Forum on Energy
Forum on Energy
July 2, 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.
June 30, 2015
Highlights of Mr. Hirobumi Kayama's presentation to the U.S.-Japan Roundtable about Japan's current nuclear energy policy.
June 24, 2015
Mr. Hirobumi Kayama provides an update on the comprehensive update on the contemporary state of Japanese nuclear policy
Microsoft PowerPoint - 150616 Japan's Current Nuclear Energy Pol
June 15, 2015
NuScale Power is developing a safer, smaller, scalable version of pressurized water reactor technology.
Cross-sectional view of Reactor Building
June 12, 2015
No nuclear power plant lives forever, with the average modern plant slated to last approximately 40-60 years.
July 2, 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.

Tennessee Nuclear Plant First to Meet Post-Fukushima Upgrade Requirements
The Watts Bar Nuclear Plant has become the first in the U.S. to gain regulatory approval for meeting new equipment and safety standards, after the safety systems, emergency pumping equipment and preventative maintenance programs were all updated. This marks a major achievement in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s process to gain license approval for a second reactor at the facility, which would become the first new nuclear unit added to the American grid in nearly 20 years.
Source: Times Free Press

Scorpion-Style Robot to Enter Fukushima Reactor
Toshiba Corp. and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning have unveiled a new robot that will be dispatched into Fukushima’s No. 2 reactor in August. The new design can withstand up to 10 hours of work in an area of extreme radiation – hopefully mitigating radiation-caused malfunctions that have plagued the robots sent into the No. 1 reactor – and can curve its back up like a scorpion in order to shed light on its surroundings.
Source: Wall Street Journal 

Washington State Senate Passes SMR Bill
A bill passed by the Washington State Senate would require the Department of Commerce to coordinate and advance the manufacturing of small modular reactors to make sure that Washington is on the leading edge of what could be a new production field, while also promoting a clean energy education program to include nuclear. The state senate bill had bipartisan support, as well as that of the governor, so even if it does not pass the House, it will be brought back to the floor in the future.
Source: Tri-City Herald 

New CEO of NuGen Exemplifies Global Nuclear Learning
Speaking at the New Nuclear Build 2015 conference in London on Tuesday, NuGen CEO Tom Samson outlined the status of the new reactors planned for construction at Moorside in Cumbria, UK. He builds largely upon his experience as COO of Enec, which created an owner-operator for the UAE’s first nuclear power plant. This, in conjunction with the expertise of partners Westinghouse and Tractebel, is regarded as the laudable new state of nuclear, with information and best-practices flowing freely to develop the industry.
Source: World Nuclear News 

June 30, 2015

On June 16, 2015, Mr. Hirobumi Kayama addressed the quarterly meeting of the U.S.-Japan Roundtable with an update on Japan’s current nuclear energy policy. His presentation was thorough and extremely informative. Forum on Energy has compiled a quick, at-a-glance summary of the five most salient points from his address.

1) The economic argument for continuing nuclear in Japan is strong.

Mr. Kayama outlined the following prices for Japanese power generation. 

  • Nuclear:   ¥10.1/kWh
  • Coal:        ¥12.3/kWh
  • Wind:       ¥21.6/kWh
  • Crude oil: ¥30.6/kWh

He asserted that, regardless of the persistently-low public opinion about nuclear following the Fukushima disaster, nuclear is still the best energy source for Japan with regard to economic efficiency.

2) Shutting down nuclear power plants (NPPs) post-Fukushima has had significant adverse effects.

In particular, Mr. Kayama outlined the effects on the following:

  • Energy Security: Japan now imports 88% of total power generation; it used to import 61% before the earthquake (nuclear is considered a quasi-domestic source).
  • Economy: Cost of fuel has increased, and the price of electricity has gone up approximately 20% on average 
  • Climate Change: Shutting down nuclear has increased greenhouse gas emissions by about 110 million tons, or approximately 9%.

3) Progress is being made in the Fukushima recovery efforts.

Mr. Kayama pointed out that the Japanese government has taken a more active role in recent months to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi NPPs, and to enact countermeasures to the contaminated water issue. The following chart provides a comprehensive timeline of what has been achieved so far in the cleanup, and where authorities seek to go from here. Mr. Kayama highlighted in particular the progress made in Unit 4, where removal of the spent fuel is already complete. 

Microsoft PowerPoint - 150616 Japan's Current Nuclear Energy Pol

4) It is helpful to understand and visualize the existing nuclear market in Japan.

Mr. Kayama provided a map that thoroughly represents the existing reactors in Japan, with information such as age, reactor type, and current review status.

Microsoft PowerPoint - 150616 Japan's Current Nuclear Energy Pol

5) Nuclear operators face very specific challenges.

These challenges were summarized as the following:

  • Proper risk management, starting at the top levels of management
  • Proper risk communication with stakeholders, especially nearby residents
  • Thorough site-specific risk assessments
  • Capable on-site operators with thorough understanding of the facility and all processes, able to take action should unforeseen accidents occur

The ultimate takeaway of Mr. Kayama’s presentation was that while Japan faces significant challenges, it is intent on reentering the market. To achieve this end, government and industry leaders are doing all they can to institute new and improved standards and practices, working toward a timely and safe nuclear restart.

June 25, 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.

U.S. Department of Energy Issues $1.8 Billion in Loan Guarantees for Vogtle Reactor Project
To support the construction of two advanced nuclear reactors at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, DOE announced $1.8 billion in loan guarantees to three subsidiaries of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia. This is the third installment of significant funds, and allows the project to be fully financed. This has significant implications for the US nuclear renaissance, as the Vogtle reactors will be the first nuclear power plant to be commissioned in more than 30 years, and is projected to ultimately provide power to nearly 1.5 million homes.
Source: Department of Energy

Platts Releases Report Stating World Nuclear Output Rose in 2014
Platts, the global energy and commodities information publisher, has announced that world nuclear generation rose 1% in 2014 compared to 2013, also asserting that this is the first annual gain since the 2011 Fukushima accident. This increase was possible despite the fact that the same number of reporting reactors existed in both years, because output of existing units increased through uprates and longer hours of full-capacity operation.
Source: MarketWatch

Austria Vows Legal Challenge to Proposed Nuclear Project in the UK
The proposed Hinkley Point power plant has hit a hurdle as Austrian officials have announced their intention to lodge a legal complaint against the EU for state subsidy use in the project. The European Commission approved the $25 billion plans in October, allowing subsidies to be raised through levies on consumer energy bills. Though the completion of the project has already been pushed from 2019 to 2023, UK officials stated optimism that the Austrian legal action should not affect the timeline, though it brings widespread opposition to the project back into the limelight.
Source: Sputnik

Russia and Saudi Arabia Agree to Cooperate in Nuclear Energy
A new agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia, signed by the Director General of Rosatom and the President of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, creates a legal basis for cooperation in nuclear energy between the two countries. This agreement spans design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of nuclear reactors, the production of radioisotopes and their applications, and the education and training of nuclear energy specialists. This development follows on the heels of several other measures by Saudi Arabia to reach cooperative understandings with several other countries in the nuclear sector.
Source: World Nuclear News

EOn Supports Early Closure of Oskarshamn Units
The majority owner of the plant operator OKG says there is a “lack of economic opportunities” for investment in the operation of Oskarshamn 2 beyond 2020, and presented a proposal that would see the full plant shut down by 2020, with unit 1 shuttering between 2017 and 2019. Oskarshamn 2 began operation in 1974 and has been deemed in need of modernization to extend its operating life. Minority owner Fortum, however, opposes the early shutdown proposal.
Source: World Nuclear News

June 24, 2015

On June 16, The Howard Baker Forum hosted its quarterly meeting of US-Japan Roundtable. Among the esteemed presenters was METI’s Director of the Office for International Nuclear Energy Cooperation, Mr. Hirobumi Kayama. Mr. Kayama, who has been with METI for 19 years, provided the assembly with a comprehensive update on the contemporary state of Japanese nuclear policy. Mr. Kayama asserted the continued need for nuclear energy in Japan as a base load and quasi-domestic fuel source, while also providing a compelling economic argument for the industry. He provided a balanced assessment, addressing both the challenges of nuclear operations and the progress that has been made in Fukushima clean-up efforts. View the entirety of Mr. Kayama’s in-depth analysis and presentation here.

Japan’s Current Nuclear Energy Policy

June 18, 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.

Japanese Government Announces Budget Plans for Fukushima Rebuild
Building on an estimated ¥26.3 trillion reconstruction expenditures from 2011-2015, the government has announced plans to spend about ¥6.5 trillion in the 2016-2020 period. Though most local governments will be expected to bear up to 3.3% of the costs for some reconstruction costs, the Japanese government plans to fully cover costs in Fukushima prefecture, as it continues to recover from damage resulting from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Source: Japan Times 

US-Korea 123 Agreement Signed
Nuclear power cooperation between the United States and Korea has been extended another 20 years. Negotiations leading up to the official agreement were reportedly intense, as South Korea wanted to hammer out long-term policies that afforded them more power in the storage and disposal of spent fuel. Ultimately, reprocessing of the fuel is still off-limits, but Korea may now transport fuel abroad for disposal.
Source: World Nuclear NewsUS DOS 

Japan Faces Dilemma Over Plutonium Stored in France
Sixteen tons of Japanese plutonium is sitting in France following reprocessing; with no reactors currently operational, Japan is unable to reclaim the fuel at this time. Pressure is mounting, however, as Areva finds itself facing dire straits. If continually unable to take the plutonium, Japan may be forced to find other countries to fulfill their longstanding contracts with Areva by claiming the fuel.
Source: Reuters 

UN Nuclear Chief Weighs in on Spent Fuel Management
While speaking at the International Conference on Management of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Reactors, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano asserted the importance of considering cradle-to-grave life cycles of nuclear fuel. He encouraged countries with well-developed programs to share their expertise with emerging markets, to help ensure best practices for the future.
Source: UN

June 15, 2015

Cross-sectional view of Reactor BuildingNuScale Power, LLC is developing a new kind of nuclear plant: a safer, smaller, scalable version of pressurized water reactor technology, designed with natural safety features. Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR), a global engineering, procurement and construction company with a 60-year history in commercial nuclear power, is the majority investor in NuScale.


As the sole winner of the second round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) competitively-bid, cost-sharing program to develop nuclear small modular reactor (SMR) technology, NuScale’s design offers the benefits of carbon-free nuclear power but takes away the issues presented by the cost of installing large capacity. A nuclear power plant using NuScale’s technology is comprised of individual NuScale Power Modules™, each producing 50 megawatts of electricity (gross) with its own factory-built combined containment vessel and reactor vessel, and its own packaged turbine-generator set. A power plant can include as many as 12 NuScale Power Modules to produce as much as 600 MWe, gross. The reactor coolant is driven by natural circulation and can be shut down safely with no operator action, no AC or DC power, and no external water. NuScale’s technology also is ideally suited to supply energy for district heating, desalination and other applications.

NuScale is headquartered in Portland, Oregon and has offices in Corvallis, OR; Rockville, MD; Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; and Chattanooga, TN.

Forum on Energy recently spoke with Michael McGough, NuScale’s Chief Commercial Officer.

1. NuScale cites safety as both its foremost priority and its biggest advantage over other small modular reactor designs. The “Triple Crown” of safety distills three of NuScale’s most important safety principles, elimination of the need for (1) operator action, (2) AC or DC power, or (3) the resupply of cooling water. How have lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster impacted NuScale’s emphasis and technical decision-making with regard to reactor safety? Could a seismic event and tsunami cause similar problems for NuScale’s reactors?

Read More »

June 12, 2015

An aerial image of Fukushima Daiichi

As we explained in our first decommissioning piece, no nuclear power plant lives forever. On average, modern plants are slated to last approximately 40-60 years, throughout which operators must plan and budget for the lengthy process of decommissioning.

In the United States, a plant is supposed to be fully decommissioned — and the land returned to the state — within 60 years of closing. Since nuclear power emerged mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, the full test of time has not yet proven how the process will pan out, but delays and complications are already apparent in existing decommissioning endeavors.

Cost is the main barrier to decommissioning projects; since the process is intensive and long-term, accurate financial projections are difficult to make, particularly with the sheer volume of reactors up for retirement by 2040. Labor, energy and the disposal of waste materials constitute the main cost requirements of any decommissioning venture, but as projects proceed — with the added burden of long-term storage — budget overruns are common.

Read More »

June 11, 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 NRA to Partially Redo Pre-service Inspections at Sendai-1
Following last week’s postponement of the restart of the Sendai-1 reactor from July to August, it is now unlikely that the reactor in Kagoshima Prefecture will get back online during the peak-demand summer months at all. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has reported discrepancies between data presented by Kyushu Electric Power regarding bore diameters of fuel lines to emergency power facilities from those recorded by the manufacturer at the time of installation. The NRA has subsequently announced its intention to re-conduct the quality control inspections.
Source: Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Inc.

Two Significant Achievements  in the Pursuit of The IAEA LEU ‘Fuel Bank’
The IAEA has been working since 2010 to establish the low-enriched uranium (LEU) “fuel bank” in Kazakhstan, which would provide a reserve of fuel for IAEA member states, at market prices, as a last resort. Two key agreements must be approved prior to its finalization: a host state agreement between the IAEA and Kazakhstan – of which a draft was signed in late April – and a draft transit agreement between the IAEA and Russia to permit the transportation of LEU through its territory. Both of these agreements are awaiting board approval, and represent significant progress for the project.
Source: World Nuclear News

Japanese Companies Aim to Fund 30% of Turkish Nuclear Project
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Itochu are working on a deal that would see each owning about 15% in the proposed nuclear power plant in the Turkish city of Sinop, on the Black Sea. Along with French power utility GDF Suez, the three would hold a combined interest of 51% in the joint venture, allowing Turkish state power company EUAS the remaining 49%. The proposed plant would consist of four reactors, the first going online in 2023. The deal would mark Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ first move into operating a nuclear plant, instead of only selling machinery and equipment.
Source: Nikkei Asian Review

DOE Announces Funding for Nuclear R&D
The U.S. Department of Energy has selected 68 projects to share more than $60 million in nuclear energy research and infrastructure enhancement awards. This includes 43 university-led projects through the Nuclear Energy University Programs – four of which include international collaboration with the UK – and 10 projects receiving funding through the Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies Research & Development Program. This announcement provides money for R&D in virtually all areas of nuclear energy, from fuel cycle R&D, to reactor concepts R&D, to modeling and simulation, and cyber security.
Source: World Nuclear News

German Nuclear Fuel Duty Deemed Legal by European Court
Germany instituted the €145 per gram of fissile nuclear fuel in 2011 as a consequence of amending the 2002 Atomic Energy Act to allow for longer operating lives for German reactors. Power companies were quick to take the issue to court, however, when the tax continued to be implemented despite the fact that the operating extensions were rescinded following the Fukushima disaster. When a Hamburg court was unable to reach a ruling on the legality of the tax, the matter was referred to the European Court of Justice, which ruled that the duty on nuclear fuel is compatible with EU law.
Source: World Nuclear News

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