NRC To Amend Light-Water SMR Fee Structure
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday that it would go ahead with amending its regulations to establish separate regulatory fees for light-water small modular reactors. The agency said it was establishing a separate fee structure because it anticipated it will soon receive SMR license applications. The Tennessee Valley Authority recently submitted to the agency the first early site application for SMR development.
The regulator simply said that “without this separate fee structure, a SMR would have been required to pay the same annual fee a large operating light-water reactor.” Under the new fee structure, NRC fees will be assessed "based on how much power it is licensed to generate."
1) With today’s competitive electricity markets, generators must compete to provide power exactly where and when it is needed at the lowest price. This fact makes it harder to predict what price a nuclear power plant will be paid for its electricity, and thereby makes it more difficult to justify a long-term investment in nuclear versus something like natural gas or renewable energy. It’s not a coincidence that the only new nuclear generating units under construction in the United States are owned by Southern Company, a regulated utility.
The investment outlook for nuclear is made worse by the fact that conventional nuclear power plants must be built at a huge scale to justify their upfront cost. This means than any new conventional nuclear plant will bring a lot of new electricity to the power market, shifting the supply curve and depressing the market electricity price. It’s simple economics: if there’s too much supply in the market versus demand, the price goes down. Similar forces have depressed global oil prices as Saudi Arabia holds production steady to compete with U.S. oil producers.
SMRs don’t have the same scale issue that conventional nuclear plants do. Because they are smaller, they require less upfront investment (even if the cost per unit of energy produced is higher). Furthermore, they are less likely to produce a supply glut in the marketplace. These features combine to make SMRs a lot more appealing than conventional nuclear from a finance perspective.
Good article in Der Spiegal, a leading German magazine:
The official message remains unyielding: The iron-clad rule is that radioactivity can be dangerous, even in small doses. There is no threshold for harmlessness. Even a single damaged cell could eventually become a tumor.
That standard measure of risk largely comes from a study launched in 1950, after the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That year, a study of 86,000 survivors began, and is ongoing today. It demonstrated that the risk of cancer rises along with the radiation dosage.
Statistically, though, the effect of radiation only becomes apparent at a relatively high dosage -- at about 100 millisieverts, as the unit biologists use to measure the effects of radiation on the body is called. That is 50 times as much as a person receives each year in Germany from natural background radiation.
Starting from 100 millisievert, the danger becomes fairly easy to predict: If 100 people are irradiated with that dosage, a heightened risk of cancer or leukemia is to be expected. But below that things get tricky. "We simply don't know how the body responds to weaker radiation," says Werner Rühm, director of the Institute of Radiation Protection near Munich.
The Limits of Statistics
It's possible that as little as 10 millisieverts lead to increased rates of cancer. But that wouldn't show up in the statistics. "Cancer from other causes is simply too common," says Rühm. "Over 40 percent of people get it at some point." And the risk varies dramatically, depending on lifestyle: Among smokers, for example, it is especially high. It is hard to know if, among 1,000 cancer cases, there is one hidden case that can be traced to cell mutation caused by radiation.
"But society, of course, demands conclusions from us," says Rühm. "So to be safe, we pretend to be able to calculate the danger down to the smallest dosage."
Exelon said Friday that it would move forward with early retirements of its Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear power facilities if there were no policy actions in the state of Illinois that would give the company reason to reconsider.
Market considerations could also affect, the decision, Exelon said, noting that the retirements would proceed “if adequate legislation is not passed during the spring Illinois legislative session scheduled to end on May 31 and if, for Quad Cities, adequate legislation is not passed and the plant does not clear the upcoming PJM capacity auction later this month.”
A nuclear waste leak at the Hanford Site in Washington state that rapidly intensified last month has left 33 workers ill from possible exposure to chemical vapors, while others scramble to pump the remaining waste out of the storage facility.
Back in 2011, a leak was found on the inner hull of one of the site's 28 double-wall storage tanks. The previous leak posed an insignificant threat, but workers came across an even larger leak in recent weeks while attempting to clear the inner hull of its remaining waste.
The number of those who have been reported ill as a result of the leak climbed into the 30s after six workers sought medical evaluation Monday, suspecting exposure to radioactive fumes left them unwell, according to the Tri-City Herald. A majority of the affected have been cleared to return to work, but voice a fear of suffering from long-term or neurological sickness.
Crews at the United States Department of Energy’s storage site in Hanford were alerted by leak detection alarms the morning of April 17, and after lowering a camera into the affected area, the staff found 8.4 inches of radioactive and chemically toxic waste had poured between the inner and outer walls of the tank, KING 5 reported.
“This is catastrophic,” former site employee Mike Geffre said soon after the leak was found. “This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double-shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors.”
However, a State Representative in Seattle argued that the of the 56 million gallons of radioactive chemicals stored at the Hanford site, two-thirds of the total substance is radioactive waste being held in unfit tanks made sometime between 1940 and 1970.
A public opinion poll conducted by research firm Bisconti Research found that those who felt they were better informed about nuclear power were also more likely to be in favor of its use in the United States.
Bisconti's Spring 2016 survey found that a majority of Americans favor nuclear power. Sixty-seven percent favored nuclear energy, while 29 percent were opposed, the firm said, indicating that “favorability to nuclear energy has remained in the mid to upper sixties for most of the past decade.”
However, the majority of opinions is somewhere near the middle – neither strongly in favor nor strongly opposed. “At the two ends, 26 percent strongly favor nuclear energy and 11 percent strongly oppose,” the survey found. “In the middle, nearly two-thirds are fence sitters – that is, they somewhat favor nuclear energy, somewhat oppose, or are unsure.”
While those who felt better informed were more likely to support nuclear energy, only a small minority indicated they felt they were “very well informed” about the industry, Bisconti said. In the Spring 2016 survey, 21 percent indicated they felt very well informed, while 42 percent indicated they felt “somewhat well informed.” An additional 26 percent feel “not too well informed,” while the bottom 11 percent indicated they felt “not well informed at all.”
That said, “Favorability to nuclear energy is closely correlated with the degree to which people feel informed about the topic,” Bisconti said.
Of those who feel “very well informed,” 54 percent strongly favor nuclear energy, 22 percent somewhat favored nuclear energy, while 7 percent were somewhat opposed and 18 percent strongly opposed.
Fluor-BWXT-Portsmouth, the US Department of Energy's (DOE) contractor for the decommissioning of the Portsmouth site, removed the last of over 7000 components from the X-326 facility on 21 March. More than 6800 of those components have been shipped offsite for disposal.
The components were part of 2340 enrichment "stages", each consisting of a compressor, a converter and a cooler, plus interconnecting pipes. The converters alone weigh almost 5 tonnes each. Each of Portsmouth's three process buildings - X326, X-330 and X-333 - covers over 12 hectares and housed uranium enrichment equipment. Deactivation activities are under way at all three.
DOE site lead Joel Bradburne said the "difficult and hazardous" work had presented many challenges which had all been met. "The Fluor-BWXT X-326 Deactivation team has removed the largest sources of contamination and safely shipped these components offsite for disposal. In the process the Portsmouth D&D Project has become one of the largest shippers in the DOE complex for offsite disposal," he said.
The deactivation work has presented challenges from radiological, industrial and safety perspectives. These involved chemical hazards and radiological contamination issues. They also included hoisting and rigging, welding and torch cutting, and work in confined spaces. Up to 300 employees and support staff worked on the project.
Work is now under way to characterize auxiliary systems and remove any held-up uranium and hazardous materials inside them. "Our plan is to have the X-326 'cold and dark' and ready for demolition by June of 2017," Bradburne said.
The Portsmouth plant began operations in 1954, originally as part of the USA's nuclear weapons complex, but produced fuel for commercial nuclear plants from the 1960s. Enrichment operations ended in 2001, after which the plant was maintained in cold standby for ten years.
OVER THE WEEKEND, a giant tank of radioactive sludge in Hanford, Washington, sprung a new leak. It wasn’t the first time, and it likely won’t be the last. Hanford is home to 177 of these decade-old tanks, and workers have been scrambling to shuffle nuclear waste from tank to tank as they become leaky with age. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the current plan for dealing with the US’s dangerous high-level radioactive waste.
This was not Plan A, of course. Plan A was a geological repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, where radioactive waste could be entombed for at least 10,000 years. Yucca Mountain was supposed to open—take a deep breath—in 1998. But politics have dragged the Yucca Mountain plans through five presidents, and the Obama administration effectively mothballed it in 2010. So the radioactive sludge continues to sit in Hanford’s aging underground tanks.
Hanford started accumulating radioactive waste during the Manhattan Project, when the site cranked out plutonium for nuclear bombs. By the time the Cold War ended and Hanford stopped its plutonium production, 53 million gallons of high-level waste had piled up. The once top-secret atomic city morphed into the site of the biggest environmental cleanup project in the world.
At the same time Yucca Mountain has stalled, the cleanup at Hanford has blown through deadline after deadline, despite $19 billion over 25 years from the Department of Energy. “It’s kind of like watching glaciers move,” says Cheryl Whalen, cleanup section manager at the Washington State Department of Ecology. The radioactive waste in the tanks was supposed to have been “vitrified” into glass logs for permanent storage in 1998. The vitrification facility at Hanford is still under construction, and vitrification has been pushed back to 2032. With no Yucca Mountain, that vitrified waste still has no permanent place to go. But maybe everything will be sorted out by 2032? You can always hope?
Japan was plunged into fresh panic today as a 6.1 magnitude tremor hit the northern coast - the third major earthquake within a week.
The tremors struck near the northern island on Honshu around 60 miles southeast on Sendai.
To the dismay of rattled survivors, the latest quake happened close to the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster - which saw 15,000 killed in March 2011.
No tsunami warnings have been issued on this occasion.
It comes after at least 48 people were killed when two cataclysmic earthquakes ripped through the island of Kyushu - leaving houses crumbled and survivors in shock.
The first quake hit late last Thursday and the largest, at magnitude 7.3, some 27 hours later.
"I keep thinking the earthquakes will stop, but they just go on and on," said one woman at an evacuation centre in Mashiki, one of the worst-hit areas. It's really scary."
Economic Study Chronicles San Onofre Closing
If the positive impact of nuclear power were not obvious enough, perhaps the negative consequences of closing a nuclear power plant will wake up the public to the role of nuclear power in the country's energy mix.
San Onofre NPPThat's the message behind a couple of news reports this week that cite a new study by economists Lucas Davis from the University of California, Berkeley, and Catherine Hausman of the University of Michigan, that chronicles the repercussions of the closing of the two operating reactors of the San Onofre nuclear power plant in southern California.
The study found that in the year following the San Onofre closing, electricity generation costs rose by $350 million and that carbon dioxide emissions rose by 9 million tons, which is the equivalent of putting 2 million more cars on the road, wrote University of Michigan economics professor Mark J. Perry in a story that appeared in The Detroit News and the American Enterprise Institute, where Perry is affiliated.
“What's more, during that year, based on a rate of $35 per ton of carbon, the study determined that the increased cost of carbon releases due largely to the need for natural gas totaled $316 million.” Perry wrote.
These calculations, which have reached a total of $666 million thus far, do not take into account the increased health risks associated with the increased burning of fossil fuels. However, there are tangible repercussions that are also on the table in terms of economic impact. Each reactor, Perry notes, “employs between 400 and 700 highly skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy.” He goes on to note that the four reactors in Michigan, Cook 1 and 2, Palisades and Fermi 2, account for about 3,000 jobs in the state.
Some 700 kg of British high-enriched uranium (HEU) will be transported to America in return for a form of the fuel that can be used in research reactors that create isotopes for life-saving diagnosis and treatment.
The move will be announced by UK prime minister David Cameron today at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC.
In return for the UK materials, the USA will send a quantity of its own HEU to Euratom in a form suitable for manufacturing into fuel and targets for use at a European research reactor that produces medical isotopes. The manufacturing will take place in France.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said: "The swap will deliver real societal benefits - both in the UK and across Europe."
Mainstream nuclear power reactors run on low-enriched uranium in an entirely civilian fuel cycle, whereas high enriched uranium has been created by governments of countries such as the US and UK for use in small research reactors and fast reactors as well as military submarines and weapons.
In 2013, the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) published papers on the options it was considering to manage the approximately 1000 kg of HEU stored at Dounreay, along with other experimental nuclear fuels collectively termed 'exotics'. "None of the exotics held at Dounreay are considered to be waste," it stated, explaining the HEU was in various forms - oxide powders, pellets and metal - and at various levels of enrichment. The HEU is unirradiated, which means it has a relatively low level of radioactivity.
At that time, the option to "Send material overseas for reprocessing and utilise products" was seen as low probability but useful to maintain as a contingency because there were no specialised facilities to store HEU at Sellafield, where the NDA would have preferred to consolidate similar materials. Removing the fuels from Dounreay is a step towards lowering the site's security classification and cost savings.
DECC said, "This movement is the
Honeywell's Metropolis Works
The Honeywell Uranium Hexafluoride Processing Facility, a uranium conversion facility, is located 3 km northwest of Metropolis, Illinois. The plant, Honeywell Specialty Chemicals in Metropolis, Illinois, has a nominal capacity of 15,000 tU as uranium hexafluoride per year. ConverDyn, a general partnership between affiliates of Honeywell and General Atomics, is the exclusive agent for conversion sales from the Honeywell Uranium Hexafluoride Processing Facility.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a long agenda to get through before the end of the Obama administration.
Speaking at a Christian Science Monitor event Tuesday, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said she is focusing on everything from new methane regulations to international agreements on refrigerant chemicals in her last year at the helm of the Obama EPA.
"Those regulations will be coming out, as we indicated, in spring and early summer for most of the rules we've been talking about," McCarthy said about the agency's rulemaking agenda. "Our intent is to move expeditiously to get these rules out, but we're not going to cut corners in terms of appropriate reviews and public comment on any of these."
The EPA's to-do list includes:
-Methane emissions at new and existing oil and gas wells. The agency has proposed -- and is finalizing -- a rule to cut methane emissions from new gas wells and it's begun the process of regulating the same from existing sites. The Obama administration is looking to cut methane emissions by up to 45 percent from 2012 levels over the next decade.
-Implementing the Clean Power Plan, where it can. The Supreme Court stayed Obama's biggest climate rule in February, but McCarthy said she's still working with states and utilities that want to cut their emissions.
-Reaching new international climate agreements. The EPA is looking to finalize a multinational agreement this year on the use of hydrofluorocarbons, a refrigerant that is also a powerful global warming chemical. McCarthy will go to Canada later this week to discuss climate matters with officials in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government.
Note: USEC (Centrus) used to be the biggest source of CFC "pollution" in the US...
Nitro Zeus comes to light as the world is just now fully understanding the first time an advanced cyber weapon was used, and on a much smaller scale. That would be the Stuxnet worm developed by the U.S. and Israel and deployed deeply into the heart of the industrial control software that ran Iran’s uranium enrichment centrifuges.
The story of this landmark moment in military and technological history is best told by the book Countdown To Zero Day. Not only does it go over Stuxnet’s development, deployment and eventual discovery in painstaking detail, but it also explains how these weapons are created and unveils the murky marketplace on which so called zero-day exploits, the back door vulnerabilities in existing software that make cyber attacks possible, are traded on.
The revelations about this much more expansive cyber attack plan aimed at Iran comes from an upcoming documentary about zero-day exploits and cyber warfare in general dubbed aptly Zero Days. The movie is directed by celebrated documentary maker Alex Blibney (We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, Going Clear) and is premiering at the Berlin Film Festival this week.
According to the film, another contingency operation was also planned should Iranian nuclear talks have failed that focused directly on disabling the Fordow nuclear enrichment site buried deep under a mountain near the Iranian city of Quam. This attack plan was not designed to be used only in response to Iranian aggression like the Nitro Zeus, instead it could have been executed at anytime the White House thought it necessary.
The plan would have seen a worm injected into the Fordow’s main computer system, frying it with the goal destroying Iran’s centrifuge cascade operations in the process. This plan would have been a more aggressiv
Not good for LEU since they use thorium rather than enriched uranium:
U.S. Department of Energy engineers propose replacing water inside the reactor with molten salt, which doesn't need to be pressurized. The new and improved design would be much safer and more efficient.
Waste from a molten salt reactor would decay to safe radioactive levels in just 10 years, according to Test Tube. And molten salt reactors that use Thorium as their fuel source would use almost 100% of that fuel. They'd even be able to generate more thorium in the process. In fact, engineers have designed a way for these reactors to be self-regulating and meltdown-proof.
China is already building one, and it hopes the technology will be commercially available worldwide within the next five years.
It won't be easy. It will be difficult to convince people that nuclear power is safe. Disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima captured international attention, and for good reason. But in reality, nuclear power is already much safer than it seems. It's arguably safer than fossil fuels when you consider air-pollution-related deaths caused by emissions, according to NASA.
"We found that despite the three major nuclear accidents the world has experienced, nuclear power prevented an average of over 1.8 million net deaths worldwide between 1971-2009," the report reads. "This amounts to at least hundreds and more likely thousands of times more deaths than it caused."
With a meltdown-proof reactor, the choice between nuclear power and fossil fuels seems like a no-brainer.
You are correct that cheap natural gas is one of the major factors in making new nuclear plants uneconomical. Already built plants are cash cows. I don't know what caused the nat gas decline in 1986, but that was before hydraulic fracturing was invented so it is non germane to today's energy outlook.
Jimmy Carter famously predicted the world would run out of nat gas by the year 2000. He was the second worst energy-policy president in my lifetime. He was also strongly anti-nuclear and cancelled the breeder reactor program.
I made a lot of money shorting oil through SCO and DWTI in Jan-Feb, but when oil started rallying I got out and watched. Fundamentally, there is still an oversupply of oil, so today's prices make no sense. Goldman Sachs just put out a report raising their target price range for oil to $25-$45 from $20-$40, and in the report they listed their recommendations for various oil stocks. I may take a look at CRZO today.
Keep in mind "the cart always travels the fastest just before the wheels come off."
Well that was fun to watch. Congrats to longs who made some money this week, but this news doesn't change the basic fact that barring government assistance which is unlikely, Centrus can't complete it's new plant and get back into the enrichment business. For those who chased the short squeeze at the top, Always do your homework before investing!
The recent surge in oil prices should benefit alternative energy stocks. There was a nice short squeeze in SunEdison this week as well. Also watching the short squeezes in Seadrill and Linn Energy.
Centrus Energy announces it has signed new sales contracts in the last nine months; contracts have an aggregate value of ~$165 mln w/ deliveries through 2022 (LEU) :
Co announces several new sales contracts in the last nine months to supply its utility customers with enriched uranium fuel.
In aggregate, the contracts have a value of ~$165 mln with deliveries through 2022.
From Energy & Environment Daily:
The Department of Energy's relationship with uranium enrichment company USEC Inc. will be under the microscope this week, when Secretary Ernest Moniz visits Capitol Hill to defend the agency's budget request.
Nicknamed the "United States Earmark Corporation" by critics in Congress, USEC has engaged in hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of financial transactions with DOE since it was privatized in 1998, including funding for the $5 billion American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) project in Piketon, Ohio.
The facility laid off 60 employees this week as Centrus Energy Corp., USEC's successor following bankruptcy, demobilized. Centrus started winding down operations last year after the Obama administration cut its contract.
Republicans who represent the job-hungry area have blasted President Obama for walking away from that project. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) accused the president of "nuclear negligence" when he shunned funding for the facility in his fiscal 2017 proposal for the second year in a row.
But bigger questions loom about a new proposal for covering the cleanup costs associated with DOE's Cold War-era uranium enrichment program.
DOE has for years bartered stockpiles of excess government-owned uranium in exchange for cleanup at the nearby Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant and the down-blending of highly enriched uranium in Erwin, Tenn., but lawmakers who represent uranium-rich states say the barters hurt mining efforts (Greenwire, April 22, 2015).
Moniz will be pitching a new plan to appropriators that would continue the controversial transfers while making cleanup funding mandatory. USEC grabbed attention on Capitol Hill last year when it picked former DOE Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman as its next president and CEO. During a budget day briefing earlier this month, Moniz promised a serious discussion with lawmakers "in terms of really coming to grips with" how DOE uses the USEC funds.