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Recent developments with links to updated WNA Public Information Service Papers. For previous items from Weekly Digest see archive menu.
23 January 2015
US study on low-dose ionising radiation
The US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Academy of Sciences have been directed to work together to assess the current status of US and international research on low-dose radiation and to formulate a long-term research agenda under a bill approved by the US House of Representatives. The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 directs the two organisations to carry out a research program "to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods." The study is to be completed within 18 months.
The Act arises from a letter from a group of health physicists who pointed out that the limited understanding of low-dose health risks impairs the nation’s decision-making capabilities, whether in responding to radiological events involving large populations such as the 2011 Fukushima accident or in areas such as the rapid increase in radiation-based medical procedures, the cleanup of radioactive contamination from legacy sites and the expansion of civilian nuclear energy. The aftermath of the Fukushima accident has boosted concern that unduly conservative standards may have large adverse health and welfare costs.
WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects
Lowest Australian uranium production for 16 years
Due to the shutdown of ERA’s Ranger plant to June, and despite the rich Four-Mile deposit coming on line, Australia’s uranium production in 2014 at 5897 tonnes U3O8 (5000 tU) was the lowest since 1998. Two thirds of it was from Olympic Dam, where uranium is a by-product of copper. Production from Four Mile is recovered at the Beverley plant, replacing output from that mine at about double the level.
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Molten salt reactors, US reactors list, Aust U mines
9 & 16 January 2015
Slight increase in nuclear capacity in 2014
During 2014 five new reactors were connected to grids, and one was retired – Vermont Yankee in USA. In addition, the relatively undamaged Fukushima units 5 & 6 were officially decommissioned. This gave a net gain of two units to 437, and 2.4 GWe to 377.7 GWe. In China, Ningde 2, Fuqing 1 and Fangjiashan 1 were all grid-connected, along with Rostov 3 in Russia and Atucha 2 in Argentina. In the USA, Fermi 2 was uprated 15-20 MWe.
Construction starts (first concrete) were recorded for Ostrovets 2 in Belarus, Barakah 3 in UAE, Yangjiang 6 in China (actually Dec 2013) and the small Carem25 in Argentina, bringing the world total under construction to 70 units. Japan’s 48 reactors remained closed, though there is progress on restarting several, with approvals for four, and another 17 under review.
New Chinese reactor connected to grid
Unit 2 of the Fangjiashan plant in Zhejiang province has been connected to the grid this month, only three weeks after start-up and 66 months after construction start, with construction delay due to post Fukushima safety reviews. This brings the China nuclear total to 23 reactors and 20,115 MWe net.
Platts. China NP
Five old and small Japanese reactors likely to decommission
It appears that the five oldest and smallest of Japan’s nuclear power reactors may be closed down permanently and decommissioned. Kyushu’s Mihama 1 and 2 reactors, Japan Atomic Power's Tsuruga 1, Chugoku’s Shimane 1, and Kyushu’s Genkai 1 will not be restarted, subject to agreement by prefecture authorities in Fukui, Shimane and Saga and approval by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). All are relatively small (320 to 529 MWe net) and by October this year all will be more than 40 years old, so that major expenditure on upgrades is hard to justify even though all of them already have life extension approvals. Two larger units, Kansai’s Takahama 1 & 2 also reach the 40-year mark in 2015 but these have had significant work done already and the costs of upgrading will be more readily recoverable, though Kansai is uncertain about their future. METI has approved draft provisions for cost recovery of decommissioning all seven units. Final approval for decommissioning and allocation of costs is expected by midyear.
Press reports. Japan NP
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Reactor table, South Korea, Russia NP, Desalination
2 January 2015
Veteran US reactor shuts down
Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant has been shut down for decommissioning. The 605 MWe boiling water reactor started commercial operation in 1972, and had received a licence extension to 2032. However, with low gas prices affecting the wholesale power market it has been unprofitable. The Nuclear Energy Institute commented that "other nuclear energy facilities - producing affordable electricity safely and reliably - are at risk of premature closure due to competitive electricity markets that are not working for the benefit of consumers or the long-term reliability of the electric grid. It is simply unsustainable and shortsighted to continue to shut down perfectly good energy facilities and put at risk the fundamental values of our electricity system." The single-reactor power plant represented 72% of electricity generated in the state.
Full decommissioning is expected to cost $1.24 billion, and apart from defueling the main work is scheduled for 2052, though it may commence earlier. About half the budgeted amount is in the reactor’s fund already, which sum will have grown by the time it is needed.
WNN 29/12/14. USA NP
New Chinese reactor starts up
Unit 2 of the Fangjiashan plant in China's Zhejiang province has moved closer to commissioning by achieving a sustained chain reaction. Its twin, unit 1, has just commenced commercial operation. The two units are effectively an extension of the large Qinshan nuclear power station near Shanghai.
WNN 29/12/14. China NP
First Russian reactor in India now in commercial operation
Unit 1 of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in India's southern state of Tamil Nadu has entered commercial operation, six years after its original target date. Although the Russian-supplied VVER-1000 plant was completed in March 2011, Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) delayed its commissioning following the Fukushima accident. It eventually started up in July 2013 and was connected to the grid in October that year. Since then, power has been increased in stages, with regulatory approval required for each increase. In June the reactor reached full power of 917 MWe net for the first time, but in October it had to be shut down for repairs to its turbine. The second Kudankulam unit is expected to start up in April.
Construction started in 2002 and was undertaken by NPCIL using Russian components, with half the cost of both units financed by Russia. All the enriched fuel through the life of the plant will be supplied by Russia, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium for its fast reactor program. Both units are under IAEA safeguards. In April 2014 NPCIL signed a $5.47 billion agreement with Rosatom for units 3&4, having apparently resolved the third-party liability question, and in December contracts with Rosatom for the supply of major components for the two units were signed.
WNN 31/12/14. India
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Emerging countries (re Nigeria & Ghana), US policy, Russia NP, Russia fuel cycle