Foundation in place for Iter Tokamak

The concrete basemat has been completed for the Tokamak complex of the Iter fusion reactor project at Cadarache in southern France.

ITER Tokamak floor final pour 460

Pouring of the concrete for the central circular section marks the completion of the Tokamak complex slab (Image: Iter Organization) 

The 12-hour operation to pour concrete for the last of the 15 segments that make up the Tokamak complex basemat (the B2 slab) was completed at 6.00pm on 27 August. The pouring of concrete for the basemat started last December.

The B2 slab covers an area of 9600 square metres and comprises 14,000 cubic metres of concrete, 3600 tonnes of rebar and 2500 embedded plates. It will support some 400,000 tonnes of building and equipment, including the 23,000-tonne Iter Tokamak.

The slab is a ‘floating’ foundation: installed on seismic columns, it has a capacity for lateral movement of up to 10cm in any direction. A gap of some 1.5 metres separates the B2 slab from the surrounding retaining walls. The 1.5-metre thick slab will serve as the first basement level of the diagnostic, Tokamak and tritium buildings. Five large drain tanks, supports for the base of the cryostat, and the building walls will be positioned directly on it.

Completion of the Tokamak slab marks the conclusion of the preparatory phase of the construction site which started in August 2010 and represents an investment of some €100 million ($132 million).

Speaking to workers at the construction site, Iter director general Osamu Motojima said, “With the completion of the B2 slab, a new chapter opens in the history of our project. In September, construction of the Tokamak complex will begin in earnest. You have built the floor, now come the walls, then the roof, and after that the machine itself.”

The Iter project is meant to take nuclear fusion research to a new level with the largest ever Tokamak unit, which should be capable of sustaining plasmas that produce 500 MWt for as long as seven minutes. The EU is funding half of the cost while the remainder comes in equal parts from six other partners: China, Japan, India, Russia, South Korea and the USA. The facility is expected to reach full operation in 2027.

Source: World Nuclear News

Sellafield completes nuclear waste store

Inside the storage facility. Copyright: Sellafield Ltd
Inside the storage facility. Copyright: Sellafield Ltd

A new storage facility designed to keep nuclear waste safe and secure has been completed by Sellafield Ltd.

The Encapsulated Product Store 3 (EPS3) in Cumbria, which contains more than 32,000 cubic metres of concrete and 7,300 tonnes of steel, is capable of storing 29,000 waste drums.

Pete Lutwyche, Sellafield Programme Director for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) said the completion of EPS 3 marks a “major milestone” in the decommissioning of Sellafield.

He added: “This facility is a key piece in the jigsaw of projects we need to clean up the most hazardous areas of the site – the NDA’s number one priority task.

“Once opened, the building will provide world-class, modern storage of waste for many years to come, pending its ultimate transfer to the safest and most secure method of dealing with this material – disposal in a deep geological facility.”

Last month Sellafield said it is looking for specialist suppliers to help with cleaning up and decommissioning the nuclear site.

Source: Energy Live News

New UK, Norway focused oil explorer bags $525m

Copyright: Thinkstock

A new oil exploration and production company focused on Norway and Britain has bagged financing worth $525 million (£316.6m).

Energy investor Riverstone Holdings and Barclays Bank’s energy fund BNRI are providing $200 million (£120.6m) each while Singapore’s sovereign investment fund Temasek has pledged to contribute $125 million (£75.4m).

Origo Exploration AS, headquartered in Norwegian city Stavanger, aims to buy exploration licences through farm-in deals by participating in licensing rounds and acquisitions.

It plans to take part in drilling around 25 exploration wells in the next five years.

Source: Energy Live News

Low-carbon displaces coal in Poland’s plan

Poland will reduce dependence on brown and black coal by introducing nuclear power and renewables, according a draft energy policy to 2050 released for consultation.
The Polish government put forward two main scenarios for future energy supply. Both see nuclear power introduced in 2020 and expanding to become “an important element of the energy sector after 2025″, along with renewable sources.

Belchtow coal mine and power plant (Greenpeace Polska - Bogusz Bilewski) 460x300.jpg

Belchtow coal mine and power plant (Image: Greenpeace Polska – Bogusz Bilewski)

One forecast has nuclear power producing 50 TWh per year from 2035 – in line with the government’s ambition to build two nuclear power plants with capacity of 3000 MWe each. At the same time, renewables grow to about 60 TWh per year in 2035 and on to about 75 TWh by 2050.
Another scenario has nuclear growing more quickly and by 2050 producing 74 TWh per year, while renewables expand more gradually to 49 TWh in 2050.
What both scenarios have in common is that the total low-carbon generation from nuclear and renewables reaches around 125 TWh per year in 2050, and the consumption of coal drops by close to 40%.

Poland’s plan for new nuclear is being taken forward by PGE EJ1, a project company of Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE), which owns 70% of the shares on its own and through a nuclear subsidiary. Equal 10% stakes in PGE EJ1 are held by copper miner KGHM, and power utilities Tauron Polska Energia and ENEA.

Presently brown and black coal fuels over 90% of Polish electricity, and the country suffers some of the worst air quality in Europe. According to the European Environment Agency, concentrations of damaging PM10 particulates, which can cause cardiovascular and respiratory problems, regularly exceed daily and annual limits in cities.

The Polish government published the draft energy policy to 2050 on 14 August and the consultation runs until 1 September.

Source: World Nuclear News

Banking on nuclear

The nuclear industry needs to satisfy the multi-criteria approach to risk that banks take when they decide whether to invest in a large infrastructure project. Only then, can it expect to attract this form of financing to nuclear new build projects, writes Ron Cameron.

Specifically, banks look for long-term certainty on price, stable government policy, industry reputation, regulatory certainty, the process for addressing planning and environmental issues and public acceptance, in addition to the economics of the project.

European wholesale electricity markets are currently not favourable to nuclear power, however. That’s because the role of nuclear in offsetting the negative effect on price of feed-in tariffs and grid priorities for renewable forms of energy is not adequately recognised. The cost to the system of having intermittency of supply is often borne by the nuclear plants through their role in providing back-up generating capacity or otherwise by the consumer through higher electricity prices, subsidies or taxes. With no level playing field for nuclear in liberalised electricity markets, there is a real difficulty in seeing where nuclear new build is going to come from in Europe, without government action. We need to explicitly recognise the advantages that nuclear power provides to stabilise these markets long term, to support the move to a low carbon economy and to help with security of supply.

Through its Electricity Market Reform (EMR), the UK government is essentially agreeing to regulate a liberalised market. There is a strike price and contracts-for-difference in the EMR not only for offshore and onshore wind and solar, but also for nuclear power. And there will be a capacity market for the electricity that’s left. Through these mechanisms, the UK is trying to do something about the market disadvantage which is keeping investors away from nuclear. If there is no opposition from the European Commission and these structures are proven to work, potential investors will be able to expect certainty of a return. Fortunately, the UK’s market mechanism policy has cross-party support; since without a supportive energy policy, it’s very unlikely that a bank will come in and fund a project knowing that the next government might change that agreement.

Other countries, too, are making clear that the State is behind nuclear new build. For example, in the US, new nuclear power plants are being built with loan guarantees and tax credits. These enable the industry to build a track record of successful projects, which is really the key to attracting banks to a financing arrangement. Other mechanisms are seen in Finland – where large industrial companies are willing to join together to fund the cost of a new-build nuclear program in return for receiving electricity at cost price – and Russia, where Rosatom offers new nuclear countries build-own-operate agreements.

“Our focus should be on trying to get banks into plant life extensions.”

Banks are reluctant to become involved with first-of-a-kind projects, whether that concerns a new reactor technology or a country embarking on nuclear power for the first time. Our focus then should perhaps be on trying to get banks into new projects at existing sites, such as plant life extensions. The latter is a lower risk process because the banks would be funding the cost of upgrades needed for plants whose construction costs have been essentially amortized and yet which could run for another 20 years. And there are usually no great public concerns attached to life extensions, since the plant has already operated for some time. If the banks got involved with those and became familiar with nuclear industry issues, then they could one day be willing to join a consortium in new build projects. Banks look particularly at the track record of the industries that they are working with. And of course there is always the concern of delays for them. So some certainty that the government is behind these projects and prepared to support them with some form of guarantee is important.

Regulatory certainty also affects issues of timing and risk and so there needs to be some degree of certainty on the approval processes before large investments are made. In the UK, this is being done through the Generic Design Assessment process, prior to construction, and in the US by the Combined Construction and Operating Licence process.

Banks also monitor public opinion, but even more importantly, the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the European Investment Bank are driven by the appetite from their member countries for financing nuclear power projects. It is up to the consortia of countries that are in favour of nuclear power to have more of a say on the banks’ boards.

Source: World Nuclear News

Sellafield expert invited to serve on Fukushima clean-up task force

A leading nuclear specialist from Sellafield Ltd has accepted a post on an international committee of experts which is helping to guide the clean up mission at the Fukushima plant in Japan.

Dr Rex Strong, who is head of Nuclear Safety at Sellafield Ltd, (a Nuclear Management Partners company), has over 30 years experience in the industry, most of which has been spent at Europe’s most complex nuclear site, in West Cumbria.

Sellafield Ltd's Dr Rex Strong welcomed Mr Jun Matsumoto - Vice President, Fukushima Daiichi, Decontamination & Decommissioning Eng. Co (TEPCO) to the Sellafield site recently

He will combine his new role on the Fukushima Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee – known as the Nuclear Safety Task Force – with his existing one as Head of Safety at the Sellafield site. The move comes as part of Sellafield Ltd’s recently announced relationship with TEPCO FDEC, the Japanese company responsible for cleaning up and decommissioning the reactors at Fukushima.

Dr Strong said:

“It’s a privilege to have been invited to join such a prestigious and important committee – there will be much for us to learn.

“As nuclear operators we are part of a global network through which we can all learn, develop and improve. There are things which the Japanese are experiencing for the first time, as they start the process of decommissioning, which we’ve been doing for a long time at Sellafield, and at other nuclear sites in this country, and so I’ll be able to represent the UK and share our experience.

“The progress they are making at Fukushima is remarkable and I’m sure there will be lots of learning for me which I’ll be able to bring back to Sellafield.”

The committee on which Dr Strong will serve is part of TEPCO’s Nuclear Safety Oversight Office.

The office was established to enhance the risk controls regarding nuclear safety. It aims to gather the latest findings from around the world on nuclear safety, and then analyse and apply these to the mission in Japan.

The Nuclear Safety Oversight Office also monitors the status of safety awareness, operational processes at other nuclear sites, including Sellafield, and studies how these sites have been able to foster a safety culture, and communicate effectively with their local communities.

Sellafield Ltd’s Managing Director, Tony Price, said:

“The skills and experiences of the Sellafield workforce in safely decommissioning nuclear facilities are a valuable national asset. I’m proud that Rex has been asked to take up this position; it’s a great honour both for Rex personally, and for the company to be recognised as global nuclear safety experts and to be able to support our Japanese colleagues.”

Dr Adrian Simper, the NDA’s strategy and technology director, who sits on the Fukushima International Advisory Team, said:

“Congratulations to Rex on his appointment to this prestigious committee which will provide invaluable expertise to the Fukushima clean-up effort.

“The UK is playing an important role in assisting Tepco and the Japanese authorities in dealing with the complex situation at Fukushima which is testament to the high esteem in which our nuclear decommissioning industry is held across the international community.

“It is gratifying to see the learning and experience Sellafield Ltd has gleaned through tackling the complex challenges on site being utilised by our Japanese partners in their decommissioning programme.

“In turn, I’m sure Rex will bring back valuable experience from his role on the committee which can help drive forward the NDA’s mission to safely and cost-effectively clean-up Sellafield.”


Floating Nuclear Power Plants Might Be the Future of Energy

In the newest energy partnership between Russia and China, the countries may soon join forces to initiate the development of six nuclear power plants before the end of the decade. But these new facilities won’t just be your run of the mill nuclear power stations — instead, they will be floating versions that are stationed in bodies of water.

Following a $400 billion gas supply deal signed by the countries in May, the export sector of Russia’s state nuclear reactor company Rosatom penned a memorandum of understanding with China on Tuesday to develop waterborne nuclear power plants (NPPs) starting in 2019.

Rosatom previously announced that in 2018 it would implement the first floating NPP in the world, just offshore in the country’s eastern region of Chukotka.

“Floating NPPs can provide a reliable power supply not only to remote settlements but also to large industrial facilities such as oil platforms,” said Dzhomart Aliev, the chief executive of Rusatom Overseas, according to Reuters.

While the thought of nuclear reactors floating around the globe sounds like an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen, these facilities have actually been designed with the purpose of making NPPs less vulnerable to natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis.

“It’s really not a completely new idea,” Jacopo Buongiorno, a professor at MIT who is working with a team of scientists to research and design floating NPPs in the US, told VICE News. He explained that submarines and aircraft carriers already use nuclear reactors. “The underwater reactor is a positive thing for safety.”

According to Buongiorno, by placing an NPP out in the deep waters of the ocean, the facility would be less susceptible to massive waves produced by tsunamis, like the case of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 when a major earthquake triggered a tsunami that caused a meltdown, radiation leak, and other serious damage to the site. By being floated out to sea, Buongiorno said the risks of earthquake damage would also be minimized.

Another benefit lauded by Buongiorno’s research team is that the ocean would create a natural cooling source, which would help to prevent meltdowns. Plus, being miles away from shore means the plant is further away from civilian populations, in the event of a disaster.

However, Buongiorno explained that the Russian prototype is quite different to the design his team is working on, and thus may not see the same safety benefits.

Logistically, Buorgino’s floating NPP designs would be similar to offshore oil rigs and would be anchored on platforms, with the reactor submerged down below. Anchored to the ocean floor between five and seven miles out to sea, a cable attached to the structure would send the electricity being produced back to shore.

A cutaway view of a proposed plant via MIT. Illustration by Jake Jurewicz/MIT-NSE

The Russian prototype, on the other hand, is designed like a barge and would be fixed along the shoreline. According to Buorgino, when a tsunami hits, the waves peak and cause the most damage near the shore.

Critics are concerned about some of the design aspects of this type of NPPs. Edwin Lyman, a senior global security scientist at Union of Concerned Scientists, told VICE News that a lot of what needs to be done to make these plants deployable is the opposite of what the industry needs to do to make their land-based facilities safer. He explained that having to build lighter reactors for use in the ocean and accessibility issues are concerns with the floating plants.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes indefinitely, while the waste that leaked into the Pacific Ocean forced fisheries to close, leading to the loss of millions of dollars. Buesseler said the question becomes whether it’s better to have 70,000 people unable to move back to their homes from a land-based accident, or shut more fisheries as nuclear waste moves up the food chain due to an incident with a floating structure.

While there aren’t any existing floating nuclear power plants to look to for insight on what could happen after an accident, there are nuclear submarines and ships that have been navigating the globe for decades. The instances in which these vessels have sunk provide an interesting look into what could happen with a nuclear reactor floating in the ocean.

Source: Vice