Regulatory approval for Fessenheim 2 upgrades

30 April 2013 French nuclear regulators have prescribed a program of works to be carried out at Fessenheim 2 to allow France’s second-oldest nuclear unit to continue to operate beyond its third ten-yearly inspection. Power reactors in France are required to undergo exhaustive safety reviews every ten years in order to be allowed to continue to operate. The latest ten-yearly review of Fessenheim 2 was conducted between April 2011 and March 2012. The Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), France’s national nuclear regulator, is requiring operator EDF to carry out a range of works at the plant including strengthening of the reactor’s concrete basemat to increase its resistance to corium, and the installation of extra emergency cooling. Corium is a mixture of molten cladding, fuel, and structural steel formed in the event of a serious accident involving the melting of fuel in the reactor, which could potentially break through the steel reactor pressure vessel. Similar work has already been completed at Fessenheim 1, which is of a similar design to unit 2, to the satisfaction of ASN. However, the regulator says it has also called for some further measures specific to unit 2 reflecting the slight differences between the two sister units. The regulator’s decision takes into account lessons learned from the Fukushima accident of 2011 and the findings of safety assessments performed at French reactors following on from the accident. EDF has been given until the end of 2013 to complete the work. In a statement, the company said that some of the work will take place during a scheduled reactor outage in July. Regulatory approval may not be sufficient to ensure the continued operation of the Fessenheim units, which started up in 1977 and 1978 and are France’s oldest operating reactors. French president Francois Hollande announced in 2012 that the plant would close by the end of 2016, in fulfilment of promises made during his election campaign, although the closure is not yet enshrined in law. A national period of debate over a potential ‘energy transition’ is ongoing, with a new energy bill due to be published in June....
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Fuel cycle roundup #7

30 April 2013 Pinon Ridge licence re-issued The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has re-issued the final radioactive materials licence for Energy Fuels’ proposed Pinon Ridge uranium mill. Pinon Ridge would be the first new conventional uranium mill to be built in the USA in over three decades. The licence imposes a number of conditions on Energy Fuels, including an enhanced groundwater monitoring plan, subject to annual review. Energy Fuels submitted a licence application in November 2009 for its planned 500 tonnes per day uranium/vanadium mill at Pinion Ridge. The CDPHE approved the radioactive materials licence for the mill in January 2011, and issued the licence two months later, but its ruling was challenged by an environmental campaign group and two local towns. A Denver District Court Judge upheld the previously issued licence decision, but the licence was set aside pending the completion of an administrative hearing. Approval for Lost Creek dryers The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved an amendment to the licence of Ur-Energy’s Lost Creek in-situ leach (ISL) uranium project in Wyoming, allowing the company to install and operate two yellowcake dryers there. The original licence, issued in 2011, allowed for the shipment of yellowcake slurry from Lost Creek to a third party for drying. However, Ur-Energy subsequently decided that on-site drying would improve the project’s long-term economics. The licence amendment also allows the company to package up to 2 million pounds of yellowcake per year at Lost Creek. Production is set to begin at the mine in mid-2013. Gas Hills resource estimate Strathmore Minerals has updated its NI 43-101 compliant resource estimates for its Gas Hills uranium project in Wyoming. The total indicated resource estimate is 5.4 million pounds U3O8 (2077 tU) at an average ore grade of 0.13%, with inferred resources of 5.5 million pounds U3O8 (2115 tU) at an average ore grade of 0.07%. Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) took a 14% share in Strathmore through a strategic agreement concluded last year. The first phase of that agreement set a budget of $8 million for the exploration, development, permitting and upgrading of historical mineralised estimates at Gas Hills to NI 43-101 compliant resources. Kepco has an option to later increase its stake in the project to 40%. Denison completes on Fission Denison Mines has completed its acquisition of Canada-based uranium exploration company Fission Energy. Included in the transaction is Fission’s 60% share in the Waterbury...
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New steam generators arrive at Prairie Island

29 April 2013 Areva has delivered two replacement steam generators for use in Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island nuclear power plant in Minnesota. The two components – each measuring 21 metres tall and weighing some 330 tonnes – were manufactured at Areva’s Chalon/Saint Marcel facility in eastern France. They were transported by barge to the Mediterranean Sea, then shipped across the Atlantic Ocean and up the Mississippi River. After a journey lasting ten weeks, the new steam generators arrived at the Prairie Island site on 11 April. They will be installed later this year during a scheduled refuelling outage. Prairie Island consists of two pressurized water reactors. These were partly uprated in 2010 as a part of a program that was supposed to add a combined 164 MWe to the plant. Currently unit 1 is rated at 560 MWe while unit 2 is 554 MWe. In March 2012, Xcel made the recommendation to proceed with a 135 MWe uprate at a cost of some $310 million. However, in October, Xcel declared the proposed uprate unnecessary as the use of a new fuel would allow longer operating cycles, eliminating the need for two refuelling outages at each unit over their remaining lifetime. Units 1 and 2 began life in 1973 and 1974 respectively with 40-year licences due to expire in 2013 and 2014. In June 2011, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted 20-year extensions for both reactors, allowing them to operate until 2033 and 2034, respectively....
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Ontario's energy transition

29 April 2013 Ontario is home to a large portion of Canadian industry, the cities of Ottawa and Toronto and some 40% of the country’s population of 33.4 million. Data from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment shows a dramatic reduction in the air pollution that in 2005 was affecting these people for at least ten days during the year. The worst-affected places in 2005 had been 14 of 37 Ontario locations which with more than 40 smog-warning days. Every location had at least ten smog days. In 2011, by contrast, the worst-affected place had only eight smog-warning days, while 18 of the 37 locations had no smog warnings at all. Overall, days on which the people were warned about unhealthy levels of smog at one location or another have dropped from 53 in 2005 to just nine in 2011. While Ontario has encouraged and facilitated investment in renewables and gas as well as efficiency in power generation and industry, two power sources have played leading roles in the province’s transition: coal, because it has been gradually reduced and is set for phase-out; and nuclear, because it has increased to replace that supply. Ontario has progressed steadily since a policy was announced in 2003 and is set to close its last operating coal-fired power plant next year. The 1140 MWe Lakeview coal plant was closed in 2005, leaving in operation Lambton with 1976 MWe, Nanticoke with 3964 MWe and small units amounting to 517 MWe. Those small units are being converted to burn gas and biofuels while Nanticoke and Lambton are being progressively closed, leaving the final two coal units in operation at Nanticoke. All the above are owned by Ontario Power Generation, a provincially managed utility which was instructed to improve nuclear capacity to replace that supply. Since 2003 it brought back to service two Candu units at Pickering and will also refurbish four reactors at Darlington for 25-30 years more life. The company also continues to move forward with a plan for two new large reactors at Darlington, for which environmental approval and a site perparation permit were granted last year. In the same timeframe another Ontario utility, Bruce Power, has brought online four units from a mothballed status at the Bruce A nuclear power plant. Units 3 and 4 came back into operation in 2003 and 2004 and units 1 and 2 followed in 2012. Overall...
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France and China strengthen nuclear bond

26 April 2013 A state visit has seen Areva, EDF and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) sign a three-way agreement for further cooperation. The statement of cooperation cements relationships between two of the world’s biggest generators of nuclear power and the provider of the technology on which their power plants are based. With 73 units in France, EDF remains the world’s largest nuclear utility, whereas CGNPC has seven reactors in operation now, 17 under construction and more planned for the future. Most of these are pressurized water reactors with Areva origins. The three companies are also working together to build and bring online CGNPC’s new EPR units at Taishan. On that project they “reaffirmed their willingness to successfully complete the construction… and to carry out a successful start of their commercial operation. This will also set the stage for an effective development of future reactors.” More generally EDF and Areva will contribute to “the improvement of safety, maintenance and performance at CGNPC’s reactors in operation, and to the evolution of its fleet.” The statement continues a relationship begun with the development of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant, majority owned by CGNPC with equity held by China Light and Power of Hong Kong. The reactors there are essentially the same as the three-loop models deployed across France. Built by Framatome, which is now part of Areva, international cooperation saw EDF assist with construction and operation in the early 1990s. Luc Oursel, Henri Proglio and He Yu signed the cooperation deal on behalf of Areva, EDF and CGNPC repectively. This took palce in Beijing yesterday during President Francois Hollande’s state visit to China....
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