Utilities reject calls to abandon nuclear

29 June 2012 Japan’s nine nuclear power utilities have rejected calls from some of their shareholders to reduce or even eliminate the use of nuclear energy. Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco’s) shareholders approved a ¥1 trillion ($12.5 billion) injection of state funds which effectively nationalizes the company. The nine utilities each held general shareholders’ meetings on 27 June in the respective regions. They all faced numerous questions from their shareholders about their position on phasing out the use of nuclear power plants as well as concerns about the resumption of operations of their reactors. Some shareholders also called for plans for new reactors to be dropped. However, all shareholder proposals were voted down at each of the meetings, the Asahi Shimbun. Some 4500 shareholders attended Tepco’s meeting in a gymnasium in Tokyo, which lasted about five-and-a-half hours. During the meeting, shareholders voted against a proposal for the company to permanently shut down its seven-unit Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant in Niigata prefecture, replacing them with advanced gas-turbine generators. However, the company is relying on the restart of those reactors to help improve its profitability. Following government approval of an amendment to Tepco’s ten-year special business plan in May, the company’s shareholders approved a transaction under which the government will provide Tepco with ¥1 trillion ($12.5 billion) in state funds in return for a majority stake in the company. Having more than half of Tepco’s voting rights will enable the government to push through reforms at the company. The transaction brings the total amount of public funds provided to Tepco to some ¥3.5 trillion ($43.8 billion). The move could avoid the collapse of the utility, which is struggling to meet massive compensation and clean-up costs following the Fukushima accident last year. Tokyo vice governor Naoki Inose told the company’s meeting, “Public confidence in Tepco has been damaged,” Reuters reported. He added, “What is needed from now is an awareness on the part of Tepco that it must completely reform itself through transparency.” Tokyo’s city government holds a 2.7% stake in Tepco. Following the meeting, Tepco’s board formalised the appointment of a new government-approved chairman and president. Naomi Hirose, currently a managing director of the company and deputy general manager of its Fukushima response division has been appointed as the company’s new president, replacing Toshio Nishizawa. Kazuhiko Shimokoube, former head of the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund’s steering committee, takes over from Tsunehisa...
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Orders given for 'hard core' France

29 June 2012 French authorities have laid out the improvements they want to see from the country’s nuclear operators to ensure safety in case of extreme natural disasters like those that led to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The extensive measures described by the Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de sûreté nucléaire, ASN) today affect the operations of three organisations: EDF, which operates 58 large reactors at 19 nuclear power plants; Areva, which has fuel cycle facilities; and the CEA, which operates fuel and research facilities. Head of the ASN, André-Claude Lacoste, said that the Fukushima accident showed that “despite the precautions taken, accidents can never be excluded.” As well as thoroughly analysing external risks to nuclear facilities during planning and licensing, the operators of nuclear facilities must be prepared to mitigate events beyond anything ever considered likely. Some 32 decisions were made on this basis by ASN today, translating into 30 new regulatory requirements across the entirety of French nuclear infrastructure. In general, what the ASN wants in nuclear facilities is a ‘hard core’ of systems at each facility that are incredibly robust and will provide essential safety services during even the most extreme circumstances. This should push the safety of all facilities well beyond their original design bases, and combined with enhanced management during evolving crises, help to ensure even severe accidents have limited consequences. EDF’s hard core needs to include bunkered power supply systems, and these have to be in place everywhere by 2018. In the short term, the company has to install more robust emergency diesel generators by the end of next year. The company is also to put in place a ‘rapid reaction force’ of experts and engineers that can be deployed on short notice to any of its power plants around the country. They should be capable of ‘intervening’ during an emergency that involves several reactors at one site. The force should be in place by the end of this year and fully operational by late 2014. The company must also bring in enhanced training of its key staff to respond to major earthquakes and severe accidents. For Areva, one new requirement is to establish a ‘robust’ (i.e. earthquake and flood resistant) means of refilling the large used fuel pond at the La Hague fuel cycle centre. A plan for this has to be submitted to the ASN before the end of this year. At other fuel...
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Energy Fuels to take over Denison assets

29 June 2012 Energy Fuels to take over Denison assets Shareholders of Toronto-based uranium development company Energy Fuels have voted in favour (99.21%) of the acquisition of the US mining division of Denison Mining Corp, while Denison shareholders have also voted in support of the buyout (99.07%). With approval granted by the Superior Court of Justice on 27 June, Energy Fuels is to take over the Denison subsidiaries holding the assets today, as long as all contractual conditions are satisfied. The deal – announced in April – will see Denison shareholders ultimately own about 65.6% of Energy Fuels on completion of the transaction and subsequent reorganisation. It will bring together Denison’s mining and milling assets, which includes the White Mesa uranium and vanadium mill in Utah, with Energy Fuel’s uranium and vanadium properties in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming and New Mexico. According to the companies, this will create “the largest 100% US pure-play uranium producer” with current measured and indicated uranium resources of 49.8 million pounds U3O8 (19,155 tU) and inferred resources of 17.9 million pounds U3O8 (6885 tU). Kazakh sulphuric acid facility completed Construction of a 500,000 tonne per year sulphuric acid plant in the Zhanakorgan Kyzylorda region of Kazakhstan was completed on 25 June. The plant – a joint venture between Kazatomprom subsidiary Mining Company LLP (owning 49% of the project), SAP-Japan Corporation (32%) and Canada-based Uranium One (19%) – will transport most of the acid it produces to the Khorassan 1 and Khorassan 2 in-situ leach uranium mines when it begins operation later in the year. Combined, these mines have a total nameplate capacity of 5000 tU per year. Kazatomprom is the largest user of sulphuric acid in the country and used some 2 million tonnes in 2011 for its acid leach operations. It said that the new facility should help cut its dependency on imports of the chemical. Government support for Mecsek Hills The Hungarian government will allow state-owned companies Mecsek-Öko and Mecsekérc, and Hungarian Electricity Ltd (owner of the Paks nuclear power plant) to enter into a joint venture with Australia based Wildhorse Energy in order to help develop the Mecsek Hills uranium project. This clears the way for the further development of the deposit, which hosts an inferred resource of 77 million pounds (35,000 tU) at a grade of 0.072%. Fuente:...
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UAE rebar maker meets nuclear grade

28 June 2012 Emirates Steel Industries – the only integrated steel plant in the UAE – is now certified to produce concrete reinforcing bar (rebar) for use in nuclear facilities having met the necessary quality standards. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) has awarded a Quality System Certificate (QSC) to Emirates Steel for the production of rebar. This certification shows that Emirate Steel’s rebar products meet the established technological requirements of ASME’s nuclear standards in production, safety, testing, inspections and control of measurement devices. Emirates Steel is the fourth rebar manufacturer worldwide to attain this certification and the first within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. Emirates Steel chairman Suhail Al Ameri said, “The ASME certificate and the implementation of our Nuclear Quality System (NQS) program will enable us to produce and supply our products to companies involved in nuclear activities.” He added, “We expect that the nuclear market is going to be a growing market for the use of rebar. With this issuance of a QSC to our company, we are now well positioned to service that growing market.” Emirates Steel said that it plans to “expand its business by supplying high-quality, reliable materials demanded by nuclear plant builders, and seeks to contribute to nuclear power safety by bringing its technological and quality levels in general up complying with ASME standards.” Emirates Steel was established in 2001 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the General Holding Corporation. The company currently has a finished product capacity of 3 million tonnes per year. Preparatory groundwork for the UAE’s first nuclear power plant at Braka is already underway, with the pouring of the concrete basemat for the first unit scheduled in December. In a $20 billion deal announced in December 2009, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) selected a Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Company (Kepco) to build four APR-1400 reactors, the first of which is scheduled to come online in 2017. Further reactors could be ordered as electricity demand grows from some 16 GWe currently to an expected 40 GWe by 2020. Other Middle Eastern countries – including Saudi Arabia and Jordan – also have plans to introduce nuclear power into their energy mixes. Fuente:...
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Bouygues joins Astrid project

28 June 2012 Bouygues Construction is to collaborate with France’s CEA on the design and construction of the Astrid reactor prototype. Ten organisations are now involved in the project. The name Astrid is derived from its description as an Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration and it represents a technology platform that France would like to have available for use in around 2040. Leading the project, the CEA is developing the detailed design of the reactor to a point that French leaders could make a decision in 2017 on building a prototype which could operate in 2020 and produce 600 MWe. Some €650 million ($807 million) was allocated to the project in 2010. Bouygues’ involvement would be to collaborate with CEA on studies of civil engineering for the prototype, help evaluate different design options for the nuclear portion of the plant, and conduct further research on structural concrete. Astrid’s technology promises a number of advances on current mainstream light-water reactors. It could form part of a ‘closed’ nuclear fuel cycle, generating power while also burning actinides and transmuting the long-lived and highly radioactive actinides found in used nuclear fuel into shorter-lived species that are easier to dispose of. It should be able to operate with the same levels of safety and reliability as current models while security would be improved by the destruction of fuel materials that could theoretically be used in weapons. Team Astrid About 500 people are working towards Astrid, with around half of these coming from industry: Alstom: Energy conversion system Amec: Cooperation Areva: Steam supply, auxiliaries, instrumentation and control Bouygues: Civil engineering CEA: Project control, overall architecture, core and fuel design Coméx Nucleaire: Robotics and handling EDF: Project management, sharing operating experience Jacobs France: Common resources and infrastructure Rolls-Royce: Cooperation Toshiba: Large electromagnetic pumps Fuente:...
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