Monthly Archives: October 2015

Iran’s parliament approves outline of bill on nuclear deal

The Times of India | AP | Oct 11, 2015

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s parliament on Sunday approved an outline of a bill that would allow the government to implement a historic nuclear deal reached with world powers, the official IRNA news agency said.

State TV meanwhile announced that Iran had successfully test-fired a new long-range ballistic missile, the first such test since the nuclear deal was reached in July.

The bill allows the government to withdraw from implementing the agreement if world powers do not lift sanctions, IRNA said. Final approval of the bill is expected later this week after further discussions.

The landmark deal would curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for the lifting of international sanctions. Western nations have long suspected Iran of secretly pursuing nuclear arms, allegations denied by Tehran, which says its nuclear program is for purely peaceful purposes.

“The government should stop its voluntary cooperation in implementation of the deal if the other side fails to remain committed to lifting sanctions,” the bill says. It says the response should be the same if new sanctions are imposed or previous ones restored.

IRNA said 139 lawmakers out of 253 present voted for the bill. The chamber has 290 seats.

The session was unusually tense, with hard-liners repeatedly trying to prevent a vote on the deal. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who makes all final decisions on key policies, has said it is up to parliament to approve or reject the deal.

Lawmaker Ruhollah Hosseinian, an opponent of the deal, said parliament needs to discuss it in detail. Until now, it has only been reviewed by a special parliamentary committee.

“Every (international) agreement must be approved and passed by the parliament. Otherwise, it won’t be legal,” Hosseinian said.

Hard-liners hope to stall approval of the deal in order to weaken President Hassan Rouhani’s moderate administration ahead of February’s parliamentary elections.

Iran’s defense minister general Hossein Dehghan meanwhile hailed the new surface-to-surface missile, saying it “will obviously boost the strategic deterrence capability of our armed forces.”

He said the missile, named Emad or pillar in Farsi, was a technological achievement for Iran. He said it can be guided until the moment of impact and hit targets “with high precision.”

State TV showed footage of the huge missile being launched in a desert area, but did not elaborate on its range or the specifics of the test.

The UN resolution endorsing the nuclear deal called on Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Iran says none of its missiles are designed for that purpose.

Since 1992, Iran has boasted an indigenous military industry, producing missiles, tanks and light submarines. The government frequently announces military advances which cannot be independently verified.

The Islamic Republic already claims to have surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles) that can hit Israel and US military bases in the region.

Jaitapur’s nuclear discontent

Business Standard | Opinion | Sanjay Jog | October 10. 2015

State-run NPCIL and French MNC Areva, which are slated to collaborate on a nuclear power plant in the port town, are wrangling over terms and tariff. Meanwhile, the ruling BJP’s ally, Shiv Sena, is opposed to the project. So are some NGOs

Six months after signing a pre-engineering agreement during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France, state-run Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and India arm of French multinational company, Areva, are still struggling to conclude techno-commercial negotiations and strike the final work contract for the 9,900-Mw nuclear power project in Maharashtra.

The bone of contention is the per unit tariff of Rs 6.50 as envisaged by the Depart-ment of Atomic Energy (DAE) in November 2013. and are also playing hardball over sharing the burden of application of additional safety measures while ensuring the viability of the project. The upgrade of safety applications has been mandated by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011.

NPCIL and Areva are also discussing how a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the latter and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) on localisation of key equipment will help reduce costs as well as the per unit tariff.

This apart, despite Modi’s recent US visit, talks between NPCIL and the US-based GE Hitachi for the supply of six reactors, of 1,594 Mw each, for the Kowada project in Andhra Pradesh are yet to gain momentum. Similarly, negotiations between NPCIL and Westinghouse for the supply of six AP1000 reactors of 1,100 Mw each, for the Mithi Virdi project in Gujarat have been a non-starter.

Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena, part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre and in Maharashtra, continues to oppose the Jaitapur project, on the grounds that an earthquake – which the party says the project could trigger – would have terrible consequences for the region. This, even after Modi’s advice to the party to stop opposing the project, which he says would “transform” the region. The is fighting a lone battle: both the and the Opposition and are supporting the project.

Of course, the BJP-led government in Maharashtra will have to clarify if it is prepared to clear the Jaitapur project at the per unit tariff of Rs 6.50, even as its undertaking, MahaVitaran, has struck long-term power purchase agreements for the availability of power at Rs 3.20-3.50 per unit. The government needs to make its stand clear as it had recently decided not to resume buying power from the Dabhol power plant after it revives production on November 1, citing surplus availability. Power from Dabhol will cost Rs 4.70 per unit.

While most people affected by the project have accepted compensation, local fisherfolk and some non-governmental organisations (NGO) are still voicing their protest against it. Demonstrations and rallies have not taken place because villagers are waiting for talks between NPCIL and Areva to conclude.

Notwithstanding the fact that the two firms are yet to reach a final agreement, they have started technical studies, which will enable them to finalise the technical configuration of the Jaitapur project.

In February 2009, Areva and NPCIL signed an MoU for partnership in nuclear power generation and build up to six European pressurised reactors (EPR) of 1,650 MW each, in Jaitapur. Subsequently, a general framework agreement for the construction of the first two EPRs was signed in December 2010. Initially, Areva will supply two EPRs.

“As on date, techno-commercial negotiations are underway (between NPCIL and Areva),” said DAE spokesperson S K Malhotra. “The talks are largely revolving around how to keep the per unit tariff low for the consumer.” He declined to spell out a time frame for the conclusion of the talks and the signing of the contract.

(KBS), one of the NGOs opposed to the Jaitapur project, says the government needs to clarify the cost arbitrage indigenisation will offer and how the tariff of Rs 6.50 per unit will be achieved against an earlier estimate of Rs 9.50 per unit. This is necessary when the Centre treats the MoU between Areva and L&T for indigenisation as the most vital for the viability of the Jaitapur project.

co-convenor said the Centre could not overlook global developments on the use of EPRs. “Finland cancelled its option for a second EPR from Areva as the existing one, Olkiluoto, is sinking into an abyss of cost overruns, delays and litigations,” he said. “This apart, India’s civil nuclear deal with Japan is stuck. This becomes a hurdle in sourcing reactor pressure vessels from a Japanese company.”

According to Pednekar, the civil nuclear damage liability law passed by Parliament is another hurdle. “The promises made in the law and the insurance pool created here will not be sufficient for nuclear technology suppliers,” he said.

Some nuclear industry experts are hoping Areva and NPCIL will resolve their issues amicably. They say the Centre can explore the option of installing indigenous pressurised heavy water reactors in Jaitapur.

America’s newest nuke plant shows why nuclear power is dying in the U.S.

Los Angeles Times | Column | Michael Hiltzik | October 12, 2015

la-fi-mh-america-s-newest-nuke-plant-20151011-001

PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant, the state’s only remaining commercial nuclear generating plant, shown after an electrical fire caused a shutdown of one of its two reactors in May 2000.

(Steve Osman / Los Angeles Times)

Shortly after New Year’s Day, the Tennessee Valley Authority is expected to bring its newest nuclear power plant online.

The TVA says Watts Bar Unit 2 in Spring City, Tenn., about 50 miles north of Chattanooga, will be fully modern and superlatively safe — “the nation’s first new nuclear generation of the 21st century,” the utility says.

The truth is rather different. Not only is Watts Bar 2 not new, it could be a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with America’s nuclear power industry since it generated its first electricity at Shippingport, Pa., in 1958.

 

“Rather than exemplifying a fine technological achievement,” environmentalists Don Safer and Sara Barczak write on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “the history of Watts Bar Units 1 and 2 is a cautionary tale of the worst pitfalls of nuclear power and the federal regulatory system.”

As they observe, the history of Watts Bar is one of enormous cost overruns, antiquated design and unimaginable construction delays. Most of those features are shared with America’s nuclear power industry in general, which may explain why the industry is held in such low esteem and regarded with so much fear by the public that the last new nuclear plant to enter service in the U.S. is now nearly 20 years old — the 1996-vintage Watts Bar Unit 1.

Adding to the industry’s woes is its checkered record in California, which includes the premature mothballing of the San Onofre nuclear plant by Southern California Edison in 2013, and persistent questions about the safety of Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo. The nationwide record creates an uphill battle for proponents of nuclear power such as the advocacy group Nuclear Matters, which maintains that expanding the nation’s nuclear capacity is a key to moving the nation toward a more reliable carbon-free electrical generating grid.

Watts Bar 2 holds the world record for the longest gestation of any nuclear plant in history, having been listed as “under construction” for 43 years. The project was launched in 1972 and suspended in 1985, when it was already 60% complete, Safer and Barczak observe. By then, despite an initial cost estimate of about $400 million, some $1.7 billion had been spent. The total cost is now estimated at $6.1 billion. TVA officials say that upgrades and improvements, including safety provisions implemented following Japan’s 2011 Fukushima power plant disaster, have made Unit 2 “like new.”

Over its history, the TVA has been one of America’s most aggressively nuclear-oriented utilities. Former LADWP chief S. David Freeman tried to wean the agency from nukes after he became its chairman in 1977, canceling eight reactors already under construction. “It was not a popular move,” he later observed wryly, but the plants “cost way too much money and resources, and had the potential to do greater harm than good.” Freeman has urged the agency to sharply increase its commitment to solar power and other renewable sources.

Pacific Gas & Electric’s Diablo Canyon plant near San Luis Obispo has been plagued by questions about its ability to withstand earthquakes — earlier this year it was reported that PG&E installed nearly $1 billion of new equipment at the plant without performing required seismic tests. And that’s not even to mention the questions that have been raised about PG&E’s managerial competence in the wake of the San Bruno gas explosion, which leveled a neighborhood and killed eight persons.

The fundamental problem of the U.S. nuclear power program may have been that it was placed under the management of the nation’s power utilities, which were ill-equipped to manage a technology vastly more complicated than any it had dealt with up to that point. The industry expanded rapidly through the 1970s, a period known to historians as the “Great Bandwagon Market.” But flaws in the program were becoming clear: nuclear plants were expensive to build, produced waste that was impossible to dispose of safely and generated power far more expensive than had been projected.

Then came 1979 and Three Mile Island. Suddenly, nuclear power stopped growing. For nearly four decades not a single new reactor was ordered, and scores of earlier contracts were canceled. The technical questions about nuclear generation had not been solved: the technology was not mature and still so willful that it taxed to the limits the management ability of every utility that took it on — right up to 2013, and Edison’s abandonment of San Onofre after a failed major upgrade.

Watts Bar 2 may not solve these problems. The plant’s ice-condenser design, which relies in part on supplies of ice to cool the reactor in an emergency, dates to the 1960s and has inspired skepticism from nuclear experts for decades. In part, that’s because it’s supposed to allow plants to be built with thinner containment structures. But in 1999, an assessment by Sandia National Laboratories found ice-condenser plants to be “substantially more sensitive to early containment failure” than similar plants with other systems.

TVA officials cite “extensive refurbishments, replacements and improvements” in asserting that the new implementation of its old plant will be “a safe, high quality nuclear unit.”

Watts Bar has the distinction of having the last nuclear plant to come online in the 20th century and … the first to come online in the 21st century,” the TVA says. That may not be the best advertisement for nuclear as an energy source for the future.

stop making irresponsible assurances about Koodankulam

Dear Dr. Srinivasan, please stop making irresponsible assurances about Koodankulam

Dianuke | October 11, 2015

In the wake of crippling electricity crisis in her state, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has written to the Prime Minister about commissioning the second unit of the Koodankulam nuclear power plant and ensuring that Unit-1 starts functioning smoothly. The former DAE Chairman Dr. M R Srinivasan has given a public assurance about the reactor staring on October 15th. Here s a rejoinder from Dr. S P Udayakumar, leader of the people’s movement in Koodankulam:

Dr. M.R. Srinivasan Knows It All

Dr. M. R. Srinivasan, a former DAE chief, has announced that power generation would start at KKNPP 1 on November 15, 2015. He has said that there are problems in the pumps and they are checking all of them. But why do the brand new pumps malfunction, Dr. Srinivasan? Who are the manufacturers of these pumps? How much public money did you spend on these pumps? Is there any warranty that you can avail?

Dr. Srinivasan has also said that it is expected that Unit -2 may start power generation from 2016 January. (Please note that it has been pushed further from “the end of 2015”.) The Nuclear Senior has also revealed that work on units 3 & 4 has already begun and power generation will happen when all the work is completed (That much we all know, right?)

Who is Dr. M. R. Srinivasan? Is he a central or state minister? Is he the Chief of NPCIL or the KKNPP? Has he been to Koodankulam in the recent months or weeks? How does he know that Unit-1 would start power generation from November 15th? Chief Minister Jayalalitha should ask the above questions to Dr. M. R. Srinivasan.

All these nuclear-wallahs are making fools out of us and all the political leaders in this country. Dr. M. R. Srinivasan was the one who chose the KKNPP site and did the Site Evaluation Study, which the NPCIL refuses to share with the public and, in fact, has obtained a stay order against the Central Information Commission’s ruling that it be shared with the people of India.

We welcomed the CM’s letter saying that she was indirectly asking the same questions that we had been asking for a long time. We warned her against demanding power from the KKNPP units as they had shoddy parts and equipment. Instead she should ask for a white paper about what was going on and what was the real situation at Koodankulam.

Since the first units were not successful, she should not allow the construction of two more units there.For the kKNPP projects they have bought many parts from discredited companies such as Zio Podolsk and there have been a lot of irregularities at KKNPP. That’s why the steam generator, turbine and the pumps do not work. We have been saying this from the beginning. But the central govt, DAE have been keeping quiet. The TN govt that been silent so far has begun to speak now.

Dr. M. R. Srinivasan was part of the Iniyan Committee that Chief Minister Jayalalitha constituted in 2012 to study the perils and promises of the KKNPP. The Chief Minister should share that report with the people of Tamil Nadu so that we all will come to know the omissions and commissions (no pun intended) of people like Dr. M. R. Srinivasan!

Mother Nature Save India from these nuclear-wallahs!

India’s indigenous nuclear submarine Arihant to undergo missile firing tests

The Economic Times | PTI | 11 Oct 2015

ins-arihant-reuNEW DELHI: India’s first indigenously developed nuclear submarine Arihant, which has “successfully” completed the sea trials held so far, will undergo its maiden missile firing test this month, top defence sources said.

The aim is to handover the submarine to the Indian Navy during the International Fleet Review scheduled in February next year in Vishakapatnam, they said.

“The tests held so far has been successful. We will, this month, fire Nirbhay missile from the submarine which will be followed by firing of another type of missile,” the sources said.

While Nirbhay is a 1000-km-long range subsonic cruise missile, the next missile would be India’s first Subamrine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM), which has a range of about 700 kms.

These would be followed by another few rounds of tests.

India plans to build at least two more Arihant-class submarines. India had started building Arihant in the 1990s under its highly secretive ATV (Advanced Technology Vessel) programme.

Though Arihant was initially supposed to be a fast-attack submarine, the project was realingned to make it a ballistic missile submarine following the nuclear test conducted by India in 1998.

After its launch in 2009, Arihant went through extensive tests including harbour acceptance trials with the on-board reactor going critical in 2013. It left the harbour for its sea trials in December 2014.

 

Govt steps up efforts to restart L&T-NPCIL nuclear operations

Hindustan Times | Shishir Gupta – New Delhi | Oct 11, 2015

The government is stepping up efforts to create nuclear heavy forging capacities in India and has finalised a plan to recapitalise a six-year-old joint venture between engineering major Larsen and Toubro (L&T) and state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).

Top sources told HT that the government will shortly move a proposal for Cabinet approval to convert Rs 500 crore of debt of the joint venture — L&T Special Steels and Special Forgings (LTSSHF) — into equity to aid the company.

L&T and NPCIL had formed the Rs 1,725-crore joint venture in 2009 for specialised steel and forging products. While NPCIL holds 26% in the JV, L&T holds the remaining stake.

Sources told HT that the move recapitalise and bring out a financial package for the joint venture is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push for manufacturing through the signature Make in India initiative, particularly in the areas of defence and nuclear energy.

L&T declined to comment on the story, while NPCIL did not respond to HT’s emailed queries.

Sources said Modi is keen that India create its own indigenous heavy forging manufacturing capacities to reduce dependence on overseas vendors.

“It is important for us to develop indigenous manufacturing capacities of forgings to bridge the gap in domestic capabilities and produce equipment for nuclear, thermal power and hydrocarbon plants,” a source said.

At present, China (China First Heavy Industries, China Erzhong, SEC), France (Le Creusot), Russia (OMZ Izhora) and Japan (Japan Steel Works) produce ultra-heavy forgings and special steels.

The NPCIL and L&T joint venture was formed primarily to make special steels and ultra-heavy forgings, but delays in policies for nuclear power projects had forced the company to revise its business plans.

While new capacities are being planned in the UK (Sheffield Forgemasters) and also in India through Bharat Heavy Electricals and Bharat Forge Ltd, the tsunami and earthquake in Japan had triggered a backlash against nuclear reactors.

The joint venture was set up to supply finished forgings for nuclear reactors, pressurisers and steam generators, in addition to heavy forgings for critical equipment in the hydrocarbon sector, as well as for thermal power plants.

NPCIL is currently operating 21 nuclear power reactors with an installed capacity of 5,780 megawatt (MW.)

Preparations on for launching Kudankulam Unit-2 Nuclear plant

The Economic Times | PTI | 11 Oct 2015

nuclear-deal6NEW DELHI: Preparations are underway for operationalisation of the Unit-2 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu and stage is set for construction of two more reactors of 1000 mw capacity each, according to Russian company Rosatom which is building the atomic power plant.

“The construction of the second power unit (Unit-2) has been completed at the NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) site and preparations for putting it into operation are underway,” it said in response by email to queries from PTI on the status of the Kudankulam Unit-2.

It said the primary and secondary circuits of the second power unit (Unit-1) have successfully passed hydraulic tests, including circulation flushing, using parameters with the powering of the main circulation pumps.

“The second unit is scheduled to be connected to the grid in the fall of 2015,” the company said about the unit whose commissioning has been put off four times so far.

With regard to Units 3 and 4, Rosatom said, “construction works are scheduled to start this year”. Each of these units will be of 1000 mw capacity.

“The agreement of priority engineering works was already signed and is being successfully implemented for power Units 3 and 4,” the company said.

The Units 2, 3 and 4 are part of “strategic vision” between India and Russia under which 12 nuclear power plants will be built and made operational over the next 20 years.

About the Unit-1, which is already operational, the company said it is the “most powerful” reactor in India and “meets the state-of-the-art safety requirements”.

To a question about the status of another nuclear plant proposed to be set up by Russia, for which Haripur in West Bengal was identified by India, but has been delayed because of objections by the locals, it said local political situation should be taken into consideration.

“Haripur is one of the sites proposed for construction of nuclear power units with Russian reactors. The Russian party has confirmed its willingness to build nuclear plant in Haripur. However, local political situation should be kept in mind,” it replied.

Asked to comment on an agreement between India and Canada for supply of uranium a few months back, the Russian company said it will help India diversify its sources of uranium and achieve its scheduled objectives.

Citing the data of Atomic Energy Commission of India, it said India is facing nuclear fuel deficiency and will need to import more than 5,000 tonnes of uranium by 2017.

Currently, India produces about 400 tonnes of uranium per year and as per the plans, the country intends to double production in the medium term.