IN BRIEF

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#702
15/01/2010
Shorts

Non-proven Korean reactors for Middle-East.

A South Korean consortium has beaten French, US and Japanese competition and won a US$20.4 billion contract for developing a civilian nuclear program for the United Arab Emirates. Lead by KEPCO the groups also includes companies as Hyundai Engineering and Construction, Samsung and Doosan Heavy Industries. Korea Nuclear Fuel Co, or KNF, will provide the nuclear fuel while Korea Plant Service and Engineering Co (KPS) will be involved in plant maintenance. Non-Korean companies involved in the Kepco team include Westinghouse of the US and Toshiba of Japan. Kepco is owned by the South Korean government and is the world’s third largest nuclear energy businesses. The other bidders in the year-long process included a consortium of French companies – Areva, Total and GDF Suez – by many seen as the most likely winner of the tender - and a third consortium of US and Japanese companies, including General Electric and Hitachi. Loss of the nuclear reactor contract is a major blow to especially the French nuclear industry. French President Sarkozy has extensively been traveling the Middle East , including the UAE in an attempt to bring new orders back home to the state-owned Areva.

The UAE is hoping to become the first Arab Gulf state to develop a civilian nuclear program and the contract involves the design and construction of four 1,400 megawatt units of the APR1400-type, Generation III units. Design was developed by the Korean nuclear industry under the leadership of Kepco over a period of 10 years beginning 1992. The first of the APR1,400 units, Shin-Kori units 3 and 4, are now under construction, having obtained a construction permit from the Korean regulatory authority. Shin-Kori unit 3 is scheduled to be connected to Korea’s grid by 2013. According to the UAE nuclear safety regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), Kepco will construct plants that are essentially the same as the “reference plants,” but supplemented with changes required to adapt to UAE climactic conditions and any specific requirements of the UAE.

The UAE hopes the first of its nuclear units will begin producing electricity to its grid in 2017, with the other three being completed in 2020. In spite of being the world’s third largest oil exporter and home to the world’s fifth largest proven natural gas reserves, the UAE is already a net importer of gas to fuel industries and power stations. Demand for electricity in the UAE is currently about 15 GWe, but is projected to nearly triple in just 12 years. Natural gas is the fuel of choice for peak power and half of base load demand in the UAE. Oil provides the rest. No coal is burned in the UAE for electricity. The heart of the UAE base load energy plan is to swap out the natural gas plants for nuclear energy to power water desalinization and electricity for household and industrial use.

Sources: http://djysrv.blogspot.com/2009/12/south-korea-wins-uae-204-billion.html / Financial Times, 27 December 2009 / Khaleej Times, 28 December 2009

England: Tories: We will not build nuclear power stations if elected.

Political Parties not in the government have to speak out against the ruling parties to show they are in opposition. Sometimes that mechanism has strange consequences. The English Conservative Party is a well known proponent of nuclear power. But since the ruling Labour Party shows some dedication to build nuclear reactors, the Tories, changed position. Well, it seems… Early December, the green adviser of Tory leader David Cameron has thrown more doubt on where the party stands over nuclear power after declaring no new stations would be built under a Tory government. Zac Goldsmith, one of Mr Cameron’s closest advisers on the environment, insisted no new nuclear power stations would be built if the Conservatives were to win the next general election. He said Tory policy “was to give a green light to nuclear power as long as there is no call on the taxpayer, not just in terms of building, but maintenance, security and disposal of waste." His next sentence was a very surprising one: "In the history of nuclear power there has never been a station built without huge use of taxpayers’ subsidy.”

Jamie Reed, Labour member of parliament for Copeland (Cunbria) reacted: “This is not a policy, it is ignorant, confused nonsense and is in effect an anti-nuclear policy. David Cameron is all over the place on nuclear. He has stated that it is a “last resort”. And concluding: "With others I have worked hard to build a cross party consensus and I am saddened by the fact that David Cameron and Zac Goldsmith remain anti nuclear." Well, that has to be seen, but let's hope that is still the case when they win the next elections.

Source: North West Evening Mail (UK), 2 December 2009

Areva confirms Greenpeace’s alarming radiation findings in Niger.

Following Greenpeace’s report of radioactive hotspots in the uranium mining city Akokan in Niger, Areva has confirmed that the radioactivity in the streets of Akokan was unacceptably high. Under pressure from civil society the French nuclear company has taken action to clean up the spots indicated by Greenpeace. “Areva’s reaction supports our call for a comprehensive, transparent and independent environmental assessment of the area,” said Dr. Rianne Teule of Greenpeace International. “We are glad that the streets of Akokan have been partly cleaned up, but remain very concerned that  other problems cannot be ruled out without a comprehensive study. Decades of uranium mining have created radioactive dangers to the people of Akokan, a typical example of environmental and health threats posed by the nuclear industry.”

A Greenpeace team visited Areva’s two uranium mines in Niger at the beginning of November 2009. During this visit Greenpeace identified dangerous levels of radiation in the streets of Akokan, at one location up to 500 times higher than the normal background levels. Areva had earlier declared the streets safe. A comprehensive report on Greenpeace’s findings will be published in early 2010.

Source: Greenpeace International Press release, 5 January 2010

Preparations for first ever High Level Waste shipment from Sellafield.

More than ten years later than originally scheduled, the first shipment of vitrified High Level Waste (HLW) is expected to be shipped from Sellafield to Japan early in 2010. Sellafield Ltd announced November 25, that the first HLW return shipment to Japan was expected to be completed by next in March. Depending on which of three recognised sea routes was selected, the return could take up to 6 weeks – indicating a departure from the UK sometime in January 2010. It is likely that the HLW, loaded into transport containers, will be sent from Sellafield to Barrow docks by rail and loaded onto the Pacific Sandpiper for the 25,000km voyage to Japan.

The upcoming shipment will be the first repatriation of any category of foreign waste to overseas customers – despite Japanese and other wastes having been produced for more than thirty years by the reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel at Sellafield’s Magnox and THORP plant. Whilst  overseas reprocessing contracts signed after 1976 required customers to take back all reprocessing wastes, a system of ‘waste substitution’ was agreed between Government, Sellafield and customers in 2004 whereby only HLW would be returned – leaving the significantly larger volumes of Intermediate and Low level wastes to be disposed of in the UK. To compensate for the amount of radioactivity in those wastes that will remain in the UK, a ‘radiological equivalance’ will be returned to overseas customers in the form of additional HLW. For Japan, whose utilities will receive around 850 canisters of HLW directly resulting from their reprocessing contracts, the equivalence amounts to an extra 150 canisters, making 1000 in total.

Sellafield owners NDA have said that an overall total of 1850 HLW canisters are due to be repatriated to Japanese and European customers over the coming years. INS has confirmed that following the first return to Japan, the next HLW shipment will be to the Netherlands.

Source: CORE Briefing, 16 November 2009

Unlimited licence for Swiss nuclear power plant.

An environment ministry decision to grant an unlimited licence to the Mühleberg nuclear power station has prompted mixed reaction.The operators of the Mühleberg plant (outside the capital Bern) said they welcomed the move because it finally puts all five nuclear power stations in Switzerland on par with each other. The Mühleberg facility became operational in 1972 and had a licence that was due to run out by the end of 2012. An application has already been handed in to built a new reactor in ten years’ time.
Critics of nuclear power described the decision as irresponsible and scandalous. They pledged to challenge it in court. The Swiss Energy Foundation said the Mühleberg plant had safety problems. The technology used at the plant is also outdated according to the centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party. In November 2009 voters in canton Vaud came out against extending the life of the plant beyond 2012. The governments in four other cantons which are customers of the plant were divided.
Source: Swissinfo.ch, 22 December 2009

Canada: Sept-Iles residents want Quebec to halt uranium mining.

Some 1,000 protesters gathered on December 13, in the town of Sept-Iles about 900 kilometers northwest of Montreal on the North Shore to protest against uranium mining. The residents continue to pressure Quebec to slap a moratorium on uranium exploration in the province, despite the government's promise to open a debate on health and safety concerns  surrounding the industry. The protesters were backing 20 doctors who threatened to quit their practice in the remote Quebec region because of plans to build a uranium mine nearby. "We're showing our support," said Marc Fafard, spokesman and founder of a grassroots group opposed to uranium mining in the province. "We want to show how proud we are of the doctors to have finally made this a provincial debate. Like it should be." The province's head of public health, Dr. Alain Poirier, met with the doctors the week before the demonstration and announced Quebec would create a special committee to study the potential risks of uranium exploration and mining on health and safety. The uranium debate has been raging in the region for more than a year, since mining company Terra Ventures Inc. began exploration for low-grade uranium near Lac Kachiwiss, some 20 kilometers north of Sept-Iles. Residents have concerns over the health and safety of uranium mines and fear the mining waste could contaminate local drinking water.

Source: The Canadian Press, 13 December 2009

Canada: Province threatens lawsuit over cost overruns. 

The Province of New Brunswick said Canada's federal government should cover cost overruns on the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant or the province will sue Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., according to the Canadian press reports. AECL is the government-controlled "crown corporation" that is performing the Can$ 1.4 billion (US$1.36 billion, 937 million Euro) renovation of Atlantic Canada's only nuclear power plant. The project was supposed to have been completed last September, but is running 18 months behind schedule. If the project remains behind schedule, officials say it could cost the province about $400 million (US$387 million) to buy replacement power. Under a memorandum of understanding signed last fall, New Brunswick won't be paid for Point Lepreau until the refurbishment is complete and the plant is generating electricity. This is the first refurbishment of a Candu-6 reactor and AECL is hoping to use Point Lepreau as a showcase to refurbish similar reactors around the world. In November two units of the Bruce A nuclear plant (earlier CANDU-types) have been given regulatory approval for refuelling and restart  after being out of service for more than a decade. Their major refurbishment (amongst others the replacement of fuel channels and steam generators) was over budget for almost Can$ 1 billion and 12 months behind schedule. (Read more in 'Restart go-ahead for refurbished Canadian units'; Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009)

Sources: Power Engineering International, 11 January 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 698, 27 November 2009

Heavy forging facility in India. 

Construction has started on a steel manufacturing and heavy forging facility in Gujarat state, India, as part of a joint venture between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T). During a ceremony on 9 January the foundation stone for the new facility was laid at L&T's existing manufacturing site in Hazira, Surat. The new facility will have a dedicated steel melt shop producing ingots of up to 600 tons, as well as a heavy forge shop equipped with a forging press that will be amongst the largest in the world. The facility will supply finished forgings for nuclear reactors, pressurizers and steam generators, and also heavy forgings for critical equipment in the hydrocarbon sector and for thermal power plants. L&T is India's biggest engineering and construction company and makes reactor pressure vessels for the country's pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs), fast breeder reactor and steam generators. It has been involved in supply of equipment, systems and services for nearly all the PHWRs that have been indigenously built, including the manufacture of calandrias, end-shields, steam generators, primary heat transport system and heat exchangers.

The capacity worldwide for heavy forging for nuclear reactors is very limited. At least in the short term, only one facility in the world, Japan Steel Works, can cast large forgings for certain reactor pressure vessels. JSW is aiming to produce sufficient forgings to supply theequivalent of about 8.5 sets a year by 2010 and the maximum ingot size is to be increased to 650 t.. The problem is the term “equivalent” because it is unclear how much of the forging capacity is dedicated in practice to new nuclear projects. JSW also supplies, for example, about 100 forgings a year for fossil fuel turbine and generator rotors to China alone.

Sources: World Nuclear news, 11 January 2010 / World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2009, M. Schneider, S. Thomas, A. Froggatt, D. Koplow