CNNC forges Saudi bonds

29 November 2013 China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has become the latest in a list of overseas companies turning their attention towards Saudi Arabia’s nuclear power program. During a visit to King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST), CNNC general manager Qian Zhimin met with senior figures from the establishment which is home to both Saudi Arabia’s national science agency and its national laboratories. As well as discussing cooperation in the field of nuclear science and technology, Qian Zhimin also signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation with the Saudi Technology Development and Investment Company (TAQNIA). Although Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program is in its infancy the kingdom has plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years. A 2010 royal decree identified nuclear power as essential to help meet growing energy demand for both electricity generation and water desalination while reducing reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources. Saudi Arabia already has bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with countries including China, Argentina, France and South Korea. Recent months have seen reactor vendors including Toshiba, Westinghouse, Exelon Nuclear Partners (ENP) and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy forge various agreements to work together on proposals for Saudi nuclear plants....
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Europe plans for emergency communication

29 November 2013 A project backed by 43 organisations is preparing Europe to react and communicate effectively in case of a nuclear emergency, drawing on the lessons of the Fukushima accident. The project, known as PREPARE, brings together national nuclear emergency centres, universities and safety authorities from 20 European countries, including Germany, Italy, Belgium, Norway and Ukraine and has €4 million ($5.4 million) in funding from the EU Framework Program for Research (FP7). Project work – expected to be finalised in early 2016 – will focus on what to do in case of long-lasting radiation releases, as seen during the Fukushima accident. Researchers will develop a system to collect and exchange information quickly and reliably during a rapidly-evolving emergency situation, and develop procedures and policies for dealing with potentially contaminated goods. Employees of nuclear emergency centres, safety authorities, agriculture ministries will be trained to use the tools and methods resulting from PREPARE. “Before Fukushima, emergency plans were designed in general for releases of a few days, but at Fukushima we saw releases for up to one month and then also smaller releases,” said Johan Camps, head of the Crisis Management and Decision unit at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre told World Nuclear News. One PREPARE tool will be used to evaluate an accident in its entirety, according to the project coordinator Wolfgang Raskob, of the Karlsruhe Institute for Technology in Germany. “We are planning to set up a database with historic events and calculation scenarios and then compare the incoming information with the information in the database.” Actions on food and other consumer goods coming from an area affected by a nuclear emergency have previously been inconsistent across Europe. Taking the example of Fukushima, Raskob noted that each European country had different rules and limits. One of the aims of the project is to recommend a procedure to set contamination limits to be used at European level when dealing with goods coming from the affected area, he explained. Improvements to the monitoring of terrestrial and aquatic systems following a nuclear accident are also envisaged, as are better plans for informing the public during an emergency. Media angle “We took Fukushima as a case study and looked at how it was communicated among the experts, but also from the experts to the public and to how the media reported it,”  Tanja Perko, researcher at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre, told WNN. Perko...
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Fuel cycle safety rules for Japan

28 November 2013 Safety rules for Japan’s nuclear fuel facilities have been finalised, ready for parliamentary approval next month.  The new standards will be applied to the country’s fuel fabrication plants – including the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel facility currently under construction at Rokkasho – and its reprocessing facilities. Used fuel and radioactive waste storage and disposal facilities will also be subject to the revised rules, as will research reactors (including the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor) and nuclear fuel research centres. The requirements vary from facility to facility, but generally include reinforcement measures against natural threats such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and in some cases tornadoes, volcanoes and forest fires. At fuel fabrication plants, proper confinement of radioactive material is required, as are severe accident countermeasures for potential criticality accidents. Reprocessing plants need to demonstrate these as well as countermeasures specifically for terrorist attacks, hydrogen explosions, fires resulting from solvent leaks and vaporization of liquid waste. The rules are expected to be in force by 18 December, after approval by representatives in the Diet....
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Laser enrichment chosen for Paducah

28 November 2013 Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) will enter talks with the US Department of Energy after its proposal to build and operate a laser enrichment facility at shut down Paducah plant was selected. Off-specification inventory will be processed by Areva. Earlier this year, the DoE invited interested parties to register their interest in the Paducah site in Kentucky, home to the world’s last operating gaseous diffusion uranium enrichment plant which closed down after 60 years of operation. After evaluating the submissions it received, DoE has decided that GLE’s offer represented the greatest benefit to the government and has now announced that it will open negotiations with GLE on the sale of the uranium hexafluoride inventory. Uranium enrichment involves increasing the proportion of the fissile uranium-235 isotope relative to non-fissile uranium-238 for use in nuclear fuels. Laser enrichment uses a laser to preferentially excite the uranium-235 in gaseous uranium hexafluoride, making it easier to collect. The process is potentially more efficient than the gaseous centrifuge enrichment technology in commercial use today, which itself superseded energy-intensive gaseous diffusion enrichment plants. The SILEX technology to be used in the proposed Paducah plant is licensed to GE-Hitachi-Cameco joint venture GLE by its developer, Silex Systems, whose CEO Michael Goldsworthy described the development as a “key turning point” for the commercialisation of the technology. GLE already has a licence to construct and operate a commercial uranium enrichment plant using the technology at Wilmington in North Carolina. The Paducah facility would upgrade depleted uranium ‘tails’ left over from previous enrichment operations. These contain a lower proportion of uranium-235 than in naturally occurring uranium but can potentially be re-enriched for use in nuclear fuel. GLE’s proposal to manage the inventory involves licensing, building and operating a new laser enrichment facility at Paducah, potentially using existing plant facilities, infrastructure and utilities which it would lease from DoE. The US inventory of depleted uranium tails is estimated to be around 115,000 tonnes. According to Silex Systems, the Paducah processing plant could provide uranium equivalent to “one of the world’s largest uranium mines operating for up to 40 years.” Commercial contract negotiations between DoE and GLE are expected to be completed in early 2014, after which GLE would need to apply for the necessary construction and operation licences for the facility from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In the same announcement, the DoE said it would be entering negotiations...
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Tepco sends in the Raccoon

27 November 2013 A robot vacuum cleaner dubbed the Raccoon is to tackle contamination within Fukusima Daiichi 2 in preparation for workers re-entering the building. From 28 November Tepco will begin a trial of the powerful remote-controlled washer unit. This will move around the floor of the reactor building’s first level, scrubbing and jet washing the concrete surface in an attempt to bring down radiation levels. If successful, this method could be used throughout the building. Unit 2 is the only one of the four stricken reactors at the site that did not experience a hydrogen explosion and so remains basically airtight without the need for a secondary cover. Most of the radioactive material given off by the damaged core was retained within the building and is now distributed around its internal surfaces, putting it off-limits for workers. Controlled via heavy cables, the Raccoon is powered by two mobile relay units and supported by systems supplying suction and water. It features a 35 kilogram jet head with rotating washers and cameras to aid steering. It moves at up to 10 metres per minute and uses 13 litres of water per minute at a pressure of 15 MPa. A separate robot oversees the cleaner’s progress. The Raccoon system is being deployed on the building’s first floor as this is the location of the access hatch to the reactor containment vessel that Tepco needs to inspect. This will require another remote-controlled operation, but access by workers is needed to open the hatch and set up equipment. The northern part of the floor will be cleaned first while the southern part will be tackled from around March next year. Work towards clearing the level started several weeks ago with robots clearing away the various items of plant equipment on the floor that would present an obstacle to the Raccoon....
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