Ukrainian used fuel store under construction

27 August 2014 A ceremony has been held to mark the start of construction of Ukraine’s central used fuel storage facility, which is being built near resettled villages in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) will be a dry storage facility in which the used fuel will be stored in double-walled stainless steel canisters. These are themselves loaded within protective concrete modular systems designed to provide physical protection, radiation shielding and passive heat removal. It is scheduled to be completed in 2017. The facility will initially serve nine of the country’s 15 reactors – seven VVER-1000s and two VVER-440s located at Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky. The Zaporozhe nuclear power plant operates its own on-site used fuel storage facility that was commissioned in 2001. According to a feasibility study developed by Energoproekt, a research and design institute based in Kiev, the design capacity of the central storage facility will allow storage of 16,530 used fuel assemblies, including 12,010 VVER-1000 assemblies and 4520 VVER-440 assemblies. This would fully meet the used fuel storage requirements of the Rivne, South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky units through to the end of their operating lives. Almost half of Ukraine’s used fuel is currently transported to Russia for storage and reprocessing. Energoatom said that, compared with the costs of sending the fuel to Russia, the new facility would pay for itself within four years of operation. The CSFSF is located between the resettled villages of Stara Krasnytsya, Buryakivka, Chystohalivka and Stechanka, southeast of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, within the Exclusion Zone. According to Energoatom, “The construction and subsequent operation of the storage facility will facilitate the ecological rehabilitation of the Exclusion Zone and renewal of economic activities on some land within this zone.” Energoatom, the country’s nuclear power plant operator, selected Holtec in 2005 for the turnkey supply of the facility. But delays to approval of a national law on management of used nuclear fuel – that was finally adopted in 2012 – and to allocation of a site for the new facility meant the contract was not implemented. A revised contract was signed in June....
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Cooperation deal to develop advanced reactor

27 August 2014 South Korean designers have secured help from Argonne National Laboratory to develop an advanced reactor, which is partly based on America’s successful EBR-II prototype. A 150 MWe sodium-cooled demonstration unit is slated for 2028. A memorandum of understanding was signed on 25 August by Argonne director Peter Littlewood and Jong Kyung Kim, head of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). It covered “a broad field of technical cooperation on nuclear science and technology”, said Argonne, with the centrepiece being a $6.78 million deal for Argonne to take part in development of the Prototype Generation-IV Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (PGSFR). Argonne will support KAERI in developing the PGSFR reactor system, while Kepco E&C will work on the balance of plant. The goal is to secure licensing approval from South Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission by the end of 2020 as a major milestone in a schedule that would see the unit operate from 2028. No site has been specified yet. The prototype would produce 150 MWe for the grid, but its main purpose is to demonstrate its fuel: PGSFR is to use metal fuel pins composed of low-enriched uranium and zirconium, and it can be subsequently reloaded with fuel that also contains transuranic elements produced in other reactors during power generation and which are usually treated as waste. According to an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) datasheet, the objective of the PGSFR project is to test the performance of this fuel, and show PGSFR’s ability to transmute the transuranics. Transmutation means changing an element with a long radioactive half-life into one with a shorter half-life. By doing this, reactors like PGSFR have potential to reduce the burden of managing nuclear fuel used by other reactors and simplify waste disposal – all while generating electricity. Argonne said, “the metal fuel technology base was developed at Argonne in the 1980s and 1990s; its inherent safety potential was demonstrated in the landmark tests conducted on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) in April 1986. They demonstrated the safe shutdown and cooling of the reactor without operator action following a simulated loss-of-cooling accident.” Both the Three Mile Island and Fukushima accidents saw reactor core damage after loss of cooling. The IAEA said PGSFR has a passive reactor shutdown system in addition to “a combination of passive and active decay heat removal systems” which give it “sufficient capacity to remove decay heat in...
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NRC approves final rule on used fuel storage

27 August 2014 The issuance of licences for new US nuclear power reactors and the extension of operating licences for existing ones will soon resume following the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) approval of a final rule on the continued storage of used fuel. The rule updates the NRC’s 2010 “waste confidence” decision which doubled the period allowed for onsite storage of used fuel to 60 years but was then overturned by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in June 2012 because it said the agency had failed to consider what would happen if a repository is never built, or the environmental impact of potential fires and used fuel pool leaks at nuclear power plants. The NRC responded to the court ruling by suspending final licensing decisions on new reactors, reactor licence extensions and used fuel storage facility licence renewals. The commission directed NRC staff to develop a new rule and a supporting generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) within two years. Following the publication last month of its draft final rule and GEIS on the continued storage of used fuel, the NRC has now approved the final rule and GEIS. The rule adopts the findings of the GEIS regarding the environmental impacts of storing used fuel at any reactor site after the reactor’s licensed period of operations. The NRC said, “As a result, those generic impacts do not need to be re-analysed in the environmental reviews for individual licences.” The NRC stressed, “The rule does not authorize, license or otherwise permit nuclear power plant licensees to store used fuel for any length of time.” It added, “When warranted by significant events that may call into question the appropriateness of the rule, the commission will review the GEIS and the rule to determine if revisions are necessary.” The Washington DC-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) welcomed the NRC’s final rule. It said, “The affirmation supports the nuclear energy industry’s position that used nuclear fuel from commercial reactors can be safely managed in specially designed fuel pools in the short term and in steel and concrete storage containers for longer timeframes.” Licensing activities Separately, the NRC also issued an order lifting the suspension of final licensing decisions. The order authorizes the NRC staff to issue final licensing decisions “as appropriate” once the final rule becomes effective, which will be 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, expected next month....
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What was deadly at Fukushima?

26 August 2014 What turned Fukushima from a medium-ranking industrial accident, of the kind the happens perhaps eight or ten times a year, into a disaster, with a reported death toll among the evacuees of over 1000? It wasn’t the radiation, writes Malcolm Grimston.  In common with Three Mile Island, Fukushima doesn’t seem to have caused any deaths from radiation; even at Chernobyl the demonstrable death toll which resulted from radiation exposure was small compared to events like Bhopal or the Banqiao dam failure. What created the human misery at Fukushima was the response – not the immediate precautionary evacuation but what followed and ironically what preceded. The only other area currently excluded because of human activity is Chernobyl. It follows, to the rational non-expert, that the levels of radiation throughout these exclusion zones must represent a higher risk than any other man-made threat on the planet. The public relationship with radiation is a complex one. There is a no generalised fear of ionising radiation – it doesn’t show up for example in high radon areas. The many examples of fatalities following leakages of radioactive materials from medical facilities do not seem to have been accompanied by much radiophobia, nor was the murder of Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2008. Clearly there is something in the way radiation from civil nuclear activities is being communicated which has created a set of fears which are not there in other contexts. At a meeting of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) earlier this year one speaker bemoaned how the Japanese public did not realise that man-made radiation was the same as the natural radiation all around us. A huge effort was needed to correct this misimpression, so making nuclear power more acceptable. Well, what does the well-informed Japanese member of the public know (or at least what unarguable facts are in the public domain)? First and foremost, around 100,000 people were evacuated from a 20 km radius zone around Fukushima Daiichi and have not (except for a few hundred very recently) been allowed back into their homes for over three years, causing untold misery. In much of the zone doses from radiation (from all sources) are below 5 mSv per year, with fallout dose below 1 mSv per year. Secondly, there are areas like Ramsar in Iran (average 130 mSv per year) and Guarapari in Brazil (peak levels on the beach equivalent to 350 mSv per year) which are...
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Polish public supports nuclear plan

26 August 2014 Public support for the construction of Poland’s first nuclear power plant has soared to 64%, but an independent Polish think-tank warns that public debate must be refocused away from current concerns about international political crises if that support is to be long lived. The Polish Institute of International Affairs’ (PISM’s) findings are based on quantitative research it carried out earlier this year, based on data gathered through face-to-face interviews with a random, representative sample of 1000 Polish citizens. Of the 64% supporting Polish plans for a nuclear power plant, 57% cited its potential for providing increased energy independence for the country as a reason for their support. Economic benefits were less frequently cited: 42% of pro-build respondents cited employment opportunities, while 26% and 24% respectively cited technological progress or the involvement of Polish companies in the project. The level of support registered by PISM’s study is significantly higher than that seen in previous polls conducted by Poland’s independent Public Opinion Research Centre (CBOS). The maximum level of support previously recorded was 50% in 2009, according to a CBOS report published in 2013, and a study carried out by the organisation in March of that year found just over half of the Polish population – 52% – was opposed to the construction of nuclear power plants in the country. According to PISM, the current political crisis in Ukraine is the most likely reason behind the apparent Polish surge in nuclear popularity, with fears over the potential threats to Polish security turning around an ongoing decline in public support since the Fukushima accident of 2011. Although Polish insecurities over Russia’s actions in the Crimean peninsula peaked in March 2014, “even now more than half the Polish population still believes that the persisting crisis in Ukraine poses a threat to Poland’s security,” PISM states. The PISM report describes the increasing recognition of the importance of energy independence as “understandable” given the country’s “over-reliance on Russian energy resources, i.e., oil and gas.” Relatively low support for the development of shale gas extraction and the development of coal-based technologies as potential options to ensure energy security “may signify that Poles are persuaded that regardless of Warsaw’s diversification efforts, continued reliance on fossil fuels will inevitably perpetuate energy dependence on Moscow,” it notes. Some 63% of those in favour of the nuclear option said they would support investment in nuclear capacity for...
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