Nuclear News Round Up (17th – 24th April 14)

Eight renewable energy projects approved

Eight renewable energy projects approved

Thanet Offshore Wind Farm
Half the approved projects are for offshore wind farms

The contracts, which include offshore wind farms and conversions of coal-powered plants to run on biomass, are the first awarded under the government’s energy market reforms.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said the projects would help power up to three million homes.

He also expects them to attract £12bn in private investment.

The eight projects will all receive one of the government’s Contracts for Difference (CfDs), which effectively guarantee prices for renewable energy suppliers.

These could cost up to £1bn each year in subsidies, but the government says they would encourage firms to invest much more than that in low-carbon electricity generation.

The approved schemes include offshore wind farms in Liverpool bay, and off the Moray, Norfolk and Yorkshire coasts.

However, electricity producer Drax said it had started legal proceedings against the government over a decision not to support the conversion of one of its coal-burning units to biomass under the scheme.

Although the conversion of one of its units at Selby to biomass has got the go-ahead, the government said the proposed project for converting Drax’s Unit 3 at the plant did not meet all its assessment criteria for the CfD scheme.

In late morning trade in London on Wednesday shares in Drax were down by 13%.

‘Secure, clean energy’

The projects approved are:

  • Beatrice offshore wind, Outer Moray Firth
  • Burbo Bank offshore wind, Liverpool Bay
  • Drax 2nd biomass conversion unit, Selby
  • Dudgeon offshore wind, north of Cromer
  • Hornsea offshore wind, off the East Yorkshire coast
  • Lynemouth biomass conversion, Ashington, Northumberland
  • Teesside biomass with combined heat and power, Middlesbrough
  • Walney extension offshore wind, off Walney island

Mr Davey said there were more potential renewable energy projects than the government was able to back, and if one of the eight initial projects did not go ahead, then another similar project would be supported.

There were 57 original applications for backing.

“We are confident that the eight will go ahead, but if a company decides not to go ahead…. there will be another one queuing up behind,” Mr Davey told the BBC’s Today programme.

“These investments are critical to make sure we have got secure, clean energy,” he said, pointing to energy supply issues arising from the Ukraine crisis.

Mr Davey also said the projects would add nearly 5% to the UK clean energy supply.

“These are the first wave of our reforms, designed to stimulate investment in low carbon energy, but in a more affordable way than previously,” he said.

However, he added that the measures would add 2% to household energy bills by 2020, when it is hoped some 30% of electricity will come through renewable means.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) said it expected the investment contracts for the successful projects would obtain parliamentary approval in May 2014, when they would then take legal effect.

‘Access rights’

Mr Davey also discussed fracking, and whether companies would be allowed to drill under private land without the permission of owners.

It comes a day after Whitehall sources confirmed to the BBC that ministers wanted to give energy companies the right to run shale gas pipelines under private land.

Mr Davey told the BBC that the government was “looking at the access rights”.

“The question is how those land owners are compensated and how those projects can go ahead,” he added.

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth said the projects would attract billions of pounds of investment and provide thousands of new jobs.

“It’s good that the government recognises renewable energy to be our best, and most available, solution,” said spokesman Alasdair Cameron.

However, he called on the government to abandon its “reckless pursuit” of fracking, which, he said, was “dirty, unpopular and will not deliver for years”.

Source: BBC News

UK centre to shoot for nuclear fusion record

UK centre to shoot for nuclear fusion record


Inside the Jet vessel, temperatures can easily exceed those in the centre of the Sun
The Jet experiment in Oxfordshire was opened in 1984 to understand fusion – the process that powers the Sun.

Prof Steve Crowley told the BBC a go-ahead to run Jet at maximum power would allow scientists to try for the record by the end of the decade.

This could bring Jet up to the coveted goal of “breakeven” where fusion yields as much energy as it consumes.

Fusion is markedly different from current nuclear power, which operates through splitting atoms – fission – rather than squashing them together as occurs in fusion.

“We’re hoping to repeat our world record shots and extend them,” Prof Crowley told BBC News.

“Our world record was from 1997, we think we can improve on it quite considerably and get some really spectacular results. We’re winding up to that and by the end of the decade we’ll be doing it.”

Joint European Torus (Jet)

  • Initiated as part of European programme to explore nuclear fusion
  • Opened in Culham, Oxfordshire, in April 1984 by the Queen
  • Achieved world record energy gain factor in 1997
  • Served as prototype for multi-bn-euro Iter project due to come online in the 2020s
  • Will conduct dress rehearsals for Iter over next five years of operation

Despite its history spanning some five decades, scientists hoping to harness fusion have faced many hurdles. But it remains an attractive prospect because it can yield a near limitless supply of clean energy.

The fusion community hopes their luck could change when the multi-bn-euro Iter fusion experiment comes online in Cadarache, in the south of France, in the 2020s. And officials from Jet, based at Culham, Oxfordshire, are now in the process of signing a contract that will keep the facility running for another five years.

Jet (Joint European Torus) was the prototype for Iter and over its extended lifetime will effectively carry out a dress rehearsal for that much bigger reactor, which will aim to demonstrate the scientific viability of fusion power at scale.

During Jet’s extended run, scientists will again begin using the deuterium-tritium fuel mix needed for maximum fusion power. Until recently, scientists had been running the experiment using deuterium fuel only. While running the experiment in this mode allows scientists to gather valuable scientific knowledge, both deuterium and tritium will be needed to exceed the record set by the Oxfordshire facility 17 years ago.

“Jet is the only machine in the world that can handle that fuel. When you put tritium in, it reacts like crazy,” said Prof Crowley.

Jet uses the same approach to fusion as Iter. This is known as magnetic confinement fusion (MCF), in which electrically charged gas called plasma is heated to millions of degrees inside a sealed tube called a “tokamak”.

Fusion facts

  • Fusion is the process that powers the stars, including the Sun
  • One litre (1.75 pints) of water contains enough deuterium, when fused with tritium, to produce the equivalent energy of 500 litres of petrol
  • A 1,500MW fusion power station would consume about 600g (1lb 5oz) of tritium and 400g of deuterium a day
  • The first large-scale use of fusion was by the US military with the detonation of Ivy Mike, a hydrogen bomb, on 1 November 1952
  • Iter and Jet’s designs involve a tokamak, the Russian word for a ring-shaped magnetic chamber
  • Iter’s magnetic field is designed to contain 100-million-C plasma, the temperature required for the fusion process
  • The US, while supporting Iter as a partner, is also funding the National Ignition Facility, which uses lasers to heat and compress hydrogen to the point of fusion
  • South Korea, another Iter partner, is investing $941m in a fusion technology demonstrator, K-DEMO, which could be the first to generate grid power
  • Critics object to further research into nuclear power and question the likely costs of commercial operations

The temperature inside Jet during one of its full power shots can soar to a scorching 200 million C. That’s more than 10 times the temperature at the centre of the Sun – estimated to be about 15 million C.

In 1997, scientists pushed 24MW of energy into Jet and managed to get 16MW out – a fusion energy gain of about 0.7. A fusion energy gain factor (known as Q) of greater than one is required to achieve “breakeven”, where the amount of energy produced equals the amount of energy consumed.

However, higher gain factors are required to achieve self-sustaining fusion, where the reactions continue without any external input of energy.

“We hope in the next runs of Jet that we’ll approach a gain of one. But that’s no good for energy production – you need a gain of 10, 20, 30 – much more energy coming than you put in. That’s what Iter will do,” said Prof Crowley.

Jet was the result of a European plan for fusion power conceived in the 1970s. Recently, the machine has undergone a series of upgrades to bring components in line with those planned for Iter. In coming years, it will shed light on some of the challenges for making fusion a success.

“The plasma is spewing out tank shells of neutron particles. The neutrons that come out of fusion are 10 times more energetic than those coming out of nuclear fission,” said Prof Crowley.

“When they slam into the walls [of the tokamak] they rearrange the atoms in those walls. The question is can we have a material that doesn’t mind having its atoms rearranged 10 times a year?”

In magnetic confinement experiments the plasma can become unstable, causing fusion to break down. However, improving performance is partly a matter of scale – and as Iter is likely to demonstrate – bigger really is better, as far as fusion is concerned.

In November 2013, the European Parliament formally endorsed the European Commission’s 80bn-euro Horizon 20-20 research budget. This encompasses funds of about 300m euros to keep Jet running. Officials are currently finalising details of the settlement, with a view to signing the contract soon.

The National Ignition Facility in the US recently passed a fusion milestone of its own. NIF takes a different approach to fusion from that taken by Jet and Iter, concentrating laser energy on a hydrogen fuel pellet to initiate fusion.

During a run of the experiment in September 2013, the small amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel – a first at any fusion facility.

Source: BBC News

UK must ‘invest £33bn to start shale gas production

UK must ‘invest £33bn to start shale gas production

Copyright: ELN

An estimated £33 billion needs to be invested to bring UK shale wells into production between 2016 and 2032, says a new report.

That includes up to 4,000 horizontal wells, around £20.5 billion for hydraulic fracturing – the controversial process of extracting shale gas – and more than £4.1 billion for drilling fluid and water waste management, including storage and transportation.

The study, commissioned by the onshore oil and gas industry and part funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), expects shale gas production levels at its peak to be equivalent to heating more than 20 million homes and create more than 6,000 direct site development jobs.

Read the full article here

Source: Energy Live News

Canadian Nuclear industry welcomes OPG-Westinghouse agreement

Canadian Nuclear industry welcomes OPG-Westinghouse agreement

Ontario Power Generation will join forces with Westinghouse to bid for nuclear projects around the globe, the companies announced Wednesday.<br />
<p>The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) today welcomed the announcement of a service agreement between Canadian Nuclear Partners and Westinghouse Electric Company.</p>
<p><span style=“In choosing to work together, these leaders in innovation will reinforce the nuclear industry’s contributions to Canada’s knowledge economy,” said Dr. John Barrett, CNA President and CEO.

“They clearly see that Canadian nuclear technology offers great potential to a world that seeks both energy security and low-carbon power generation.”

Canadian Nuclear Partners, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation Inc., and Westinghouse yesterday announced an agreement to work together on a wide range of global nuclear projects.

The companies indicated a shared interest in refurbishment, maintenance and outage services, decommissioning and remediation of existing nuclear power plants, and new nuclear power plants.

Nuclear-generated electricity offers significant potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear energy closely matches wind-based and hydroelectric power generation as a low-carbon source of electricity.

Nuclear, hydro and wind all significantly outperform solar energy and the fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas.

Dr. Barrett added: “We are inevitably moving toward a much-reduced carbon economy. Through innovation, and through access to the global marketplace, the Canadian nuclear industry will help to mitigate the challenge of climate change while providing power that is safe, reliable and affordable.”

The CNA represents 30,000 Canadian men and women who mine uranium, design and service reactors, fabricate fuel, generate electricity, advance nuclear medicine, support next-generation manufacturing, and export Canadian scientific and technological expertise.

Source: Canadian Nuclear Association

Nuclear News Round Up (14th – 17th Apr 14)

New concept for offshore nuclear plant

New concept for offshore nuclear plant

A new floating nuclear power plant concept has been put forward by US university MIT based an offshore platform similar to those used by the oil industry.

The only floating nuclear power plant today is the Akademik Lomonosov, under construction in Russia, where two 35 MWe reactors similar to those used to propel ships are being mounted on a barge to be moored at a harbour. The concept from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) differs in that researchers propose a reactor of 200 MWe or more mounted in the centre of a floating cylindrical platform positioned around ten kilometres out to sea.

Click to enlarge

Floating plants offer various advantages: construction in a factory or shipyard should bring efficiencies; siting is simplified; environmental impact is extremely low; and decommissioning can take place at a specialised facility. However, the offshore environment brings important considerations, such as access for personnel and equipment and the need for strong assurance that uncontrolled contamination of the sea would be impossible.Surrounded by relatively deep water, the floating power plant would have constant close access to the sea for cooling and a large lower section of the structure would be permanently flooded to provide passive cooling to the reactor containment vessel.
MIT’s Jacopo Buongiorno said, “It’s possible to do cooling passively, with no intervention. The reactor containment itself is essentially underwater.”In water 100 metres deep, MIT said their concept would be immune to the effects of earthquakes, while it would easily ride out the swell that a tsunami represents ten kilometres offshore. It could be sited close to centres of electricity demand without using up valuable land, as long as the area is clear of shipping lanes and not often subject to severe storms.The concept was presented at the Small Modular Reactors Symposium, organised in Washington DC by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. It was developed by Buongiorno with Michael Golay and Neil Todreas, the Kepco professor of nuclear science and engineering. Also involved were staff from the University of Wisconsin and from engineering firm CB&I.