Switzerland

Switzerland has voted to follow Germany and start exiting nuclear power as part of a revised energy strategy which will also cut consumption and increase wind and solar power generation. Some 58.2 per cent of voters in a referendum on Sunday backed a ban on new nuclear plants, according to final results. The affluent Alpine state’s five existing nuclear plants can, however, continue to operate as long as they are deemed safe.

FT 21st May 2017 read more »

BBC 21st May 2017 read more »

Switzerland’s so-called Energy Strategy 2050, spearheaded by Energy Minister Doris Leuthard, who is also the current Swiss president, involves decommissioning Switzerland’s five reactors as they reach the end of their safe operational lifespan. Currently, they produce around a third of the country’s electricity. Although the plan does not lay down a clear timetable for phasing out the plants, it does envisage increasing reliance on hydraulic power and solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy sources, as well as reducing energy consumption and improving energy efficiency. Its targets are ambitious, with the aim being to cut the average energy consumption per person per year by 43 percent by 2035 as compared with levels in 2000.

Deutsche Welle 21st May 2017 read more »

Posted: 22 May 2017

US

A possible leak is being investigated at a US nuclear facility after radioactive material was found on a worker’s clothing. The probe began after a contractor with Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), detected a spike in radiation levels on a device called a “crawler” that had been pulled out of a nuclear waste tank. The discovery follows an incident last week, which forced hundreds of workers to “take cover”, after a tunnel in the nuclear finishing plant collapsed in Washington State. The tunnel collapse had been found by workers on patrol, and while researchers did not find leaked or spilled radioactive materials, it nevertheless caused concern.

Independent 21st May 2017 read more »

Posted: 22 May 2017

India

Anticipating difficulties at EDF and Westinghouse, the nuclear community in India has been looking at other options to expand the nuclear capacity. The fleet of pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWR), of our own design and construction, have performed well. During the last five years, the cumulative capacity factor has been 78%. The reactors have operated continuously for periods exceeding 300 days quite regularly and one of our reactors was on line for 765 days, the second-longest run in the world. The cost of power has been less than from coal in the same region. Given the context, the Union Cabinet’s nod on Wednesday for 10 700 MW PHWRs is timely. Indian industry is well placed to supply all the components and materials required for these reactors. Russia is willing to supply two more 1000 MW VVER units for Kudankulam and continue the cooperation to build six 1200 MW VVERs at a second site, to be identified by India.

Rising Kashmir 19th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 21 May 2017

US

Authorities at Washington state’s Hanford nuclear waste site are investigating a possible leak after discovering radioactive material on a worker’s clothing. The discovery follows an incident early last week in which a site tunnel collapsed, sparking fears of radiation exposure. Washington River Protection Solutions, a contractor working at the site, on Thursday detected high readings of radiation on a robotic device known as a crawler that workers were pulling out of a nuclear waste tank. Contamination was also discovered on the clothing of one of the workers.

CNN 20th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 21 May 2017

France

France is set for a renewables boom under newly elected president Emmanuel Macron, according to his choice for prime minister. Edouard Philippe told France Inter radio the government would pursue “rapid, massive and visible” renewable energy development, as reported by Reuters. Nuclear, which supplies three quarters of the country’s electricity, will continue to provide a “secure base”, he said. Philippe, the centre-right mayor of Le Havre, previously ran public affairs for state nuclear energy group Areva. His comments followed the appointment of prominent environmental campaigner Nicolas Hulot as minister responsible for energy and ecology on Wednesday.

Climate Change News 18th May 2017 read more »

The ASN has just ranked level 1 of the INES scale an event declared in March 2017 by Areva. For the second time since 2016, safety culture problems have led to a significant event for safety and radiation protection: contaminated water has accumulated in a room accessible to personnel, making it radioactive.

Sortir du Nucleaire 17th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 20 May 2017

US

A radioactive “hot spot” discovered in a nuclear waste shipment in South Carolina is being cited by Nevada’s top nuclear safety official as fresh evidence of the folly of plans to transport thousands of tons of even-more-dangerous material to Yucca Mountain if a repository is built there. The incident in April, first publicized this week by anti-nuclear groups, involved highly enriched uranium liquid waste trucked from Canada to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. The “hot spot” — an area of unexpectedly high radiation levels — was blamed on a defective, lead “pig” container that shields workers when waste is moved from inside transportation casks.

Las Vegas Review Journal 18th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 May 2017

China

China is expected to make a decision on a 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel very soon after work on one proposed site was suspended amid protests last year, an executive with France’s Areva said on Thursday. Jean Pierre Gros, Areva’s senior vice-president, said a final decision on the plant was now closer to an end. “China still wants to commission this plant by 2030, which means that we have to start the construction quite soon,” he told an industry conference. The proposed plant is being built by the central government-run China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) in collaboration with Areva. Discussions between the two sides began 10 years ago. The plant will be modeled on Areva’s facilities at La Hague in western France. It will be capable of processing 800 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel a year. Areva will design the plant and provide key equipment and services.

Reuters18th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 May 2017

France

France will drop down to 50% nuclear powered by 2025, Macron’s new ecology minister claims.

Energy Voice 19th May 2017 read more »

Cabinet post gives veteran opponent of nuclear power platform to push for renewables. Mr Hulot, widely known for his nature documentaries, is France’s energy minister, an eye-catching, and for the energy industry potentially disconcerting, appointment in President Emmanuel Macron’s first cabinet. In a government that is resolutely free-market and pro-globalisation, the appointment of the nuclear critic has led investors to question Mr Macron’s commitment to a source of energy that provides about 75 per cent of the country’s electricity and employs about 200,000 people. Shares in EDF, the state-owned nuclear group, which had jumped more than 20 per cent after Mr Macron’s win, propelled by hopes of a supportive policy, lost almost 7 per cent after Mr Hulot was appointed. Analysts suggested Mr Hulot would make the government take a harder line on the sector, pushing EDF to close nuclear power stations and denying permission to extend the life of reactors. In an interview with Liberation newspaper last month, Mr Hulot said EDF needed to move away from nuclear and towards renewable energy: “While elsewhere the energy transition accelerates, EDF gets closer to Areva, overinvests in costly nuclear projects like Hinkley Point [in the UK], and does not invest enough in renewables,” he said. In another interview he said France should have a “medium-term target” of ending the use of nuclear power. Asked by Le Parisien newspaper in March about the possible closure of the Fessenheim nuclear plant, which former President Hollande promised but did not implement, Mr Hulot said a shutdown was important but would have a social cost. “We cannot impose a transition by force. The transition has to be done in an acceptable manner,” he said. One person in the nuclear industry who has worked with Mr Hulot said: “We think that he will be pragmatic about balancing the need to keep France’s strength in nuclear power with a need for more renewable energy as well.”

FT 19th May 2017 read more »

Renew Economy 19th May 2017 read more »

EDF’s shares sunk 7 percent after Nicolas Hulot, a popular environmentalist and TV personality, was named minister for environmental transition, where he will oversee energy policy. Investors were spooked that Hulot’s nomination could mean the state will take a harder line on EDF, maybe by reducing France’s reliance on nuclear energy at a faster pace than planned. While Hulot has criticized the cost of nuclear energy and how you deal with its waste — he prefers wind and solar — he’s realistic about how quickly alternatives can replace the 72 percent of France’s electricity that’s nuclear-generated. More important than the politics is an anticipated ruling from the French atomic safety authority on whether the operational lives of EDF plants can be extended. That report, expected by the end of 2018, will truly determine the pace at which EDF decommissions its reactors. As an example of why timing matters, if EDF were to meet Hollande’s 2025 target, Raymond James analysts reckon it would cut net earnings by 400 million euros — 16 percent of the expected total in 2018 — and raise provisions by 1.5 billion euros. Relaxing a target that no-one thinks can be met anyway will save EDF money. That’s not so different from Macron’s platform, which stresses the need to fight climate change by raising carbon taxes while retreating slowly from nuclear. It’s also worth noting that France’s new prime minister Edouard Philippe spent three years working at reactor-maker Areva SA. He says he’ll be “pragmatic” about France’s energy needs.

Bloomberg 18th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 May 2017

India & Switzerland

Prime Minister Nerendra Modi’s cabinet has approved plans to build 10 new nuclear reactors of Indian design, in order to more than double its entire current capacity. Meanwhile, Switzerland faces a referendum banning new nuclear power stations and subsiding renewable energy.

Engineering & Technology 18th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 19 May 2017

Olkiluoto

On the shores of the Baltic Sea, beneath the big azure sky of a Nordic spring, Finland’s Olkiluoto-3 nuclear plant looks almost complete. A team of painting contractors streaming out of the red reactor building at the end of their shift are the only external sign that this is still a work in progress. Yet, as the final touches are made to western Europe’s first new nuclear power station for 15 years, its owners have a blunt assessment of progress. “If the nuclear industry wants to have a future it cannot afford more projects like this,” says Pekka Lundmark, chief executive of Fortum, the Finnish power company which owns a 26 per cent stake in TVO, the consortium behind Olkiluoto-3. Areva, the French reactor manufacturer, began building Olkiluoto in 2005 with a target for completion by 2009 at a cost of €3.2bn. The latest timetable would see it open almost a decade late at the end of 2018 and nearly three times over budget at €8.5bn. The EPR was designed with safety as the top priority after the Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine a decade earlier spewed radioactive fallout across Europe. But extra safeguards, such as a concrete dome over the reactor strong enough to withstand an aircraft strike, have proved ruinously expensive to build. EDF and Areva are hoping for a smoother experience at Hinkley Point, where concrete was poured for the first permanent structures in March.

FT 18th May 2017 read more »

Posted: 18 May 2017