US Nuclear Regulator Approves Rule with Fewer Safety Requirements
Republicans at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a rule for US nuclear reactors that strips down safety requirements for US nuclear power plants. The original safety rule included a provision that required US nuclear plants to take extra safety measures in response to recent science on earthquakes and floods. The 2 democrats on the 5 person panel were outvoted 3-2 and it is rare to have votes along party lines. However, the NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki stated that the commission’s work since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Plant accident has resulted in “tangible safety improvements at every U.S. nuclear power plant.” Therefore, it is unnecessary to include these extra safety precautions.
Japan’s Economy and Trade Minister Optimistic About Nuclear Power Development Abroad
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week Japan’s Economy and Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko stated that Japan still sees a profitable foreign market for nuclear technology and power plants. The Economy and Trade Minister stated his opinion that Japan has superior expertise in this complex sector where a shrinking number of companies are able to design and build nuclear facilities. When speaking to reporters at the Forum, Minister Seko said that the Japanese government would encourage and support its companies that are invited to build nuclear facilities abroad.
US Department of Energy Paves Way for HALEU While the Department of Defense Studies Mobile Reactors
A final environmental assessment issued on January 17 has determined that there will be no significant impact on the environment if high-assay low-enriched uranium HALEU owned by DOE and stored at the Idaho National Laboratory is used to fabricate fuel at the lab’s Materials and Fuels Complex and also at the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center. The fuel would be used to support US companies in the development and deployment of new reactor technologies. The DOE’s HALEU is developed from spent fuel used at the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II which was in operation from 1964-1994. The DOE has been working since 2000 to refine and downblend the used fuel, resulting in about 10 tons of HALEU. A spokesperson at the DOE stated that “this is a finite amount of HALEU with limited applications for specific advanced reactor designs but is one of several efforts undertaken by DOE to help ensure the availability of HALEU in support of the US nuclear power industry.”
Additionally, the US Department of Defense issued a Request for Information (RFI) to identify concepts for a small mobile reactor design that can be used for local power need in a rapid response situation. The RFI states that “at a time when military operations are more energy-intensive than ever before, it is crucial that the [DOD] seek out game-changing technologies such as nuclear energy, which is a safe, reliable, and nearly unlimited resource…small mobile nuclear reactors have the potential to be an across-the-board strategic game changer for the DOD by saving lives, saving money, and giving soldiers in the field a prime power source with increased flexibility and functionality.” Parties who are interested have until February 8th to respond to the RFI.
Source: World Nuclear News