Energy Department Approves Multiple Nuclear Applications
This week US Energy Secretary Rick Perry told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Energy Department has approved 37 nuclear applications since January 2017. Nine of these approvals were for nuclear applications in the Middle East. Specifically, seven were approved for Saudi Arabia and two were approved for Jordan. Committee members expressed their concern that Saudi Arabia could develop nuclear weapons with US technology if proper safeguards are not in place. The nuclear approvals are known as Part 810 authorizations and allow companies to do preliminary work on nuclear power ahead of a deal to build a nuclear power plant. Notably, they do not authorize the transfer of nuclear material, equipment, or components. Nonetheless senators expressed their concern that Saudi Arabia should not be trusted with US nuclear technology. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) stated at a hearing that “the last thing we should be doing is giving the Saudi government the tools to produce nuclear weapons.”
Republican and Democratic senators have requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) review the Trump administration’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia and believe the talks have been too secretive. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) have asked the GAO to investigate whether some of the negotiations have been conducted without oversight required by the federal Atomic Energy Act. Both the senators also expressed concern that the Energy Department was conducting these negotiations rather than the State Department.
Senate Reintroduces Advanced Reactor Legislation
During the last Congress, the Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which would promote advanced reactors, increase research, and would allow for long-term agreements for federal power purchases from newly license reactors. Time ran out to move the bill out of Committee last year but on Wednesday the legislation was reintroduced by 15 senators. The reintroduced bill additionally requires the Energy Department to demonstrate two advanced reactor concepts by 2025 followed by two-five concepts by 2035. Bill Gates, who founded the advanced reactor company TerraPower, expressed his optimism on twitter. He tweeted that “a bipartisan group of leaders in the U.S. Senate introduced the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which establishes an ambitious plan to accelerate the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies. I can’t overstate how important this is.” He has promised lawmakers he’d invest $1 billion of his own money and line up another $1 billion in private capital to build an advanced reactor in the United States.
Contaminated Water Transferred at Fukushima Daiichi
At Fukushima Daiichi, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has completed the transfer of treated water from bolted flange tanks which had previously leaked to new welded tanks onsite. The flange tanks were constructed rapidly after the 2011 accident and were used to hold contaminated water for months while treatment systems were brought in and scaled up. They were later used to hold treated water with low concentrations of radioactivity. TEPCO then began constructing welded tanks that have a much lower risk of leakage. TEPCO does not have permission to discharge this water however and its management grew to become a challenge for TEPCO. There are currently over 1 million cubic meters of the accumulated water that is waiting to be discharged. The water had leaked from the bolted flange tanks twice before and this transfer to the new welded tanks will help to avoid any future leaks.
Source: World Nuclear News