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Posts Tagged ‘Areva’

FRANCE HAS NEW IDEA FOR SMALL REACTORS: PUT THEM UNDERWATER

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Nuclear Townhall
January 20, 2011

France has taken the idea of “moving industry offshore” and given it a new twist – plant small nuclear reactors in the seabed and pump the electricity back on land. Called “Flexblue,” the underwater system could provide a large portion of the world’s energy.
 
“The cylinder with the power plant inside would be lowered to the seabed at a depth of 60 meters (196 feet) to 100 meters, at a site between five and 15 kilometers from the coast,” Patrick Boissier, CEO of the French construction company, DCNS, tells Platts. “Undersea cables would bring the electricity to customers on shore.”  Boissier notes that three-quarters of the world’s population lives within 80 km of the sea.
 
DCNS, which does construction for the French Navy, will join Areva, EDF and the CEA research and development organization in exploring the idea, according to an announcement made in Paris yesterday. “The technical, economic and market feasibility study will be conducted over the next two years by 100-150 people from DCNS and the nuclear organizations, after which a decision could be made to build a prototype,” says Platts. “Boissier said a submerged power plant, unlike a floating one, would not be vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, or floods, and would be far less vulnerable to voluntary attack.”  It would also have an unlimited source of coolant and would create a minimal environmental footprint. Areva already builds 100-MW small reactors for French submarines and aircraft carriers and said it would be fairly easy to adapt Flexblue from this prototype.
 
The French project should serve as a warning to American political officials, who also have big dreams about small reactors but are reluctant to streamline regulatory procedures that now make such initiatives a decade-long ordeal. The French are not the only ones who are going to be building small reactors. The rest of the world knows the technology too.

Read more about it at Platt’s

 

JORDAN MOVES TOWARD NUCLEAR DEVELOPMENT WITH HELP OF FRANCE, CHINA

Friday, December 10th, 2010

December 10, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
From the Editors


 

To date the U.S. participation in Jordan’s nuclear program has largely hyper-focused on State Department efforts to curb any enrichment of their own uranium supplies.

China and France, on the other hand, are showing how to deal with underdeveloped nations’ nuclear ambitions.  They are offering assistance to Jordan’s program while keeping a watch on fuel supplies. 


On Wednesday Jordan inked a deal with Areva whereby the French giant will construct an open-pit mine to begin developing Jordan’s abundant uranium resources. France’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon personally attended the signing. “Fillon highlighted that the two countries’ atomic energy agencies had also agreed to establish an energy center of excellence, which would group various technical and educational programs related to nuclear engineering and safety such as the nuclear research reactor at the Jordan University of Science and Technology,” reported The Jordan Times. “[T]he center would develop curricula and encourage multinational projects in the sector in order to attract students and professionals from across the region.

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Then yesterday Jordan announced it is only a few months away from opening its first research facility with the help of China.  “The uranium-fuelled sub-critical assembly will be used for `basic training’ and research for . .  nuclear engineering students, many of whom will go on to man the country’s first nuclear reactor,” reported The Times.  The reactor is being constructed at the Jordan University of Science and Technology by the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission and the China Institute of Atomic Energy.



And so, while Washington diplomats try to recreate the world of the 1970s, when the U.S. had a monopoly on nuclear technology, the rest of the world moves ahead without us.

Read more at the Jordan Times
 

CHINA SOLIDIFIES WORLD NUCLEAR ENERGY LEADERSHIP ASPIRATIONS

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

 

December 3, 2010
Nuclear Townhall
 
From the Editors

 


Any lingering doubts that China will be basing its industrial economy on nuclear energy were erased this week when the country raises its goals to building 114 gigawatts of capacity by 2020.


“The figures released by the National Development & Reform Commission represent a significant increase from a prior target of 70 GW issued last May by Zhang Guobao, head of China’s National Energy Administration,” reports Power-Gen Worldwide. The 114 GW goal marks a jump of 62 percent. 


The 114 GW would give China the largest nuclear capacity in the world, surpassing our 107 MW, presuming we don’t build any new capacity by 2020, which isn’t a bad bet. Still, China’s nuclear will only be supplying 7 percent of its energy demands, which shows how rapidly their economy will be growing as well.  The U.S.’s 107 GW provides 20 percent of the country’s domestic electricity by comparison.


With 30 reactors under construction right now, China seems prepared to make the leap. The Chinese have now apparently reverse-engineered by Areva’s 900 MW reactor and Westinghouse’s AP1000. Last week Zhang Shanjing, president of China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation, announced that the company plans to export the CPR-1000, its version of Areva-900, by 2013. Once it markets its version of the AP1000, China is likely to become the world’s largest exporter of reactors as well. The Chinese are building  “Nuclear City” at Haiyan in order to facilitate all this.


Quipped one longtime nuclear energy market observer:  “Not bad for a country that was considered “Third World” only a few decades ago.”

Read more at Power Gen World-Wide

GERMAN ANTI-NUCLEAR PROTESTERS GO WHACKO OVER TRAIN SHIPMENT

Monday, November 8th, 2010

If you think we’ve got it bad in this country from anti-nuclear detractors, take a look at what’s happening in Germany.
 
Riled up by the Merkel government’s decision to extend the life of the nation’s nuclear plants, anti-nuke protesters descended upon an isolated railroad bridge near Dannenberg and stopped a train carrying nuclear waste shipments by chaining themselves to the tracks. Riot police dealt with the mob of about 4,000.
 
The waste is the residue of a much larger volume of spent fuel shipped annually to AREVA’s reprocessing plant at Le Hague. The French extract 90 percent of the material as useful products and then vitrify the remaining 10 percent in glass. This glassed material is then shipped back to Germany. The French are storing all their vitrified material from 30 years of operating their 59 reactors beneath the floor of one room at Le Hague. The residue from Germany’s 17 reactors is being stored at a warehouse near Dannenberg in preparation for permanent storage in a geological repository.
 
About 25,000 protesters marched in Dannenberg on Saturday against the storage facility and then a rump faction of about 4,000 attacked the train on Sunday. Small squads hung a banner from the railroad bridge and then others tied themselves to the tracks. Police eventually removed the protesters and the shipment moved on, eventually arriving safely at its destination.  Apparently none of the protesters feared being in such close proximity to the 16-inch-thick steel casks.
 
The great irony of the German protests is that Chancellor Merkel still has not worked up the nerve to tell her country that the only way it will ever be able to replace the 26 percent of its electricity provided by nuclear will be by reverting to coal or natural gas. Instead, Merkel insists that the extension of nuclear is a “bridge to a renewable future.”  Protesters are suspicious that this “bridge” is only leading to a nuclear future – and they are right, since renewables will never be able to carry 25 percent of Germany’s electrical load. Nonetheless, anti-nuclear sentiment is gaining ground in Germany, with almost 50 percent of the population now opposed. All this does not bode well for the future of the German economy.

 

Read more at the Lethbridge Herald
 

MOX TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES BOTH HERE AND ABROAD

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Closing the nuclear fuel cycle has always made ultimate sense. When Lewis Strauss made his fateful remarks about “electricity too cheap to meter,” he was speaking with recycling in mind.
 
The promise turned out to be premature – and nuclear opponents have never let us forget it. But the possibility of extracting more than the 5 percent of the energy potential now consumed in commercial reactors still looms – not to mention clearing up the false problem of “nuclear waste.”
 
MOX fuel has always been an obvious starting point. France does it and now Japan and the United States are moving in that direction as well. MOX simply takes the plutonium and depleted uranium from a spent fuel rod and mixes them together to make a sustainable fuel mix. (It’s the presence of other isotopes that interfere with neutron capture that make a spent fuel rod useless.)
 
Plutonium, of course, is the bad actor of the bunch, relatively easy to convert to bomb material (although not that easy because it is contaminated with non-fissionable and too-fissionable plutonium isotopes). Recycle that plutonium as fuel and the whole problem is solved. We were on the right track back in the 1970s before nuclear opponents scared Jimmy Carter into giving up the whole process for fear that somebody might steal the plutonium and run off and make a bomb.
 
France has a MOX fabrication facility at Avignon and produces one-third of its fuel from recycling. “Our spent fuel rods are the new uranium mines,” says Jacques Besnainous, president of AREVA’s American operations. Over the last year, the French have also started recycling Japan’s spent fuel, which is sent back to burn in one of Japan’s four MOX-enabled reactors.
 
Now, as often happens, the Japanese are going to do the reprocessing for themselves. With an opening prayer ceremony, ground was broken for the new J-MOX facility in the Aomori Prefecture last week.
 
And things are happening in the United States as well. AREVA has contracted to build a MOX facility at Savanna River to reprocess plutonium left over from the weapons program. According to this report in World Nuclear News, AREVA will soon be sending 93 trainees to France to learn the technology.
 
Who knows?  After seeing all that weapons plutonium disappear transformed into useful energy, Americans may be persuaded that reprocessing commercial fuel might not be such a bad idea after all.

Read more at World Nuclear News

 

LANDSCAPE FOR NUCLEAR ENERGY BRIGHTENS WITH THE NEW REPUBLICAN HOUSE MAJORITY

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

As the smoke clears from the election, one of the energy arena winners may be nuclear energy.

Although the nuclear issue was barely discussed during the mid-term elections (except in Nevada, where Sharron Angle lost to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), early statements from both sides of the aisle signal hope that efforts to advance U.S. nuclear energy may be a big part of a compromise bipartisan agenda – even a subject that Democrats and Republicans can heartily agree upon.

In his post-election press conference, President Obama specifically mentioned nuclear as an area of possible compromise:  “There’s been discussion about how we can restart our nuclear industry as a means of reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing greenhouse gases,” he said.  “Is that an area where we can move forward?”

In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was quoted as saying a promising area of compromise could be “nuclear power and clean coal technology and other things the president said that he’s for and most of my members are for [as well]."

One big exception to this unanimity may be Reid, who may be hesitant to embrace a U.S. nuclear renewal that could potentially re-jumpstart Yucca Mountain.  But there are other options on the table. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said that on-site dry cask storage may be acceptable for the better part of a century. And AREVA is about to begin construction in South Carolina on a facility that will fabricate MOX fuel out of plutonium and depleted uranium from military stockpiles. This may be a backdoor opportunity to re-introduce recycling to the backend recipe.

Only a few weeks after the Nuclear Renaissance seemed to be stalling –- particularly with Constellation Energy’s withdrawal from Calvert Cliffs 3-– things suddenly look a lot brighter. There is tremendous pent-up demand for nuclear energy among Republicans – remembering that rousing ovation the President received when he mentioned it in his State of the Union Address.

So the prospects for progress suddenly seem more bullish. Faced with the need to compromise, both Democrats and Republicans may even arrive at the resolution that has been staring them in the face all along – that clean energy solutions that enhance U.S. Jobs and competitiveness are important — and that nuclear energy is a the most viable baseload resource to be central to any solution.

 

Read more at Platt’s
 

TOWNHALL DEBATE: ARE CONVENTIONAL REACTORS AND SMALL MODULAR REACTORS RIVALS?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

“Disruptive technology” was a phrase that kept coming up at Infocast’s Small Modular Reactors Conference in Washington, DC this week.

The term was coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen in his 1997 book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, in which he showed that even the innovators of new technology can hurt themselves by introducing it if they are already well established in the old technology. Therefore, new technologies are usually developed by newcomers in the field.
 
The description would seem to fit the U.S. Nuclear Renaissance at this moment. The proposals for small reactors are coming mostly from upstart companies such as NuScale, Hyperion, Advanced Reactor Concepts, Radix, TerraPower and a reincarnated Babcock & Wilcox, which has dropped out of the full-scale field. Meanwhile, the established companies – AREVA, Westinghouse, General Electric and General Atomics – are “keeping up with the Jones” at best.
 
But there is a new element to the equation – the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The limiting factor in any reactor development, old or new, in this country, at least, will be getting licensed by the NRC. The Commission’s time – which is subject to Congressional appropriations and dedicated to safety issues first – can be finite even at its pass-through rate to users of $260 hour.  And any effort spent on SMRs could logically be subtracted from time spent reviewing larger reactors. Thus, when Hyperion sat down with NRC officials earlier this month, the company was only adding to the Commission’s overload.

There won’t be any Apples or Netscapes upsetting the established order in the nuclear industry. Ultimately, along with securing customers, everything will depend on successfully navigating uncertain NRC regulatory regime waters over a five-year period at a minimum. In this department, established technologies will have an advantage, since, even more than major corporations, bureaucracies have trouble adjusting to innovation.
 
“I believe if the nuclear industry is going to succeed, we have to succeed as a whole,” said Gary Barbour, senior advisor for regulatory affairs at NuScale Power at the conference. In winning public acceptance, this is obviously true. But is there also a sibling rivalry?  Are big and small reactors partners or rivals?  Are small reactors and large reactors an either/or proposition for the industry or can the industry and the NRC multi-task?  Are small reactors an untimely distraction at a time when the Renaissance should be focused on consummating a spate of new large reactor deployments over this decade?

 

 

INDIA COMMITTED MORE THAN EVER TO DEVELOPING FAST BREEDER REACTOR

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Prithiviraj Chavan, India’s Minister of State for Science and Technology, told a national conference that the country is more than ever committed to developing the fast breeder reactor, a technology that burns nearly 100 percent of the fuel and can be used to consumer so-called “nuclear waste.”
 
“As we look forward to expand our nuclear energy program with imported fuel and large imported reactors, let me assure you that there will be no compromise with or commitment to our three-stage nuclear program,” Chavan told an audience at the Indira Gandhi Center for Atomic Research, which was celebrating the 25th anniversary of India’s Fast Breeder Test Reactor. The “three-stage program” refers to the closing of the nuclear fuel cycle that comes with the fast breeder.
 
Fast breeders are yet another technology where America once led the world but where other countries have now picked up the ball. The United States closed its last experimental fast breeder, EBR-II, in Idaho, in 1993 as part of an effort by the Clinton Administration to phase out nuclear research. The effort is chronicled in great detail in Tom Blees’ Prescription for the Planet.,
 

Chavan said India’s commitment to energy independence and avoidance of the problem of “nuclear waste” makes the fast breeder essential. “‘Irradiated fuel should not be disposed as radioactive waste,” he told his audience. “[C]losing the fuel cycle through fuel reprocessing is absolutely essential for ensuring the sustainability of nuclear energy.”
 
Baldev Raj, director of the Indira Gandhi Center, said that India now has now 10,000 scientists and engineers working on fast breeder technology.
 
Chavan noted that in addition to advancing the fast breeder, India is equally committed to developing thorium reactors, which would take advantage of India’s sizable thorium reserves. Nearly all the world’s reactors now run on uranium, which only half as abundant as thorium.
 

EDF’S AREVA CHALLENGE:  TWO NEW REACTOR DESIGNS

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

AREVA, the world’s largest nuclear company, 80 percent owned by the French government, may be challenged for dominance in Europe shortly by its co-national and longtime rival, EDF, the French national utility.
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Relations between the two companies have been strained over a two-year delay and cost overruns at Flammanville, where a 1,650-megawatt European Pressurized Reactor is being built, the first new French reactor in 20 years. AREVA is also having similar difficulties at Olkiluoto-3, Finland, where the original EPR project, first licensed in 2000 and originally scheduled for completion in 2009, is now three years behind schedule and 50 percent over budget. Despite the delays, the Finnish Parliament has authorized construction of a fourth reactor at the site.
 


Problems with both reactors – plus the loss to a South Korean in the sweepstakes to build four reactors in the United Arab Emirates – have caused soul-searching about France’s international nuclear effort. In July, the French government sought to bolster the national effort by having EDF raise its stake in AREVA from 2.4 percent to 7 percent and on Monday the government raised the figure to 15 percent.

EDF has now surprised everyone by suggesting it may begin its own reactor construction program instead. "It is true, . . . we and AREVA are unable to combine our engineering resources," a source inside EDF told Power-Gen Worldwide. The source said EDF’s reactors would probably be smaller, in the 1000 to 1500-MW range.

The rivalry between the two national corporations goes back to the earliest days of the French nuclear effort, when Charles de Gaulle created nuclear programs in two separate entities, EDF and the CEA (Commissariat à l’énergie atomique), the French equivalent of the Department of Energy.At the time, EDF was dominated by Communist labor unions, which welcomed nuclear energy as a triumph of the working class. AREVA was created in 2001 through the merger of Framatome, Cogma, and Technicatome, three construction companies. CEA now owns 80 percent of AREVA and the French government owns 85 percent of EDF.

Nuclear energy now makes up a considerable portion of the French economy. AREVA accounts for much of its international business and EDF’s exports 10 percent of its power each year to Germany and Italy, earning $8 billion a year, the country’s third largest source of foreign exchange.

Read more about it at PowerGen World Wide
 

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

There’s a worldwide gold rush in the global nuclear energy technology market going on right now and if American "policymakers" don’t know it, the Russians do.

Sergei Kiriyenko,CEO of Rosatom, the Russian national nuclear corporation, came close to bragging yesterday as he asserted that his company will be doing $50 billion worth of business around the world by 2030. "Personally I think they may reach some $65 billion to $70 billion,” he told Bloomberg News in an interview.

Rosatom was celebrating its contract to build two more reactors in China’s Tianwan province – in addition to two already completed there. “If we’re honest, China’s not even the number one priority now as we have larger- scale partnerships in India, Turkey and in the future Vietnam," Kiriyenko told Bloomberg.The company currently has $15 billion in sales.

Rosatom is competing against Toshiba’s Westinghouse Corporation, France’s AREVA and majority American-owned GE-Hitachi, plus South Korea, which has just secured a $20 billion contract to build four reactors in the United Arab Emirates. India, South America, Southeast Asia and the Middle East are all in play. Rosatom is also a principal in the 1000-megawatt reactor project in Iran.

All this undercuts the presumption of U.S. anti-nuclear groups that we are somehow saving the world from the proliferation of nuclear weapons by bridling the development of nuclear technology in the United States,. "If you don’t play the game, you don’t make the rules" is the old adage that applies here – and so goes the U.S.’s world class gold standard in nuclear energy safety and quality.

Most significantly, Kiriyenko said Rosatom will soon be extending its efforts to fuel fabrication and the development of next-generation integral fast reactors. IFRs introduce the possibility of burning 100 percent of nuclear fuel – rather than the 5 percent consumed in current thermal reactors – and extending available fuel supplies over thousands of years.  The U.S. abandoned IFRs under the Clinton Administration in 1993. At the time, the U.S. clearly had the world’s most advanced technology. Now the world appears to be moving ahead with or without the U.S.  

Read more at Business Week