Forum on Energy
Forum on Energy
March 17, 2015
Three categories of SMR designs are currently receiving the most attention: light water, high-temperature gas-cooled and fast neutron reactors.
One example of an SMR: Babcock & Wilcox's mPower 180 MW small modular reactor.
March 25, 2015
The new "Amazing Atoms" app supports the IAEA's mission to share the peaceful benefits of nuclear science around the world.
iaea
April 6, 2015
Australia's vast coal and natural gas resources provide energy security and low-cost power for the nation.
australia
April 9, 2015
Recent developments in Japan's struggle to balance its energy supply indicate that nuclear energy is set to start soon.
iStock_000017116815Small
April 30, 2015
The Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.
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April 30, 2015
Abe is the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of Congress.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
April 30, 2015
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first leader of his nation to address a joint meeting of Congress yesterday. Among the topics covered, Abe spoke at length about the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership between Japan, the United States and 10 other nations, according to the New York Times.

Read the full text of Abe’s address, “Toward an Alliance of Hope”:

 

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, distinguished members of the Senate and the House, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Back in June, 1957, Nobusuke Kishi, my grandfather, standing right here, as Prime Minister of Japan, began his address, by saying, and I quote,

     ”It is because of our strong belief in democratic principles and ideals that Japan associates her self with the free nations of the world.”

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April 30, 2015

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The Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Japan’s Sendai-1 Restart Plan “Too Optimistic”
Nuclear Regulatory Authority Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa told officials from the Kyushu Electric Power Company at a publicly televised safety review meeting that their plan to restart their Sendai reactors is too optimistic, according to the Japan Times. The plan for the plant in Kagoshima Prefecture was to insert nuclear fuel into the reactor in June, reactivate it mid-July and begin commercial operations mid-August. Commissioner Fuketa said, “It just looks like wishful thinking.” Kyushu has agreed to reconsider their timetable.
Sources: The Japan Times, The Economic Times

Japan Greenhouse Gas Reduction Pledge
Japan plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by the year 2030, according to Reuters. The government had previously announced a reduction target of 25 percent, but the new proposal states the preference to use 2013 as a baseline, which makes their cuts seem more dramatic because 2013 was a high emissions year in the wake of the Fukushima accident and subsequent nuclear shutdown. According to the proposed new power generation mix for 2030, unveiled by the industry ministry on Tuesday, Japan aims to make nuclear energy 20-22 percent of Japan’s electricity mix, renewable energy 22-24 percent, liquefied natural gas 27 percent, and coal 26 percent.
Source: Reuters

New Mexico touts nuclear waste repository capabilities 
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in an effort to position a rural area in the southeastern part of the state as an interim high-level nuclear waste storage site. Martinez wrote, “Time and time again, the citizens of southeastern New Mexico have impressed me with their hard work ethic and willingness to tackle national problems that many others consider to be unsolvable.” The suggested land plot is near the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, the nation’s only underground nuclear waste repository, which accepts only lower-level radioactive waste.
Sources: ABC News, Santa Fe New Mexican

TEPCO Likely To Set ‘Autumn Restart’ For Niigata Nuclear Plant
Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) is eyeing an autumn timeline for the restart of their Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in the Niigata Prefecture, according to The Japan News. Tepco is taking steps, including presentation to banks, regulatory safety reviews, and establishing a new office in Niigata, with the imminent restart in mind. TEPCO applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority in September 2013 for permission to reactivate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. It believes the safety screenings of the Nos. 6 and 7 reactors are going smoothly, the sources said. Tepco will also require the approval of Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida before it can restart.
Source: The Japan News

April 23, 2015

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Courts Give Sendai Local Approval
The Kagoshima district court in Japan rejected a legal bid that would have blocked restart of the Sendai nuclear reactors due to safety concerns. Local residents submitted the injunction, which claimed that the operator, Kyushu Electric Power, and the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) underestimated the risk from nearby volcanoes and failed to provide sufficient evacuation measures in case of emergency. The Sendai reactors could receive final approval from the NRA to restart as early as June.
Sources: The Guardian, Reuters

U.S. and Korea Sign 123 Agreement
The United States and South Korea agreed to a revised nuclear cooperation agreement in Seoul on Wednesday that denies South Korea the right to enrich or reprocess for the foreseeable future. However, the agreement allows research into the new spent fuel recycling technology known as pyroprocessing. The deal, which has been under sensitive negotiations for four and a half years, leaves open the possibility that South Korea might be able to enrich uranium for peaceful use “in the future through consultations with the United States” according to the New York Times.
Sources: New York Times, Yonhap News

Obama Asks Congress to Renew China’s 123 Agreement
President Obama asked Congress to review and replace the civil nuclear cooperation agreement currently in place with China, which is set to expire at the end of this year. The current agreement was signed in 1985 and allows exchange of nuclear material, equipment, and technology. The new agreement, which would last 30 years, would allow the continued exchange between China, who is rapidly increasing their nuclear fleet, and the U.S. nuclear industry, who sees this as an opportunity to export nuclear technologies and play a role in construction of China’s energy infrastructure. “This cooperation easily can bring with it billions of dollars of U.S. exports in goods and services, involve many U.S. supply and sub-supplier companies across the country, and create tens of thousands of American jobs,” Marvin Fertel, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said in a statement.
Sources: Bloomberg, Reuters

Radioactive Drones Pay Abe a Visit
After Kagoshima district court’s ruling that rejected safety concerns about the Sendai nuclear reactors, an unknown person or group sent a drone marked with a radioactive symbol and containing trace amounts of radiation to land on the roof of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office, according to Reuters. The radiation was too low to be harmful to humans. Government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said, “This situation concerns the center of Japanese government, the prime minister’s office, and we will take every necessary step, including a detailed investigation by police.”
Source: Reuters

Kepco Appeal
In the wake of the Fukui District Court’s injunction banning the restart of two reactors at Takahama nuclear power station, Kansai Electric Power Company (Kepco) has challenged the decision. A spokesman for Kansai said, “We genuinely regret that the court did not understand our argument,” the spokesman said, adding that the temporary court order “includes significant factual errors.” The court ruled that despite approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the reactors at Takahama were not sufficiently safe to resume operations.
Sources: Japan News, Japan Times

April 16, 2015

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Fukui Court Halts Reactor Restart
On Tuesday, Judge Hideaki Higuchi of the Fukui Prefecture blocked restart of two reactors at the Takahama plant. According to NHK, Judge Higuchi said that risk projections by the plant’s operator, Kansai Electric, were too optimistic and failed to account for potential dangers posed by earthquakes. Higuchi added that Japan’s post-Fukushima nuclear regulations were still too lax. Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, questioned the scientific rationale for the decision and said it would not alter the government’s support for nuclear power. Kansai Electric said it would appeal, but experts said its plans could be delayed by months or even years. Technically, the reactors, which have received NRA approval, can be started while the case remains open during the appeals process. It was the second time that Judge Higuchi had issued an order forbidding a nuclear plant in Fukui to operate, and he remains the only judge in Japan to have ruled against a utility in a nuclear-restart case since Fukushima.
Sources: New York Times, Japan Safety, Asahi Shimbun

Japan Electricity Sector Prepares for Deregulation
In light of energy supply problems since the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima accident, the Japanese government has set up an Organization for Cross-Regional Coordination of Transmission Operators (OCCTO) to function as a national transmission system operator (TSO), which all power companies are required to join. The government intends to increase the frequency converter capacity across the 50-60 Hz east-west divide to allow utilities to share surplus electricity. The next step will be deregulation of the electricity market next year, then legal separation among generation, transmission, and distribution, which is targeted for April 2020. According to the Asia Nikkei Review, the estimated 300 billion yen cost of the improvements would likely be added to electricity prices. The Asia Nikkei Review said, “East-West transmission capacity would rise from the current 1.2 million kilowatts to 3 million kilowatts by the late 2020s under a proposal expected to be unveiled Thursday by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.”
Sources: METI, Japan News, Nikkei Asian Review

House Members Visit Yucca Mountain
Representative John Shimkus (R-Ill), chairman of the House Environment and the Economy Subcommittee, along with five House colleagues, toured the Yucca Mountain repository site to draw attention to the issue. Reps. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Bob Latta (R-OH), Cresent Hardy (R-NV), Mark Amodei (R-NV), and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) joined Shimkus on the tour. Shimkus is leading a push to restart Yucca Mountain, which has been stalled for decades. “We look forward to moving this process forward and we look forward to working with the state of Nevada as we try and thank them for their hosting of a national asset,” said Shimkus. More attention has been paid to Yucca Mountain in the wake of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) retirement announcement, which many think will constitute removal of a key opponent of the repository.
Source: E&E News

Erdogan Approves Cooperation Deal with Japan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has approved parliament’s ratification of an agreement between Turkey and Japan to cooperate in the field of nuclear energy. A consortium of Japan’s Mitsubishi and Itochu and France’s Areva and GDF Suez will coordinate with Turkey’s state-owned power company EUAS to supply four Atmea 1 reactors at a nuclear plant at Sinop. Construction of the $20 billion plant is expected to begin in 2017 to produce 40 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.
Sources: Work Nuclear News, Anadolu Agency, Daily Sabah

Nigeria and Russia to Cooperate on Nuclear Power
Nigeria has signed an agreement with Russia’s Rosatom to design, build, and operate as many as four nuclear power plants. The $80 billion agreement is intended to boost power generation and end the daily power outages that currently plague Nigeria. “A joint coordination committee is in place and negotiations are ongoing for financing and contracting,” Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Franklin Erepamo Osaisai said, according to Bloomberg. The first plant is expected to come online in 2025.
Sources: Bloomberg, International Business Times

April 15, 2015
April 9, 2015

Recent developments in Japan’s struggle to balance its energy supply indicate that nuclear energy is set to start soon. The developments include a government determination that nuclear is an important base-load power, progress for the restart of Sendai reactors and the development of the Nuclear Risk Research Center, an organization that performs R&D of safety-enhancing technologies utilizing probabilistic risk assessment as well as examines and proposes effective problem-solving measures at individual plants, etc.

Japan’s Current Nuclear Energy Policy – Hirobumi Kayama

The Japanese government has determined that nuclear energy is an important base-load power source as a low carbon and quasi-domestic energy source. It will therefore maintain nuclear energy generation as a long-term stable source of energy for the country.

But questions about how much energy nuclear can contribute remain. The upcoming COP negotiations on Climate Change, this year in Paris, require that countries commit to a percentage decrease in CO2 emissions. Japan is now trying to figure out how much nuclear energy it will produce. The government is mum on this topic, but newspapers have speculated that nuclear could be anywhere from 15% to 25% of total production by 2030.

The other major nuclear energy policy news is progress on decommissioning Fukushima and aging power plants, as well as commitments to restart. The fuel removal process at Fukushima Daiichi has been a major success. Now that all fuel has been removed from Unit 4, consideration on how to best remove fuel from Unit 3 has begun. The Unit 3 spent fuel removal is making careful progress because of the amount of debris that is in the pool among the fuel rods. TEPCO again struggled to manage communications regarding a long-monitored radioactive leak. The leak made influence on negotiations with stakeholders such as local fishermen over whether to allow treated water (i.e. tritiated water) to be released in the ocean.

Japan’s nuclear industry is deciding which nuclear power plants to restart and which to mothball. In an effort to assist the proceedings, METI has both offered assistance to deepen understandings of residents and local governments regarding nuclear power plants, and for those power plants that cannot be restarted, METI has offered a system to level its accounting burden of premature decommissioning. It helped utilities’ decision on five power plants to be closed instead of pursuing high cost safety refurbishments. Four power plants have received the central and government approval to restart.

The new Nuclear Risk Research Center will perform R&D of safety technologies to assist utilities in building safety technologies that outperform even the high safety standards set by the NRA. These will include developing modern Probabilistic Risk Assessment methodologies and infrastructure, analyzing the impacts of external natural hazards and keeping in touch with the newest risk identification technologies.

The current progress indicates that nuclear energy is set to restart albeit. If the country is able to reduce the levels of fossil fuel-based power, Japan may be able to reduce costs and CO2 emissions reductions in the near term.

April 9, 2015

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Japan’s Emissions Cuts Target by 2030
According to Japanese news outlets Kyodo News and the Nikkei Shimbun, the Japanese government will propose greenhouse gas emissions cuts of at least 20 percent from 2013 levels by 2030. The Nikkei noted that Japan switched its baseline from 2005 to 2013, which includes the post-Fukushima rise in emissions, making it easier to cut the 20 percent. Japan will likely announce the target at the G7 summit in June.
Sources: The Guardian, Reuters

Evaporation and Storage Proposed for Fukushima Water
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) may evaporate or store tritium-laced water underground that has been contaminated by the Fukushima 1 reactor rather than releasing hundreds of tons of it into the ocean, according to TEPCO chief decommissioning official Naohiro Masuda. TEPCO is facing difficulties in gaining approval from local fishermen to release the contaminated water into the ocean, so they have been exploring alternatives for disposal. The evaporation method was used in the U.S. after the Three Mile Island incident, but the volume of water was much smaller, according to an advisor to TEPCO. Storage is problematic due to the probability of leaks.
Sources: Japan Times, Reuters

Areva’s New Reactor Flaws
Flawed steel was found in the reactor vessel head and bottom of its European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) under construction by French firm Areva in Flamanville, northern France. France’s nuclear safety regulator announced that Areva will conduct further tests on the vessel, which has already been installed on the site. The results will be released in October, French Energy Minister Segolene Royal told The Wall Street Journal. The EPR is also under construction at the Olkiluoto 3 project in Finland. The completion of both projects has been delayed.
Source: Wall Street Journal

LDP’s Nuclear Push
Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) called on the central government to ensure that base-load energy sources, including nuclear and coal-fired plants, make up 60 percent of Japan’s energy mix by 2030. The LDP research commission is expected to present their formal recommendation to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as early as next week, according to the Asahi Shimbun. The proposal, which would necessarily increase the share of nuclear power considering the high costs and burdensome environmental assessments associated with the other base-load sources, will likely face public opposition. “We think restarting nuclear reactors and using nuclear power as a source of supply, after securing its safety, would be favorable for Japan’s energy composition,” Fukushiro Nukaga, the chief of an LDP panel on energy policy, told reporters after presenting the plan to Abe.
Sources: Asahi Shimbun, Reuters

April 6, 2015

This story is part of an ongoing Forum on Energy series on nuclear energy in emerging markets across the globe. See more entries here.

 

australiaAustralia, the world’s 6th-largest country by total area, is located in the South West Pacific and is comprised of the continent of Australia, the island of Tasmania and several other small islands. Australia was inhabited by indigenous Australians for at least 40,000 years until the British and Dutch discovered and settled on the continent beginning in the 1600s. In 1901, six colonies united to form the Commonwealth of Australia and have maintained a stable liberal democratic political system ever since. Australia is today one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with the world’s 12th-largest economy and the world’s fifth-highest income per capita in 2012.

Australia is among the top 10 energy producers in the world, with extensive and diverse energy resources due in large part to the continent’s great age and geographical diversity. Today, about 88% of Australia’s electricity is generated from fossil fuels, including coal (74%) and natural gas (15%). The remainder of the country’s electricity is generated by renewable energy sources including solar, wind, bioenergy and most notably hydropower (6% of total electricity), which came online in the 1950s.

Australia’s vast, cheap coal and natural gas resources provide energy security and low-cost power for the nation. Recently, mounting concerns regarding climate change have stirred a renewed interest in emissions-free nuclear power, and in 2007 former Prime Minister John Howard openly announced his support for nuclear power generation as a low-carbon method to reduce the impacts of climate change. Prime Minister John Howard’s pro-nuclear platform was swiftly attacked by public opposition and defeated by the anti-nuclear Labor party in the 2007 federal elections.

In 2014, Australia emitted 542.6m tons of GHG emissions, down from 2013, as government schemes such as the Renewable Energy Target and the tax encourage a shift to lower carbon fuels overtime. The mandatory renewable energy target has been encouraging large-scale renewable energy plants since 2001. In 2010 the target was increased to 41,000 gigawatt-hours of renewable power generation from large-scale plants, demanding that 20% of Australia’s electricity come from renewables by 2020. The target is expected to be met by introducing additional solar and wind power plants. In light of the renewed demand for carbon-free energy sources, in 2015 South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill introduced a Royal Commission to investigate the government’s role in nuclear power production.

Uranium Production

Australia is home to the world’s largest-known uranium reserves, accounting for 31% of total world reserves. Australia has been mining uranium since 1954 and in 2014 the country produced 5,897 tons of U3O8 (5000 tU), making Australia the world’s third-largest producer behind Kazakhstan and Canada. In 1969, discovery of a large uranium deposit in the environmentally sensitive region of Mount Brockman in northern Australia triggered an emotional response from Aboriginal tribes, conservationists, mine operators, the government and environmentalists. These groups argued over how to protect Aboriginal ancestral and spiritual claims to the mountain and whether the uranium should be mined. In 1977, Australia offered a political solution designating a vast area surrounding the uranium mine as protected national park, Kakadu National Park.

Despite enormous domestic uranium reserves, Australia has no operating nuclear plants and all of Australia’s uranium production is exported for electricity generation abroad in adherence with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). In 2013, uranium export sales were to North America (mainly U.S.) 2201 t (33.6%), Europe 2480 t (37.8%) and Asia (mainly Japan) 1873 t (28.6%). Uranium accounts for about 35% of Australia’s energy exports, and in 2009 accounted for $1.1 billion in export revenue. Uranium production and exports have been slipping ever since due to production problems at Olympic Dam and the Fukushima accident in 2011 that wiped out Japanese demand and softened prices.

Nuclear power prospects in Australia

Australia already has many of the institutions and much of the infrastructure necessary to support a transition toward domestic nuclear power production. The country’s existing natural gas and uranium mining systems provide significant physical infrastructure that could support a nuclear power program. Australia’s Nuclear Science & Technology Organization (ANSTO) boasts several R&D partnerships with countries including the US, France, Japan, Korea, and Germany, and ANSTO currently runs a modern 20 MWt Opal research reactor with the capacity to generate radioisotopes for nuclear medicine applications.

Australia’s Safeguards & Non-proliferation Office (ASNO) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) also provide world-class safeguards and regulation with a globally recognized track record in the uranium mining industry.

Nuclear power obstacles in Australia

Nuclear power generation is currently prohibited under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999. While the Liberal party in Australia has pushed for the development of nuclear power generation since the 1950s, a strong and effective anti-nuclear movement emerged in the 1970s, spurred by opposition to French nuclear testing in the Pacific and the health risks associated with uranium mining. The anti-nuclear movement initially focused on nuclear non-proliferation and uranium mining, but the movement evolved to challenge the environmental and economic benefits of developing nuclear power.

In addition to public and political opposition, there are several legal hurdles that may impede the development of nuclear power in Australia. New South Wales has a Uranium Mining and Nuclear Facilities Prohibition Act of 1986 and Victoria has a Nuclear Activities Prohibitions Act of 1983. On the federal level, in addition to the previously mentioned Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999, there is the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act of 1988 that includes prohibitions against the regulation of nuclear power.

Lastly, the 2015 Royal Commission comes at a time when the South Australian mining and manufacturing sectors are suffering from job losses and an economic contraction. This may hinder motivation to provide funding for the development of a nuclear power program in the region.

Future of Nuclear Power in Australia

Australia is in the midst of re-evaluating its ban on nuclear power in the face of mounting climate change concerns. The state of South Australia, which is home to 80 percent of Australia’s uranium reserves, will soon release a comprehensive report on nuclear energy that is to be supplemented by a report from the federal government. This historic report will look at nuclear power’s economic and environmental opportunities and promises to re-open the nuclear discussion and provide a basis for policy changes.

Weatherill and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott have expressed renewed interest in the nuclear debate. Weatherill is quoted, “I have in the past been opposed to nuclear power — all elements of it…[but] I now have an open mind about these issues.” Abbott has declared climate change as a sufficient reason to reconsider nuclear power and had described nuclear technology as an “absolutely proven way of generating emissions-free base load power.”

Despite the government’s openness, there remains pervasive public resistance, and any nuclear power initiative is expected to face environmental protests and legal obstacles along the way.

Explore an interactive map on nuclear energy opportunities and challenges across the globe.