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India, Westinghouse in ‘advanced’ talks to close nuclear deal

Reuters | Washington | Valerie Volcovici | June 1, 2016

Visitors look at a nuclear power plant station model by American company Westinghouse at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Visitors look at a nuclear power plant station model by American company Westinghouse at the World Nuclear Exhibition 2014, the trade fair event for the global nuclear energy sector, in Le Bourget, near Paris October 14, 2014. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

Toshiba Corp’s Westinghouse Electric and India are in “advanced discussions” for the company to build six nuclear reactors there, the country’s ambassador to the United States said on Wednesday, ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned visit to Washington next week.

A deal with Westinghouse would be the first such contract reached under the 2008 U.S.-India civil nuclear accord.

“There is a very detailed and advanced negotiation between Westinghouse and India,” Ambassador Arun Singh told reporters. “The issues that remain to be worked out are related to cost and financing.”

Progress on the deal to build six AP-1000 nuclear reactors is one of the key developments anticipated during the June 7-8 visit by Modi to Washington, where he will be hosted by President Barack Obama for a final summit before the U.S. presidential election in November. Modi will address both houses of Congress.

The United States and India agreed in 2008 to cooperate in the civil nuclear arena, but there have been no agreements yet to build any plants.

Reuters reported Tuesday that Westinghouse and India reached a breakthrough after officials said it will relocate the planned project in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. The original site proposed for the multi-billion-dollar project, in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, faced local opposition.

Another obstacle had been to bring India’s liability rules into line with international norms, which require the costs of an accident to be channeled to the operator rather than the maker of a nuclear power station.

That issue had been largely resolved to the satisfaction of the U.S. government in January 2015 after the United States and India reached a “breakthrough understanding” on nuclear cooperation.

Singh told reporters “to the best of my knowledge” insurance was no longer an issue in the discussions.

Westinghouse had hoped to clinch a deal to build six nuclear reactors in India by the end of March, during Modi’s last Washington trip to attend a global nuclear summit.

U.S. lawmakers ratified the civil nuclear accord three years after it was struck in 2005, as part of an attempt to deepen the strategic relationship with India, but have expressed growing dismay over its failure to yield follow-on deals for U.S.-based reactor makers.

(Amends source of background information in paragraph 6.)

(Reporting By Valerie Volcovici; Editing by David Gregorio)


Japan’s new law on funding plutonium reprocessing

IPFM Blog | Tatsujiro Suzuki and Masa Takubo | May 26, 2016

On 11 May 2016, Japan’s parliament passed a “Law Regarding Implementation of Reprocessing, etc. of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Generation” (our translation). The new law is to go into effect within six months. Its stated primary objective is to assure continued funding for reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication even if nuclear utilities go bankrupt after Japan’s market for electric power is fully liberalized.

The new law amends the 2005 “Law regarding Deposit and Management of the Reserve Funds for Reprocessing, etc. of Spent Fuel from Nuclear Power Generation” and has three basic features:

  1. It establishes the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization, a government-approved entity responsible for collecting funds required for reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication (Article 10.14; although the law provides for the possibility of multiple “Organizations,” there will most probably be only one). This Organization will contract out actual reprocessing and MOX fuel fabrication operations to Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL), which has built the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and is completing the adjacent MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility.
  2. It requires Japan’s nuclear utilities to pay “contributions” to the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization every fiscal year to cover the expected cost for reprocessing of all spent fuel they generated in the previous fiscal year and for turning the resulting separated plutonium into MOX fuel (Article 3.7). The contributions will be based on the amount of the electricity generated.
  3. It requires that the Spent Fuel Reprocessing Organization’s reprocessing plan be approved by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) (Article 45), who is also responsible for approving the establishment of the Organization (Article 17).

The new law also has other several features that buttress Japan’s commitment to plutonium separation:

  1. It provides for the funding of reprocessing of all spent fuel and producing MOX fuel from all plutonium, while the previous law covered only the funding for the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. The funds that the utilities have voluntarily been setting aside for reprocessing spent fuel not to be dealt with by the Rokkasho plant will now be transferred to the Organization. This means that the new system will provide for a commercial reprocessing plant beyond Rokkasho, despite the fact that there currently appears to be no prospect for building another commercial plant.
  2. The new law gives the government stronger authority over the reprocessing business. The purpose of the law is “steady implementation of reprocessing,” making it possible for the government to force utilities to reprocess all their spent fuel.
  3. Finally, the law forces Japan’s utilities to continue separating plutonium regardless of future plutonium consumption plans. There is nothing in the law to enforce Japan’s “no plutonium surplus policy.”

Concerned about the inflexibility of the law and lack of consideration of Japan’s plutonium balance, Japan’s parliament added a required review of the law in three years instead of the five years originally proposed by the government and adopted a supplementary resolution that includes the following conditions:

  1. When the situation changes, the government must review and take necessary measures, taking into account the views expressed during the parliamentary debate.
  2. Direct disposal and spent fuel storage options must be developed to secure flexibility in spent fuel management. However the law which prohibits direct disposal of spent fuel remains in force.
  3. Given Japan’s stated commitment “not to possess plutonium without purpose for use,” the Minister of METI shall not approve any reprocessing plan violating this principle.
  4. Before approving a reprocessing plan, the Minister of METI must obtain the advice of Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). JAEC is supposed to review the annual “plutonium usage plan” submitted by the utilities to check the balance of plutonium supply and demand before reprocessing takes place. However, the utilities have not submitted a new plan since 2010.
  5. A scheme must be established to assess the implications and impacts of Japan’s reprocessing program from a broad perspective, including taking into consideration its implications for international security.
  6. The government must take stronger responsibility for enhancing spent fuel storage capacity and tackling the challenges concerning final disposal of high level waste.
  7. Reprocessing should proceed with sincere dialogue with local communities to obtain understanding and cooperation. This condition is considered necessary as any change in the current reprocessing program may trigger opposition from Aomori prefecture, which hosts the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

These conditions, however, are not legally binding and it is not clear if they will be effective in establishing a balance between plutonium separation and use in Japan.


Arms Control Law | Dan Joyner | May 28, 2016

Readers will likely have read media reports today summarizing the IAEA’s latest official report on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA and Security Council Resolution 2231, which was presented to the IAEA Board of Governors today. A full copy of the IAEA report has, fortunately, been provided to ACL in the interests of transparency by a source in Vienna. You can find it at the link below.

The five page report finds that Iran is upholding its commitments under the JCPOA, and has been cooperating with IAEA inspectors. It concludes:

The Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and locations outside facilities where nuclear material is customarily used (LOFs) declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remained ongoing.

Noticeably absent, of course, is any consideration of whether the other parties to the JCPOA, including particularly the U.S., are abiding by their JCPOA commitments. I think this would actually make for more interesting reading.

Iran Report May 27 2016

Een betere toekomst voor Oekraïne?

Henk van der Keur | 19 april 2016

Het referendum over het EU-associatieverdrag met Oekraïne legde pijnlijk bloot hoe groot het gebrek aan kennis is over Oekraïne. Over de politieke verhoudingen, de economische situatie, maar zeker ook over de oorlog bij de oostgrens en wat gedaan moet worden om tot een politieke oplossing te komen tussen de strijdende partijen. Als ik in discussie ging met mensen die zeiden ‘ja’ te gaan stemmen, kreeg ik vaak te horen: “Wat is er mis met betere economische samenwerking en handel tussen de Europese Unie en Oekraïne? Daar wordt dat land toch alleen maar beter van?” Of uitspraken als: “Ja, er is natuurlijk veel corruptie in Oekraïne, maar als het eenmaal in de invloedsfeer van de Europese Unie terechtkomt dan zal dat door hervormingen van het politieke bestel vanzelf minder worden.” Of, bijvoorbeeld: “De meerderheid van de Oekraïners willen aansluiting zoeken bij de EU en wij hebben die mening te respecteren.

Al deze uitspraken suggereren dat Oekraïne een etnische monocultuur is en dat het met wat politieke en economische hervormingen aansluiting moet kunnen vinden op de Europese markt. Maar al die veronderstellingen miskennen etnische pluriformiteit en de ernst van de politieke en economische problemen in Oekraïne. Het land is praktisch failliet. Het is een bananenrepubliek waar oligarchen, nationalisten en nationaal-socialisten de dienst uitmaken. En – niet minder belangrijk –komt daar ook nog bij dat dit grensland het epicentrum is van een nieuwe Koude Oorlog in Europa. Al deze problemen kunnen niet los van elkaar worden gezien. Ze grijpen op elkaar in. Uit enquêtes blijkt dat een groot deel van de gerussificeerde bevolking in het oosten van Oekraïne aansluiting wil bij Rusland en niet bij de Europese Unie. Een EU-associatieverdrag zou onnodig bijdragen aan het vergroten van de spanningen tussen de Oekraïense regering en de Oekraïense rebellen. Het is van groot belang dat er eerst een wapenstilstand komt aan Rusland’s grenzen. Ruim een jaar gelden sloten de Duitse bondskanselier Angela Merkel en de Franse president François Hollande samen met de Russische president Vladimir Poetin in gastland Wit-Rusland een akkoord voor een bestand in Oekraïne. Een onderdeel daarvan is dat er een dialoog moet worden opgestart, die uiteindelijk moeten leiden tot verkiezingen in de regio’s Donetsk en Loegansk. Het doel daarvan is om daar wettelijk meer zelfbestuur in te voeren. Onder druk van de Amerikanen weigert de Oekraïense regering daar uitvoering aan te geven. Zo komt er geen zicht op een vreedzame oplossing.
Ofschoon corruptie een ernstig probleem is, waar op korte termijn weinig aan gedaan kan worden, is dat niet het grootste probleem waarom de economie van Oekraïne in de afgelopen twee jaar bijna werd gehalveerd. Het kernprobleem is de ideologisch gedreven keuze om de banden met Rusland te verbreken. Zo feliciteerde de Oekraïense president Petro Porosjenko in januari het land voor het overleven van hun eerste winter zonder Russisch gas. In plaats daarvan had het Europees gas gekocht, 30% duurder dan van de Russen. Als die weg verder wordt bewandeld, kan dit alleen maar uitmonden in economische zelfmoord. Wat Duitsland is voor Nederland – met afstand de belangrijkste handelspartner – is Rusland voor Oekraïne. Historisch gezien is buurland Rusland – en dat is het nog steeds – de belangrijkste handelspartner en investeerder van Oekraïne. Zonder normalisering van die economische betrekkingen met hun belangrijkste handelspartner zijn er volgens onafhankelijke deskundigen, waaronder Nikolaj Petro, geen vooruitzichten op herstel van de Oekraïense economie tot het niveau van voor het conflict. Het is een illusie te denken dat de burgers van Oekraïne met steun van de VS en de EU er economisch op vooruit zullen gaan. In tegendeel, het land dreigt een wingewest te worden van Westerse multinationals, waaronder de agrochemische gigant Monsanto. Dat zal het tij van een verdere verloedering van de Oekraïense economie niet doen keren.

Hoezeer ik ook de xenofobe organisaties, die het referendum hebben afgedwongen, verafschuw, ik ben blij dat de nee-stem heeft gezegevierd. De politieke en militaire hoofdstukken van de associatieovereenkomst, die ratificatie vereisen door alle 28 lidstaten van de EU, zijn nu een dode letter. En het was juist deze weinig bekende teksten waarin wordt opgeroepen tot een nauwe coördinatie van defensie en buitenlands beleid tussen de EU en Oekraïne. Dit zou de eerste stap in de richting van volledige NAVO-lidmaatschap zijn geweest. Dat betekent dus een flinke dreun voor de agressieve expansiepolitiek van de NAVO. Dat is een stap in de goede richting. Nu zou de EU zich sterk moeten gaan maken voor voltooiing van het Minsk Akkoord. Dat is het startsein voor een politieke oplossing van het conflict in Oekraïne dat uiteindelijk uitzicht biedt op politieke en economische stabiliteit en de bestrijding van de corruptie.

Pak says China will stop India’s entry into NSG

Business Standard | ANI (Islamabad) | April 14, 2016

Pakistan’s former permanent representative at the United Nations in Geneva and envoy at the Conference on Disarmament, Zamir Akram, has said that “chances of

gaining entry into Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), were virtually nil”, and appeared convinced of this despite having the support of the United States.

Ambassador Akram was speaking at a conference on the International Nuclear Order, organised by the Strategic Vision Institute and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung yesterday, where he dismissed India’s chances, reports the Dawn.

This is the second time in a month that a senior official involved with the country’s nuclear affairs has made such comments. Last month, adviser to the National Command Authority, retired Lt Gen Khalid Kidwai, at a conference, said , “We also have friends in NSG who would not let it happen.”

He opined that would not allow New Delhi to enter the coveted group because this would affect its nuclear cooperation with and said that is committed to ensuring that both India and gain membership at the same time, reports the Dawn.

Akram asserted that some countries were upset by the “double standards” being shown in India’s case.

In 2008, India received a country-specific safeguards agreement at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which set at ease exemptions from the NSG for nuclear trade with India, despite not being the signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Both China and Pakistan initially opposed to India-specific agreement with the IAEA, but later withdrew the objection after U.S. pressure on Islamabad.

Talking about the global nuclear order, the Ambassador asserted that it has been destabilized due to various factors, including the powers’ double standards and discriminatory exemptions granted to India.

Meanwhile, Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Ehsanul Haq, in the conference criticised the world nuclear order for being “highly discriminatory and obstructive”.

He asserted that Pakistan’s nuclear programme would continue to defend itself.

“No matter how adverse the environment, to provide us the credible deterrence against the existential threats we confront,” Haq said.


Operating licence application submitted for Finnish EPR

WNN | 14 April 2016

Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) has today submitted its operating licence application for unit 3 of the Olkiluoto nuclear power plant. The first-of-a-kind EPR plant is scheduled to start up in late 2018.

Olkiluoto 3 - April 2016 - 460 (TVO)
The Olkiluoto EPR, pictured earlier this month (Image: TVO)

TVO announced today that it has submitted its 130,000-page application to the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy. The application contains information on, among other things, the technical and operational safety principles, arrangement for nuclear waste management, and details of TVO’s expertise and financial position.

In addition to seeking approval to operate Olkiluoto 3 for an initial 30-year period (from the beginning of 2018 to the end of 2038), TVO’s application also seeks permission to use the existing on-site interim storage facilities for the used fuel and other radioactive wastes that will be generated by the unit over this period. The application does not concern the use of final disposal facilities for nuclear wastes.

The application will now be reviewed by the Finnish nuclear regulator STUK, as well as several ministries and certain other authorities and communities. STUK will give its safety assessment for the application, while the others will submit statements to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. The Finnish government will make a decision on TVO’s application based on the ministry’s recommendations.

STUK said that as it has already inspected and approved the design of the plant during the construction phase, the focus of its assessment for the operating licence will be verifying updated safety analyses and TVO’s preparation for operation. It said this assessment will take about 18 months to complete and that STUK will deliver its statement to the ministry at the end of 2017.

“TVO has already submitted most of the operating licence materials to STUK”, said Tapani Virolainen, deputy director of STUK’s nuclear reactor regulation department. “STUK has granted a six-month extension only for the provision of certain analysis results.”

TVO senior vice president for the Olkiluoto 3 project Jouni Silvennoinen said the submission of the operating licence application is “an important milestone” towards commissioning of unit. “Now the project is moving from installations to testing. The operating licence application process is the most important phase of the final acceptance of a nuclear power plant project before start up of the new power plant unit,” Silvennoinen said.

TVO said it anticipates obtaining the operating licence for Olkiluoto 3 towards the end of 2017, after which nuclear commissioning will start at the unit. Commercial operation of the reactor is expected to begin by the end of 2018.

Instrumentation and control system testing at Olkiluoto 3 started in January and last week testing began of the first process system – the seawater system. The company said the main electromechanical installations, including piping works, will be completed by mid-2016.

The first-of-a-kind EPR at Finland’s Olkiluoto plant has been under construction since 2005 and has seen several revisions to its start-up date, which is now expected by 2018. The Flamanville EPR in France, construction of which began in 2007, is now expected to start up in late 2018.

Taishan 1 in China, which has been under construction since 2009, is expected to start up in early 2017, while Taishan 2 is scheduled to begin operating later that year.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

Laureates call for cut to highly enriched uranium

physicsworld.com | Peter Gwynne | April 8, 2016


A group of 35 Nobel laureates, including 16 physicists, has called on world leaders to reduce the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in naval nuclear propulsion and research reactors. In a letter addressed to national leaders at last week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, the laureates call for “serious technical studies” to transition naval reactors to using low-enriched uranium (LEU). They also call for a road map for converting or shutting down research reactors that use HEU, as well as the development of non-radioactive alternatives – such as cobalt-60 and caesium-137 – for use in medicine and research.

More than 90 research reactors have been converted to LEU or closed down in the past 40 years. The US has also been reducing its stocks of HEU, which is defined as uranium with 20% to 90% concentration of the uranium-235 isotope. According to the US government, the country’s stocks of HEU fell from 740.7 tonnes to 585.6 tonnes between 1996 and 2013. The latter amount includes around 500 tonnes for national security, such as the production of nuclear weapons and naval propulsion, 44.6 tonnes of spent nuclear reactor fuel, as well as 41.6 tonnes that could be reduced to LEU or disposed of as low-level waste.

Regardless of these steps, the laureates urge “serious technical studies” to investigate moving to LEU fuels for naval nuclear propulsion as well as “strongly” recommending governments devote more resources to addressing the remaining HEU-fuelled reactors over the next decade. Burton Richter, who shared the 1976 Nobel Prize for Physics and instigated the letter together with the president of the Federation of American Scientists, Charles Ferguson, told physicsworld.com that almost all research reactors should be convertible to LEU. “Some might not be,” he adds. “But the world can live without them.”

Richter regards the non-military uses of HEU as the more serious risk of falling into the wrong hands. “I’m less worried about the naval-reactor HEU than the civilian HEU because military reactors have a lot more security,” he told physicsworld.com. “The amounts are much higher on the military side, but so is the security.” Indeed, in their letter, the 35 laureates warn that the threats of nuclear and radiological terrorism “cross national boundaries” and will require collaboration between nations to prevent an incident from happening. “We urge [national leaders] to devote the necessary resources to make further substantial progress in the coming years to real risk reduction in preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism,” they add.

The laureates also praise the progress made by governments and companies in developing ways of treating cancer and blood disorders by using other techniques that do not rely on highly radioactive sources.

About the author

Peter Gwynne is Physics World‘s North America correspondent