Global Energy News Roundup: July 12

Report: Fukushima accident “man-made”
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was largely the result of regulators and officials not doing enough before or after the incident, according to an independent parliamentary investigation led by Tokyo University professor emeritus Kiyoshi Kurokawa. The Brisbane Times explains that the report also brought up the possibility the earthquake had already damaged the reactors before the tsunami hit, which could make advocating the use of nuclear energy going forward difficult, according to Hirofumi Kawachi, a utilities analyst quoted in the story.

USEC’s Megatons to Megawatts program reaches 90 percent completion
USEC Inc. is 90 percent of the way to its goal of converting “weapons-grade uranium from dismantled former Soviet Union nuclear warheads into low enriched uranium fuel to generate clean, reliable electricity in commercial nuclear power plants,” according to a release from the company. USEC has so far converted 450 metric tons under the 20-year Megatons to Megawatts program, a government-industry partnership.
Source: Nuclear Power News and Report

UK moves closer to PRISM reactor
A new feasibility study from GE Hitachi (GEH) has the company hoping the United Kingdom will reconsider a proposal to put a Power Reactor Innovative Small Modular (PRISM) reactor at Sellafield in Cumbria. The government rejected the proposal in January, according to Business Green. PRISM reactors run on spent fuel, which would help the U.K. address the challenge of handling its 100 metric tons of plutonium waste. “After reviewing the report, we feel strongly that we have the best, lowest-risk solution to meet the NDA’s [Nuclear Decommissioning Authority] and ultimately UK citizens’ needs,” said Danny Roderick, senior vice president of nuclear plant projects at GEH, according to Business Green.

Nuclear energy at all-time high — and climbing
Despite the international concerns in the aftermath of the events at Fukushima Daiichi, nuclear energy generation is at an all-time high. And it’s expected to keep climbing, according to Power Engineering, which cites a World Nuclear Association estimate that “at least 73 GWe in net new capacity will be added by 2020.” This report comes after Japan’s and Germany’s post-Fukushima concerns contributed to about a 14 percent global drop in nuclear energy generation in 2011, according to the story.
Source: Power Engineering

Macfarlane New NRC head
Dr. Allison M. Macfarlane is officially the new head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Nominated by President Barack Obama and sworn in on July 9, Macfarlane is the 15th person and third woman to lead the government agency that regulates the civilian use of nuclear materials. Macfarlane was most recently an associate professor of environmental science and policy as George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She holds a Ph.D. in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Source: NEI Magazine