Forum on Energy
Forum on Energy
May 21, 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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May 18, 2015
No energy plant, whether it is coal, gas or nuclear, is designed to last forever. When they do come to the end of their service, it’s not as simple as flipping an “off” switch.
iStock_000017116815Small
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
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.
April 6, 2015
Australia's vast coal and natural gas resources provide energy security and low-cost power for the nation.
australia
April 30, 2015
Abe is the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of Congress.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
May 21, 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.

TEPCO Revises Business Outlook
Continued delays in restarting reactors at the seven-unit Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant are forcing Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to once again revise its business outlook. The outlook is meant to establish that TEPCO will be able to pay back its creditors in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. The company projects 6.6 trillion yen in debt by next April and an operating profit of 178 billion yen for the year through March 2016.
Source: Reuters

Helsinki to Keep Ownership of Planned Nuclear Plant
Helsinki, Finland will keep its ownership of the nuclear power facility planned for Pyhäjoki, in the northwest region of the country. The plant is a project of the Finnish energy consortium Fennovoima and Russian state-owned nuclear contractor Rosatom. The project had raised some concerns over the displacement of residents and environmental damage. Approximately 20,000 people signed a petition in opposition to the facility.
Source: Uutiset

China’s Big Expectations for Future Nuclear Capacity
China expects to increase its nuclear power capacity to 30 million kilowatts by the end of the year. The country’s 23 active nuclear power units have a total capacity of 21.4 million kilowatts; another 29 units are either planned or already under construction. Long term, China plans to increase its total capacity to 58 million kilowatts by 2020, which will require annual investments of approximately $16.34 billion.
Source: Cihan

Yucca Mountain Senate Discussions Still on Hold
The $70 million for nuclear waste programs in the 2016 spending bill for the Department of Energy contains no mentions of Yucca Mountain. Instead, Energy and water subcommittee Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said any discussion of the Nevada waste site will wait until the appropriations bill reaches the Senate floor, if not longer. “We’ve asked senators to hold their amendments … if they are controversial we will ask them to offer them on the floor and we expect them to do that,” said Alexander. “If we have an amendment on Yucca Mountain it should be offered when the energy and water bill is on the floor.”
Source: Las Vegas Review Journal

NRC’s Positive Safety Report on Indian Point
Approximately 400 people were on hand last night to hear the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) report on the Indian Point nuclear power plant’s safety record in 2014. “Overall we determined that Indian Point was operated safely, consistent with its license conditions,” said Arthur Burritt, branch chief of the NRC’s Division of Reactor Projects. Some on hand took issue with the federal agency’s positive assessment, citing a recent fire and the approved expansion of a natural gas pipeline only about 2,000 feet from the facility.
Source: The Journal News

May 18, 2015

This is the first in a Forum on Energy series on nuclear decommissioning. The series will cover the history of decommissioning and assess the current state of decontamination in key countries.

iStock_000017116815SmallNo energy plant, whether it is coal, gas or nuclear, is designed to last forever. They will all shutter one day. The first nuclear energy plants, conceived and built in the nascent years of the energy source, were designed to run for about 30 years. Modern reactors have lifespans closer to 40-60 years.

When they do come to the end of their service, it’s not as simple as flipping an “off” switch. Under the strict observance and guidance of regulators, nuclear licensees must demolish their facilities while also removing and safely storing the radioactive materials that are the byproduct of electricity generation. Decommissioning must be completed within 60 years of a plants closing in the United States. The  end result is the release of the property and the termination of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) license.

Licensees have three options (or, as a fourth option, can mix and match the three into an approach that suits them best):

DECON (Decontamination)
This is the fastest approach. It allows plants to terminate their licenses in as little as five years, and can begin mere months after a plants closes down. Decontamination or removal of nuclear fuel rods and equipment (99 percent of the facility’s radioactivity) quickly reduces the radiation levels, making it safe for workers to complete the rest of the decommissioning process.

Advantages

  • Knowledgeable personnel from operation are available
  • Operating history is well known
  • Time scale and costs are well defined
  • Existing infrastructure can be used
  • No further consideration of duration of life are needed
  • Current laws and guidelines

Disadvantages

  • Higher collective dose
  • Greater complexity if shieldings or remote controlled systems are used
  • Final repository is needed
  • Intermediate storage of radioactive waste is needed if no final repository exists

SAFSTOR (Safe Storage)
This approach allows the passage of time itself to turn the radioactive elements into stable elements. The shuttered plant is kept untouched and in protective storage for as many as 60 years. Fuel is drained from the reactor vessels and kept in on-site fuel pools, while the NRC provides oversight, maintenance and security. Once radioactivity has decayed to the appropriate levels, the facility is dismantled in the same way as with the DECON approach. In fact, licensees can halt the SAFSTOR approach at almost any point and shift to the DECON approach.

Advantages

  • Activity is reduced (for Cobalt-60, or C-60, by a factor of 64 after 30 years), “decay storage”
  • Lower collective dose
  • A greater part of the material can be reused (clearance)

Disadvantages

  • Loss of Co-60 as a key nuclide
  • Loss of knowledge and experience
  • Preliminary work must be done under same dose rates like immediate decommissioning – no benefit
  • Control must be established for 30 years
  • Safety relevant parts must be checked for 30 years additional lifetime
  • Infrastructure like cranes and ventilation has to be assessed for 30 years

ENTOMB (Entombment)
Entombment is not a true alternative to DECON or SAFSTOR. The International Atomic Energy Agency recommends it only under exceptional circumstances, such as in the wake of a severe accident. The area of radioactivity is reduced as much as possible and then encased (such as with concrete) for an indefinite period. No NRC-licensed facility has ever requested entombment.

Advantages

  • Fast
  • Less expensive than other methods
  • Only little material goes to final repository (no big storage capacity needed)

Disadvantages

  • Preliminary work must be done under same dose rates like immediate decommissioning, but less work needed
  • Material cannot be reused and is wasted
  • Site cannot be reused
  • Unwanted legacy for future generations
  • Local final repositories are created
  • Public opinion
May 7, 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.

NRC Grants First Construction Approval for New ESBWR Reactor Design
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given DTE Energy in Michigan approval to add an additional reactor to its facility on Lake Erie, which has two reactors on site, one of which is active. This is the first approved construction license for GE Hitachi’s ESBWR reactor design. DTE Energy has no immediate plans to build the reactor but says the approval gives the state more options. “The potential of additional nuclear energy gives us the option of reliable, base-load, generation that does not emit greenhouse gases,” said DTE Energy President Steven Kurmas.
Source: Nuclear Street

NRC is Slimming Down Operations
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is nearing its goal of streamlining operations. The agency’s Project Aim 2020 is focused on improving efficiency, safety and security, while also limiting costs. The plan includes reducing its workforce from about 3,700 workers to about 3,400. “We know that we need to retain the appropriate skill sets to accomplish our mission, but we recognize that we can improve on how we reprioritize activities based on emergent needs and can respond more quickly to changing conditions,” said NRC Chairman Stephen Burns.
Source: World Nuclear News

Illinois Nuclear Prods State Officials for Support
Energy company Exelon, trade union leaders, legislators and community leaders all came together recently to implore the Illinois House Energy Committee to pass a bill to promote low carbon energy. The Senate has already passed the bill, which would cut carbon emissions, increase renewable energy and help secure the state’s supply of electricity. Five of Illinois’ 11 nuclear power plants were classified as at risk for closure as recently as last year.
Source: World Nuclear News

IAEA Fukushima Report Delayed for Further Leak Analysis
Tepco will be given more time to assess and explain how and why radiation from Fukushima Daiichi leaked into the Pacific Ocean, thanks to a delay in a report due from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report is now set for mid-May. “The Japanese government invited IAEA experts for a follow-up visit focused on contaminated rainwater issues and public communications,” said IAEA spokesman Serge Gas. “Tepco has no obligation to report to the IAEA but it still shares information with the agency regularly.”
Source: Bloomberg

Tesla’s New Battery and the Beginning of the End for Nuclear?
Does Tesla’s announcement of a new industrial-scale battery — which could provide individual homes with energy at 2 cents per kilowatt hour — mean the eventual death of nuclear energy? That’s a solid maybe, according to nuclear critic Arnie Gundersen, who recently spoke at Northwestern University. “We all know that the wind doesn’t blow consistently and the sun doesn’t shine every day,” he said, “but the nuclear industry would have you believe that humankind is smart enough to develop techniques to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time human kind is so dumb we can’t figure out a way to store solar electricity overnight. To me that doesn’t make sense.”
Source: Forbes

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.”

Read More »

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

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