Ten more years for Bugey 4

31 July 2013 Bugey 4 has successfully completed a major periodic safety review, making it the fifth reactor that French nuclear safety regulators have approved for operation to the age of 40. The Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN) has notified operator EDF of additional measures that must be taken to enhance safety levels at the plant to ensure they are brought in line with the latest practices. The regulator noted that these are broadly similar to those it required at Bugey 2, which is of a similar design to unit 4, plus some measures that are specific to unit 4. All the work will be subject to verification by the regulator. Rather than issuing an operating licence for a set period of time, French law requires that the operator of a reactor performs a review of the level of safety at the unit every ten years. This involves a compliance review, which ensures that the plant complies with applicable safety rules, and a security review. The process also makes sure the plant incorporates the latest safety practices and sets new operating conditions. It also verifies that any phenomena associated with plant ageing will be manageable for a minimum of ten years. The ASN says its decision on Bugey 4 takes into account first lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011. The regulator notes that its requirements for Bugey 4 may be amended or supplemented as more feedback from Fukushima emerges over the next decade. The safety inspections at Bugey 4 were carried out between February and June 2011, while the unit was out of service. During that time, the ASN supervised four inspections including hydraulic requalification of the unit’s primary circuit. Bugey 4 is a 880 MWe pressurized water reactor that started operation in 1979. It now joins Bugey 2, Tricastin 1 and Fessenheim 1 and 2 in the list of French reactors to complete their third ten-yearly assessment and regulatory review. ASN approved Bugey 2’s continued operation in June 2012, while Bugey 3 is currently undergoing its third decennial inspection....
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Making space at Sellafield

31 July 2013 New cutting and decontamination methods are being trialled to clear away old equipment more quickly and free space to store higher priority wastes at Sellafield. If demonstrated, the technique could be used to cut up hundreds of old skips that were used to hold used nuclear fuel rods from Magnox reactors in Sellafield’s Fuel Handling Plant. If the skips can be reduced in size then the space they take up can be used for a much higher priority decommissioning project – the clean-up of the 60-year old First Generation Magnox Storage Pond (FGMSP). Head of FGMSP Martin Leafe said that completing the disposal route for the skips is vital to the plan to start retrieving legacy fuel from the pond in 2015. A trial skip was cut up at Sellafield using an underwater plasma arc and the pieces were then taken to Magnox Ltd’s decommissioning centre at Hinkley Point A. There the metal parts are to be stripped of paint and milled to remove sub-surface contamination. Leafe said that collaborating with Magnox Ltd in this way could save “potentially millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.” Ultimately, some 2000 skips are to be disposed of and this will be cheaper if they can be effectively decontaminated and reduced in size. The plasma arc method was selected after experiments with fibre lasers and diamond wire. Cleaning up the FGMSP is one of the highest priorities in UK nuclear decommissioning due to the corrosion suffered by the fuel over time and the resulting highly radioactive sludge. Tackling this has involved a long-running and innovative program of remote underwater surveys and development of new techniques to handle and store the sludge safely. It is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority that manages the assets and facilities from the UK’s former national research and nuclear power program. The work is funded partly by government and partly by income from those NDA facilities that remain in commercial operation – including one Magnox reactor at Wylfa and the Thorp reprocessing plant....
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AP1000 closer to licensing in Canada

30 July 2013 Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design has successfully passed the second phase of a three-stage pre-licensing review by the Canadian nuclear regulator. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) concluded that there are “no fundamental barriers to licensing the AP1000 design in Canada.” The CNSC’s three-stage pre-licensing review is an optional process provided at the request of vendors to verify that a power plant design would be acceptable with respect to Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements and expectations. Although it is not a required part of the licensing process for a new nuclear power plant, the results would be taken into account for any licence application and would be likely to result in increased efficiencies. The CNSC said it had uncovered a number of differences between its approach to design requirements and that of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. However, it said that discussions with Westinghouse “led to defining mutually agreeable paths forward towards their resolution.” As a result of the review, Westinghouse has also committed to design changes of instrumentation and control systems and the separation of safety systems. For the Phase 3 review, a vendor can choose to follow up on specific aspects Phase 2 findings by asking the CNSC to check activities it has taken towards readiness of the reactor design for licensing. “Westinghouse is pleased to receive this Phase-2 report and views it as a significant step in bringing the AP1000 design to Canada,” said Westinghouse president and CEO Danny Roderick. Other design reviews Candu Energy’s ACR1000 and Enhanced Candu 6 (EC6) reactor designs have already completed the third and final stage of their pre-licensing reviews. Meanwhile, the Areva-Mitsubishi joint venture reactor design Atmea1 has passed the first stage of the review. The Phase 1 review of Areva’s EPR was terminated in December 2012. Babcock & Wilcox’s mPower small modular reactor is also undergoing the pre-licensing review process, with the first phase due to be completed late this year. Provincial utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is developing plans for up to four new reactors at its Darlington plant, considering the Westinghouse AP1000 and Enhanced Candu 6 designs. At the end of June, OPG received detailed construction plans, schedules and cost estimates for the two reactor designs. Westinghouse requested in November 2008 that a Phase 1 review of the AP1000 design be carried out. This was completed in January 2010 when the CNSC concluded that, “at an...
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EDF dividend from US consolidation

30 July 2013 Three US nuclear plants co-owned by EDF and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group are to be integrated into Exelon’s nuclear fleet under a newly announced agreement that will see the French company receive a $400 million dividend. CENG is owned 50.1% by Exelon, the USA’s largest operator of commercial nuclear plants, and 49.9% by EDF. It currently operates five reactors across the states of New York and Maryland: a single PWR unit at RE Ginna, two BWRs at Nine Mile Point and two PWRs at Calvert Cliffs. The newly announced agreement will see the operating licenses for the units transferred to Exelon, to be integrated into Exelon’s management model. Exelon will lend $400 million to CENG to support a special dividend to EDF, and EDF will retain an option to sell its stake in CENG to Exelon at a “fair market value” between January 2016 and June 2022. Exelon Nuclear president and chief nuclear officer Michael Pacilio described the move as a “logical step forward” following the 2012 merger of Exelon and Constellation. “This consolidation will benefit both Exelon and our partner EDF and allows us to take advantage of additional synergies and streamlining,” he said. An application to transfer CENG’s operating licenses to Exelon will be submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission “within days” and the integration process is expected to take around nine months to complete. EDF purchased its share of Constellation Energy in 2009, giving it a toehold in US nuclear generation. However, its plans for involvement in US nuclear new-build through the Unistar joint venture were stymied when Constellation pulled out of the consortium in 2010, and the project became 100% owned by EDF. US nuclear regulations implacably prohibit foreign companies from obtaining nuclear operating licenses. According to half-yearly figures announced by EDF, as well as enabling the company to reduce its net financial debt by $400 million the agreement will have a “slightly accretive” effect from 2015 as the anticipated operating improvements and synergies from Exelon’s management of the units are achieved....
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Fuel cycle roundup #12

29 July 2013 Areva fuels Swiss plant Areva has signed a contract to fabricate fuel assemblies for five reloads for the Gösgen nuclear power plant in Switzerland. Delivery of the 180 assemblies to utility KKG is to begin in 2018. The French nuclear company constructed the 985 MWe pressurised water reactor and has fabricated all of its fuel elements since it entered commercial operation in 1979. The plant is currently expected to operate until 2029. Kepco makes uranium commitment Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has irrevocably agreed to vote in favour of the acquisition of Strathmore Minerals by Energy Fuels by signing two agreements in support of the proposal. Kepco is currently the largest shareholder in both companies, owning 8.5% of the common shares of Energy Fuels and 11.7% of Strathmore. On completion of the acquisition, it will hold approximately 9.1% of the common shares of Energy Fuels. A Kepco affiliate is also Energy Fuel’s largest uranium customer based on expected 2013 deliveries. The acquisition, announced in June, will provide opportunities for synergies between the two companies’ uranium operations and interests in the western USA. It is expected to be completed following special meetings of Energy Fuels and Strathmore shareholders in August. Russian enrichment plant gets extension Russian nuclear regulators have approved a renewed operating licence for TVEL’s JSC Electrochemical Plant (ECP) in Zelenogorsk. The plant, one of four uranium enrichment plants operating in Russia, is now licensed until July 2023. The centrifuge enrichment plant is the focus of Rosatom investment, aiming to increase its capacity from 8.7 to 12 million SWU per year by 2020. The site is also home to Russia’s only uranium deconversion plant....
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