, fossil fuel imports rose 25%. In total, during 2011 Japan spent ¥21.7 trillion ($277 billion) on fossil fuel imports, the increase of ¥4.3 trillion ($55 billion) evidently being a major factor in the country's overall trade deficit of ¥2.5 trillion ($32 billion), the first posted by Japan since 1980. Among power generation fuels, it was liquified natural gas (LNG) from the Middle East and SE Asia that contributed the main increase to imports.

Figures reported by seven of Japan's utilities, excluding Tepco, show a total financial loss of ¥464 billion ($6 billion) in the nine months to end of December due to the increased cost of fossil fuels to replace idled nuclear generation. The largest losses are Tohoku (¥168 billion) and Kansai (¥118 billion).
WNN 25/1/12, Bloomberg 31/1/12. Japan

 

  South Korea  

 Two new South Korean reactors on line
Shin Kori 2 and Shin Wolsong 1 nuclear reactors have been connected to the South Korean grid. The OP-1000 units started construction in June and December 2007 respectively, and are both due to enter commercial operation in June. They bring the number of operating reactors in South Korea to 23. One further OPR-1000 reactor is under construction and likely to start up later in the year, following that will be eight APR-1400 reactors - the same type as the four sold to UAE.
WNN 23/2/12. South Korea

 New Korean reactor enters commercial operation
Shin Kori 2, which was grid connected in January, has now entered commercial operation. Shin Wolsong 1 is also expected in commercial operation this month, and unit 2 is about six months behind. All these are OPR-1000 units, the last to be built. New construction is of APR-1400 types, both in South Korea and UAE.
WNN 20/7/12. South Korea 

 Construction start on new Korean reactor
First structural concrete has been poured for Shin Ulchin 1, the third AP-1400 reactor under construction in South Korea. Its completion is expected in April 2017. Unit 2 is a year behind it. The two units will be the first that are virtually free of Westinghouse IP content and are expected to cost US$ 4.7 billion each. Another AP-1400 is under construction in UAE. Also, Shin Wolsong 1 has commenced commercial operation, closely following Shin Kori 2 last week.
WNN 31/7/12. South Korea

 South Korea considers stake in US enrichment plant
Urenco, which operates the newest US uranium enrichment capacity, is reported to have approached Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) to invest in phase 2 of its New Mexico centrifuge plant, according to Korea’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy (MKE). Full phase 1 capacity is operating, and plans are to build to 5.7 million SWU/year by 2017. Kepco currently buys 2.9 million SWU/yr of enrichment services from several international sources. A Kepco share of the plant would have strategic significance for South Korea as it negotiates renewal of its 1970s nuclear agreement with USA, which expires in 2014. At present, due to sensitivity regarding North Korea, it is prevented by obligations to the USA from enriching uranium and reprocessing used fuel. It is very keen to achieve relief on both fronts, and following the sale of four of its new-generation reactors to UAE against international competition it described the US constraints as “excessive”.

 South Korean safety culture tarnished
The manager of the Kori 1 nuclear power reactor in South Korea has been sacked for covering up a safety-related incident at the plant in February. The incident came about during Kori 1's month-long maintenance outage, when it was in cold shutdown and power was interrupted for 12 minutes due to a worker's mistake. The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) was highly critical of the incident, most of all due to the decision by the manager to cover up the incident rather than reporting it. The plant owner, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), now faces prosecution. Kori 1 is a 34-year old PWR licensed to 2017.
WNN 22/3/12. S.Korea

 South Korea checks uncertified reactor parts
South Korean regulators are investigating how parts were apparently supplied to a number of the country's nuclear power plants using forged quality control certificates. Though the components concerned have no direct safety significance, two reactors have been shut down while such parts are replaced.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy announced that state-owned utility Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), which owns and operates all 23 of Korea's nuclear power reactors, had allegedly been supplied with falsely-certified parts for at least five of them. These come from seven domestic companies and one US company and involve some 60 forged quality control certificates covering 7682 components delivered between 2003 and 2012. The majority of the parts were installed at Yonggwang units 5 and 6, while the rest were used at Yonggwang units 3 and 4 and Ulchin unit 3. Yonggwang 5 and 6 have now been taken offline and will remain so until the parts have been replaced, by the end of this year. Parts at the other three units will be replaced without taking the reactors offline.

The apparently forged certificates come from one particular overseas quality accreditation body. KHNP uses a total of twelve accreditation organizations worldwide. Some 230 types of components - including fuses, cooling fans and power switches - were supplied to KHNP over the ten-year period. All are "non-critical" to the safe operation of the reactors, but reflect a failure of quality assurance auditing. The ministry said that 95% of the components - which have a total value of about 820 million won ($782,500) - were manufactured in Europe and the USA.
WNN 7/11/12. South Korea

  South Asia  

 India  

 New Indian uranium mine opened
India’s first uranium mine outside Jharkhand state, Tummalapalle in Andhra Pradesh, has been opened. It will produce 220 tU/yr from underground mining, with alkaline leach.
NPCIL 20/4/12. India

 Russia agrees to finance new Indian plant
Russia has signed an agreement to provide $3.5 billion in export financing for units 3 & 4 of Kudankulam nuclear power plant, to cover 85% of their cost. A further credit line of $800 million is available to cover fuel supplies. The credit lines carry interest at 4% pa and would be repayable over 14 years and 4 years respectively. The Indian government said it expected to take up the credit offers to the value of $3.06 billion, about 53% of the $5.78 billion estimated total project cost. This is in line with the financing of the first two Kudankulam units which are now more or less complete after numerous delays, and the first is expected to start up within a few weeks. Russia is supplying all the enriched fuel through the life of the plant, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium. A total of eight Russian AES-92 units with VVER-1000 reactors is planned for the site.
WNN 18/7/12. India
 

 India joins international reactor design group
India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board has joined the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s Multinational Design Evaluation Program (MDEP) as its eleventh member, and first new member since the program’s inception. MDEP was launched in 2006 by the USA and France with the aim of coordinating national nuclear regulatory reviews of new power reactor designs. The MDEP pools the resources of the 11 nuclear regulatory authorities to co-operate on safety reviews of designs of nuclear reactors that are under construction and undergoing licensing in several countries. It is also exploring opportunities and potential for harmonisation of regulatory requirements and practices.
WNN 5/4/12. Cooperation in nuclear power

 Indian blackouts affect over 600 million
The northern part of India suffered two massive grid failures this week leaving first 390 million people without power, and a day later, over 600 million in 22 states, highlighting the country’s infrastructure challenges. The Northern grid was the first affected, then this plus parts of the Eastern and North-eastern grids. Power to some essential services was restored after a few hours each time, but others were out for more than a day. All five grids are run by the Power Grid Corporation, which operates 95,000 km of transmission lines.
WNN 3/8/12. India

 

 Pakistan  

 Bangladesh  

 Middle East  

 UAE starts construction of new nuclear plant
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has started full construction of the first Korean APR-1400 unit of Barakah nuclear power plant 300 km west of Abu Dhabi. Site works have been underway for more than a year, including excavation work for the two reactors and installing structural rebar. This week ENEC received a construction licence for units 1 & 2 following 18 months review involving more than 60 staff of the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation (FANR) and three international consulting firms, as well as IAEA. Units 3 & 4 will follow. Two APR-1400 units are under construction in South Korea with the first due to start up next year.
WNN 19/7/12. UAE

 UAE awards fuel contracts for new nuclear plant
The UAE’s Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has awarded six contracts for the supply and preparation of fuel for its Barakah nuclear power plant under construction in Abu Dhabi. These relate to the supply of uranium concentrates, conversion and enrichment services. A spread of suppliers is involved for each stage. The company estimates the contracts are worth some $3 billion and will enable the Barakah plant to generate up to 450 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over a 15-year period from 2017.

The ENEC contracts involve Canada-based Uranium One, UK-based Rio Tinto, France's Areva and Russia's Techsnabexport (Tenex) for supply of uranium concentrates. For conversion services, contracts utilise the USA's Converdyn, as well as Tenex and Areva. Enrichment will be by Europe-based Urenco, Areva and Tenex. Areva said that its contract involved supply of enriched uranium worth some $500 million. ENEC "expects to return to the market at various times to take advantage of favorable market conditions and to strengthen its security of supply position." The enriched uranium will be supplied to Kepco Nuclear Fuels - part of the prime contractor consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) - which will manufacture the fuel assemblies.
WNN 15/8/12. UAE

 International waste disposal concept expands to Middle East
Over 2006-09 the EC-funded SAPIERR (Strategic Action Plan for Implementation of European Regional Repositories) project assessed the feasibility of European regional waste repositories, indicating a recognition in the EU that implementing 25 national repositories is not optimal economically or for safety and security. The project was in line with proposals from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia and the USA. The main outcome of this project was that 14 EU countries resolved to move towards setting up a European Repository Development Organisation (ERDO), and last year documents outlining the possible structure, operating methods and financing options for a formal, multinational, European waste management agency (the ERDO) were submitted to EU governments.

This triggered interest from other regions, and this month a meeting took place in Abu Dhabi, hosted by the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and supported by the IAEA. Around 35 participants attended, primarily from UAE waste management and planning organisations, to consider a regional Middle East & North Africa (MENA) repository plan, in conjunction with the Arab Atomic Energy Agency.
Arius 20/4/12, International nuclear waste disposal

 Australia signs safeguards agreement with UAE
Australia and the United Arab Emirates have signed a bilateral safeguards agreement which supplements and tightens the UAE’s 2003 safeguards agreement with IAEA and 2009 Additional Protocol under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. When ratified it will enable Australian mining companies to supply uranium to UAE. The Australia-UAE Agreement on Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy is Australia’s 23rd such bilateral agreement governing uranium supply for peaceful purposes, and the UAE will be the 40th country covered by them (one is with Euratom, for EU).
WNN 3/8/12. UAE

UAE passes nuclear civil liability law
Civil liability for damages from any nuclear accident in the United Arab Emirates will lie solely with the operator of the nuclear facility concerned, under a new law on nuclear civil liability drafted in line with international standards. It sets a limit 50% higher than the Vienna Convention minimum, so that the operator needs to insure to this level – about $700 million. The UAE’s 5600 MWe Barakah nuclear plant is under construction.
WNN 16/10/12 Liability for nuclear damage

 Africa  

 Chinese takeover of major Namibian uranium deposit secured
China Guangdong Nuclear Power’s subsidiary Taurus Minerals Ltd has acquired 98% of the shares in Extract Resources Ltd, owner of the major Husab project in Namibia. With more than 90%, it will now compulsorily acquire the balance.
WNN 3/4/12. Namibia

 Government buys share in Namibian uranium development
The Namibian state-owned mineral exploration company, Epangelo Mining Ltd, has agreed with Perth-based Bannerman Resources to buy a 5% share of the Etango project and contribute along with Bannerman to future development costs. Epangelo also has an option to buy a further 5% based on market value upon commitment to mine development. Following completion of a definitive feasibility study, Bannerman, which holds 80% of the Etango project, is seeking a development partner. Production at 2700 tU/yr is envisaged. Proven and probable ore reserves are 46,000 tU.

A year ago the government announced that Epangelo would have a major role in new strategic mineral developments, including uranium, which caused some concern, though it would not apply to existing exploration licences. New exploration licences will be granted only to Epangelo, and others interested will need to negotiate farm-ins with it, to become joint-venture partners.
WNN 12/4/12. Namibia

 Toshiba underwrites Niger uranium mine development
Toshiba Corporation has completed a convertible debt-financing agreement with GoviEx Uranium Inc, which is aiming to bring the Madaouela Uranium Project in northern Niger into production. It will provide some $40 million to support the company’s operations through to the start of uranium extraction and processing. Production is expected to begin in 2017 and Toshiba’s off-take rights to uranium concentrate, for about one quarter of production, will become effective in 2020, when output is expected to reach its peak capacity of over 1000 tU/yr. Sales will be handled by a UK-based Toshiba Group company. The Madaouela deposit is close to the Arlette and Akouta mines in the Arlit region of the Air Massif, and was discovered by the French CEA in the early 1960s. The Niger government holds a major share in the project, and in 2008 Cameco bought an 11% share for $28 million. The NI 43-101 compliant resources of the Project are 20,000 tU indicated resources and 19,600 tU inferred resources, in sandstone.
WNN 23/4/12. Niger

 Win-win compromise for Tanzanian uranium mine
The UNESCO World Heritage Committee has approved a Tanzanian government request to excise part of the 50,000 square kilometre Selous Game Reserve to allow the establishment of the Mkuju River uranium mine. Less than 1% of the area is involved. The project was commenced by Australia's Mantra Resources Ltd, which was taken over by ARMZ in mid 2011 for $1.16 billion, allowing Uranium One (51% owned by Russia’s ARMZ) to undertake development of the Mkuju River mine and other exploration activities. The project involves some 46,000 tonnes of uranium and a feasibility study is underway. There will be hypothecation of some $5 million per year of mine taxes (ten times the Reserve’s present budget) to management of the remaining 99.3% of the Game Reserve. (NB: Uranex NL’s Mkuju Uranium project is separate.)
WNN 5/7/12. Africa

 

  Australia  

 Ranger prepares for underground mining
Having enjoyed the benefits of shallow orebodies since mining began in 1980, Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) is now preparing to access deeper ore containing 29,000 tU by underground mining. The Ranger 3 Deeps mineralised zone has a strike length so far identified of about 1.2 kilometres between 250 and 550 metres from the surface immediately east of the pit, and remains open to the north. ERA has now awarded a A$50 million ($52 million) contract for establishing a boxcut and 2.2 km decline tunnel in preparation for its own further drilling program on the orebody. The decline will reach a depth of 500 metres. Work is due to begin in May 2012 and the contractor's portion of it is due for completion early in 2014. ERA has allocated a further A$55 million for evaluation of the likely mine development. In total the company plans to spend A$120 million on the Deeps exploration project.
ERA & WNN 30/3/12. Australian mines

ERA completes open pit mining at Ranger
After more than 30 years, Energy Resources of Australia has finished open pit mining. The first orebody was mined out over 1980-94, then #3 orebody over 1997-2012. The surface stockpile now comprises enough ore to last to 2020 if market conditions are favourable, or at least to 2016 when underground mining is planned to commence. Meanwhile work on the boxcut and decline to access the Ranger Deeps orebody is progressing. The company is spending A$120 million on the Deeps project, leading towards a decision on whether to mine at the end of 2014.

WNN 10/12/12. Australian U mines

 BHP-Billiton pulls back from Olympic Dam commitment
BHP Billiton has announced that it deferring its commitment to a $28 billion expansion of its large Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine while it investigates less-costly alternatives. It will thus not meet a December deadline set by the government, and without an extension may have to resubmit the whole revised proposal in due course for government approval. Its 4600-page environmental impact statement for the project was submitted in 2009, and approval given by state and federal governments in October 2011. The plan was to develop a large open pit with associated infrastructure over 11 years and lift copper production greatly, with uranium production reaching 19,000 tonnes U3O8 per year. The open pit would mean that up to 98% of the ore is mined rather than 25% of it. Most of the uranium would be separated at the mine, but up to 2000 t/yr would be exported in copper concentrates, requiring a smelter for these in China or Japan which would be subject to safeguards.
WNN 22/8/12. Australian U

 Queensland to allow uranium mining after 23 years ban
Despite its history of uranium at Mary Kathleen near Mount Isa 1958-63 and 1975-82, under successive Labor governments uranium mining has been banned since 1989. The government has now announced that it is open for business on this front. The major prospect is Valhalla, near Mount Isa, with 21,000 tU measured and indicated resources. Paladin paid more than $1 billion for a majority share in the project in 2007-08. Westmoreland, on the Northern Territory border, and Ben Lomond, near Townsville, are other prospective mines.
WNN 22/10/12 Australia

New uranium mine go-ahead in South Australia
The Four-Mile uranium mine is to start up early next year following a unilateral decision by the majority partner Quasar Resources, which earned a 75% stake in the project by farming in to Alliance Resources’ two project adjacent to Heathgate’s Beverley mine. Quasar is a subsidiary of Heathgate. The decision does not affect Federal Court proceedings by Alliance for misleading and deceptive conduct with Alliance seeking restitution of its full ownership of the deposit. Quasar proposes commencing ISL production from the east orebody in Q2 next year, using its nearby Pannikin satellite plant and trucking the loaded resin to Heathgate’s main plant about 8 km away for product recovery. The cost estimate is A$ 98 million, and production in the first year about 970 t U3O8.
WNN 25/10/12. Australia’s U deposits

 Itochu allies with Alliance for new uranium mine
Alliance Resources has announced an agreement with Itochu Corporation to take a 14.9% share in the company and then possibly 25.1% more. If both options are exercised the company will be able to fund a stand-alone ISL operation at its Four Mile uranium deposit, independently of Heathgate Resources and toll treatment at its adjacent Beverley plant. Four Mile has 27,000 tU indicated and inferred resources so far proven, and a mining lease was issued in April. Itochu taking up the equity is contingent upon completion of current litigation to restore Alliance’s full ownership of the deposit.
WNN 23/5/12 Australian U deposits

 Environmental clearance for Toro’s Wiluna mine
The Western Australian government has given final environmental approval to Toro Energy’s proposed Wiluna uranium mine, the first such approval since a ban was lifted in 2008. The project now awaits federal government approval. Discovered in 1972, Wiluna comprises several shallow calcrete uranium deposits, principally Centipede, Lake Way and Dawson Hinkler Well, with resources of some 20,000 tU. Toro plans to produce about 700 tU per year from open-pit mining.
WNN 11/10/12. Australian U deposits

 Major expansion of radioisotope production planned
The Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation has announced a A$ 168 million expansion of its Sydney facilities, principally for molybdenum-99 production, the source of technetium-99 which is widely used in nuclear medicine for diagnosis. Current world demand is about 45 million doses (23,000 six-day TBq/yr) per year, and the new plant will be capable of meeting about one quarter of this from 2016 at a time when the main plants in Canada and Europe are set to close. The new plant will more fully utilise ANSTO’s new OPAL reactor, which irradiates low-enriched uranium targets that are then processed to recover the Mo-99. The investment also covers building a plant for Synroc waste form.
ANSTO 21/9/12. Radioisotopes in medicine

 South America  

 International  

 World reactor changes in 2011
During 2011 six new nuclear power reactors were connected to grids, and 13 were removed permanently, only one of these being scheduled. There were at least three construction starts (first concrete) and six uprates totalling over 400 MWe. The new grid connections were: China: Lingao II-2 (1037 MWe), Qinshan II-4 (610 MWe), India: Kaiga 4 (202 MWe), Iran: Bushehr (915 MWe), Pakistan: Chashma 2 (300 MWe), Russia: Kalinin 4 grid-connected (950 MWe), Total 6 units (4014 MWe net).

The closures were: Germany: Biblis A & B, Neckarwestheim 1, Brunsbuttel, Isar 1, Unterweser, Phillipsburg 1, Krummel (8) closed by political edict, (8336 MWe net), Japan: Fukushima Daiichi 1-4 written off from accident (2719 MWe net), UK: Oldbury 2 (217 MWe net), Total 13 units (11,272 MWe net).

 New edition of ‘Red Book’ on uranium resources
The delayed new edition of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency – IAEA biennial report on the world’s uranium resources has been published, with data to the end of 2010. Uranium 2011: Resources, production and demand is the 24th edition and shows known resources of 7 million tonnes U, a 12% increase from the end of 2008. Assuming up to double today’s uranium demand by 2035, it concludes that: "Regardless of the role that nuclear energy ultimately plays in meeting future electricity demand, the uranium resource base... is more than adequate to meet projected requirements for the foreseeable future. The challenge is to continue developing environmentally sustainable mining operations to bring increasing quantities of uranium to the market in a timely fashion."
WNN 26/7/12. Supply of Uranium

 IAEA notes reduced interest in newcomer countries’ plans
Two years ago the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that 14 countries “indicate a strong intention to proceed” with introduction of nuclear power; most had made a decision and were preparing infrastructure, two had ordered a new nuclear power plant and one had a plant under construction (apparently Iran’s Bushehr, now operating). However, the picture is now less positive for those leading newcomer countries, and the IAEA expects only seven such countries to launch nuclear programs in the near term. It does not name these, but Lithuania, UAE, Turkey, Belarus, Vietnam, Poland, and Bangladesh are obvious candidates. Others have stepped back from commitment, need more time to set up infrastructure, or do not have credible finance.

Meanwhile, for countries already using nuclear power, IAEA projections remain very positive. The report recognises the on-going global financial crisis, the low price of natural gas and reduced electricity demand in some regions, in addition to responses to Fukushima, as challenges that will serve temporarily to delay the deployment of some nuclear power plants.
WNN 26/9/12, Nucleonics Week 20/9/12. Emerging nuclear countries, World energy needs

 Westinghouse to consolidate under Toshiba
Toshiba's stake in reactor designer and vendor Westinghouse will increase to 87% in January 2013 when it completes the purchase of the Shaw Group's 20% stake in the company for $1.6 billion. Shaw announced over a year ago that it planned to sell its stake back to Toshiba, as envisaged in the $5.4 billion purchase arrangement of Westinghouse from the now-defunct BNFL in UK in 2006. The other shareholders are Kazatomprom 10% and IHI (Japan) 3%. Toshiba aims to sell down its share while retaining a majority. Shaw was recently taken over for $3 billion by Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. to consolidate as a major heavy engineering and construction contractor.
WNN 10/10/12.

 UN General Assembly approves radiation health effects report
The latest report from the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), commissioned by the UN General Assembly in 2007, has been accepted by the UN and will soon be published. UNSCEAR was asked to "to clarify further the assessment of potential harm owing to chronic low-level exposures among large populations and also the attributability of health effects" to radiation exposure. It said that while some effects from high acute doses were clear, others were not, and could not be attributed to exposure, and that this was especially true at low levels. "In general, increases in the incidence of health effects in populations cannot be attributed reliably to chronic exposure to radiation at levels that are typical of the global average background levels of radiation." Furthermore, multiplying very low doses by large numbers of individuals does not give a meaningful result regarding health effects. UNSCEAR also addressed uncertainties in risk estimation relating to cancer.

Current work of UNSCEAR is focused on assessing radiation exposure from the Fukushima accident last year, and its preliminary findings say that no radiation heath effects arising from it had been observed among the public or the workers. Thyroid doses in children were significantly lower than from the Chernobyl accident.
Nuclear Radiation and health effects

 American Nuclear Society publishes radiation compendium
In connection with its annual conference, the American Nuclear Society has published a 200-page collection of statements and scientific papers on the effects of low-level radiation: Low-level Radiation and its Implications for Fukushima Recovery. It arises from the ANS President’s Special Session and focuses on the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) model. It questions the validity of assumptions and discusses the science and policies that created the model. As well as inviting review of the LNT model, it suggests a more realistic approach to address the health effects, mitigate the hazards, and set appropriate limits to avoid the potentially adverse consequences of radiation exposure. It is dedicated to the residents surrounding the Fukushima site who are still unable to return to their homes due to the overreaction toward low-level radiation. It is available on the web, though is 57 MB. Some of the papers are only partially reproduced, with links to the full versions.
Nuclear Radiation and Health Effects

  APEC affirms nuclear role
Energy ministers from the 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) member countries concluded a two-day meeting in St Petersburg with a declaration detailing the energy security and strategic challenges faced by the Asia-Pacific region. The APEC ministers pledged to work towards ensuring the safe and secure use of nuclear energy as part of concerted action to enhance energy security. Their final statement recognises the importance of the "safe and secure" use of nuclear energy in the region and its potential to diversify the regional energy mix while meeting growing energy demand and reducing greenhouse gas emissions "despite the tragic accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power station." The statement says that particular attention should be given to strengthening cooperation between APEC members and international organisations, particularly the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
WNN 26/6/12.

 China leaps forward with wind
Last year China added about 18 GWe of wind generation capacity and now leads the field with over 62 GWe installed. The USA has 47 GWe, Germany 29 GWe, Spain 21.5 GWe, and India 16 GWe at the end of 2011. World total then was 238 GWe. Global additions in the last three years have averaged just under 40 GWe.
GWEC 7/2/12. Renewables and electricity

 Reassuring low-level radiation study
A US study exposing mice to low-dose radiation for an extended period showed up no signs of DNA damage, though a control group receiving the same dose acutely did show damage. This test on live animals supports other work and epidemiological studies suggesting that people exposed to even 1000 mSv/yr at low dose rate will not suffer adverse health effects. The study is timely as the Japanese government considers very much lower annual doses as a basis for the return of evacuees near Fukushima. http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2012/prolonged-radiation-exposure-0515.html
WNN 16/5/12 Radiation health effects

Gas-fired electricity reclassified as low-carbon in EU
For the first time natural gas has been classified as a low-carbon fuel, equivalent to renewables, in the budget of Horizon 2020, an €80 billion European Union R&D programme launched last year. This makes it eligible for non-nuclear energy funds previously enjoyed by the renewable energy industry, so that part of the €5782 million over 2014-20 for “secure, clean and efficient energy” could now be used for advancing the extraction and use of natural gas to supply fast-ramping gas plants to counterbalance intermittency of renewables. This would back up the increased penetration of subsidised renewables into EU grid systems.

The move comes in the context of an International Energy Agency (IEA) report, forecasting a “golden age for gas” with global production of unconventional sources of gas (notably shale gas extracted by hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking') tripling by 2035. Clearly renewable energy can become a victim of the cheap gas prices unless governments implement policies specifically to support it, along with nuclear power. The EU reclassification is based on gas having lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal when burned, but evidently ignores the lifecycle GHG costs from methane leakage and LNG transport.
Gas to Power J 30/5/12, EnergyMarketPrice 7/6/12.

 New WNA Director-General
Agneta Rising is to succeed John Ritch in January as the new Director-General of WNA. She comes from the position of Vice President Environment at Swedish utility Vattenfall, having joined the company in a radiological protection role in 1980. A previous role was Director for Nuclear Business Development at Vattenfall Generation. She was chairman of the Uranium Institute when it became the WNA in 2001, and during her career she co-founded Women in Nuclear (WIN) and served as its president; she is also a former president of both the European Nuclear Society and the Swedish Nuclear Society. Over the past two decades, she has been appointed by the Swedish government, the EU Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency to several significant expert and advisory positions relevant to the future development of nuclear power. Among these, Agneta Rising served for four years on the IAEA’s International Nuclear Safety Group. John Ritch will leave WNA having built it into a substantial global organisation with wide membership and the World Nuclear University and World Nuclear News as significant ancillary functions.
WNN 6/9/12.


World Nuclear News milestone
WNA's main news service, World Nuclear News (WNN), is marking its fifth anniversary with a new web site and continued growth in subscriber base. Maintaining its position as the most professional and comprehensive nuclear news service backed by industry, WNN now has over 20,000 subscribers worldwide, and a network of news inputs. Output is mainly via daily and weekly news e-mails linked to web items, as well as Facebook and Twitter. It is funded by WNA members.