APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Monday, October 20, 2014

Multiple Parties Rush to Restore Doel 4

I've reported quite a bit here (and at ANS Nuclear Cafe) on the ongoing investigation concerning perceived reactor vessel flaws at two Belgian nuclear plants.  While that's ongoing, a recent event saw apparent deliberate action to dump turbine lube oil from Doel 4's turbine generator while it was at full load, causing extensive damage.

At this time, two well known turbine generator manufacturers are working to restore the machine - Alstom is performing work on the high pressure turbine, while Siemens is working on the low pressure turbines.  It's hoped that the plant can be back on line before the new year.

Here's the statement at the time of the incident from FANC, the Belgian nuclear regulator:

FANC investigates on automatic shutdown of Doel 4 NPP
8 August 2014 - The Doel 4 nuclear power plant was automatically shut down on Tuesday 5 August 2014, as a result of an oil leak on the steam turbine. This turbine is located in the non nuclear part of the NPP. A FANC expert team went to the site to make the necessary assessments.

Its conclusion is that this oil leak probably resulted from a voluntary manual intervention. Further investigation should reveal the precise circumstances behind this event. Meanwhile, the FANC has already taken additional action to ensure the safety and security of the nuclear installations.

After the automatic reactor shutdown, it appeared that one of the three auxiliary feedwater pumps was unavailable due to a technical problem. However, the reactor was shut down in safe condition with no other problem. After investigation, this anomaly was rated as level 1 on the INES scale.

This incident had no impact neither on the safety of the workers and population, nor on the environment.
3:15 PM Eastern 10/20/2014

Friday, October 17, 2014

Where is Will, and by the way, Pakistan might be crazy

Some of you might have noticed a distinct reduction in posting here.  That's because for about a month I've been handling all social media for the American Nuclear Society, in the wake of some shaking up at headquarters, in addition to being in on a number of other projects.  So I've been quite busy actually -- it's just that everything has been coming out under the ANS brand.

I've also made the decision to launch a local, Ohio initiative that looks at energy more broadly than just all-nuclear all-the-time, and which will engage (hopefully) some of the local interests here on all sides.  You'll see more of that later.


For now, as I scan the headlines / Facebook posts / Twitterverse for news items today, I run across this little gem:

"Pakistan court stops construction work on nuclear power plants."

Now, the basic premise here is this:  Since the vendor for the proposed nuclear plants in Karachi, which is CNNC or China National Nuclear Corporation, has never built and operated the particular model of nuclear plant slated for this project (the ACP-1000) then the court believes that the environmental assessment is invalid.  This order was issued after receipt of a petition by an environmentalist group (I use that term very loosely indeed) who had made the case for this finding.

The Chinese must believe that Pakistan has some problems - I would.  After all, it's in China that the first-ever Westinghouse AP1000 plants are being built.  In other words, China is the location for a true FOAK (First Of A Kind) nuclear plant not indigenous to China.  On the other hand, it's not really perfectly correct to say that the CNNC ACP1000 is something totally new, out of left field.  That plant derives from over 30 years of work by CNNC in developing indigenous nuclear plant technology.

The ACP1000 nuclear plant is described as GENIII+ by its vendor; the NSSS (Nuclear Steam Supply System) was developed in concert with Westinghouse and Framatome (AREVA now) and is a three loop pressurized water design, very much like designs marketed and built for decades by Westinghouse, and then by its other licensees, again such as Framatome/AREVA (who have extrapolated and advanced designs beyond the 'break' with Westinghouse.)  The overall power plant isn't a totally clean sheet of paper sort of thing, but rather a design developed from decades of experience in Chinese nuclear plants.  CNNC lists in its sales brochure the following points of interest to any discussion of the declaration of "unproven effect" by the Pakistani court:

•  ACP1000 is designed using structures, systems and components already proven in China in existing NPP's (Nuclear Power Plants)
•  Structures, systems and components of new or recent design are acceptable and satisfactory operation can be demonstrated for conditions similar to that of new (existing) plants
•  Extrapolation of the design, size, capacity, duty, etc. of proven structures, systems and components to ACP1000 are reasonable
•  Safety structures, systems and components have been thoroughly tested and approved by the Chinese safety authority (NNSA.)

So it appears then as if the Pakistani court will have to either decide, or defer to other authority, whether or not this new plant design is so far off base compared to existing practice that its safety cannot be assured.

(SPOILER ALERT:  It's not that far off.)

Given this kind of finding (which might indeed just be a temporary holdup for a week or two... but one never knows) one might wonder if the vendors might have to assess whether or not to offer designs for export that are already operating instead of which merely are design certified and/or under construction.  Were this the case, let's say, with the UAE and its Barakah plant, then the South Koreans would not be building the advanced APR1400 plants there but rather the older OPR1000 or perhaps the updated OPR1000+ plants.  And yet again it's hard to offer 'last year's model' in the competitive export world.   

We shall wait and see.

Enough of that - back to work I go!

1:15 PM Eastern October 17, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nuclear Risk Research Center

Japan's Central Electric Research Institute of Electric Power Industry, an entity that serves all of the utilities in Japan, has created a subsidiary Nuclear Risk Research Center, whose website launched today.

Dr. George Apostolakis, a former Commissioner at the US NRC, is heading this effort.

See the website at this link.  I will also add a link into the "Fukushima Accident Reports" stand-alone page on this site, since it's very clear that the development of this entity is a direct result of the accident and perceived need to change how we analyze events.

12:45 PM Eastern October 1, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fukushima Daiichi links, facts; Japan nuclear guide

Just a couple items relative to Fukushima Daiichi....

•I've updated my Fukushima Accident Page with links to the most recent analysis of "unexplained events" during the accident, as developed by TEPCO.  There are, and continue to be, a number of unexplained phenomena during the accident that TEPCO is striving to deciper, and this body of work addresses those most important to progress in both decommissioning and overall analysis.  It's significant to note that the amount of fuel damage estimated in all three reactors continues, once again, to slowly increase over time.  Some might recall early estimates / statements by TEPCO that major fuel damage had occurred in all three units, which was then backed away from; reports by TEPCO at the ANS Winter Meeting I attended two years ago began then to intimate more severe damage.  This present report essentially duplicates the developed results I heard at that meeting.

TEPCO has decided to scrap the AREVA produced decontamination system at Fukushima Daiichi, which sat unused for essentially three years.  This event has gone practically unnoticed in nuclear press.  The cost of the equipment has not been revealed, and apparently isn't open for discussion.

And relative to Japan in general...

•It's no secret that all nuclear utilities in Japan have applied to restart at least one reactor each, and it's also no secret that Japan is actively trying to export nuclear energy in order to help its economy.  In light of that, it's interesting that the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum has published an all-new "Nuclear Energy Buyers Guide in Japan" volume, which is available for free on the net.  Click here to get this document, which has a great wealth of information in both graphic and tabular form. 

12:25 PM Eastern 9/3/2014

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

APR+ Design Certification Announced

While discussion has been focused on the announcement that the ESBWR was approaching design certification in the United States, another, completely different reactor plant type has actually achieved its design certification without any news coverage of note whatsoever.

On August 14, 2014, the APR+ nuclear plant design received official type certification in South Korea after a rigorous seven year development process.  The design is a two loop PWR rated 1500 MWe, with a designed plant life of 60 years and a core damage frequency an entire order of magnitude lower than that calculated for the APR1400 design that it supplants.  As initially designed the plant has a station blackout coping time with no action of eight hours; severe accident management design for the plant is intended to guarantee in-vessel retention of the core in any accident.  Four safety injection trains as well as passive devices combine with a semi-modular construction design, giving South Korea a world class nuclear plant in the upper range of nuclear plant outputs with an intended eventual construction time of 36 months.  Increased safety and reduced unplanned shutdowns are said to be hallmarks of the new APR+ design as compared with the previous designs.

APR+ also has a number of design concessions to load following on a daily schedule; the initial concept is for load change to be automatically controlled within a band of 50% to 100% power with no operator action at all.

The APR+ is a developed version of the still fairly recent APR1400.  The APR1400 type's construction began in 2011 and has ten units under construction presently in both South Korea (six units total) and the UAE (four units.)  It is expected that orders for new commercial nuclear units in the future in South Korea will be for APR+ units, replacing the APR1400. 

News of the official design certification of the APR+ by South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission is only the most recent coup for this nation's nuclear enterprise; of much note just two years ago, that is on July 4th, 2012 was the announcement that the SMART SMR had received the world's first design certification for any iPWR SMR design.  It's clear that KHNP and the entire South Korean nuclear establishment are pushing ahead aggressively in development (and marketing) and that, for the moment, that nation appears to have the lead in certifying new designs.  What now awaits is the first actual order for either type.

(Illustration courtesy Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.)

3:30 PM Eastern 9/2/2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Doel 3 and Tihange 2 units back in news / Turbine Generators

The saga of the hydrogen inclusions in the reactor vessels of the Doel Unit 3 and Tihange Unit 2 reactors in Belgium has, as some may already know, taken another turn; a recent finding has caused the shutdown of these two reactors indefinitely pending results of yet another investigation.

The history of these events is roughly as follows:  First, during an inspection in which new and sophisticated equipment never used before was employed, what appeared to be defects were found in the reactor vessel at Doel Unit 3.  This led to wide speculation about the vessels manufactured by Rotterdam Dockyard, and resulted in this extensive article I wrote for ANS in August 2012.

Eventually all US units were cleared of any suspicion, and so were all others elsewhere except for Tihange Unit 2, where similar defects seemed to exist.  These were later determined to be caused by hydrogen inclusion in the pressure vessels, and Electrabel (owner of the two nuclear units in question) decided that the units were safe to restart.  It submitted a restart plan to the Belgian nuclear regulator, FANC, in late 2012.

After much back-and-forth between FANC and Electrabel covering short and long term requirements, both plants were allowed to restart in May 2013.

What has happened now is that hydrogen flaked reactor pressure vessel test samples which were being irradiated and then tested to demonstrate strength have shown a marked change in material characteristics - for the worse.  The two plants were placed in their scheduled outages earlier than originally scheduled, but are now being held shut down by FANC until further notice.

What's required now is to repeat these material tests and determine if they're anomalous, or if the material properties of the reactor pressure vessels really are seriously affected by this phenomenon.. and if so, how?  In some old US pressure vessels, certain welding designs have caused operators to place highly restrictive operating limits on the plants -- limits which still can be met in plant operation, and the plants have operated safely.  Is this the sort of fate that faces Doel 3 and Tihange 2?  Or, is a permanent shutdown in the cards?  This is impossible to say at this point; Electrabel has stressed that early results of the tests underway don't point up any conclusion as of yet, and that results are due in the fall.

More troubling perhaps is the recent shutdown of Doel Unit 4 due to apparent sabotage, when person or persons unknown dumped lubricating oil from the turbine generator under full load.  The turbine tripped, which caused a reactor trip as well.  The HP or high pressure turbine has been reported to be seriously damaged; no results of inspection of the associated low pressure turbines have been released.

It's safe to say that Electrabel and FANC have their hands full at the moment, investigating one serious apparent sabotage event at a nuclear plant (even though that event was highly unlikely to have led to any reactor fuel damage) and two cases of possible, yet undetermined, degradation of reactor pressure vessels' integrity.  We await the outcomes of the two investigations and will report on those here when they're known.


For More Information -- 

REACTOR PRESSURE VESSELS  - link to my previous treatise on RPV manufacture and metallurgy


Turbine generators have traditionally been the largest and most expensive single pieces of equipment installed at nuclear plants (WASH 1174-71, US AEC 1971.)  These are shipped to the site in large sections, and assembled on top of a large steel reinforced concrete turbine pedestal.  A typical turbine generator set for a US 1000 MWe nuclear plant has one high pressure turbine and three low pressure turbines (all mounted on a single, linear, sectional shaft) and runs at a constant 1800 RPM.  In years past, growth of nuclear plants' output was perceived to be limited by the growth in turbine generators, because the single piece forgings required for the low pressure turbine rotors were the largest single piece forgings being manufactured anywhere.  The AEC's 1968 report WASH 1082 stated that, at that time, the largest single forging available in the US for use as a turbine rotor was 175 tons but 190 ton forgings for large 1000 MWe turbine generators were going to be required - but also noted that these forgings were ONLY used for nuclear plant turbine generators, thus presenting an investment risk to companies choosing to develop and install such equipment as was required to make these parts.  The former Soviet Union avoided this problem (and others relating to turbine blade length) by installing two, half-capacity turbine generators at many of its earlier nuclear power plants; in later years, it developed single 1000 MWe-plus turbine generators.

Below, a typical General Electric 1000 MWe turbine generator with parts listed in key below illustration.  Westinghouse units, and in fact all other types (Siemens-Allis, Brown-Boveri, GEC) are broadly similar overall.

Key:  Steam from the nuclear power plant's NSSS (Nuclear Steam Supply System) which is not shown is first piped to the HP or High Pressure turbine, (1).  After expanding through and driving this turbine, the steam exhaust is routed out from under this turbine to four moisture separators (2).  After having any water removed (due to condensation) this steam is then routed down the sides of the turbine generator through pipes and six large stop valves (3) to the three identical LP or Low Pressure turbines (4).  The four turbines are driving the generator (5).  The entire assembly is supported by an enormously heavy and strong turbine generator support structure, (6).  Note the figure of a man standing next to the HP turbine for scale.

A turbine generator as shown here, not including the support structure or moisture separators, is roughly 220 feet long, 23 feet wide and weighs approximately 5100 tons (The Nuclear Industry 1969, US AEC.)  Newer turbine generators actually include moisture separator / reheaters between the HP and LP stages to reheat the steam before it enters the LP turbines.  This illustration is thus what we call a "straight" or "non-reheat" turbine generator.

The output of this turbine generator is roughly 1000 MWe, or about 1,341,000 horsepower.

Turbine generators at light-water-cooled reactor nuclear plants are much larger per MW of output than those at fossil fired plants; fossil plants produce steam at much higher temperatures (superheated) and thus can employ smaller and faster running turbine generators for a given output than nuclear plants.  Gas cooled, organic cooled and sodium cooled reactors can, however, produce this highly superheated steam and so would theoretically save size and cost on turbine generators.

Item:  In some areas of the world, such as parts of Japan (but not all of it) the electric distribution system uses 50 Hz and not 60 Hz frequency.  In those instances, the turbine generators at nuclear plants are a slightly different design and are built to run at 1500 RPM and not 1800 RPM.


10:45 AM Eastern 8/25/2014

Friday, July 25, 2014


BBC News wished to do a piece that remarked upon the 50th anniversary of the visit of NS Savannah to Southampton, and other places in the UK during her big European tour, and to that end this last week contacted me (since I'm the Communications Director for the N.S. Savannah Association) to find out some facts and history.

I spoke to Justin Parkinson on the phone for something over a half hour, I think; he was well informed, and enthusiastic.  I put him in touch with another member of the NSSA, Stan Wheatley, who was Chief Engineer of the ship when it went to the UK, because it was desired to speak to someone actually on board during that historic visit.

Although BBC didn't use all the material we spoke or sent, their piece came off quite well, I believe, and is a good example of the level sort of reporting that nuclear in general is getting these days over there. 

•Click here to see the BBC article.

Oh - by the way.  The photos on this piece that are credited "American Nuclear Society" were taken by me for the two articles we did on the ship.  The illustration of the prospective UK nuclear powered ocean liner is mine, and will eventually be part of the NS Savannah Association collection. 

2:45 PM Eastern 7/25/2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nuclear Energy Blogger and Author Carnival 214

It's time for the 214th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers and Authors.  And, getting back to my usual form around here, it's unavoidable that I'm going to ask you to identify something ... or at least have a guess ready ... before I let you in.  So, what is this?

There could be a couple of right answers... or a range of right answers.  Note that we're identifying the whole picture here and not a part of it.  I will cover the range of answers at the end, so don't worry too much. 

Now, on with the Carnival!


Nuke Power Talk / Gail Marcus

NRC and the Non-Concurrence Process:  Success or Failure?

Dr. Marcus looks at the results of a survey conducted among NRC employees covering the NRC non-concurrence process.  The results of the survey have been criticized by some high-profile people who see it as validation of their concerns about the NRC's safety focus.  Dr. Marcus, however, looks at some other factors that may be affecting the survey results.


Canadian Energy Issues / Steve Aplin

What's rotten in the state of Denmark?  Electricity policy - and it's more rotten in Germany

Denmark, as its government proudly proclaims, is a nation of cyclists.  But Steve Aplin, an Ontarian and proud publisher of 'Canadian Energy Issues,' points out that Denmark is also a country of CO2 profligates where electric power generation is concerned.  The average Dane, riding around on his or her bicycle, scrupulously recycling his or her cans and bottles, and using much less electricity than the average Ontarian, had an electricity CO2 footprint nearly three times that of the average Ontarian. Aplin urges Danes, and Germans, to stop congratulating themselves and acknowledge they have been misled into supporting terrible energy policies.  Only then will they have any real hope of reducing CO2.


Forbes - Jim Conca

(This submission by Jim doesn't directly relate to nuclear energy.  However, Jim points out to me the fact that nuclear energy is really the best way to provide reliable transportation energy in a future electrified world - one where electric cars, scooters and maybe even more and not less electric trains are widely in use.  For that reason, I'm including this piece for your consideration on broader energy issues this week.)

Elon Musk - an African Immigrant Changes the World

Musk knows that the only way to make a dent in carbon emissions in his lifetime is to supercharge the addition of new technologies like electric cars and solar.  And, to give up a little bit of profit in favor of saving the planet.  It could also make him another billion. 


Atomic Insights / Rod Adams

Is Cuomo's fix against Indian Point already in?

Andrew Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to close the Indian Point nuclear station as soon as possible.  Though he has no authority to order the plant to shut down, he is doing everything in his power to develop alternate sources of electricity, and interest groups that want to use those sources instead of continuing to use the electricity from Indian Point. 

Atomic Show 217 - Michael Mariotte, President, NIRS

Michael Mariotte has been campaigning against nuclear energy for 30 years.  He and his organization say they oppose fossil fuel and believe strongly that an all-renewable energy system is feasible if we simply had the will to implement it.  Rod invited Mariotte to the Atomic Show to explain his ideas and rebut some practical challenges associated with his vision, which seems more like a mirage in Adams' viewpoint.  The discussion was lively but cordial, and ended with the chance of future sessions.


ANS Nuclear Cafe

What will it take to move nuclear energy forward?  By Paul Bowersox

What's needed for a realistic and effective nuclear energy policy in the United States?  How do we get there?  A report from the 2014 American Nuclear Society Annual Meeting.


AREVA Next Energy Blog

Top 10 FAQs about storing and transporting used nuclear fuel

The topic of safely transporting and storing used nuclear fuel at U.S. nuclear energy facilities is causing a lot of discussion in communities around the country.  Questions about radiation shielding, safety and seismic capabilities are prompting the most responses, but there are also persistent misunderstandings about safely managing used nuclear fuel that muddy the conversation.  By Mike McMahon, Senior Vice President, AREVA TN Americas.

Video: Transferring and storing used nuclear fuel

See the process for safely moving used nuclear fuel from a reactor into a dry shielded canister, transferring the canister to an independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) and loading the canister into a fortress-like horizontal storage module. 


Next Big Future / Brian Wang

China's President says development of nuclear energy should be accelerated

At the end of 2013, China's 17 operational nuclear power plants were producing about 2 percent of the country's total energy, according to Xinhua news.  But Ye Qizhen, an expert in nuclear energy at the Chinese Academy of Engineering says that China should aim to get 10 percent of its energy from nuclear.  China's President has also called for accelerated research in nuclear power.

China looking seriously at supercritical water cooled reactors

China has completed the basic technology research and published a development roadmap for a Generation IV demonstration supercritical water cooled reactor that could be commissioned in 2022.


Yes Vermont Yankee / Meredith Angwin

No new transmission lines for Vermont!  Vermont government reacts to Vermont Yankee closing

During the polar vortex in January, New England governors asked regulators to fast track the building of new gas pipelines and tranmission lines to serve the area.  Governor Shumlin of Vermont signed this petition, but later, he reversed himself.  In June, Shumlin said that we should go slow on transmission projects -- such projects become outdated as new energy technologies are developed.  Shumlin's words were almost certainly a bargaining ploy.  With Shumlin speaking against them, the project developers were warned that they would have to pay more (taxes, special funds) in order to do business in Vermont.


The Hiroshima Syndrome / Les Corrice

Nuclear obsession covers up impact of tsunami on refugees

The amount of property damage done by the earthquake / tsunami in Fukushima Prefecture is staggering, and is statistically much worse than in Iwate Prefecture.  However, the Japanese press and government never report on the obvious.  Tens of thousands of Fukushima "evacuees" would be homeless tsunami refugees if the nuclear accident had never happened, and the rate of "related" deaths in Fukushima Prefecture is almost exactly the same as in Iwate Prefecture.  But, the news reports on the matter make it seem as if all Fukushima related deaths are because of the nuclear accident.  This is a monumental coverup of the truth by the press and government.


That's it for the entries this week.  THANK YOU to all of the contributors for great material. 

Now, what was that?  The illustration comes from the cover of a sales brochure covering ACF Nuclear Products - ERCO Division of ACF Incorporated's pool training reactor.  So, if you said "pool training reactor" or "pool type reactor" or "training reactor," you win. 

The reactor core is at the very lower right of the cutaway; the shielding blocks and tank have been cut away to reveal the large, non-pumped pool.  The fuel elements offered were 3" by 3" MTR type, either 20% or 90% enriched. (Such elements were available "off the shelf" from Sylvania-Corning Nuclear at the time, at either enrichment.)  Test locations included a through tube (4" diameter) and two beam tubes (also each 4" diameter.)  A 2.5 foot square thermal area or "column" was provided beside the core for experiments requiring thermal neutrons.

ACF Industries only had a nuclear power division for a short time in the mid-late 1950's.  The company sold a number of training and test reactors, and offered more designs than it sold.  A different sales brochure offers a standard ACF Heavy Water Tank Type (based on MIT and Italian reactors, see below), an ACF Light Water Tank Type, rated from 10 MWt to 30 MWt, and two power reactors - a boiling water reactor and a gas cooled reactor.

Here are the ACF reactors of which I'm aware.

ACF Research reactors

Italy - Italian Nat'l Committee on Nuclear Research - 5 MWt heavy water tank type.  Said by ACF to be "the first sale of an atomic reactor abroad by a U.S. firm," the contract was awarded to ACF in February 1956 with the actual signing occurring later that year.

USA - MIT Reactor (MITR) - designed by MIT staff, ACF principal contractor.  Heavy water tank type, 2 MWt.

Netherlands - Gov't Reactor Center, Petten - 20 MWt pool type.  ACF selected for this project May, 1956.

Sweden - Gov't Atomic Energy Commission, Studsvik - 30 MWt pool type.  ACF selected for this project October, 1956.

USA - US Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton Ohio.  NETR - "Nuclear Engineering Test Reactor," 10 MWt pool type reactor.

ACF Power reactors

Elk River Reactor - ACF awarded this contract after the original reactor vendor, AMF, decided to shut down its nuclear business. 

Note on above reactors:  ACF Industries sold its nuclear power business to Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company in 1959, with the result that Allis-Chalmers completed most or all of the reactors above.  It's certain that Allis-Chalmers was in charge prior to the completion of the NETR, the Netherlands reactor, Elk River.

The illustration you saw at the top of this article is actually the 1 watt (thermal) pool type training reactor designed by ACF in 1958.  This model was "portable, prefabricated" and sold for less than $150,000.  ACF said that it was "the least expensive reactor of its kind being offered."  It required only standard laboratory utilities, could be installed in existing buildings without excavation, required only a 40 ft. by 40 ft. floor area.  ACF offered to supply the following services:  Supervision of installation, training of operators, a service guarantee, laboratory manual, and assistance in preparation of (AEC) hazards report. 

The back page of a different brochure entitled "ACF - Specialists in Reactor Diversification" says that "Only the ACF Pool Training Reactor offers all these features:

•Versatility of pool type reactor
•Safe, Simple operation
•Full scale instrumentation and control system
•Complete experimental facilities
•Flexible fuel arrangement
•No excavation ... can be housed in existing buildings
•Minimum maintenance and operation costs."

The brochure also says "ACF will prefabricate, deliver and install, at customers' site complete reactor including instrumentation and shielding.  ACF will also supply operator training."

Found in the original brochure whose cover was shown at top was a mailing card.

The ACF nuclear division had some famous names associated with it during its short span of life from 1954 to 1959.  For example, for a time its President was Dr. Marshall G. Holloway; Harold Etherington was for a time, its Vice President.  It had a good business on its hands when it was sold to Allis-Chalmers, who desperately wished to both expand its nuclear business generally and wished to get into power reactors specifically.  Buying ACF's Nuclear Products Division got it both the Elk River power reactor project which was already underway, and a joint project for the Air Force with Kaiser Engineers on a gas cooled power reactor for Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- which ultimately was built but never operated, putting it roughly in the same group as the NETR at Dayton, Ohio.

That's it for this week's Carnival.  I hope you enjoyed the entries and the walk down memory lane!

6:30 PM Eastern 6/22/2014

Friday, June 20, 2014

Fukushima Daiichi Accident Reports page updated

A reminder for APR readers; I have long maintained a stand-alone page on this blog which compiles links to comprehensive Fukushima Daiichi accident reports.  Some of these detail the accident, while other detail the recovery from it; still others detail the responses in other nations to the accident, whether from a design / operation standpoint or a regulatory standpoint.

I've added a couple of new links to that page today, and will note that a few others have gone in sporadically since the start of the year. 

Click here to see that page; it is always available by the link in the right sidebar.

10:40 AM Eastern 6/20/2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

EPA Announcement; Where To From Here?

DTE Fermi 2 (right) and planned Fermi 3 (lower); courtesy DTE

...and, just like that!  We have, in the last 24 hours, at least in the minds of some, seen a complete reversal of fortune for nuclear power -- the dying former "nuclear renaissance" having been replaced by what is being breathlessly debated far and wide as a GHG emergency, whose ill effects the EPA will now quash by projecting emissions limits out a couple decades in the future and which can only be met by either nuclear power or some combination of renewables.  Calls for nuclear power to make an exceedingly rapid return are all about us today. 

US Pledges Power Sector Carbon Cuts

EPA Carbon Rules will show Nuclear, Environmentalists not Strange Bedfellows

EPA Issues Expansive Rules - Nuclear Might Be One Winner

These go on and on.  So what do we do from here?  There are lots of ideas floating around, lots of camps claiming immediate victory, lots of camps claiming immediate economic collapse, and more.  Let's take a breath here and make just a few quick, but calm, assessments that can give us a base for thought and further consideration.

1.  Think about 1000 MWe-class (large) nuclear plants sooner rather than later.

States will have "interim" goals to be met in the 2020's, and final goals (in total GHG emissions) to be met by 2030.  If we think about it rationally, in order for new large commercial nuclear plants to help out in this time frame, they'll have to be ordered fairly soon. Not tomorrow, or next year, but soon.  During the major days of nuclear plant construction in this country, nuclear plants were being generally scheduled so that from the date of contract award (vendor, architect-engineer, constructor) to the date of commercial operation of the plant on the grid was six years.  Many were delayed far beyond this time frame.  In many cases, preparations were made long before the actual plant contracts were awarded - planning, site selection, interaction with the community, discovery of financing all have to be completed before the actual nuclear plant is ordered. 

It's already 2014.  Six years from now is 2020 - and I don't really believe we can count on much shorter than a five to six year time frame for nuclear plant construction.  For example, Westinghouse has stated in publicly available material that the goal for Nth of a kind construction on the AP1000 nuclear plant is five years from order placement to completion of startup testing (site prep 18 months, site construction 36 months, startup testing 6 months.)  Overruns are still more likely than not in time, even if not gigantically in construction cost (the cost of money due to the delay notwithstanding.) 

I'd expect that at least a few planned new nuclear generating stations that have been put off or had licensing work by NRC halted might get re-examined within the next six months to two years, after utilities figure out their options.  Utilities will need to figure out how they're going to meet the emission goals and their projected demands; nuclear may just get injected back into the mix, but ONLY if the projected power demand makes it profitable.  I do not expect a flood of new, yet unseen nuclear plant projects in the 1000 MWe+ class either; I do expect some reconsideration of shelved projects within a couple of years.

Perry Nuclear Plant.  Unit 1, nearer the lake, operates; Unit 2 incomplete.

2.  Quick - complete the unfinished nuclear plants we cancelled years back!

Nope.  Not even close to a reality. Even though historically over 100 nuclear reactors were ordered and then cancelled, and some remain partly finished as curious post-apocalyptic-looking landmarks, there is no "ghost fleet" here to call into action.  For starters, almost none of these sites has been extant in a vacuum, and population has likely changed around them - perhaps violating the original premises of plant siting near populated areas.  Environmental considerations (flora, fauna, water) may well be a "no go" at many sites too now.  This of course takes no consideration of the physical condition of unfinished (cancelled) nuclear plants .. some have been demolished in recent years (Marble Hill), some are left open to the elements and are essentially abandoned (every unfinished TVA plant except Bellefonte), and others were converted to something else (Midland, Zimmer.)  Some of the unfinished plant sites never even had the required high-tension transmission lines built to them - and there would be a whole other zoning and building mess.  If we look through the list of plants in any state of completion we rapidly find that precious few (such as Perry Unit 2, seen above) are completely contained or sealed, and maintained.  None of these may be in an area that would call for capacity that high -- unless of course new transmission could take the power where it's needed.  So although there might be a few specific plants this could work for, generally it's not a big resource.

All that said, some few utilities (such as FirstEnergy) could well find themselves with nuclear plants completed less expensively than new-built nuclear plants.  TVA certainly hopes so in the case of Bellefonte Units 1 and 2 .. and of course Watts Bar Unit 2 which it's now finishing.

3.  Let's get SMR's into action rapidly to replace fossil plants.

NOW you're talking. "Rapidly" is a relative term, though.  Two choices here - build new SMR driven power plants, or attempt "hook on" plants where an SMR provides steam to an existing facility.  The big stopper with that latter case is the fact that an SMR which is water cooled cannot produce superheated steam, which most fossil fired plants require.  A choice would be simply replacing the generating equipment with turbines suited for saturated steam, which would be expensive but perhaps not as expensive as a complete new plant because existing infrastructure such as service water, electric switchyard and so forth are retained and reused.  The other option is to retain the superheated steam turbine and interpose a fossil fired (perhaps natural gas) superheater between the nuclear steam supply system and the turbine.  This has been done before; while it complicates reactor control and load following, it has been proven as a concept at more than one nuclear plant - in one case, for example, the superheater was fired by oil (Indian Point Unit 1) while in another it was fired on pulverized coal (Elk River.) 

We might have to make a choice here, if we're to rush SMR's into the gap.  We can either directly fund the designs under consideration now for DOE assistance through construction (in the mPower case) or licensing (in the NuScale case) and hope one of them can get completed soon enough, OR we can choose to further the path already becoming apparent and drop one design from DOE funding and throw everything behind the other, in order to guarantee that one of them gets built sooner.  This is actually what happens when you "pick a winner," instead of what's happening now wherein we essentially temporarily designate two non-losers and hope their pockets are deep enough to skip along with DOE until a plant gets built somewhere, if someone wants one and will buy the power.

SMART SMR nuclear plant; concept art courtesy KAERI

Item: South Korea's SMART SMR is already licensed for construction in that country.  It is not inconceivable that a DCA could be fast-tracked by KAERI to get the design licensed here.  The question of who would build the plants remains, but in terms of completed designs this is the only complete and relatively powerful integral PWR SMR in the world.  It should be a consideration in any realistic plan to "get SMR's now," by virtue simply of having been the first design certified commercial iPWR SMR anywhere in the world.

4.  Now is the time to get moving on alternate technologies like high temperature gas cooled reactors, thorium fuel, and LFTR's!

No...  Not even close.  "Not even closer" than my thoughts on cancelled nuclear plants.  If we only have a short time to get moving on new non-GHG power generation, and if we surely have a limited supply of money, then now is precisely NOT the time to begin gambling on technologies that DIDN'T GET PICKED THE FIRST TIME AROUND for mass construction and deployment, and dilute funding going toward designs already underway.  Has everyone noticed that during the massive nuclear buildout in the U.S. in the 1960's - 1980's that only two commercial gas cooled plants were built, and NO LFTR or liquid fueled plants?  There are reasons for that, and they have nothing to do with weapons or politics.  They have to do with economics, with reliability, with proven records of PWR and BWR plants, and with the complete lack of desire on the part of anyone to spend all the money required to develop a completely separate and new fuel cycle (thorium.)  It would be a gigantic mistake ... if the peril really is serious ... to go off half-cocked in search of a unicorn when we have a perfectly good horse in the barn.  FINIS.

Well, ok, but does this move thorium up the ladder, you might say?  Yes, but only "yes" if we see a big surge in nuclear plant construction using uranium fuel that drives the price of uranium up far enough that investing in thorium becomes attractive - attractive because it would be profitable.  That would take a LOT of reactors, or a big surge in the number of announced reactors using U235.

Could this trend open the door to fuel reprocessing?  Maybe even a complete U fuel cycle with fast reactors?  No, probably not, and that might never happen here no matter how bad it gets because we seem to either decide that the "worst thing ever" is storage of spent LWR fuel, or else at some other times the proliferation concerns of fast reactors.  We really can't win on closing the fuel cycle if we can't even store spent LWR fuel without a daily fight.  So don't get your hopes up on massive extensions of the benefits (to nuclear) of this EPA plan beyond having SOME new nuclear generating capacity derived from conventional light water reactors mixed between some 1000 MWe class plants for sure, and perhaps some SMR plants later.  Not yet, anyway.


That's it for now - I have many more observations about the EPA document, and concepts swirling around in its wake.  I leave you with just these observations in the hope that they spur discussion and rational thought as pro-nuclear advocates prepare for what is sure to be a welcoming crowd of new enthusiasts.  A LARGE crowd, I think.  They deserve the truth.  Give it to them, straight.

Will Davis
5:50 PM Eastern 6/3/2014