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EXCAVATION WORK BEGAN ON FINLAND'S OLKILUOTO-3, a 1600-MWe European
Pressurized water Reactor (EPR), on February 16 by the country's Minister
of Trade and Industry, Mauri Pekkarinen. The utility, Teollisuuden Voima
Oy (TVO), intends to meet a very tight project timetable, with commercial
operation scheduled for the first half of 2009. Having awarded a turnkey
contract for the project to a consortium of Framatome ANP and Siemens in
December 2003, TVO applied for a construction permit the following month
(NN, Feb. 2004, p. 17). The company expects the application process to
take about a year.
Work to prepare the site, which is adjacent to the existing two nuclear units at Olkiluoto, actually started in December 2003 with forest logging and road building. Surface soil has also been moved allowing the actual excavation work to begin, said Martin Landtman, Olkiluoto-3 project manager, at the inauguration. A total volume of 450 000 m3 of material is to be excavated. The Framatome ANP-Siemens consortium is to deliver the project under a fixed-price contract. With the exception of site and excavation work and the enlargement of site infrastructure, the consortium is responsible for the entire project, including installation and testing of equipment, as well as commissioning. It also has responsibility for the plant's licensability and performance, as well as the project schedule, said Mauno Paavola, TVO president and chief executive officer. TVO has also announced that Paavola will retire at the end of 2004. Paavola, who was in charge of the negotiations on the Olkiluoto-3 project, will continue as member of the Olkiluoto-3 construction committee. The TVO board has nominated Pertti Simola to succeed Paavola. Simola is currently vice president, energy of UPM-Kymmene Corp., and has been a member of the TVO board since 1994. TVO has also announced that Ami Rastas, executive vice president, will retire at the end of 2004 as planned. Rastas, who joined the company in 1972, will go on working as a consultant and member of the Olkiluoto-3 plant design committee.
THE NRC IS SEARCHING FOR CANDIDATES FOR THE ACRS, the agency announced
on February 9. The deadline for submitting applications to the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission is March 15. The Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards
was established by Congress to provide the NRC with independent expert
advice on matters related to the safety of existing and proposed nuclear
facilities and on the adequacy of proposed reactor safety standards. The
ACRS's work currently emphasizes safety issues associated with the operation
of 103 nuclear power plants in the United States; the pursuit of a risk-informed
and performance-based regulatory approach; review of license renewal applications;
risk-informed revisions to reactor regulations; power uprates; transient
and accident analysis codes; materials degradation issues; use of mixed-oxide
and high-burnup fuels; and technical issues related to advanced reactor
The ACRS is composed of 11 individuals who have a range of engineering expertise, such as in nuclear engineering, risk assessment, chemistry, facility operations management, severe accident phenomena, materials science and metallurgy, digital instrumentation and control systems, thermal hydraulic and heat transfer, and mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. Consultants are engaged to provide technical assistance on specific issues when required. ACRS members are appointed for four-year terms and normally serve no more than three terms.
At this time, the NRC is specifically seeking individuals who have at least 15 years of experience in the areas of nuclear engineering, probabilistic risk assessment, and/or plant operations. RZ(sumZ(s should be sent to the attention of Ms. Sherry Meador, Administrative Assistant, Operations and Support Branch, Mail Stop T2E-26, ACRS/ACNW, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, D.C., 20555-0001, or e-mail <email@example.com>.
NO AGREEMENT WAS REACHED ON WHERE TO BUILD ITER during talks at International
Atomic Energy Agency headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on February 20 and
21. The six partners in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor
project--China, the European Union, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the
United States--have been split evenly on the issue of where to site the
magnetic confinement fusion device (NN, Feb. 2004, p. 36). The Rokkasho-mura
site in Japan is backed by the U.S. and South Korea, as well as the host
country, while the EU, Russia, and China favor siting at Cadarache in France.
The talks in Austria were unable to produce a consensus in favor of one
site, and may instead have directed the parties toward a more distributed
approach to high-level fusion development that may not concentrate all
of the work at a single facility. According to the joint statement released
after the talks ended, "ITER parties will continue their discussions including
on of a broader project approach to fusion power." There has lately been speculation that ITER might be scaled back from its initial goal of resolving all pending issues before the construction of a full-service power-producing demonstration reactor, in part to reduce costs. This approach might have gained more support during the talks, perhaps with the idea of building a less-ambitious ITER at one site and a facility to address other issues at the other site. The statement added, "The delegations agreed to convene a meeting of experts in early March for a joint appreciation in common terms of a number of key topics, in order to bring the further technical analysis to completion."
The ability to reach a decision may have been hampered by the withdrawal of Canada as an ITER participant on December 23. Canada had also proposed to host ITER, at a site in Clarington, Ontario, but in the end decided that it could not provide the level of financial backing necessary to make the site competitive with the others in the field. Canada not only withdrew the site, but pulled out of ITER entirely. With Canada in, a vote by seven parties on two sites might at least have avoided a tie. Still, there has been speculation that any vote in favor of one site might upset the host country of the other site to the point of preventing the multi-party project from continuing--although for their part, the Japanese negotiators have denied that their country would pull out of ITER if Rokkasho-mura were not selected.
THE NUMBER OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS OPERATING around the world decreased
by six units last year to a total of 438, according to the annual Nuclear
News "World List of Nuclear Power Plants" (this issue, p. 35). Interestingly,
the 438 reactors (those that are 30 net MWe and greater) had a total net
generating capacity of 365 852 MWe in 2003, an increase of 2008 MWe over
the net capacity of 363 844 MWe by the 444 units operating in 2002.
While only one unit--Qinshan Nuclear Power Co.'s Qinshan-5, in China--started commercial operation in 2003, six units were retired. Those units are E.ON Kernkraft GmbH's Stade, in Germany; Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute's Fugen ATR; and BNFL's Calder Hall-1-4, in the United Kingdom. A seventh unit, RWE Power AG's M*lheim-KS(rlich, in Germany, also was removed from the World List because an RWE Power spokesperson told NN in February that the unit was officially retired in June 2001. (In last year's World List--the 2003 edition--M*lheim-KS(rlich was listed as an operating plant because a company spokesperson at that time said the plant, although shut down, was not officially retired.)
Five new units were added to the World List, and thus the total number of nuclear reactors worldwide (operating, under construction, and on order) decreased only by two, to 492 units in 2003 compared with 494 units in 2002. The five units added were Finland's Olkiluoto-3 and South Korea's Shin-Kori-3 and -4 and Shin-Wolsong-1 and -2. As a result, net generating capacity increased to 413 748 in 2003 from 406 136 in 2002--an increase of 7612 net MWe. Those units that are planned to start commercial operation this year (according to sources) are China's Tianwan-1 and Qinshan-3, Czech Republic's Temelin-1 and -2, Russia's Kalinin-3, South Korea'a Ulchin-5, and Ukraine's Khmel'nitskiy-2 and Rovno-4.
THE NRC HAS ORDERED THAT LICENSEES UPGRADE SECURITY, but has not revealed
publicly what improvements must be made, nor which licensees must comply
with them. The order, dated January 12 and published in the Federal Register
on February 4, is titled "In the Matter of All Licensees Authorized to
Manufacture or Initially Transfer Items Containing Radioactive Material
of Concern and All Other Persons Who Obtain Safeguards Information Described
Herein; Order Imposing Additional Security Measures (Effective Immediately)."
So, while the attachment that lists the specific licensees was withheld
from public dissemination, the title at least indicates the kinds of licensees
affected. The focus of the order is on activities regulated under 10CFR20.1801
(to prevent unauthorized removal of or access to licensed materials stored
in controlled or unrestricted areas) and 10CFR20.1802 (to control and maintain
constant surveillance of licensed material that is in such areas and is
not in stor!
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission states in the order that since the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the agency has issued numerous safeguards and threat advisories to licensees, to strengthen readiness and response capabilities in case of an attack against nuclear facilities. It then says, "As a result of its consideration of current safeguards and license requirements, as well as a review of information provided by the intelligence community, the Commission has determined that certain additional security measures are required . . . to address the current threat environment." The order called for the affected licensees to act, as needed, by February 6. The required actions could, depending on the licensee, include: to notify the NRC if it is unable to comply; to demonstrate that compliance is not necessary; to show if compliance would conflict with its license or a regulation of the NRC or an Agreement State; to state whether compliance!
would conflict with safe operation of the facility; or to provide a schedule for compliance. The licensees also had until February 6 to request a hearing, although a licensee could request more time to prepare a request upon satisfying the NRC that there was good cause.
As of mid-February, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had not issued any statements connected with this order by the NRC.
AMERGEN WILL SEEK TO RENEW OYSTER CREEK'S LICENSE. On February 19, AmerGen
Energy Corporation announced that it will apply to extend the operating
license of its Oyster Creek unit for 20 years beyond the current expiration
date in April 2009. The application to renew the license is to be submitted
to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission during summer 2005. The utility, which
is owned entirely by Exelon Corporation, bought the 636-MWe boiling water
reactor near Forked River, N.J., from GPU Nuclear Corporation in August
2000, for a price reported to be $10 million. At that time, AmerGen was
a joint venture of PECo Energy and British Energy; since then, PECo merged
with Unicom to become Exelon, and on December 22 of last year, British
Energy sold its share of AmerGen to Exelon.
Oyster Creek is the oldest operating nuclear power plant in the United States. It went critical in May 1969, nearly 35 years ago. AmerGen said that it considers Oyster Creek a good prospect for license renewal, noting that the company already spends roughly $10 million per year on replacements and upgrades, and is willing to spend more as needed to satisfy the NRC that the plant can operate safely and productively until 2029. The utility told Nuclear News that one factor that delayed the announcement of the renewal plan until now was the process of British Energy's departure from AmerGen. With the ownership situation now clarified, projects such as the Oyster Creek license renewal can proceed. No other license renewal application has been submitted this close to the end of a license's term, but since previous renewals have been approved by the NRC in two years or less from the time of submittal, the process might be complete roughly two years before the license expires. T!
his application may be a controversial one, however: Some citizen activist organizations have criticized the proposed renewal, and if the process is slowed by lengthy hearings or challenges in federal courts, the current license might expire before renewal could be granted--and it is not clear if a license renewal would be valid if it were granted after the end of the term of the current license.
Oyster Creek was a fairly good performer during the 1970s, by the standards of the time, with a capacity factor of around 68 percent. In the 1980s, however, its average capacity factor for the entire decade was around 40 percent. Performance has improved greatly since then, and the average capacity factor since 2000 is in the high 80s, but the problems in the past give the plant a lifetime capacity factor of about 65 percent. This, however, may actually work in the plant's favor during the license renewal deliberations. It could be argued that because of its long stretches of downtime (to date, Oyster Creek has logged about 22 effective full-power-years of operation), the plant has not undergone as much wear and tear as it might have if it had been running at a high capacity factor throughout its operating life.
THE RESULTS OF A FOUR-YEAR TECHNICAL FEASIBILITY PROJECT were announced
by France's Commissariat * l'Energie Atomique (CEA), effectively marking
the end of its laser enrichment development program. According to statement
released by the CEA in January, the final test run, which was carried out
in November 2003, successfully produced 200 kilograms of uranium "to an
appropriate enrichment level," along with approximately a ton of depleted
uranium. The CEA now believes that there will likely be a role for laser
enrichment in the future, although the next generation of production machines
in France will use centrifuge technology. In the mid-1980s,
France, like the United States, began a major research program into the
laser enrichment process, called SILVA (the French acronym for atomic vapor
laser isotope separation, or AVLIS, as it is known in the U.S.). The aim
was to develop a competitive and low energy-consuming technology to replace
the gas diffusion process used at the Eurodif enrichment plant operated
by Cogema. While laser technology was developing slowly, however,
Urenco was making large improvements in its centrifuge technology. This
was due in particular to the use of advanced carbon fibers, which allowed
dramatic increases in centrifuge speed. In 2000, after the U.S. Enrichment
Corporation had decided to stop its own AVLIS program in 1999, the CEA
and Cogema undertook a study to determine which would be the best technology
to introduce between 2010 and 2015. This study concluded that the industrial
development of the Silva process was not possible in the needed time frame
and Cogema decided to go the centrifuge route. This led Cogema to buy 50
percent of Urenco's Enrichment Technology Company last November (NN, Jan.
2004, p. 62), with the aim of constructing a new enrichment plant to begin
production in 2007.
In the meantime, to assess the longer-term potential of the laser process--which has a number of inherent advantages, including compactness, high isotopic selectivity, and low energy requirements--it was decided to assess the capability of the CEA technology in a representative production facility. A four-year research project (2000-2003) was carried out at the CEA's Pierrelatte facility with a budget of E146 million ($183 million). According to the CEA, the key targets were met, proving the potential of the process, which should also profit from technological development in the fields of industrial lasers and optics.
Ontario may face an electricity shortfall unless reforms are carried out, according to a task force in Canada examining Ontario's electricity sector, as coal-fired generation is taken out of service and existing nuclear plants approach the end of their planned operating lives. The future energy mix that the task force sees likely developing could include more nuclear energy, if difficulties such as financing can be overcome. The report of the Electricity Conservation and Supply Task Force, released on January 14 by Ontario Energy Minister Dwight Duncan, looked particularly at the market structures put in place in the late 1990s by the previous government. These structures failed to deliver the price stability and capacity needed for future provincial development, according to the report. "Our government," said Duncan, "will use the report as a foundation for setting a new direction and developing a responsible and sustainable policy for Ontario's electricity sector."
The previous approach, the report said, relied on well-functioning markets to deliver price stability and the financing of new capacity. The Task Force, established in June 2003, concluded that the major changes in the energy economy undermined the viability of the original market design. Among the pressures were the government's commitment to phase out coal-fired generation by 2007. Furthermore, financial markets failed to underwrite new capacity, due, said the report, to a variety of factors, including the Enron collapse and the demise, at least temporarily, of the long-term energy trading market. Investments in new supply, the Task Force was told, are simply "unfinanceable." Other factors affecting the market were: delays and cost increases in returning the four Pickering A nuclear units to service; delays in expanding grid connections with neighboring systems; and the exceptional weather in 2002. To deal with this, the Task Force said it favors a balanced approach with a diverse supply mix in which all sources play a part. A likely mix will have new gas-fired peaking and intermediate capacity, expansion of renewable power where economical, and new baseload nuclear and hydro capacity additions, combined with aggressive measures to conserve energy. If nuclear power is to have a major role in Ontario, both refurbishment of some existing plants and construction of new nuclear units will be needed, the report said. As for new construction, an analysis prepared for the Task Force suggests that new Advanced CANDU Reactors can be competitive with natural gas. The refurbished plants, the report added, will present an investment challenge very similar to that facing new generation projects. Furthermore, in any decision to maintain nuclear power's role in Ontario, performance and financial risks to the taxpayers must be minimized. "We understand that nuclear developers and nuclear operators are prepared to bear these risks," the report said.
A "BLACK MARKET" OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS TECHNOLOGY has developed, warned International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, involving a "very sophisticated and complex underground network" of operators. "What we are seeing," he said, "is not that much different from organized crime cartels." Considerable light on the global network, ElBaradei said, has come from the IAEA's ongoing verification of nuclear programs in Iran and Libya. One surprising discovery was that the emerging picture so far has not indicated governments are involved, but rather points to individuals engaged in illicit trafficking of material and equipment. As the agency has uncovered more information about the scale of the "nuclear black market," ElBaradei has been going public on the risks through a series of events, such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and in press interviews. In an Op-Ed piece published in the February 12 New York Times, ElBaradei said that he was particularly concerned about the supply network's growth, making it easier to acquire nuclear weapons expertise and materials. "Eventually, inevitably," he said, "terrorists will gain access to such materials and technology, if not actual weapons." It is clear that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) must be tailored to 21st century realities, he said. "The current system relies on a gentlemen's agreement [and] it does not include many countries with growing industrial capacity." The first step, ElBaradei said, is to tighten controls over the export of nuclear material, a priority President Bush identified in a speech on nuclear nonproliferation on February 11. "We must universalize the export control system, remove these loopholes, and enact binding, treaty-based controls--while preserving the rights of all States to peaceful nuclear technology," he said. In parallel, his inspectors must be given greater powers: "To date, fewer than 20 percent of the 191 United Nations members have approved a protocol allowing broader inspection rights. Again, as President Bush suggested . . . it should be in force for all countries." ElBaradei also reminded the United States that a fundamental part of the NPT is that the original five nuclear weapons states move toward disarmament. In an interview in the February 9 Newsweek, ElBaradei explained that there might be some "differences in perception" within the Bush administration with regard to Iran. "We have said we haven't seen concrete evidence that Iran's program is linked to a weapons program. Some in the [Bush] administration say the Iranian program could only be explained in terms of a weapons program." He also told Newsweek that his "gut feeling" is that North Korea "probably has enough plutonium to make a few bombs. That makes [North Korea] the most dangerous proliferation situation . . . a country that is completely beleaguered, isolated, has nothing to lose and a weapons capability."
Copyright (c) 2004 by the American Nuclear Society, Inc.
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