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Recent developments with links to updated WNA Public Information Service Papers. For previous items from Weekly Digest see archive menu.
11 & 18 July 2014
Japanese regulator clears first nuclear plant for restart
Kyushu’s Sendai nuclear power plant has been given draft approval to restart by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), having met the greatly upgraded safety requirements published in July last year. This is a major step towards actually returning to service. The NRA’s 400-page report is open for public comment for 30 days, then informal local government agreement to the restart will be sought. October appears likely for retuning to the grid. Sendai 1 & 2 are PWR reactors, each 846 MWe net, which were commissioned in 1984-85.
Kyushu has committed some $3 billion on post-Fukushima upgrades for its nuclear plants. At Sendai this has involved improving seismic tolerance from 400 to 620 Gal, building a 10-metre high seawall around pumps, enhanced back-up provisions and generally ‘hardening’ the site. The shutdown of Japan’s entire nuclear fleet has had profound economic consequences for the country due to the $134 billion trade deficit in 2013 brought about by increased fossil fuel imports and lower productivity. Higher electricity prices and increased CO2 emissions are also concerns. In June 2014 the three major business lobbies urged the Industry Minister to expedite restart of the nuclear reactors. “The top priority in energy policy is a quick return to inexpensive and stable supplies of electricity”, they said.
Kansai’s Takahama 3 & 4 are next in line to be cleared for restart, and assessment is well advanced. So far ten more PWRs are queued for approval by NRA, the reconstituted safety regulator, plus seven BWRs which required more major upgrading and also need formal approval from local government.
In recent months, global leaders in nuclear regulation have advised the NRA on its strategy for restarts, emergency response and decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi. They included Richard Meserve, former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Mike Weightman, former chief nuclear regulator in the UK, and André-Claude Lacoste, former head of France's Autorité de Sureté Nucléaire (Nuclear Safety Authority). They are official international advisors to NRA. http://www.nsr.go.jp/committee/kisei/h26fy/data/0017_02.pdf
WNN 16/7/14. Japan
New Russian agreement with Argentina
A high-level and wide-ranging nuclear cooperation agreement has been signed with Russia. This has special significance in the light of Rosatom’s proposal to help build Argentina’s next large reactor, Atucha 3, and an expressed intention to provide funding for that. Russia’s President Putin said that the new agreement "will become a strong foundation for close cooperation" with Argentina in nuclear power.
Russia is supplying three nuclear power plants which are under construction a the moment in China, India and Belarus, and four more are confirmed in India, Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam with Russia providing the bulk of the finance. Another in Finland will have 34% Rosatom equity. Exports of 16 more are planned.
WNN 14/7/14. Argentina
UK reaffirms nuclear construction target
In its report on delivering energy investment, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has confirmed its commitment to encouraging some 16 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2030, enabled by the government’s electricity market reforms. Current nuclear capacity is 10 GWe, supplying almost 20% of electricity.
DECC July 2014. UK
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): World uranium mining, EU nuclear power (new), Germany, Spain, Italy, UK, Mongolia, Africa uranium, ISL mining.
4 July 2014
New Argentine reactor comes on line
Atucha 2, also known as Kirchner nuclear reactor has been connected to the grid in Argentina, adding 692 MWe net - 74% - to the country’s nuclear capacity. The reactor is an unusual German heavy-water design, similar to Atucha 1 but twice the size. Construction started in 1981 then ceased in 1994 due to lack of funds. In 2006 the government announced a $3.5 billion strategic plan for the nuclear power sector, and construction resumed. Its operation will avoid the burning of $1.5 billion worth of oil annually (the country has used oil for 15% of its electricity).
WNN 30/6/14. Argentina
New Russian fast reactor starts up: Beloyarsk 4
After 32 years of successful operation of Beloyarsk unit 3, a 560 MWe fast reactor, its intended successor has been started up. The 789 MWe BN-800 is a very similar sodium-cooled design. Construction from 2006 has been delayed due to lack of funds. Grid connection is expected in October. Its initial fuel is about 75% uranium with some mixed U-Pu oxide (MOX) fuel assemblies, but in 2017 it will change over fully to pelletised MOX fuel when a new fuel plant is completed. This first BN-800 unit is intended to demonstrate the use of MOX fuel at industrial scale in Russia, including that made from weapons plutonium, and justify the closed fuel cycle technology.
There is an agreement to sell two BN-800 reactors to China, for the Sanming power plant, but this deal has not progressed. Meanwhile the designer, OKBM-Afrikantov, is completing work on the BN-1200. Rosatom sees this as a “Generation IV design with natural security” – an element of the Proryv (breakthrough) Project, for large fast reactors with closed fuel cycle, and plans to submit it to the Gen IV International Forum. The first BN-1200 will be unit 5 at Beloyarsk, operational from about 2020, and environmental assessment for this has been under way for two years. The next BN-1200 units will be built at the South Urals plant. The BN series reactors represent one of four designs in the Federal Target Program Funding for Fast Neutron Reactors to 2020.
First criticality on Beloyarsk 4 was on the same day that the 60th anniversary of starting the world’s first nuclear power plant at Obninsk was celebrated. That 5 MWe reactor was in operation for 48 years, from 1954 to 2002, at the Russian Institute for Physics & Power Engineering.
WNN 27/6/14. Russia NP
27 June 2014
India ratifying international transparency protocol
Beyond the normal international safeguards regime which accounts for nuclear materials, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 1997 has a model Additional Protocol to allow much more intrusive monitoring of materials and activities in each country which has ratified it. So far, 123 countries plus Taiwan, Greenland and Euratom have done so. However, for the five nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is more a token than real constraint. For the rest under the NPT, it is very significant.
An Additional Protocol for India was agreed by the IAEA Board in March 2009 and then signed, but India has delayed ratifying it until now. Twenty nuclear facilities are listed so far, excluding those involved in any way with the country’s weapons program. The arrangement is thus similar to that pertaining for the five NPT nuclear weapons states, though India remains outside the NPT, since it is unable to join as a weapons state. However, the announcement this week that it is ratifying the Additional Protocol is a major step forward in transparency and will clear the way for India to seek membership of four international arms control regimes, and also for the bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia to progress, opening up uranium supply. The main two arms control regimes are the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime, where it already conforms to their guidelines "as a country with the ability and willingness to promote global non-proliferation objectives.” Indian membership of the NSG is likely to be politically contentious due to China’s links with Pakistan.
South Korean consortium to refurbish Dutch research reactor
A consortium of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) with Hyundai has won a €19 million contract against European competition to refurbish and upgrade the small Dutch HOR research reactor at Delft University of Technology for Academic Research. The reactor has been running for 51 years and was fully converted to use low-enriched uranium in 2005. It is used for isotope production, neutron scattering and activation analysis, and the work will add a cold neutron facility as well as upgrading it to 3 MW. KAERI is leading a consortium bidding to build a large new Dutch research reactor at Petten, to replace a 54-year old one which produces about 60% of Europe’s medical radioisotopes. Its cost is likely to be about €580 million.
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Small reactors, Heavy manufacturing, Electric vehicles, Denmark