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Nuclear News - 3/11/2013
PGS Nuclear News, March 11, 2013
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. U.N. Sees Progress in Boosting Post-Fukushima Nuclear Safety, Reuters (3/11/2013)
    2. Concerns Grow Over Russian Nuclear Plant Safety, YLE News (3/8/2013)
    3. Calif. Nuclear Owner Disputes Mitsubishi Report on Design Flaws, Eileen O'Grady, Reuters (3/8/2013)
    4. Steps to Protect Nuclear Plant from Oil Disaster, World Nuclear News (3/8/2013)
    5. Safety Breaches Seen Plaguing U.S. Reactors in Report, Brian Wingfield, Bloomberg (3/7/2013)
B.  North Korea
    1. S. Korea-US Drills Start as North Rejects Armistice, Jung Ha-won, JoongAng Daily, AFP (3/11/2013)
    2. North Korean Nuclear Test, War Threats "Unacceptable": U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon, Reuters (3/9/2013)
C.  Iran
    1. Iran’s Salehi Says West Shows Good Faith on Nuclear Talks, Ladane Nasseri, Bloomberg Businessweek (3/10/2013)
D.  Nuclear Energy
    1. Taiwan Anti-Nuclear Protests May Derail $8.9 Billion Power Plant, Yu-Huay Su, Bloomberg (3/11/2013)
    2. Costain to Prepare Trawsfynydd for Safestore, World Nuclear News (3/8/2013)
    3. Proposal Sees Mühleberg Operating to 2022, World Nuclear News (3/7/2013)
E.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. UK Close to 35-Year Deal With EDF on Nuclear Plants - Report, Reuters (3/11/2013)
    2. Seoul Mulls Extension of Nuclear Pact with Washington, Yonhap News Agency (3/10/2013)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Toxic Management Erodes Safety at ‘World’s Safest’ Nuclear Plant, Dreux Richard, The Japan Times (3/11/2013)
    2. Statement on Second Anniversary of Fukushima Accident, Yukiya Amano, IAEA (3/8/2013)

A.  Nuclear Safety & Security

U.N. Sees Progress in Boosting Post-Fukushima Nuclear Safety
(for personal use only)

Efforts to enhance global nuclear safety have advanced since Japan's Fukushima disaster struck exactly two years ago on Monday, the U.N. atomic energy chief said, vowing to help make nuclear power as "safe as humanly possible".

Yukiya Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, said virtually all member states of the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with nuclear plants had completed so-called stress tests and had expanded safety measures.

"We must maintain the momentum of constant improvement", he said in a weekend statement to mark the anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident in a quarter of a century.

Meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami sent radiation spewing over large areas, forcing more than 160,000 people to flee.

The worst such accident since Chernobyl also put a question mark over the future of nuclear energy elsewhere in the world. In Europe, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium decided to move away from nuclear to increase their reliance on renewable energy.

The IAEA has said it believes, however, that global use of nuclear energy could increase by as much as 100 percent by 2030 thanks to growth in Asia, including in China and India.

The Vienna-based agency was accused in 2011 of a slow initial response to the Fukushima disaster, but later led international efforts to agree an action plan to improve global reactor safety.

"The worst elements of the accident are behind us and we are now in the post-accident phase," Amano said. "The IAEA's 159 member states have already made significant progress in upgrading nuclear safety."

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Calif. Nuclear Owner Disputes Mitsubishi Report on Design Flaws
Eileen O'Grady
(for personal use only)

Southern California Edison officials on Friday disputed findings of a report from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that indicated both companies were aware of a design problem with steam generator tubes now blamed for an extended shutdown of the San Onofre nuclear station in California.

Earlier Friday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) released a "root cause analysis" submitted by the Mitsubishi unit that manufactured the replacement steam generators installed in reactors at the 2,150-megawatt San Onofre plant, the largest power plant in Southern California.

Both San Onofre reactors have been shut since January 2012 following the discovery that excessive vibration prematurely damaged thousands of tightly packed tubes inside large steam generators that were installed in 2010 and 2011.

Loss of the output from San Onofre - located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego - has strained Southern California's power grid and state agencies are planning for a second summer without the plant.

A redacted 135-page report stated that a design team of Southern California Edison (SCE) and Mitsubishi employees recognized that the design for the replacement generator tubes raised an issue called "void fraction," not seen in previous steam generator designs.

Further design modifications to address the consequences were not pursued, in part, because of the possibility that the altered design would trigger a "license amendment proceeding" requiring additional review by the NRC and the public, according to the report.

In a separate statement, Mitsubishi said the report shows that both companies "placed a high priority on minimizing tube wear resulting from vibration."

However, SCE, a unit of Edison International, said it relied on analysis by Mitsubishi that the design changes were acceptable. Some of Mitsubishi's analysis has since been shown to be erroneous.

SCE said Mitsubishi Heavy Industries "repeatedly reassured SCE of the efficacy of the design."

"SCE would never, and did not, install steam generators that it believed would impact public safety or impair reliability," said Pete Dietrich, SCE's chief nuclear officer, in a statement.

SCE said it never rejected a proposed design change to address "void fraction" based on idea that it would require additional NRC scrutiny.

"At no time was SCE informed that the maximum void fraction or flow velocities estimated by MHI could contribute to the failure of steam generator tubes," Dietrich said. "At the time, the design was considered sound."

SCE applied for and was granted two license amendments related to the replacement steam generators in 2008, prior to the first installation in Unit 2.

California Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts, both Democrats, said the report supported their earlier call for a full NRC investigation before the units are allowed to return to service.

"It is essential that the NRC complete its expansive investigation into whether Southern California Edison fully complied with its legal obligations at the San Onofre nuclear facility," said Boxer in a release.

"A full investigation is critical to any determination on whether it is safe to restart San Onofre Units 2 and 3," she said.

Anti-nuclear group Friends of the Earth is also seeking a full public review of the steam generator design by the NRC.

"Edison clearly knew about design problems with the San Onofre replacement steam generators yet failed to take corrective action," said Damon Moglen, energy and climate director for Friends of the Earth.

The NRC has indicated it may decide in late April or May whether SCE can restart Unit 2 where the tube damage was less severe. SCE has proposed operating the reactor at 70 percent power to reduce vibration believed to have caused the tube damage for a five-month period, then shutting the reactor for inspection.

SCE said it spent $402 million last year for repair work at San Onofre and to buy power to serve its 5 million customers.

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Concerns Grow Over Russian Nuclear Plant Safety
YLE News
(for personal use only)

Reports of serious operational damage at a Russian nuclear plant near the Finnish border are causing concern among Finnish nuclear safety officials and environmental activists. Getting Russia to close its old Chernobyl-type plants would likely require international pressure and international funding.

According to reports, swelling and cracking of the reactor's graphite moderator have been observed in the Sosnovy Bor plant, about 200 kilometres from the Finnish border. Nuclear safety experts in Finland see this as a potentially dangerous development.

Although calls are being heard within Russia itself to close down the country's Chernobyl-type plants, the Rosatom power company is trying to repair its old plants in order to maintain electricity output.

Serious problems affect the reactors in plants not far from Finland's borders, at Sosnovy Bor, Smolensk and Kursk. While Finnish radiation safety officials have repeatedly expressed concerns, environmental activists think it is unlikely that even these officials fully know in detail what level of danger they pose.

Pressure from inside Russia to close the plants may not be enough. Eero Yrjö-Koskinen who heads the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation believes that the attitude of plant operators would change if the EU would do what it did after Chernobyl and offer to pay for new replacement technology.

Jehki Härkönen of Greenpeace says that one reason that they are still in use is that Russia can export and sell electricity. The West could have an impact, he says, by not buying.

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Steps to Protect Nuclear Plant from Oil Disaster
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

A catastrophic fire and explosion at a Total oil terminal could affect safety at the adjacent Gravelines nuclear power plant, an annual review of nuclear safety in France has revealed. Total and EDF will make changes to avoid effects on nuclear safety from a previously unconsidered scenario.

In the 1970s two major industrial developments began near the town of Gravelines in the Flanders region of northern France: An oil terminal began operation in 1974, followed one year later by construction of the first reactor at the adjacent Gravelines nuclear power plant. The terminal went on to expand through the 1970s and by 1985 the nuclear power plant was the largest in the world with six reactors in operation.

A distance of only 700 meters separates Gravelines 1, a 910 MWe pressurized water reactor, from the nearest oil storage unit, which typically contains up to 90,000 cubic metres of crude oil. The terminal also has another six similar tanks. Recognising the safety implications, EDF erected a 20 metre high earth berm featuring deep drainage channels to stop the spread of liquid fuel spillages.

However, the annual review of safety in France's nuclear infrastructure by the Institute of Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, IRSN) has explained action to be taken on a disaster scenario outside of previous considerations - a phenomenon known as boilover that can occur during large and longlasting liquid fuel fires. This expansion of attention to external risks is in line with the worldwide response to the Fukushima accident, which has two of its root causes in the underestimation of tsunami risk and underpreparation for flooding events.

IRSN described boilover as "an eruptive formation of a fireball ejected at height following a fire in a long-term storage tank in which a small amount of water would have decanted." This can occur with highly viscous hydrocarbons, said IRSN, such as heavy fuel oil or crude oil, which can separate into lighter and heavier parts in the intense heat of a fire. Any separated water at the bottom of the tank could be subject to rapid vapourisation, rupturing the tank and forcing burning fuel from the top in a fireball lasting up to one minute. Fire in less viscous fuels can result in a smaller boilover with correspondingly smaller heat production.

Analysis by EDF concluded that if Total's facility suffered a fire and boilover event at the closest crude oil tank, the resulting fireball could heat some parts of the Gravelines plant enough to jeopardise certain safety systems - including emergency power, venting and pumping systems. EDF calculated the worst case would be a fire when the tank was full of crude oil, during which boilover could occur after about 60 hours.

Having worked on the issue with EDF, Total is to change its use of the closest tank from crude oil to less viscous diesel to eliminate the most severe boilover scenario. IRSN said that a boilover of diesel would not have the same heating effect on safety systems at Gravelines. The change of use requires Total to empty and clean the tank, and until this is complete later this year it will only be used to hold minimal amounts of crude oil.

EDF's previous emergency plans would have seen the power plant shut down immediately on notification of a serious fire at the terminal. It will now add measures to evacuate or shelter plant staff within two hours.

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Safety Breaches Seen Plaguing U.S. Reactors in Report
Brian Wingfield
(for personal use only)

Almost one-in-six U.S. nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches last year due in part to poor oversight by federal regulators, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Incidents including a cooling water leak and unusual wear on steam generator tubes were reported at 16 units owned by companies including Entergy Corp. (ETR) and Edison International (EIX), the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based environmental group said in its third annual report on reactor safety released today.
“The NRC has repeatedly failed to enforce essential safety regulations,” wrote David Lochbaum, director of the group’s Nuclear Safety Project and author of the study.

Since the 2010 report, almost 40 percent of the 104 U.S. reactors have had safety breaches serious enough to require the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to dispatch inspection teams, the group said. The agency, in response, said none of the incidents posed a risk to public safety.

The NRC is in the process of writing rules to improve safety after a triple meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant two years ago. The agency issued its first regulations in response to the disaster a year ago, and in the coming days the five-member commission may announce its decision on a staff recommendation to require radiation-scrubbing filters on the venting systems of 31 aging reactors.

The NRC last year reported 14 events that the Union of Concerned Scientists defined as “near misses.” Those are incidents that raise the risk of a meltdown by 10 times or more and prompted the dispatch of an NRC inspection team, according to the study. Some events affected multiple units at plants, and some facilities experienced more than one incident. Near-misses occurred at 16 reactors in total, the report said.

Such events include a cooling water leak at Entergy’s Palisades plant about 58 miles (93 kilometers) southwest of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The report also cited unidentified security problems at Southern Co. (SO)’s Farley plant in Alabama and equipment failure at Exelon Corp. (EXC)’s Byron plant in northern Illinois.

Some facilities, such as Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp.’s reactor 62 miles south of Topeka, Kansas, have reported multiple incidents since 2010, such as an electrical fault that caused the main generator to shut down, according to the report.’

The NRC “is tolerating the intolerable,” the scientists’ report said. “The simplest repair available is for the NRC to enforce existing regulations, using its ability to impose fines on owners and shut down reactors that violate safety regulations.”

On its website, the Union of Concerned Scientists describes itself as a watchdog that is neither for or against nuclear power but urges greater regulation to enhance safety.
“Far from showing lax regulation or oversight, these special inspections show the NRC doing its job to protect the public and the environment by finding and correcting problems early, before they can cause real harm,” David McIntyre, an NRC spokesman, said in an e-mail. “None of the incidents cited by UCS actually affected public health and safety.”

The agency is issuing its own annual report card of reactor performance. Of the 104 operating units, 99 were in the highest performance categories, according to a statement today announcing the assessment. Eighty-one units met all safety and security requirements and 18 needed to resolve one or two low- risk issues, it said.
“The NRC will not allow any of our licensed facilities to operate unless we are satisfied that they can do so safely,” NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane told a House Energy and Commerce Committee panel Feb. 28. While a few plants have had “significant performance problems,” the agency is addressing those issues, she said.
The two reactors at Edison’s San Onofre plant in Southern California have been out of service since January 2012, after workers discovered unusual wear on steam generator tubes. The NRC hasn’t approved the company’s proposal to return one of the units to limited operation.

Not included among the near-misses were reactors affected by superstorm Sandy, which pummeled the Northeast U.S. in late October. The storm forced three reactors to shut down and a fourth, Exelon’s Oyster Creek plant in New Jersey, which was out of service at the time for refueling and maintenance, to declare an alert.

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B.  North Korea

S. Korea-US Drills Start as North Rejects Armistice
Jung Ha-won, JoongAng Daily
(for personal use only)

South Korea and the United States launched joint drills Monday involving thousands of troops, defying North Korea's apocalyptic threat to repudiate the 60-year-old Korean War armistice in retaliation.

The start of the two-week "Key Resolve" exercise follows a week of escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, with North Korea also threatening nuclear war over UN sanctions adopted after its third atomic test last month.

Pyongyang has condemned the annual joint manoeuvres as a provocative invasion rehearsal and announced that -- effective Monday -- it was scrapping the 1953 armistice and voiding non-aggression treaties signed with the South.

The South's Unification Ministry confirmed that the North appeared to have carried through on another promise to cut a telephone hotline between Pyongyang and Seoul.

"The North did not answer our call this morning," a ministry spokeswoman said. The hotline was installed in 1971 and the North has severed it on five occasions in the past -- most recently in 2010.

In a dispatch late Monday from its official news agency KCNA, North Korea restated its view that the armistice, "which has existed for form's sake, would be completely invalid from March 11".

The US-South Korean wargames are "bringing the dark clouds of a nuclear war to hang over the Korean peninsula", KCNA added, while vowing that North Korea's armed forces were ready for an "all-out action".

Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North's ruling communist party, said that with "the ceasefire agreement blown apart... no one can predict what will happen from now on".

Voiding the armistice theoretically paves the way for a resumption of hostilities, as the two Koreas never signed a formal peace treaty and remain technically at war.

"The North is giving the impression it wants to put things back to where they were 60 years ago," said Yang Moo-Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
Experts point out that North Korea has declared the ceasefire dead or obsolete nearly a dozen times in the past 20 years.

On the last occasion in 2009, the North specifically said it would no longer guarantee the safety of US or South Korean naval vessels operating near the disputed maritime border.
The sinking of a South Korean naval corvette and the shelling of a South Korean island near the border followed in 2010.

Sabre-rattling and displays of brinkmanship are nothing new in the region, but there are concerns that the current situation is so volatile that one accidental step could escalate into serious confrontation and conflict.

Having issued so many dire warnings, the North will feel obliged to take some provocative action, observers say. Yang predicted short-range missile tests or an incursion across the sea border.

The analyst said he found it "particularly alarming" that North Korea's young leader Kim Jong-Un appeared content to act with no concern for the response of ally China -- widely seen as losing patience with its volatile neighbour.

"Key Resolve" is an annual, largely computer-simulated exercise, but still involves the mobilisation of more than 10,000 South Korean and 3,500 US military personnel. About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea.

The South Korean Defence Ministry says North Korea is expected to carry out its own large-scale military drill along its eastern front this week, involving the army, navy and air force.

North Korean artillery bases on islands close to the disputed maritime border have already placed their cannon in firing positions, ministry officials said.

The North's foreign ministry has already warned that a second Korean War is "unavoidable" and threatened "pre-emptive nuclear attacks" on the United States and South Korea.

The North is not seen as having the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.
South Korea, which usually shrugs off Pyongyang's fiery rhetoric, has promised to retaliate to any provocation with a precision strike on the North's leadership command.

The surge in tensions is an early challenge to South Korea's new President Park Geun-Hye, who was only sworn in two weeks ago and is still without a confirmed defence minister, national security adviser or intelligence chief.

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North Korean Nuclear Test, War Threats "Unacceptable": U.N.'s Ban Ki-moon
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North Korea's third nuclear test and threats of military action are "completely unacceptable", U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in remarks published on Saturday, urging Pyongyang to feed its people and seek peace with South Korea.

North Korea threatened the United States on Thursday with a pre-emptive nuclear strike and has scrapped the armistice with Washington that ended hostilities in the 1950-53 Korean War.

That followed its third nuclear test on February 12, in defiance of U.N. resolutions, drawing further U.N. Security Council sanctions against the reclusive East Asian state.

Asked by Austria's Profil magazine about North Korea's nuclear test, military exercises and threats, Ban, a former South Korean foreign minister, said: "I find this completely unacceptable and it is also a challenge for the international community."

He said in an interview with Profil that he had urged the North Korean leadership to focus on the welfare of its own people in the face of serious economic problems.

"There is a serious humanitarian crisis in North Korea. Many people suffer from malnutrition," he said, calling for dialogue and peaceful exchanges with South Korea.

"(South) Korea has just elected a new president. That would be good timing for the leadership of the two parties to the conflict to discuss seriously how to encourage national reconciliation and to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula, also in view of a possible reunification of the country."

North Korea formally rejected a U.N. Security Council resolution on Saturday demanding an end to its nuclear arms program and China called for calm, saying sanctions were not the "fundamental" way to resolve tensions.

Pyongyang said it would pursue its goal of becoming a full-fledged nuclear weapons state, despite the sanctions which were unanimously imposed on Friday by the Security Council.

Turning to a separate dispute, Ban said he had urged Iran to address international concerns that its nuclear program could have a military dimension, something Tehran denies.

Ban said he found it positive that talks between Iran and world powers in Kazakhstan last week had produced an agreement to meet again, first at an expert level.

"But I have made it clear to the leadership in Iran that the Iranian government must do everything possible to convince the international community and to establish confidence about the nuclear program," he said.

"There are still concerns about whether the nuclear program is really only for peaceful purposes. I told Foreign Minister (Ali Akbar) Salehi that it is the responsibility of Iran to restore trust about it."

The two met in Vienna last week at a U.N. conference.

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C.  Iran

Iran’s Salehi Says West Shows Good Faith on Nuclear Talks
Ladane Nasseri
Bloomberg Businessweek
(for personal use only)

Prospects for resolving the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program have improved following signs of “good faith” from Western powers, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.

For the first time during any of the international nuclear talks, “we witnessed signals that the other side is acting in good faith,” Salehi told a news conference in Tehran today, referring to discussions last month in Almaty, Kazakhstan. “We hope they continue to do so.”

The West wants “to deal with Iran; they are not after confrontation,” Salehi said in comments translated from Farsi and broadcast by state-run Press TV. Over time, Western nations have understood that Iran “is not a country that gives in to their illogical demands,” he said.

Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, says its atomic program is purely civilian and intended for electricity production and medical research. The U.S. and its allies say Iran’s nuclear program may have a military intent and have imposed financial, trade and energy sanctions to try to force the government in Tehran to curb its activities.

Iranian delegates met with those from China, Germany, France, Russia, the U.K. and the U.S. in Kazakhstan Feb. 26 and 27. No diplomatic breakthrough was announced and the details of an international proposal to Iran weren’t released. The two sides are scheduled to meet March 18 in Istanbul and on April 5-6 in Almaty.

The state-run Iranian Students News Agency today cited an unidentified Iranian diplomat as saying the world powers have offered to ease economic sanctions on Iran if it limits the enriched uranium in its possession within six months.

International negotiators asked Iran to stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent if it has enough to fuel a Tehran research reactor, said the official, who according to ISNA is knowledgeable about the content of the talks. The reactor produces medical isotopes for cancer treatment and operates using metal plates constructed with uranium enriched to a 20 percent concentration.

If Tehran complies with the negotiators’ demands, then world powers initially would lift sanctions on gold, precious metals and petrochemicals, the diplomat was cited as telling ISNA. Banking sanctions would be eased later, and bans on repairing airplanes and supplying aircraft parts also would be lifted, the diplomat was cited as saying.

Iran is struggling as the sanctions have hurt growth and contributed to an inflation rate nearing 30 percent. The sanctions were imposed over concern that uranium enriched to 20 percent could be turned into weapons-grade material within months.

If the stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium exceeds the Tehran reactor’s needs, Iran would ship the surplus to a third country, under the International Atomic Energy Agency’s supervision, for six months, the diplomat was cited as telling ISNA.

Iran would be able to keep surplus medium-enriched uranium if it transformed the material into metal plates, the diplomat was cited as saying. Turning the uranium into metal renders it more difficult to further enrich it into weapons-grade material.

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D.  Nuclear Energy

Taiwan Anti-Nuclear Protests May Derail $8.9 Billion Power Plant
Yu-Huay Su
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Taiwanese protesting against the completion of the island’s fourth nuclear power plant vowed to continue their campaign after mustering more than 68,000 people in weekend marches across major cities.

As Japan marks the second anniversary of the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, Taiwan’s Longmen Nuclear Power Plant, the NT$264 billion ($8.9 billion) project that state-run Taiwan Power Co. is building, has drawn new criticism. The company missed a deadline to start commercial operations at the end of 2012.

“Nuclear power is toxic,” 87-year-old Wu Lien-mien, who has spent her life in Gongliao, 25 miles east of Taipei, where the plant is, said at the protests. “It is dangerous. I would have come to protest even if I were 100.”

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou is caught between a pledge to reduce carbon emissions to year-2000 levels by 2025 while also phasing out nuclear power, which accounts for about a fifth of Taiwan’s electricity. Opposition parties are against the construction of nuclear reactors and Ma has supported calls to put the issue to a referendum.

“We’ve heard Taiwanese people’s concerns and we’ll seek to address their concerns in a neutral and unbiased manner,” said Roger Lee, spokesman of Taiwan Power. “We’ll continue to communicate with the public over the nuclear power plant.”

A magnitude-9 earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast on March 11, 2011, and the tsunami that followed turned into what then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the country’s worst crisis since World War II. Water flooding into the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station disrupted cooling mechanisms, causing radioactive material to be released.

Japan and Taiwan lie on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area bordering the Pacific Ocean that is tectonically active.

“We demand construction of the No. 4 nuclear power plant to stop immediately and that Taiwan phase out the use of nuclear power,” Jason Lin, a spokesman for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, said before the weekend protest. “After the Fukushima crisis, people are awakened to the fact that nuclear power isn’t safe.”

Taiwan’s three nuclear plants are near the ocean, and geological fractures, or faults, under the island, also spur concern that the area may be unsafe.

In September 1999, a temblor centered 150 kilometers (93 miles) southwest of Taipei killed about 2,500 people. In December 2006, Taiwan Power halted its No. 3 nuclear power station for inspection after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck near southern Taiwan, killing at least two people.

“The future of the plant should be decided by the people on the front line,” said 57-year-old Wu Wen-tung, who owns a home appliance store in Gongliao.

Taiwan Power had sought to start commercial operation at the No. 4 nuclear power plant by the end of last year after at least five delays since it first started design work in the 1980s. In July 1986, lawmakers demanded a halt to the project following the Chernobyl disaster. It was reinstated in 1992, only to be suspended in October 2000 when former President Chen Shui-bian’s administration told Taiwan Power to stop work because of opposition from residents.

The project restarted February 2001 after a court ruled that Chen should have consulted lawmakers before making an executive order.

Taiwan’s government has said it intends to abandon atomic energy as long as viable alternatives in terms of prices and carbon reduction are found. This may mean greater use of natural gas, a more expensive fuel.

Other than nuclear, the island derives 40 percent of its power from coal, and 31 percent from gas, according to Taiwan Power. Yang Feng-shuo, the director of energy studies at the Taiwan Institute for Economic Studies, said March 4 that natural gas power generation costs about NT$1 per kilowatt-hour more than nuclear.

“If construction of the No. 4 nuclear power plant is stopped, the feasible option to make up for the lost capacity will be natural gas-fired power plants,” Yang said by phone. “Coal projects have faced difficulties in passing environmental protect impact assessment.”

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Costain to Prepare Trawsfynydd for Safestore
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

Costain will reinforce the reactor buildings of the Trawsfynydd nuclear power plant under decommissioning as part of its second contract from Magnox for work at ten UK sites being prepared to enter care and maintenance.

The project is worth some £2.7 million ($4.0 million) and involves reinforcing the upper structure of the Trawsfynydd reactor buildings to make them safe before they are reduced in height at a later date. The project includes improving the integrity of the structures with specially designed steel sections attached to the internal surfaces of the reactor buildings. At a height of almost 52 metres, the job includes the careful design and provision of scaffolding and access platforms, putting in place intricate lifting plans - all with due consideration to the possible presence of asbestos.

Costain's operations director for nuclear process Chris Scott commented, "Safety is paramount on this project. Not only are we working at a considerable height, but we also need to improve the integrity of the structure by pinning steel bars to the inside of the walls and bracing the concrete structure. The building has been partially eroded by the elements and we have to ensure that the strengthening project provides the integrity the building needs to get them safely through to the next phase of decommissioning."

The 392 MWe Trawsfynydd plant began operation in 1965 and was retired in 1991. Since then all the fuel has been removed from the twin reactors. In around 2016, the plant will be placed in a passive state, known as Safestore, and will be monitored and maintained until the site is completely cleared around 2070, by which time the residual radioactivity will have decreased significantly.

In September 2012, Costain and Balfour Beatty were awarded a framework contract worth £288 million ($430 million) for construction work at ten Magnox sites in the UK. Between them, the companies will deliver design, construction and maintenance of permanent buildings and structures, infrastructure maintenance and extension work incorporating construction and civil engineering structures and ground work projects.

Costain was one of six companies to be awarded a framework contract by Magnox in 2011 to provide waste retrieval, processing and filling services at eight of their nuclear power plant sites as part of a joint venture with Amec and Jacobs Engineering Group.

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Proposal Sees Mühleberg Operating to 2022
World Nuclear News
(for personal use only)

The Mühleberg nuclear power plant could avoid shutdown this year and operate until 2022 under an initiative announced by the government of the Swiss canton of Bern. Operator BKW FMB Energy said the proposal for a negotiated shutdown "could be an option."

In 2009, the Swiss environment ministry issued an unlimited-duration operating licence to the Mühleberg plant, which comprises a single 40-year-old, 372 MWe boiling water reactor. This decision, however, was overturned in March 2012 by the country's Federal Administrative Court (FAC), which said the plant can only operate until 28 June 2013. BKW has lodged an appeal with the Federal Court against the FAC's ruling, but is still awaiting the court's decision.

Meanwhile, a citizens' initiative, known as Mühleberg Off, was filed in February 2012 and calls for the canton of Berne to ensure the immediate closure of the Mühleberg plant. However, the cantonal government decided in October to oppose the initiative.

The canton of Bern - which holds a 53% stake in BKW - has now proposed negotiating with BKW the shutdown of the plant "as soon as possible, but no later than 2022" as an alternative to the Mühleberg Off initiative. The canton said that the plant would only have to close immediately if the regulator doubted its continued safe operation.

While the Bern canton is the majority shareholder in BKW, the remaining shares are held by Groupe E (10%), EOn Energie (7%) and BKW FMB Energy Ltd (10%), with the other 20% held by other parties.

The Bern canton said that a closure agreed with BKW poses less of a risk to the canton in term of liability, while also complying with the national energy policy, which calls for the orderly exit from nuclear power.

The canton said that forcing the immediate closure of the Mühleberg plant would not be in the interest of BKW and the other shareholders in the company could seek compensation. "The claims for damages could amount to hundreds of millions of Swiss francs," it said.

The Bern canton said that its proposal is open for consultation until the end of May and would likely to be adopted in mid-August.

BKW, which has based its business plan up to 2030 on the 2022 closure of Mühleberg, said that it approved of the canton's proposal. The company said that it will evaluate all its options and will make a decision in principle by the end of this year on the continued operation of Mühleberg. BKW said that the canton's proposal for an agreed shutdown date could be "a possible solution."

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E.  Nuclear Cooperation

UK Close to 35-Year Deal With EDF on Nuclear Plants - Report
(for personal use only)

Britain is close to signing a 35-year deal with French energy group EDF to build the first of a new wave of nuclear power plants after reaching an agreement on subsidies, the Independent newspaper reported on Sunday.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey will grant planning permission for EDF's power plant in Hinkley Point on March 19, a day before the budget, the paper reported.

The Independent said that EDF and government negotiators had reached a compromise on how long a subsidy could be guaranteed after talks had been revolving around the "strike price", or the minimum EDF would be paid for any electricity generated.

Citing industry sources, the paper said the strike price being discussed was about 96 to 97 pounds per megawatt hour, towards the bottom end of the anticipated 95 to 99.50 pounds range.

EDF's demand for a 40-year guarantee in exchange for a relatively low price has been a sticking point for the deal.

There is not expected to be an announcement of a deal before the budget, but EDF wants to complete talks by the end of the month, the Independent said.

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Seoul Mulls Extension of Nuclear Pact with Washington
Yonhap News Agency
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South Korea is considering ways to extend its atomic energy cooperation pact with the United States due to difficulties in reaching an agreement on the accord's amendment, a government official said Sunday.

Revising the civil nuclear cooperation agreement is one of the most urgent and thorniest issues between the two nations. The so-called 123 agreement, signed in 1974, expires in March next year. Given the time for domestic procedures, Seoul and Washington need to reach a deal by the first half of this year.

The South Korean government is, however, reviewing ways to extend the existing pact by one or two more years as the country may need to take more time to iron out issues with the pact.

"The new (Park Geun-hye) administration has not even started any talks on the pact," the official said. "A successful outcome cannot be made in one or two months and hasty decisions (on the pact) should be avoided so as not to have a negative impact on Seoul-Washington relations," the official said, indicating the countries may take more time before renewing the accord.

The current agreement on commercial nuclear cooperation bans South Korea from reprocessing nuclear waste from about two dozen reactors that use U.S.-supplied nuclear materials. South Korea, a major nuclear energy developer, wants the U.S. to allow it to adopt a proliferation-resistant technology for enriching uranium and reprocessing spent atomic fuel from its nuclear power plants.

The Obama administration, however, takes a dim view of Seoul's push in light of Washington's nonproliferation campaign.

Washington is apparently worried about the possibility that South Korea's expansion of its nuclear program will create a domino effect.

Experts have said it may be hard for the two countries to strike an agreement in the next three months due to their diverging opinions over the bilateral pact.

Another source well-versed in the issue said both countries are now unwilling to budge. "Both South Korea and the U.S. have not changed their initial stances over key issues," the source said.

Seoul is also reluctant to show any signs of discord with the ally ahead of a South Korea-U.S. summit meeting in the first half of this year.

In addition, the importance of a close alliance between the countries is increasingly important amid growing tensions over North Korea's nuclear test last month.

Experts said Seoul may make a decision on the extension option following the Seoul-Washington foreign minister talks slated for late March or early April.

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F.  Links of Interest

Toxic Management Erodes Safety at ‘World’s Safest’ Nuclear Plant
Dreux Richard
The Japan Times
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Statement on Second Anniversary of Fukushima Accident
Yukiya Amano
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