Initiative for global liability

30 August 2013 The prospect of a worldwide regime to give compensation in case of a nuclear accident with cross-border impacts may be more feasible with cooperation from France and the USA. The two important nuclear nations committed to encourage other countries to adhere to current treaties, and to bring into force the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) – the treaty specially designed to bring about a global regime. This requires one more country to sign and ratify, and presumably this will be France as the USA has already signed. France and the USA had previously held fundamentally incompatible views, each championing a favoured existing treaty as the basis for an expanded regime. Now the nations will urge other countries to adopt national laws that make sure sufficient funds will be available to compensate all victims, even in countries without nuclear power plants; that compensation is available in the event that an accident is the direct result of a natural disaster; and that compensation for latent injuries is available for 30 years. They said their aim was to “create the worldwide trust necessary for the development of nuclear energy and associated industrial activities.” Conventional wisdom Early users of nuclear power recognised that an accident could have cross-border impacts and various treaties have been drawn up over time to facilitate compensation for people affected by an accident in another country. All existing treaties already channel all liability for an accident to the operator of a nuclear power plant and ensure certain funds are always available. The OECD-sponsored Paris Convention and Brussels Convention are popular in Western Europe and favoured by France, while the IAEA-sponsored Vienna convention is popular in Eastern Europe and elsewhere around the world. Some countries have signed a Joint Protocol to link those two treaties. The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) was designed to become a global regime and is open to countries without nuclear power plants. This has been signed and ratified by a few countries, notably the USA which says it is the only treaty it can support. Countries not party to any treaty include Canada, China, Japan and South Korea, while India has signed the CSC but it is not clear if it is compatible with its new domestic liability laws. The European Commission is currently carrying out a public consultation on potential common rules at EU level on...
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WENRA recommends reactor vessel checks

30 August 2013 Standardized reviews of all European reactor pressure vessels have been recommended by the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA). The call follows the discovery of inclusions at two Belgian units last year, both of which have since restarted. Ultrasound tests conducted in summer of 2012 suggested the possible presence of cracks in the vessels of Belgium’s Doel 3 and Tihange 2 units. Further investigations by owner Electrabel indicated that these were so-called hydrogen “flakes” introduced during the manufacturing process. The plants remained offline until Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control concluded that the inclusions were of no safety significance and approved their restart in May this year. The vessels for Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were produced by Rotterdam Drydock Company (Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij, RDM). As many as 21 reactor pressure vessels made by RDM are located around the world. National nuclear safety authorities immediately ordered inspections of those units, but no similar inclusions were found. WENRA – a non-governmental organisation comprised of senior nuclear safety regulators from across the Europe Union and Switzerland – has now called for all reactor pressure vessels at European plants, regardless of their manufacturer, to be subjected to a standardized review in order to verify materials quality and structural integrity. It noted that regulatory authorities in several countries have already decided to demand safety reviews to check for hydrogen-induced forging defects in reactor vessels from the operators of the plants under their supervision. However, WENRA has recommended that “measures are implemented on the basis of the same criteria.” It has called for a standardized, two-step review procedure. Firstly, operators should conduct a comprehensive review of the vessel manufacturing and inspection records. Secondly, if the national nuclear safety authority considers it necessary based on the results of first stage, examination of the vessels should be undertaken using non-destructive testing (NDT) technology. These NDT examinations – which can be carried out during scheduled outages – should cover a representative volume of vessel forging base material in areas known to be potentially susceptible to hydrogen flaking, WENRA suggested. If these inspections reveal evidence of hydrogen flaking, the inspections should be extended appropriately, it said. WENRA stressed, “It is up to the national nuclear safety authorities to define the necessity, testing scope, volume and non-destructive method, depending on the available information on the vessels.” WENRA chairman Hans Wanner commented, “We consider it important and...
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Russia completes Megatons to Megawatts work

29 August 2013 The final shipment of low-enriched uranium (LEU) from TVEL’s JSC Electrochemical Plant (ECP) marks the completion of Russia’s commitments under the Megatons to Megawatts program. The US-Russian agreement to downblend weapons-grade uranium will expire later this year. In 1993, the US and Russian governments signed an agreement for the purchase over a 20-year period of 500 tonnes of Russian ‘surplus’ high-enriched uranium (HEU) from nuclear disarmament and military stockpiles. These were to be bought by the USA for use as fuel in civil nuclear reactors. Under the deal, the USA transferred to Russia a similar quantity of natural uranium to that used to downblend the HEU. Known as the HEU Agreement, and sometimes referred to as the ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ program, it was implemented through a 1994 contract between the US Enrichment Corporation and Techsnabexport (Tenex), which acted as executive agents for the US and Russian governments. After the HEU Agreement was signed the US Enrichment Corporation was later privatized, becoming USEC Inc. Since 2000 the program has been under the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Since the agreement was signed, 500 tonnes of Russian weapons-grade HEU – equivalent to 20,000 warheads – have now been downblended into 15,259 tonnes of LEU. On 21 August, the final shipment of LEU under this program left the ECP plant by rail on route to St Petersburg. From here it will be shipped to the USA. Since 1996, US experts have visited the ECP plant some 94 times. A US delegation was present at the plant to witness the final shipment of LEU. They will make their last visit to the plant in October to mark the end of the Megatons to Megawatts program, which has provided about 10% of US electricity over the past two decades. Tenex has estimated that by the time the Megatons to Megawatts program expires by the end of 2013, it would have brought in total revenues of some $13 billion to Russia’s federal budget, Interfaxreported. The ECP plant The plant in Zelenogorsk in Russia’s Krasnoyarsk Region was one of four enrichment plants contracted by Tenex to downblend the HEU. It has processed about one-third of the total HEU downblended under a contract signed with Tenex in 1996. ECP has also undertaken the re-enrichment of tails for the downblending, using about half of its capacity....
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Latest Chinese reactor vessel installation

29 August 2013 The reactor pressure vessel has been installed at the first new reactor of the Fangchenggang nuclear power plant in western China. Construction started just over three years ago with the laying of the concrete basemat for the reactor building. Main contractor China Nuclear Power Engineering Corp (CNPEC) reached a new milestone on 27 August by placing the pressure vessel inside which the unit 1’s reactor core will produce heat for power generation. Fangchenggang is located near Hongsha village in the Guangxi Autonomous Region, about 45 kilometres from the border with Vietnam. A total of six reactors are planned to operate there. Units 1 and 2 are CPR-1000s, units 3 and 4 are planned to be the evolutionary ACPR-1000 development, and units 5 and 6 are to be AP1000s. All of these are models of large pressurized water reactor. Units 1 and 2 are slated to begin operation in 2015 and 2016. The plant is 39% owned by Guangxi Investment Group and 61% owned by China General Nuclear (CGN) which also owns CNPEC....
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Brazilian office for SNPTC

29 August 2013 China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corp (SNPTC) has set up its first South American office in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The office was formally inaugurated by Chinese consul general Chen Xiaoling and Shen Weidong, the head of SNPTC’s Brazilian delegation, at a ceremony attended by diplomats and representatives of Chinese businesses, enterprises and financial institutions. At the ceremony, Chen Xiaoling said that she hoped the office would enrich and enhance the level of bilateral cooperation between the two nations. China has developed its own indigenous reactor designs taking as a starting point the reactors built there by overseas suppliers. Two Chinese-designed CNP-300 PWRs are currently under construction at Chashma in Pakistan, and Chen Xiaoling pointed to the “broad prospects for cooperation” in various fields already enjoyed by those two countries. SNPTC was set up in 2004 to take charge of technology selection for new plants being bid from overseas, and has extensive overseas partnerships, notably with Westinghouse. Together the two companies are working on the construction of four Westinghouse-supplied AP1000 reactors at Haiyang 1 and 2 and Sanmen 1 and 2, the first of a fleet of AP1000 reactors planned for China. Technology transfer to general contractor SNPTC has formed a major part of the project, and the company is involved in the development of the CAP1400 reactor with a view to the export market. Brazil’s two nuclear reactors at Angra currently provide around 3% of its electricity, and a third unit is under construction at the site. Looking further ahead, state nuclear company Eletronuclear is considering building two new four-unit plants, although construction is not likely to start before 2020. No design has been chosen yet, although Westinghouse’s AP1000, Areva-Mitusbishi’s Atmea1 and AtomStroyExport’s VVER-1000 are being considered....
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