Nuclear fuel damage in Slovenian reactor
During a regular maintenance outage at the Krsko nuclear power plant in Slovenia, nuclear fuel was damaged.
Andrej Stritar, director of the Nuclear Safety Directorate, responded to a list of questions from Focus Association for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace Slovenia. Stritar said that on October 8, during an operation to transfer fuel from the reactor to the spent fuel pool, a fuel rod length of about 0.5m broke off and fell to the bottom of the spent fuel pool. Elevated radioactivity levels in the reactor pool, first detected in 2012, suggested a problem with fuel leaks.
Stritar said a report would be prepared into the incident but would not promise public release of the full report − his excuse is that release of the full report might jeopardise commercial intellectual property of the fuel manufacturer (Westinghouse).
Stritar said there are several possible causes of the incident such as small foreign objects that may damage the metal, or a manufacturing error.
Stritar said (translation by google-translate): "A finding of leaking fuel rods have not been evaluated by the INES scale, so we can not yet say what level would be."
The maintenance outage began on October 1 and will be extended beyond the planned 35-day period.
Questions and comments from Focus Association for Sustainable Development and Greenpeace Slovenia (google-translation): http://tinyurl.com/fasd-gs
Andrej Stritar's response to questions (google-translation): http://tinyurl.com/stritar
Canada opens uranium sector to European investment, scraps new reactor plans
A trade accord agreed in principle between Canada and the European Union (EU) will ease restrictions on European investment in Canada's uranium industry. It opens the door for companies like Areva SA and Rio Tinto to make much larger investments in Saskatchewan's uranium-rich Athabasca Basin. Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said that the changes would make the province's uranium mining projects "much more attractive" to EU investors and estimated that the province could see investments of up to US$2.4 billion over the next 15 years as a result of the agreement.
Investment restrictions have been in place since 1970, when Ottawa introduced the non-residential ownership policy (NROP). The law prevents foreign companies from owning more than 49% of a uranium mine in Canada, unless they cannot find a Canadian partner. The NROP has limited the competition for Canadian uranium leader Cameco, which owns stakes in most of the major projects in the Athabasca. Cameco's position has been that the NROP should remain in place unless other countries open up to uranium investment as well. While this free trade deal may open up the European market for Cameco, a company spokesperson said there are no obvious uranium resource opportunities on the continent that are worth developing.
The Ontario government announced in October that it has abandoned plans for two new nuclear power plants and will focus on refurbishing its ageing facilities instead. Ontario Power Generation had received detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for the two reactor designs under consideration for new build at Darlington. The province's other nuclear operator, Bruce Power, has brought four mothballed units at the Bruce A plant back online but pulled back from plans for new units at Bruce in 2009.