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.
"Alarming lay persons benefits no one."
Actually, sounding the alarm sells newspapers, hence the saying "If it bleeds, it leads".
Alarming the public is also a great way to gain political power. Remember Kennedy talking about the "missile gap" with Russia? (or am I showing my age?)
Look at the Global Warming Industry, which is a trillion-dollar industry based largely (IMHO) on flawed computer modelling that scares people.
Centrus Energy Corp. is shutting down its American Centrifuge demonstration facility at Piketon, Ohio, and plans to issue layoffs at the end of the month, but the company's Oak Ridge workforce — totaling about 120 — is reportedly safe at this point.
Centrus announced last week that it had completed operations at Piketon and would "demobilize" the uranium-enrichment cascade and start decommissioning and decontaminating the site.
Corporate spokesman Jeremy Derryberry said Centrus would continue research and testing activities at two Oak Ridge sites, the K-1600 facility at the East Tennessee Technology Park and the company's testing and manufacturing facility off Highway 62.
He confirmed that no layoffs are planned at Oak Ridge.
"With ongoing funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Centrus plans to continue advancing the technology for national security and energy security purposes at the company's state-of-the-art research and testing facilities in Oak Ridge," the company statement said.
ORNL also has a research team working on the centrifuge technology for enriching uranium, which concentrates the amount of fissionable U-235.
DOE developed the centrifuge technology decades ago as a possible replacement for the power-sapping gaseous diffusion plants, but never fully deployed it for production purposes.
I remember reading once "the solution to pollution is dilution.' Sure, they were able to detect Fukushima radiation in Alaska, but that is a testament to the sensitivity of the measuring devices, not an indication of chemical or radiological danger.
Japan has no alternative to nuclear energy and the shrewd politicians probably realize that but politically you couldn't point that out. Politically you had to call for shutting down the plants for an extended period and call for building wind and solar. Eventually electricity bills would skyrocket and people would tire of going without air conditioning. Then the voting public would become more amenable to cheap, reliable nuclear power.
That's what's playing out now.
Five years ago this month a devastating tsunami engulfed Japan's northeastern coast, triggering the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Washing over a 10-meter-high seawall, the waves knocked out electricity at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing cooling systems to fail and half of the facility's uranium cores to overheat and melt through their steel containers. Hydrogen explosions in the next few days damaged three of the reactor buildings, venting radioactive materials into the air. That plume of airborne contamination forced some 160,000 people to evacuate from their homes.
Today the disaster site remains in crisis mode. Former residents will not likely return anytime soon, because levels of radioactivity near their abodes remain high. Even more troublesome, the plant has yet to stop producing dangerous nuclear waste: its operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), currently circulates water through the three melted units to keep them cool—generating a relentless supply of radioactive water. To make matters worse, groundwater flowing from a hill behind the crippled plant now mingles with radioactive materials before heading into the sea.
TEPCO collects the contaminated water and stores it all in massive tanks at the rate of up to 400 metric tons a day. Lately the water has been processed to reduce the concentration of radionuclides, but it still retains high concentrations of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Disputes over its final resting place remain unresolved. The same goes for the millions of bags of contaminated topsoil and other solid waste from the disaster, as well as the uranium fuel itself. Health reports, too, are worrisome. Scientists have seen an increase in thyroid cancers among the children who had lived in Fukushima at the time, although it is too early to tell if those cases can be attributed to the accident.
Nevertheless, Japan's government announced plans to recommit to nuclear power.
There's a chart put out by Ux Consulting Company, LLC that shows SWU spot prices continueing to decline from a high of $162/SWU in 2009 to a current value of $60/SWU.
New sources are coming on line even as demand wanes due to plant closures.
Although stellarators are similar in principle to tokamaks, they have long been dark horses in fusion energy research because tokamaks are better at keeping gas trapped and holding on to the heat needed to keep reactions ticking along. But the Dali-esque devices have many attributes that could make them much better prospects for a commercial fusion power plant: Once started, stellarators naturally purr along in a steady state, and they don’t spawn the potentially metal-bending magnetic disruptions that plague tokamaks. Unfortunately, they are devilishly hard to build, making them perhaps even more prone to cost overruns and delays than other fusion projects. “No one imagined what it means” to build one, says Thomas Klinger, leader of the German effort.
W7-X could mark a turning point. The machine, housed at a branch of the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) that Klinger directs, is awaiting regulatory approval for a startup in November. It is the first large-scale example of a new breed of supercomputer-designed stellarators that have had most of their containment problems computed out. If W7-X matches or beats the performance of a similarly sized tokamak, fusion researchers may have to reassess the future course of their field. “Tokamak people are waiting to see what happens. There’s an excitement around the world about W7-X,” says engineer David Anderson of the University of Wisconsin (UW), Madison.
Wendelstein 7-X, the first large-scale optimized stellarator, faces the same challenge as all fusion devices: They must heat and hold on to a gas at more than 100 million degrees Celsius—seven times the temperature of the sun’s core. Such heat strips electrons from atoms and it makes the ions travel fast enough to overcome their mutual repulsion and fuse. But it also makes the gas impossible to contain in a normal vessel.