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ANS Late News Section / February 2004 Nuclear News
TVO SUBMITTED A LICENSE APPLICATION On January 8 to construct Finland's
5th nuclear power station at its Olkiluoto site. The application will be
handled by the Ministry of Trade and Industry. Teollisuuden Voima Oy also
submitted detailed reports on the safety of the plant, a 1600-MWe European
Pressurized Water Reactor, to the country's nuclear regulator, the Finnish
Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK). Besides requiring clearance
for the project from STUK, the ministry will consult several government
ministries and agencies, as well as the local authorities and communities.
The public will also be able to express their opinions on the project in
writing or through the Internet. The ministry expects to make its decision
on the application at the beginning of 2005. At the final stage of construction,
which will take approximately four years, TVO will submit an application
for an operating license, which is also expected to take a year to process.
Operation of the new!
unit is expected during 2009.
The project has maintained a tight schedule since January 2002, when the government gave its okay for a new nuclear plant. That decision was ratified by the country's parliament the following May. TVO received bids for the project in March 2003 from several vendors. In October, the company chose Olkiluoto as the site for the unit, and in December, a turnkey contract to supply the plant was signed with the French-German consortium of Areva and Siemens (NN, Jan. 2004, p. 9). The reactor thermal power will be 4300 MW, with a thermal efficiency of about 37 percent, some four points higher than that of the present Olkiluoto units, which are both 849-MWe (net) boiling water reactors. The minimum lifetime of major equipment and structures that would be difficult to replace has been set at 60 years, and 30 years for other main components. TVO expects that the unit's operational lifetime will be at least 60 years. The total cost of the project will be approximately E3 billion ($3.8 billion), which covers the delivery of the plant for which the consortium is responsible, as well as site construction work, supporting services, project management, and interest during construction for which TVO is responsible.
On the same day that the application was submitted, Mauno Paavola, TVO's president and chief executive officer, presented the company's 2003 results, which, he said, provided the best production figures in the history of the Olkiluoto station. Capacity factors were 97.0 percent for Unit 1 and 95.5 percent for Unit 2. It seems, Paavola added, that the company's decision to make the huge investment, which is Finland's largest, was taken at the right time. The additional nuclear power will be available to cover the expected increase in electricity demand, and, at the same time, replace electricity imports and the loss of capacity of aging plants that are due to be decommissioned. The new nuclear plant will also be a significant factor in meeting the country's Kyoto targets.
A $23-MILLION ISOTOPE PRODUCTION FACILITY AT LOS ALAMOS Neutron Science
Center (LANSCE) in New Mexico was commissioned on January 12 by the Department
of Energy. The facility houses a new beam line and equipment needed to
direct part of the 100 million electron volt proton beam from the existing
LANSCE accelerator to a new target station designed exclusively for the
production of isotopes. The facility, which was built over the past five
years, also provides the flexibility to insert and retrieve targets while
the LANSCE accelerator operates. The first proton beam was delivered to
the new facility on December 23, 2003. "The short-lived isotopes
produced by this facility and other accelerators in the DOE complex provide
vital isotopes required to diagnose, treat, and research serious illnesses
such as heart disease and cancer," said Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham.
"The radioisotopes produced by the new beam spur at the Los Alamos accelerator
center will help assure the uninterrupted supply of these isotopes."
More than 30 types of isotopes, including copper-67, arsenic-73, germanium-68, and strontium-82, may be produced at the facility. These isotopes are important to the treatment of illnesses such as cancer because they target the cancer directly with minimal side effects. The short half-lives of the isotopes ensure that they do not remain in vital organs such as the liver. In addition, isotopes such as germanium-68 are used daily by hospitals and research institutions to calibrate medical imaging equipment.
SUREBEAM CORP. FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY ON JANUARY 19 under Chapter 7 of
the United States Bankruptcy Code. SureBeam, a leading provider of irradiation
systems and services for the food industry, earlier released a statement
announcing it would close its doors "by the end of day on January 16, 2004."
Headquartered in San Diego, Calif., the company offered technology that
improved food quality, extended product freshness, and provided disinfestation.
Its irradiation system was based on electron beams and X rays that destroy
food-borne bacteria, much like thermal pasteurization does to milk.
Success of the company was hinged, according to news reports, on the Food and Drug Administration's issuance of approval for irradiation of such items as hot dogs and deli meats. That approval, the reports noted, was expected last year in February, then July, and then October. But it never came. Time finally ran out on the company when its creditors could wait no longer to be paid. According to SureBeam's statement released on January 12, "SureBeam has been unable to reach a restructuring agreement with its senior secured lender, and such lender has indicated an intent to accelerate the maturity and to demand payment of SureBeam's debt. In addition, SureBeam Corporation has been unable to raise additional funds it needs to continue its operations."
Industry analysts were surprised at "just how rapidly the house of cards collapsed," according to the January 13 edition of Food Production Daily. Last October, the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation into SureBeam, and two of its auditors--KPMG and Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu--were fired. SureBeam also was delisted in October from the NASDAQ Stock Market because it failed to file quarterly earnings reports with the SEC.
Despite these black marks on its record, SureBeam had assured investors that the company was "going swimmingly," according to an article dated January 13 on IEEE Spectrum Online.
SureBeam was spun out of San Diego defense contractor Titan Corporation in 2001. In March of that year, SureBeam raised a reported $67 million in an initial public offering. When it closed its doors on January 16, more than 75 employees lost their jobs.
2004'S WORLD DIRECTORY OF NUCLEAR UTILITY MANAGEMENT is available for
purchase from the American Nuclear Society. The 242-page guide, compiled
and produced by the staff of Nuclear News, provides names and titles of
more than 3000 key individuals at utilities and nuclear power plants worldwide,
as well as addresses, phone/facsimile numbers, and, where available, e-mail
addresses and Web site URLs. A listing of international nuclear-related
organizations is also included. The name and address listings are also
available on CD-ROM, which can be purchased along with the print version.
The price of the 16th edition of the directory is $270 (ANS Order No. 250032)
and of the directory/CD-ROM package is $825 (ANS Order No. 250033). ANS
members receive a 10 percent discount. Add $20 for shipping outside North
America, and $30 for checks drawn on non-U.S. banks. Illinois residents
add 7.75 percent sales tax. All orders must be prepaid; Visa, MasterCard,
American Express, and Diners Cl!
ub accepted. Order from ANS, P.O. Box 97781, Chicago IL 60678; phone 708/579-8210; fax 708/519-8314; e-mail <email@example.com>; Web <www.ans.org>.
FUNDING OF A FEASIBILITY STUDY ON REGIONAL REPOSITORIES for disposal
of radioactive waste in Europe was agreed on by the European Commission
at the end of 2003. The project will be managed by Decom Slovakia and the
Switzerland-based Arius organization. The initial phase of the study, called
SAPIERR (Support Action for a Pilot study on European Regional Repositories),
will look only at the technical and legal requirements for a regional repository.
It will not directly address the issue of identifying a country or countries
that could host a shared repository. An inaugural meeting with
about 10 participating organizations will be held in February to organize
an overview of all radioactive wastes being produced throughout Europe
and to examine the legal and regulatory issues related to their transboundary
movements. The meeting will take place at Piestany in Slovakia.
The formal proposal to undertake a pilot study on the regional approach to waste disposal was submitted to the European Commission, under its 6th Framework Program (for research), in May 2003 by the two organizations: Arius, which was set up specifically to promote concepts for multinational solutions to storage and disposal of radioactive waste; and Decom Slovakia, a decommissioning and radwaste management company established about 10 years ago by Slovak Electric (which operates Slovakia's nuclear plants, VòJE (Nuclear Power Plants Research Institute), and EGP Praha (since 2003 òJV Rez [Nuclear Research Institute]). The two organizations also negotiated commitments from several organizations in Western and Central Europe to participate in the pilot study. At the end of 2003, negotiations were completed and the two-year project approved by the commission. Although the major European Union countries have programs to develop national repositories, the option of regional facilities has been deliberately kept open by the commission as it recognized that the most viable solution for small countries may be to collaborate in the development of regional repositories. This has caused some unease in countries with advanced disposal programs since it is believed that public concerns about the prospect of having to accept wastes from other countries might have a negative impact on their efforts. To allay such fears, the commission has emphasized that no member state would ever be compelled to host a regional European repository against the will of its government and people.
Financing for Decom's part in the project, as coordinator of the study, will be provided by the European Commission. As Switzerland is not a member of the EU, Arius is being supported by the Swiss Department of Education and Science under a bilateral agreement with the EU by which Swiss contributions to joint projects are directly funded by the government.
THE NRC ACCEPTED A LICENSE APPLICATION FROM LES for the construction
and operation of the National Enrichment Facility (NEF), a uranium enrichment
plant to be located in Lea County in southeast New Mexico. Louisiana Energy
Services filed the application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on
December 12, 2003, but the agency formally took receipt of it on January
22. "We are very excited about the acceptance of the license application
by the NRC," said Jim Ferland, LES president. "We have made it this far
thanks to the strong support from the citizens of Lea County and look forward
to the NRC review process."
The documents making up the application cover an analysis of the safety of the design, construction, and operation of the proposed facility; the impact on the environment, including traffic, housing, and schools, from building and operating the facility; the coordination with state and local emergency agencies; and the steps taken to maintain the site, facility, equipment, and information secure from potential threats or diversion of material.
LES expects the NRC to spend about 18 to 20 months reviewing the application, including holding public meetings in the Lea County area and collecting feedback from residents on the impact of the proposed facility on the community. The NRC will also hold public hearings to address safety and environmental concerns.
When approved, the NEF, to be located five miles east of Eunice, N.M., will "introduce the world's most advanced uranium enrichment technology into the U.S. and provide an alternative, domestic enrichment supply source to U.S. nuclear energy companies," according to an LES January 23 statement. LES is a partnership of nuclear energy companies that includes Urenco, Westinghouse, Duke Power, Entergy, and Exelon.
MICHAEL CORRADINI AND PAUL CRAIG HAVE RESIGNED from the Nuclear Waste
Technical Review Board. Corradini, NWTRB chairman, submitted his resignation
to President Bush on December 30, citing "perceived conflicts of interest"
that were creating a problem for the appropriate functioning of the board.
Corradini was appointed chairman of the board, which provides technical
oversight for the Department of Energy's high-level radioactive waste repository
program, in June 2002. He had been criticized by opponents of the project,
as well as by some board members, for expressing his views that the Yucca
Mountain repository could safely contain nuclear waste, since the board
was established only as an advisory body. NWTRB vice chairman David Duquette
was to serve as acting board chairman until President Bush appoints a replacement.
Craig's resignation was effective January 19. While his resignation letter praised the NWTRB's oversight of the Yucca Mountain program, he indicated that he was interested in resuming "activities" he had to put on hold while a member of the board.
With these two resignations, there are now three vacancies on the 11-member board: Member Debra Knopman resigned in January 2003, and her position has not been filled. As with the chairman slot, all board members are presidential appointees.
THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION'S "NUCLEAR PACKAGE" got the go ahead from the European Parliament, even though Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) gave some support to critics of the proposals, which concern new European Union (EU) Directives on nuclear energy, who are concerned that the Commission is trying to expand its powers unnecessarily. The Commission developed the package to establish a common set of principles and standards for nuclear safety, the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, and decommissioning for when several eastern European countries with aging nuclear plants join the EU. Many MEPs would prefer a nonbinding and more flexible approach, rather than using a Directive, which is effectively EU legislation. In its report on the package, published on January 13, parliament suggested a number of amendments that the Commission may reflect on, but need not take account of in the text. The report makes the particular point that where the European Commission seeks to expand its "competence" (authority) in nuclear safety matters, MEPs favor responsibility always resting with national authorities and believe that the Commission's proposals may overstep the line. Although the package's proposals were actually adopted by the Commission over a year ago (NN, Mar. 2003, p. 74), they must still be approved by the EU Council (made up of ministers of the member states) before becoming EU Directives, at which point they must be introduced into national law. In March, a final text is to be put forward for the last Council meeting before enlargement. While governments opposed to nuclear energy, such as those in Germany, want Directives that reflect their policy, others, like the United Kingdom, are concerned over any interference in an area (nuclear regulation) that has traditionally been kept out of the hands of the Commission, in Brussels. At the moment, if either Germany or Britain changes its position, the draft Directives will have a qualified majority. Sources in Brussels, however, believe it unlikely that a final text will be approved before EU enlargement takes place in May as the Commission wants. Once these countries become full m!
embers, it may be more difficult for the Commission to push through the package in its present state, as new members will likely want it revamped to take account of their priorities.
On the issue of the Commission's having authority over national regulators, MEPs suggest establishing a "regulatory authorities committee," composed of representatives of national regulatory bodies, that would monitor how members carry out the rules by a peer review mechanism, not through checks made directly by the Commission.
On the management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, parliament disagrees with the Commission's proposal for a single timetable for all members. It believes that members should have the flexibility to set their own timetables, taking into account their own national circumstances. Parliament suggests a two-step approach, which, it feels, would be more effective and feasible. First, by the end of 2006, each member should submit a detailed program for the long-term management of all types of radioactive waste that includes the procedures and criteria for the choice of disposal sites. Second, each state should then fix its own deadlines to put the program in force. In the report, parliament adds that special consideration should be given to the enlargement countries, which had previously been able to send their spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing or storage, an option no longer available. The pronuclear energy commissioner, Loyola de Palacio, has been pushing to have the package adopted, claiming that it will ultimately work in favor of the industry. But Foratom, the trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe, is more supportive of parliament's approach, which Peter Haug, Foratom's Director General, called prudent and constructive, adding that "parliament has not set out to undermine the package, but to suggest a formula that the member states might be able to live with." Other measures supported by MEPs include:
* Keeping the option of retrievability open for geologic disposal.
* Allowing nuclear waste to be shipped between member states (although some make the point that burdens should be borne only by those who benefit from the activity). * Establishing a program to increase public awareness of nuclear issues. * Providing greater support for research programs in alternative disposal options, such as partitioning and transmutation.
THE FINAL RFP FOR CLEANUP WORK ON THE FFTF (Fast Flux Test Facility)
complex at the Department of Energy's Hanford Site, in southeastern Washington
state, is available online at <doe-iips.pr.doe.gov/iips/busopor.nsf/ViewMenu?ReadForm>.
DOE has designated the work, worth as much as $500 million, as a small
business set-aside. The final Request for Proposals includes
changes designed to address specific concerns from small businesses and
ensure fairness to the existing work force, including the following:
* A revised approach to employee benefits that will ease the transition of existing FFTF employees to their new employer.
* Streamlined technical and cost proposal requirements to reduce the cost of proposal preparation.
* New invoicing provisions to address the needs of small business for quicker cost reimbursement.
* A requirement for offerors to provide a baseline with a proposed physical completion date, as well as proposed fee and share ratios. * Annual milestones to track progress and determine provisional fees more accurately.
Written proposals are due by February 17, 2004. DOE is to award the contract as early as June 2004. Completion of all work is expected by 2012.
PRESIDENT BUSH CALLED FOR ENACTMENT OF ENERGY LEGISLATION. In his State
of the Union address on January 20, the President urged Congress to enact
the energy bill "to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation,
and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy." The President's
words were supported the next day by the Nuclear Energy Institute. John
Kane, NEI's senior vice president of governmental affairs, said on January
21, "The nuclear energy industry joins with President Bush in calling for
Congress to approve a new energy policy now. Energy security doesn't come
overnight, and the longer that the current comprehensive legislation languishes
in Congress, the more intractable our nation's energy challenges will become."
Kane commented that the conference energy bill pending before the Senate provides new and important provisions for all energy sources, including new nuclear plants and wind, solar, clean-coal, and natural gas-fired power plants, as part of the diversification that a strong energy portfolio needs. Significantly, he said, the bill "includes provisions for nuclear energy to play an expanded role in helping the nation meet its economic and environmental goals."
Sen. Pete Domenici (R., N.M.), chairman of the Energy & Natural Resources Committee and a leading advocate of the pending energy legislation, said in a post-State of the Union statement that passage of the bill was important to the nation's economic health. "We have a plan ready to go, and the President realizes that a stable, reliable, and diversified energy portfolio will do wonders for our economy and job growth," he said.
PARTS OF THE NRC'S OPERATIONAL EXPERIENCE (OE) PROGRAMS "are working
well," according to a report prepared by an agency task force. The document,
"Reactor Operating Experience Task Force Report," is dated November 26,
2003, but was made publicly available in January. The report
focuses on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's programs for evaluating
and learning from operating experience at nuclear power plants. The "functional"
portions of those programs, such as short- and long-term efforts to identify
and address reactor safety issues, "are working well," the report notes.
However, more than 20 recommendations were developed to improve the programs,
* Assign a senior manager as a single point of contact for coordinating operating experience activities, including periodic assessments and program status reports.
* Create and maintain a central clearinghouse of operating experience data, with an accompanying Web site.
* Use operating experience review results, insights, and lessons learned to support NRC knowledge transfer and training.
The "most significant overall program weakness," according to the report, is the NRC's lack of a vision as to how all of its OE program activities should function together and be integrated with its licensing, inspection, and research program activities. "As a result," the report notes, "the agency has not fully leveraged lessons learned from OE to further program goals."
The report is available at <www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/adams/web-based.html> on the NRC's ADAMS system. The accession number to enter on ADAMS is ML033350063.
Copyright (c) 2004 by the American Nuclear Society, Inc.
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Mauro L. Bonardi, Dr. Industrial Chemistry, Nuclear and Radiochemist
International Committee of the ANS
Universita' degli Studi di Milano and INFN-Milano Accelerators and Applied Superconductivity Laboratory, LASA via F.lli Cervi 201, I-20090 Segrate, Milano, Italy http://wwwLASA.mi.infn.it, Email: Mauro.Bonardi@mi.infn.it
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