Nuclear power

  • Nuclear powerNRC ruling raises questions about future of Diablo Canyon reactors

    In a major victory for those who pointed, post-Fukushima, to the risks involved in having a nuclear power reactor operating too close to a seismic fault, as is the case with the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactors, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners have ruled – in a decision that could mark the beginning of the end of Diablo Canyon — that an Atomic Safety Licensing Board will decide whether Pacific Gas & Electric Co. was allowed illegally to alter the plant’s license. This alteration was made in an effort to hide the risk from powerful earthquake faults discovered since it was designed and built.

  • Nuclear risksMore proof needed that PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is safe from earthquakes: NRC

    Despite repeated assertions by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. that the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is safe from earthquakes, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has ordered PG&E to provide more proof. Critics of the plant’s continuing operation say the order confirms concerns that faults surrounding Diablo Canyon are capable of more ground motion than the reactors were built to withstand and that the plant is in violation of its operating license and should be closed immediately.

  • Nuclear plantsSeismic safety of nuclear power plants in Scandinavia to improve

    Since the Fukushima accident, Nordic nuclear power plant areas have given greater priority to understanding the safety implications of seismic events. The Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) and various Nordic players are co-developing new methods of making seismic hazard estimates of anticipated earthquakes in Fennoscandia — the region comprising the Scandinavian Peninsula, Finland, Karelia, and the Kola Peninsula in Russia.

  • EarthquakesIsrael worries about its own Big One

    The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal, leaving more than 4,000 people dead, has alerted earthquake experts in Israel about the country’s own seismic risk, which could result in a large quake months or a few years from now. Israel, the Palestinian territories, and Jordan are sitting on a major fault line which constitutes “a real, as well as a current, threat to the safety, social integrity, and economic well-being of the people in the region,” reads a 2007 earthquake report.

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  • Nuclear powerPreventing a Fukushima-like disaster in Europe

    In 2005, Europe was exposed to a potential risk of a nuclear disaster caused by the flooding of the Loviisa nuclear power plant in Finland. Sea levels rose by 1.73 meter above normal levels, due to a storm. As a result, flood defenses have been reinforced. Floods are likely to occur more frequently than anticipated when nuclear power plants where built, due to climate change. Improved safety management and further collaboration between experts are required to minimize the risk of flooding at coastal nuclear plants in Europe.

  • Nuclear powerFrance’s flagship nuclear power reactor hobbled by mishaps, delays

    France’s position as a leader in the nuclear energy industry is being undermined by the country’s pending flagship nuclear reactor, which may be delayed by another year following a series of setbacks. The third-generation European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), built by Areva and EDF, was meant to be in operation by 2012 and its designers claimed it would be one of the safest — built to resist the impact of a commercial airliner crash — and the most energy efficient reactors in the world. EPR was to represent France’s nuclear renaissance, a vision to replace the country’s aging nuclear plants over time. The renaissance, however, has faced several setbacks, mishaps, and delays.

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  • Nuclear risksU.S. says South Africa’s weapon-grade uranium not sufficiently secure

    In the early 1990s South Africa’s former apartheid government dismantled the country’s six nuclear bombs and its nuclear weapons-making infrastructure as it began planning the transformation of the country into a democracy. The nuclear fuel, extracted from the country’s nuclear weapons, has over time been used to make medical isotopes, but roughly 485 pounds remain. A November 2007 breach at the Pelindaba nuclear research center, where the nuclear fuel is stored in a former silver vault, alarmed U.S. officials, who had reason to believe the culprits were after the center’s fuel inventory. Incentives from the Obama administration for South Africa to convert its nuclear-weapons fuel, have been rejected by South Africa.

  • Nuclear risksIn South Africa, bomber of apartheid era nuclear power plant is a hero, not a terrorist

    In December 1982, Rodney Wilkinson planted four bombs that caused $519 million in damages at the Koeberg nuclear power plant north of Cape Town, South Africa. The attack, which many believe to be the most ambitious and successful terror attack against a nuclear facility, remains a symbol of African National Congress (ANC) war against South Africa’s then-apartheid government. The 1982 Koeberg assault, however, and a 2007 raidby two yet-to-be-identified armed groups on South Africa’s Pelindaba nuclear research site, are at the root of U.S. concerns about the safety of South Africa’s roughly 485 pounds stockpile of highly enriched uranium.

  • Nuclear risksCritics: PG&E downplays quake risk to Diablo Canyon nuclear plant

    Since the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in California was opened by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) in 1985, geologists have discovered three fault lines nearby, which could threaten the plant. The three faults are capable of quakes even stronger than the one which ravaged the Napa Valley last year, and critics of PG&E say the company has been minimizing the risks the three faults pose. The company rejects the criticism. The critics are now suing to company to force it to reapply for an operating license – with the information about the three faults included in the application.

  • Nuclear wasteScientists develop deep borehole disposal (DBD) method to deal with nuclear waste

    Technologies which will enable nuclear waste to be sealed five kilometers below the Earth’s surface could provide a safer, cheaper and more viable alternative for disposing of the U.K.’s high level nuclear waste. Scientists calculate that all of the U.K.’s high level nuclear waste from spent fuel reprocessing could be disposed of in just six boreholes five kilometers deep, fitting within a site no larger than a football pitch. The concept — called deep borehole disposal — has been developed primarily in the United Kingdom, but is likely to see its first field trials in the United States next year.

  • Radiation risksProtecting crops from radiation-contaminated soil

    Almost four years after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, farmland remains contaminated with higher-than-natural levels of radiocesium in some regions of Japan, with cesium-134 and cesium-137 being the most troublesome because of the slow rate at which they decay. In a just-published study, scientists have identified a chemical compound that prevents plants from taking up cesium, thus protecting them — and us — from its harmful effects.

  • Nuclear powerControlling the adverse effects of radiation could change nuclear fuel

    The adverse effects of radiation on nuclear fuel could soon be better controlled. Researchers have studied how specific properties of materials involved in nuclear energy production, and their performance, can change their response to radiation. In particular, the other researchers looked at actinide materials — which include well-known elements like uranium and thorium — and their response to highly ionizing radiation.

  • Nuclear powerFunding extended for simulated nuclear reactor project

    Hard on the heels of a five-year funding renewal, modeling, and simulation (M&S) technology developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL) will now be deployed to industry and academia under a new inter-institutional agreement for intellectual property. CASL is a U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Innovation Hub established in 2010 to develop advanced M&S capabilities that serve as a virtual version of existing, operating nuclear reactors. As announced by DOE in January, the hub would receive up to $121.5 million over five years, subject to congressional appropriations.

  • Nuclear powerScientists develop accident-tolerant nuclear fuels

    The summer of 2014 marked an important milestone toward further innovation in the nation’s nuclear plants regarding the development of light water reactor nuclear fuel with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics. For several years, nuclear researchers have designed, fabricated and tested a host of novel nuclear fuels and fuel cladding materials (enclosed tubes that house the fuel in a reactor) in laboratories across the U.S. Now, testing of promising fuels and materials with enhanced accident tolerant characteristics in a U.S. nuclear test reactor is commencing. Scientists and engineers from research labs and industry have prepared advanced concepts for insertion into Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor.

  • Nuclear powerRoyal commission into nuclear will open a world of possibilities

    By Ben Heard and Barry W. Brook

    Discussion of nuclear energy in Australia has matured in recent years with greater focus on factual arguments, the relativity of risks and the need for robust scientific sourcing of claims. South Australia’s potential to merge prosperity, clean energy and good global citizenship can barely be overstated. Globally, there are around 240,000 metric tons heavy metal (MtHM ) in spent nuclear fuel, much of which was dug from South Australian ores. By 2040 this will be around 700,000 MtHM. Robust dry-cask storage is now a demonstrated, reliable and recognized solution for holding this material. It can be quickly, readily implemented by South Australia. Importantly, such a facility would mean the material is retrievable, to enable the extraction of further value through recycling. A secure, multinational destination for spent fuel, located in a politically and geologically stable country such as Australia, would spur more rapid expansion of current generation reactors. This would displace coal as the fuel of choice in rapidly growing economies.