UK-China Joint Research and Innovation Centre

National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) is delighted to be jointly leading the new UK-China Joint Research and Innovation Centre (JRIC), announced by Chancellor George Osborne in Beijing.

The UK and China have jointly committed £50M to the Centre over a five year period.
The Centre will be established and run jointly by NNL and the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and will incorporate projects on a number of different areas of work across the whole nuclear fuel cycle.

The JRIC will act as a portal to allow UK companies and academic organisations and their Chinese counterparts to work together on areas of mutual benefit and will support the development of Subject Matter Experts and others with higher level skill in both countries.

Over the coming months NNL and CNNC will work together to establish a programme of work for the Centre and to develop links with other UK bodies including NAMRC, NSAN, NIRAB and key UK universities working in the nuclear sector.

Source: Nuclear Matters

Why does the UK need China to build its nuclear plants?

The UK’s Hinkley Point nuclear power station has major backing from China. But why does the government need their help?

Hinkley Point

It will be the first nuclear plant in the UK for 20 years. Hinkley Point C in Somerset is expected to provide up to 7% of the UK’s electricity needs and create thousands of jobs.

The project by French energy company EDF is going to be partly backed by China through a £2bn deal that the government has said it will guarantee.

Chancellor George Osborne has said that will allow “unprecedented co-operation” on the construction of more nuclear plants. There are already reports that a Chinese-designed nuclear reactor could be built in Essex.

But the UK used to be a leader in the nuclear energy industry. It opened the world’s first civil nuclear reactor in the 1950s. So why does a country with so much experience now need help from abroad?

“Nuclear power plants are astonishingly expensive,” says Stephen Thomas, energy policy expert and a retired professor from the University of Greenwich Business School.

Constructing a large nuclear reactor takes thousands of workers and needs a huge number of components and materials. The site needs to be prepared beforehand and a whole host of systems put in place from cooling to back-up safety mechanisms.

The cost of construction alone at Hinkley Point is estimated at a massive £24bn. Few private companies are able to afford that kind of money.

It’s also difficult to put a price tag on projects because of the uncertainties in how long construction will take, explains David Toke, energy politics reader at the University of Aberdeen. “You don’t really know what the costs are going to be before you start building,” he says.

There are also technology risks. “Most of the time it doesn’t get built on time, it doesn’t get built to cost and it doesn’t always work as well as it should do,” explains Thomas.

Hinkley in particular is going to use a reactor design that has raised a few eyebrows among its critics. It will use European Pressurised Reactors (EPR). “The two [plants] of this design that are being built in Europe are badly behind schedule and over budget,” says Richard Green, professor of sustainable energy business at Imperial College London.

Read more here: BBC News

Rolls-Royce in line for big Hinkley nuclear contracts

Hinkley Point
Image: The new nuclear plant will be built next to two existing facilities at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Engineering firm Rolls-Royce will take a big share of £100m worth of contracts to supply the new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point.

EDF, the French firm in charge of the project, has selected Rolls-Royce to supply heat exchangers worth £25m.
In partnership with Nuvia, Rolls-Royce will also supply systems to treat nuclear waste in a contract worth £75m.

Earlier this month EDF admitted that the construction of the plant has been delayed.

It said Hinkley Point C in Somerset will not start generating power in 2023 as planned.

EDF said it will provide a revised timetable for the £24.5bn plant when it takes a final investment decision on the project.
The contracts awarded to Rolls-Royce and Nuvia are subject to that final investment decision from EDF.
“Hinkley Point C offers the UK a tremendous opportunity to boost employment and skills in the crucial manufacturing and construction sectors, as well as leading the revitalisation of the new nuclear programme,” Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive of EDF Energy, said in a statement.

The new nuclear plant will be built next to two existing facilities at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

Source: BBC News

UK guarantees £2bn nuclear plant deal as China investment announced

Chancellor George Osborne has announced that the UK will guarantee a £2bn deal under which China will invest in the Hinkley Point nuclear power station.

Mr Osborne, who is in China, said the deal would pave the way for a final investment decision on the delayed project by French energy company EDF.

He said it would also enable greater collaboration between Britain and China on the construction of nuclear plants.
Reports suggest one such reactor could be built at Bradwell in Essex.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd told the Financial Times she wanted Beijing to take the lead in developing new nuclear plants in Britain.
She said China was expected to lead the construction of a Beijing-designed nuclear station at the Essex site.

Turbine hall
Image: Hinkley Point Nuclear Power Station

EDF welcomed news of the government guarantee, but did not say if it put the project back on track.
Earlier this month, EDF admitted the Hinkley project in Somerset, which was intended to allow the plant to generate power by 2023, would be delayed.

In February, the firm announced that it had pushed back its decision on whether to invest in the plant.
It cannot afford the estimated £24.5bn cost of the plant on its own, so has been looking for financial partners to invest, particularly in China. This has proved difficult, which is why the government has had to step in to guarantee part of the cost.
The new power station would be Britain’s first new nuclear plant for 20 years and is expected to provide power for about 60 years.

Speaking in Beijing at a joint news conference with China’s Vice-Premier Ma Kai, Mr Osborne said: “We want the UK to be China’s best partner in the West. [This guarantee] paves the way for Chinese investment in UK nuclear [to help provide] secure, reliable, low carbon electricity for decades to come.”
He also announced a new £50m joint research centre for nuclear energy.

Read more here: BBC News

Japan restarts first nuclear reactor since Fukushima disaster

Sendai nuclear plant in southern Japan is first to begin operation since 2011 Fukushima meltdowns, despite anti-nuclear protests

Police officers guard the gate of the Sendai nuclear power plant as protesters rally against the restarting of the reactor. Photograph: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images

A power plant operator in southern Japan has restarted a reactor, the first to begin operating under new safety requirements following the Fukushima disaster.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. said on Tuesday it had restarted the No. 1 reactor at its Sendai nuclear plant as planned.

The restart marks Japan’s return to nuclear energy four-and-half-years after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan following an earthquake and tsunami.

The national broadcaster NHK showed plant workers in the control room as they turned the reactor back on. Tomomitsu Sakata, a spokesman for Kyushu Electric Power, said the reactor was put back online as planned without any problems.

The disaster displaced more than 100,000 people due to radioactive contamination in the area and spurred a national debate over this resource-scarce country’s reliance on nuclear power.

Former prime minister Naoto Kan speaks to protesters gathered at the main gate of the Sendai nuclear power plant. Photograph: The Asahi Shimbun/via Getty Images

A majority of Japanese people oppose the return to nuclear energy. Dozens of protesters, including ex-prime minister Naoto Kan, who was in office at the time of the disaster and has become an outspoken critic of nuclear power, were gathered outside the plant as police stood guard.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority affirmed the safety of the Sendai reactor and another one at the plant last September under stricter safety rules imposed after the 2011 accident.

The Sendai No. 1 reactor is scheduled to start generating power on Friday and to reach full capacity next month. The second Sendai reactor is due to restart in October.

Koichi Miyazawa, Japan’s industry minister, said on Tuesday that the government would “put safety first” in resuming use of nuclear power.

All of Japan’s 43 workable reactors have been shut for the last two years pending safety checks. To offset the shortfall in power output, the country ramped up imports of oil and gas and fired up more thermal power plants, slowing progress toward reducing its emissions of greenhouse gases.

Prime minister Shinzo Abe has sought to have the reactors restarted as soon as possible to help reduce costly reliance on imported oil and gas and alleviate the financial burden on utilities of maintaining the idled plants.
“There are very strong vested interests to reopen nuclear reactors. Accepting them as permanently closed would have financial implications that would be hard to manage,” said Tomas Kaberger, chairman of the Japan Renewable Energy Foundation.

Utilities are seeking approvals to restart 23 reactors, including the other Sendai reactor.

The government has set a goal to have nuclear power meet more than 20% of Japan’s energy needs by 2030, despite the lingering troubles at the Fukushima plant, which is plagued by massive flows of contaminated water leaking from its reactors.

Removal of the melted fuel at the plant – the most challenging part of the 30-to-40-year process of shutting it down permanently – will begin only in 2022.

Source: The Guardian

Sellafield Progress in Clean-Up

The decommissioning of one of Sellafield’s most hazardous buildings has taken a huge step forward with the arrival of a machine that will scoop out its radioactive contents.

The Silo Emptying Plant – a kind of giant fairground grabber machine on wheels – will painstakingly remove waste from the Magnox Swarf Storage Silo (MSSS), an aging storage plant prioritised for clean-up by the site’s owners, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).

This nationally important decommissioning challenge is just part of the UK nuclear story being explored in an ‘access all areas’ BBC 4 documentary, ‘Inside Sellafield’ to be broadcast on Monday 10th August at 9pm.

In the coming months, the Silo Emptying plant will arrive in 33 separate deliveries, brought by road from Wolverhampton to the Sellafield site where the bespoke machine will be assembled by nuclear experts.
This is the first of three plants of its kind to arrive in West Cumbria and marks an important step forward in the decommissioning programme at Sellafield. The removal of decades-old material from the legacy plants is taking place on a daily basis, significantly reducing the risk and hazard on the site.

The Silo Emptying Plant (SEP), is essentially a huge grabbing machine which will run on rails above the waste compartments. It has been developed specifically to deal with historical nuclear waste from the MSSS, which contains a quarter of Sellafield Ltd’s intermediate level waste inventory.
It will lock onto the silo hatches, lower specialist grabs into the 16-metre-deep waste compartments to bring up the waste, pack it into nuclear boxes and safely transfer it to one of the site’s modern stores where it will be kept safe and secure until a decision has been made on a long term storage solution.

The three plants were developed with Ansaldo NES, who successfully tested and dismantled them within a replica of the MSSS store at their factory in the midlands. Each weighs more than 30 double decker buses and will be re-assembled and re-tested at Sellafield before waste retrieval operations begin at the silo.

“The SEP design is complex, it has to be to deal with the significant challenge of retrieving wastes from MSSS, but is based on simple, robust concepts.” Alan Haile, head of MSSS projects said.

“Think of one of those fairground machines with a metal arm that struggles to grab soft toys, but imagine it on a huge scale within a radioactive environment, grabbing huge volumes of potentially hazardous material with absolute precision from 22 underwater compartments and transferring into safe storage, with no room for error.”

The SEP machines will have to operate in a radioactive environment where operator access is restricted due to the radiation levels and are therefore heavily shielded. They will play a vital part in the Sellafield clean-up, with an estimated 11,000m3 of historic waste and 60,000 items of Miscellaneous Beta Gamma Waste to be removed from the 22 underwater MSSS compartments.

Sellafield Ltd is making significant progress in cleaning up the UK’s nuclear legacy, having recently began removing sludge from the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond and the dismantling of ‘Cockcroft’s Folly’ at the top of the Windscale pile chimney, marking a significant change to the Sellafield skyline.

Source: Nuclear Matters

Engineers Defend Nuclear Fusion Spend

Committee of MPs tells nuclear fusion scientists predicting commercial viability of fusion of being in ‘cloud cuckoo land

Inside the JET fusion reactor at Culham

Scientists and engineers from the nuclear fusion research community have rallied against an attack from a member of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee that accused them of being in “cloud cuckoo land”.

Speaking at a meeting at the House of Lords earlier this week, Lord Peston slammed Professor Steven Cowley, head of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, for asserting that fusion research would produce “a commercially sustainable outcome” within the next 40 to 80 years.

He said: “You’re talking about cloud cuckoo land. I’m talking to all of you. What you’ve done is invent a marvellous system, where all the scientists in this area waste an enormous amount of public money worldwide, on a self-sustaining system with no likely outcome worth anything.”

“It’s not even obvious that fission plants are commercially viable. You are talking about things that are not even a million miles close to being built. “

The Lords Science and Technology Committee has been tasked with investigating the value of public funding for nuclear fusion research, pegged at £174.7 million this year. The UK is also contributing to the development and construction of the next generation of fusion tokomak, Iter, in the south of France. Iter is budgeted to cost a total of at least £13 billion and is planned to be completed by 2021.

Cowley, who is also the chief executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority and a Professor of Physics at Imperial College London, admitted that if a more sustainable source of electricity were invented by 2040, research for nuclear fusion energy would be redundant.

He said: “If we were not making progress, we should not invest in fusion. At the moment we have transitional decarbonising technologies – nuclear fission and carbon capture and storage. By the end of the century we will need technologies to replace them.”

Nuclear fusion research represents 14% of the Research Council’s total spend on energy related research. Dr Sharon Ellis, deputy director of Research Councils UK, which is responsible for investing public money in research to advance knowledge and generate new ideas, said: “Without particular evidence, there is no reason to stop funding fusion research. As it stands, we are getting advances in material and robotics and backwards investment. The balance sheet is positive.”

Dr David Kingham, chief executive of Tokomak Energy, which is developing smaller, 100MW modular tokomaks that use high-temperature superconducting magnets, said: “Tokomaks are the way forward but there needs to be more diversity in the approach. The European roadmap is too linear – innovation doesn’t work like that. There is a risk that slow progress at Iter will delay progress as a whole.”

Source: Institute of Mechanical Engineers