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US DOE to begin deep borehole field test
24 December, 2016
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four companies to explore the possibility of conducting a deep borehole field test. AECOM will explore a site in Texas; ENERCON and TerranearPMC sites in New Mexico; and RE/SPEC, a site in South Dakota. One will ultimately be chosen to test the feasibility of engineering deep boreholes that might offer an alternative to mined geologic repositories for the disposal of some forms of nuclear waste. Each company will work closely with the communities surrounding the proposed test sites and must seek a "cooperative and mutually beneficial" agreement with them before any drilling takes place.

More progress at UK Sellafield’s Pile Fuel Storage Pond
24 December, 2016
Radioactive sludge has been transferred out of the Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP) at the UK’s Sellafield site, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Sellafield Ltd announced on 20 December. The project is ten years ahead of schedule and well under budget at half the expected cost of GBP200m ($246m), they said in a joint statement. The sludge was formed from decaying nuclear fuel, natural growing algae and other debris, which has accumulated in the water of the 65-year-old PFSP. It must be removed so the facility can be safely decommissioned. The PFSP is one of the four ageing facilities at Sellafield which the NDA has prioritised for clean-up. The 100-metre long pond was originally used to store nuclear fuel used to make atomic weapons. All the bulk stocks of fuel have now been removed, leaving sludge as the biggest remaining radioactive hazard.

US NRC issues licences for two more AP1000s
24 December, 2016
The US Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) has issued licences to Duke Energy for the construction and operation of two nuclear power units at its proposed William States Lee III station in South Carolina, NRC said in a 21 December statement. Duke is considering building two Westinghouse AP1000 units at the site of the partially-completed Cherokee NPP. In the early 1970s, Duke Power started construction of a three-reactor NPP at the site. However, the project stalled in face of economic difficulties in the early 1980s. The units would still require state-level approvals. Duke Energy owns and operates six NPPs with 11 reactor units - Brunswick (2 units), Catawba (2), Harris (1) McGuire (2), Oconee (3) and Robinson (1). A seventh station, the single-unit Crystal River, was shut down permanently in 2013.

Nigeria plans to build NPPs
24 December, 2016
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s federal government said on 22 December that it had concluded plans with Russia to build NPPs in Geregu in Kogi state and Itu in Akwa Ibom state. Premium Times quoted Science and Technology Minister Ogbonnaya Onu as saying that the plants are expected to meet the needs of Nigerians in diverse areas including agriculture, health, technology, education, manufacturing. He said: “It is a manageable source of generating electricity and has large power-generating capacity that can meet industrial and city needs. “It is not like the low-power technologies such as solar that might meet only local, residential or office needs but cannot generate power for heavy manufacturing.”

More delays for restart of Switzerland’s Beznau 1
24 December, 2016
Continued checks by Switzerland’s Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) at unit 1 of the Beznau NPP (world’s oldest nuclear reactor) mean that the plant will not be restarted before the end of the year. The reactor, which began operation in 1969, was shut down in March 2015 after defects were found in the reactor pressure vessel (RPV). In November plant owner energy company Axpo said it had completed the required tests and that the reactor was safe to be restarted. Results of the tests, carried out on a replica of the RPV, were submitted to ENSI for review, commenting that it had “no safety concerns” about the plant, which could operate until 2030.

Japan to decommission Monju fast reactor
24 December, 2016
Japan on 21 December confirmed that it will decommission its Monju prototype fast breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture at a cost of around JPY375bn ($3.2bn). This includes JPY225bn for maintenance, JPY135bn for dismantling the plant and JPY15bn for defuelling and preparations for decommissioning. The task will take more than 30 years. Used fuel will be removed from the reactor by 2022 and the dismantling process will be completed by 2047. The government said that Monju was not problematic technologically, but had management problems, including those of its “maintenance framework, human resource development, and the relationships of responsibility among its various stakeholders”. The government also noted that it would cost more than $4.6bn to ensure that Monju met the new post-Fukushima regulatory standards. However, Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa said he would not accept the decision and would ask the government reconsider it.

IAEA reviews France’s planned geological repository
22 December, 2016
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review team concluded on 20 December that the safety options for France's planned deep geological repository, Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique (Cigéo), are "overall thorough".

South Korea’s first APR-1400 begins commercial operation
22 December, 2016
Unit 3 of the Shin Kori NPP in South Korea officially began commercial operation on 12 December. Construction of Shin Kori 3, the first Korean-designed Advanced Pressurised Reactor-1400 (APR-1400), began in October 2008. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) was issued with an operating licence for the unit by the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission in late October 2015. The reactor achieved first criticality the following December and was connected to the grid in January 2015.

Repository delay reduces Swiss NPPs’ decommissioning costs
22 December, 2016
Swiss NPP operators face lower or possibly no contributions to the decommissioning and waste disposal funds for the period 2017-2021, because of the 10-year delay of in commissioning a deep geological repository, World Nuclear News reported. Switzerland has two central funds, one for decommissioning its five nuclear power reactors, and another for disposal the wastes. Operators are charged set fees each year to ensure there are sufficient funds to cover these tasks after a 50-year lifespan - an arbitrary time period selected by the cabinet in May 2011.

Hungary applied for life extension of Paks NPP unit 4
22 December, 2016
Hungary’s nuclear operator MVM Paksi Atomeromu, a subsidiary of state-owned Hungarian Power Companies Ltd (MVM), has applied to the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) to extend the operating life of unit 4 at the Paks NPP by 20 years until 31 December 2037. Paks 4, a 473-MW Soviet-built VVER-440 pressurised water reactor, began commercial operation in November 1987. The original 30-year operating licence for the unit expires on 31 December 2017, HAEA said. The four VVER-440 units in commercial operation at Paks all began operation between 1983 and 1987. Paks 1 and 2 have already received 20-year life extensions and will be in operation until 2032 and 2034 respectively. A 20-year licence extension for Paks-3 is under review after an application was submitted by the operator in December 2015.

Russia’s Mayak extends its reprocessing capabilities
22 December, 2016
On 16 December, Russia’s Production Association Mayak (part of state nuclear corporation Rosatom) received the first train-load of used nuclear fuel from the VVER-1000 reactors at the Rostov NPP for reprocessing. VVER-1000 fuel has hitherto not been reprocessed but following substantial upgrading and the installation of a third production line at its radiochemical plant, Mayak can now handle it. Russia currently operates 35 VVER-1000 power reactors of various design, and has accumulated more than 6,000t of used VVER-1000 fuel of reactors and some 200t more is produced each year. Waste from reprocessing of this fuel will be vitrified at Mayak and placed on long-term storage.

South Africa formally launches new build programme
22 December, 2016
South African utility Eskom on 20 December released a request for information (RFI) to the market for the Nuclear New Build Programme following the publication of the section 34(1) determination as amended in the Government Gazette on 14 December 2016, in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act 4 of 2006. Section 34(1) designates state-owned Eskom or its subsidiaries as the procurer of the nuclear generation plant. Front end fuel cycle facilities will be procured by the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) in collaboration with Eskom.

Contract awarded for San Onofre NPP decommissioning
22 December, 2016
Los Angeles-based engineering and construction firm AECOM and Salt Lake City-based EnergySolutions announced on 20 December they had been selected by Southern California Edison (SCE) as general contractor in the decommissioning of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), through their joint venture, SONGS Decommissioning Solutions (SDS). SCE, which owns the majority stake in the plant shares responsibility for decommissioning with San Onofre co-owners San Diego Gas & Electric and the city of Riverside, and former co-owner the city of Anaheim. The contract is estimated at $4.4bn.

India’s Kudankulam NPP moves ahead but other import plans in limbo
22 December, 2016
Rusatom Automated Control Systems (Rasu), a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, will be the main designer and supplier of the instrumentation and control systems (I&C) package for units 3 and 4 of India’s Kudankulam NPP, Rosatom said on 16 December. In November 2016, general contractor Atomstroyexport (part of Rosatom) signed a contract with Rasu to deliver the I&C equipment, a statement said. In April 2014, Russia and India signed a general framework agreement for the construction of Kudankulam 3 and 4, the second phase of the Kudankulam NPP in Tamil Nadu state. In November 2016, Rosatom said its subsidiary, Atomenergomash, began production of major components for the project.

Cost of Hanford clean-up increases
22 December, 2016
The US Department of Energy (DOE) said on 16 December that construction of a plant to process highly radioactive sludge at the Hanford former nuclear weapons site in central Washington state will cost an additional $4.5bn, increasing the total project cost to $16.8bn. The Hanford treatment plant, a small industrial city with some two dozen facilities on a desert plateau along the Columbia River, is more than 10 years behind schedule and the cost has almost quadrupled since the original estimate was made in 2000. The government intends to process 56m gallons of radioactive sludge stored in leaky underground tanks and transform it into solid glass, which could then be stored safely for thousands of years.

Milestones for several fusion reactors
22 December, 2016
The Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), a tokamak nuclear fusion reactor, achieved a world record of 70 seconds in high-performance plasma operation, South Korea's National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI) said in a statement on 14 December. NFRI said a fully non-inductive operation mode - a "high poloidal beta scenario" - had been used to achieve this long and steady state of operation using a high-power neutron beam. It said various techniques, including a rotating 3D field, had been applied to alleviate the accumulated heat fluxes on the plasma-facing components.

Russia’s Khiagda uranium company sees first profit
20 December, 2016
Russian uranium mining company Khiagda, part pf state nuclear corporation Rosatom’s mining h9olding Atomerdmetzoloto (ARMZ), will make a profit for the first time in 2016 of more than RUB100m ($1.6m), CEO Khiagda CEO Alexander Glotov said on 14 December. This compares with a loss of RUB713m at the end of 2015.

Japan signs nuclear co-operation deals with Russia
20 December, 2016
Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom on 16 December signed a memorandum on cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Tokyo. Among the key areas of cooperation focus on overcoming the consequences of the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi NPP, including management of radioactive waste and possible work on decommissioning. The memorandum also covers consideration of establishing a single platform linking sites in Japan and Russia, to explore the possibility of exchanging human resources and ideas in order to promote innovative nuclear technology based on knowledge and experience of both countries.

Canadian NPPs report safe operation in 2015
20 December, 2016
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) said on 16 December that there were no serious process failures at Canada’s NPPs in 2015 and no member of the public or nuclear plant worker received a radiation dose that exceeded the regulatory limit. CNSC’s regulatory oversight report for 2015 reported no NPP events above Level 0 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES). The frequency and severity of non-radiological injuries to workers were “minimal” and no radiological releases to the environment from the stations exceeded the regulatory limits. All nuclear plants received “safety and control area” (SCA) ratings of either “fully satisfactory” or “satisfactory”. There were 19 “fully satisfactory” ratings across the stations, a net increase of five compared to the 14 “fully satisfactory” ratings reported in 2014. The operating performance rating for Bruce A and Pickering, the safety analysis rating for Darlington and Pickering, the conventional health and safety rating for Darlington and Pickering, and the waste management rating for Pickering all improved to “fully satisfactory” in 2015 from “satisfactory” in 2014. Both Darlington and Pickering had their ratings for security decrease from “fully satisfactory” in 2014 to “satisfactory” in 2015. Canada has 19 commercial nuclear units that provide about 17% of its electricity.

Swiss Regulator requests document checks on steam generators
20 December, 2016
Switzerland’s Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (Ensi) has asked the operators of the Gösgen and Beznau NPPs to provide construction and manufacturing documents for steam generator components. Ensi said in a statement it had taken the preventive action following revelations in France that some steam generator components for pressurised water reactor units manufactured at Areva’s Le Creusot forge facility in France and at the Japan Casting and Forging Corporation could be affected by an abnormality in the carbon concentration of steel. “Thus far we have no evidence to indicate that the steam generators at Gösgen and Beznau are affected by impermissible deviations in the material properties,” said Ensi deputy director Georg Schwarz. The issue first came to light in April 2015 when France’s nuclear regulator, the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), confirmed an anomaly in the composition of steel in some areas of the lid and the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel at the Flamanville-3 EPR under construction in northern France. ASN said this could affect the mechanical properties of the steel and jeopardise the safety of reactors. Switzerland’s other reactor units, at the Mühleberg and Leibstadt NPPS, are boiling water reactors and are not affected.

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