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

Monday, December 1, 2014

Last day to comment on EPA Clean Power Rule

Today, December 1, is the last day to comment on the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Rule.

This rule is detrimental - unfair, that is - to nuclear energy for two reasons:

•The rule does not credit present nuclear generation the way it credits renewables
•The rule does not credit nuclear plants presently under construction but not yet completed as contributing in the future to carbon emission reduction.

MAKE YOUR COMMENT TODAY....  I did!  The comments are open until 11:59 PM Eastern Daylight Time.

Click here to reach the EPA page for commenting on the Clean Power Rule.

The American Nuclear Society (of which I'm a member) has come out, not surprisingly, against the rule.  Read more about the ANS position on the rule by clicking here.

10:25 AM Eastern 12/1/2014

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

NRA finds fault under JAPC Tsuruga NPP "recently active"

A report today is out that the Nuclear Regulation Authority in Japan has received report from an independent expert panel that faults near and under Japan Atomic Power Company's Tsuruga Nuclear Plant may be considered active.

Debate has gone back and forth between the NRA and JAPC about the most recent active dates for faults near the plant.  An NRA panel found likelihood of activity near or under Unit 2 at the plant in May of 2013, after which JAPCo convened its own study to counter the NRA report.

An English summary of the June 2014 "Second Review" by JAPC can be found here.

Now, the NRA has returned to yet again counter JAPC with a further report.  The uptake from this is that if JAPC cannot prove to the NRA that the faults near the nuclear plant haven't been active in a VERY long time, i.e. 120,000 to 130,000 years, and cannot move, then JAPC may be forced to decommission the Tsuruga NPP.

Located at Tsuruga are two units - of course long since shut down, along with all other Japanese nuclear plants.  Tsuruga Unit 1 is a Boiling Water Reactor that went into service in 1970, while Unit 2 is a Pressurized Water Reactor which went into operation in 1987.  Preparations were underway at the site to construct two more units, which were to have been Mitsubishi APWR units but that construction has been deferred indefinitely.

Neither of these units at Tsuruga have applied to the NRA for restart examination; JAPCo's only operative unit on the opposite coast (the East coast of Japan) from Tsuruga, which is Tokai No. 2 has applied for restart and should the decommissioning of the units at Tsuruga be necessary Tokai No. 2 would be JAPC's only remaining operational unit.

Should this finding of seismic activity be upheld, Tsuruga would be the first NPP in Japan forced to decommission on seismic grounds following the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

11:45 AM Eastern 11/19/2014

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Goodbye, Harry Reid; Hello, Yucca Mountain?

... well, goodbye as Majority Leader in the Senate, anyway.  The house of cards that Reid built - predicated upon supposed safety issues with Yucca Mountain - has fallen.

•Jaczko, Reid's hand-picked slave servant, is long gone from the NRC Chairmanship and has been clearly recognized for what he is -- solidly anti-nuclear.

•The NRC Staff has released Volume 3 of the SER for Yucca Mountain, saying that it's safe to use as a long term geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel.

•Macfarlane, chosen to succeed Jaczko and who is on the record as being against Yucca Mountain, has vacated her position -- likely because there's no scientific support to say it's unsafe, and because there's no political support for that position to be held.

•Reid, the anti-Yucca Majority Leader, cannot hold that job any more after the mid-term election results last night.

NEI Nuclear Notes has just published a great, short piece introducing us to this new world that might have just a bit less anti-nuclear rhetoric and a bit less decision making without knowledge.  You can find that new piece by clicking here.  Alex Flint does a great job of beginning to crack open the door on what the new world may look like - at least for the next two years.

Note his mention of Barbara Boxer.

Folks who are pro-nuclear have good reason to be happy this morning. 

11:00 AM Eastern 11/5/2014

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