THE WORLD’S NUCLEAR NEWS AGENCY
4.01.2010 No. 7 / News in Brief
Belgium Should Fund Next Stage Of Myrrha Project, Says Report Radiation Applications
14 Jan (NucNet): The proposed Myrrha research reactor project in Belgium is an innovative project that could play a valuable role in both the management of radioactive waste and also in the development for the longer term of advanced nuclear fission and fusion reactors, an independent report has concluded.
The report, requested by the Belgian government and organised by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), concludes that Myrrha could help the European Union achieve the vision set out in its Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform. The platform identifies a set of competitive low-carbon energy technologies to be developed and deployed in Europe, with nuclear fission representing a key contribution.
The report recommends that the Belgian government funds the next phase of the project, but with “a major focus” on risk reduction so that full go-ahead could be given in two or three years’ time.
The Myrrha project began in 1998 at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (Centre d’Étude de l’Énergie Nucléaire, SCK-CEN) at Mol, northeast Belgium, and is aimed at the design, construction and operation of an accelerator-driven, lead-bismuth-cooled subcritical fast critical reactor.
In October 2009 SCK-CEN called on the Belgian government to clarify its position on the financing of the project, which requires an investment budget of 960 million euro (1.4 billion US dollars) over 12 years. The proposed Belgian contribution, which SCK-CEN says is “indispensable” to the reactor’s construction, is roughly 40 percent of the cost or about EUR 32 million a year over 12 years.
The remainder of the funds are to be provided by members of an international consortium of Myrrha partners, by the European Union and the European Investment Bank.
The report says Myrrha could be unique in demonstrating the principle of nuclear incineration, or transmutation, of minor actitudes and other long-lived radioactive waste.
The facility would also allow the EU and the international nuclear energy community to evaluate and develop some aspects of lead-cooled fast reactors, one of three fast reactor types being considered as part of the Generation IV programme for developing advanced fast reactor systems.
Myrrha could manufacture radioactive isotopes for medical applications, but would have to compete for this work with the Jules Horowitz reactor currently under construction in France and the proposed Pallas reactor at Petten in the Netherlands. Both these reactors would be better placed to produce commercially more attractive thermal neutron irradiation services, the report says.
The report adds that because the Myrrha project is so innovative “substantial risks remain”, including the possibility of a longer construction period and higher costs than anticipated.
Leo Sannen, manager of the Institute for Nuclear Materials Science at SCK-CEN told NucNet the report was "positive". He said Myrrha will allow for the shortening of the radiotoxicity of the waste as well as the security of radioisotope supply.
The report is available online (www.nea.fr).
14.01.2010 No. 7 / News in Brief
Slovenia Chooses Site For Radioactive Waste Repository Waste Management
14 Jan (NucNet): Slovenia has chosen a site near its only existing nuclear power plant for a low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste repository, with construction scheduled to begin in two to three years.
The country’s agency for radwaste management, ARAO (Agencija za radioaktivne odpadke), said today that Slovenia’s government passed a decree confirming the site on 30 December 2009 and the decree will come into force tomorrow, 15 January 2010.
The site, named Vrbina, is in the municipality of Krško, close to the Krško 666-megawatt pressurised water reactor unit, which has been in commercial operation since 1983.
ARAO said the repository’s completion will place Slovenia among the countries that have provided a long-term solution for the disposal of radioactive waste.
Two silos will have the capacity for as much as 9,400 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste, which comprises half of the radioactive waste generated by the Krško nuclear unit during its operation and decommissioning. The site will also be used for storage of all institutional waste generated in Slovenia.
Site capacity can be increased should there be an expansion of the Slovenian nuclear programme or an agreement between Slovenia and Croatia, which owns a 50-percent share in Krško.
After an initial failure in early 1990s, Slovenia started the new site selection process in 2004. The Ionising Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act stipulated that the location must be selected by 2008 and that the repository must start operating on a regular basis by the end of 2013.
20.01.2010 No. 10 / News in Brief
Nuclear Energy Production Breaks Records In Finland Plant Operation
20 Jan (NucNet): Nuclear energy production in Finland in 2009 was the highest ever, despite the fact that electricity production fell seven percent because of the global economic crisis.
The Finnish Energy Industries trade association said today that nuclear energy production was 22.6 terawatt hours in 2009 and accounted for almost 28 percent of electricity consumed.
Combined heat and power generation covered almost 30 percent of electricity consumption, hydropower 15 percent, and coal and other condensing power more than 11 percent. The share of wind power was 0.3 percent.
Finnish Energy Industries said that towards the end of 2009 power consumption again turned to growth, an indication that the worst of the recession is over.
“Nevertheless, the slump left a definite mark on 2009, and electricity consumption fell by seven percent,” a statement said.
It was also a record year for electricity imports, which accounted for 15.3 percent of energy consumption. The most expensive days for power saw prices of 1,000 euro (about 1,400 US dollars) per MWh. Finnish Energy Industries managing director Juha Naukkarinen said this shows the need for new generating capacity.
Finland has four nuclear units in commercial operation and one, Olkiluoto-3, under construction. OL-3, a 1,600-megawatt European pressurised water reactor unit, is scheduled for completion in June 2012.
Three environmental impact assessment procedures are under way that could lead to construction of a sixth unit
21.01.2010 No. 11 / News in Brief
Refuelling Outages Lead To Slight Fall In Spain’s Nuclear Production
21 Jan (NucNet): Spain’s eight nuclear units produced 17.55 percent of the country’s electricity in 2009, down from 18.29 percent in 2008, Spanish industry group Foro Nuclear said yesterday.
The decrease was due to nearly all of Spain's nuclear units having refueling outages during 2009, Foro Nuclear said. Some units had extended outages because of maintenance or upgrade work.
In 2009, nuclear’s share of Spain’s installed generating capacity was about 8.14 percent.
22.01.2010 No. 13 / News in Brief
Urenco Worker Under Observation After UF6 Leak At German Facility
22 Jan (NucNet): An employee at Urenco’s Gronau enrichment plant in Germany has been admitted to hospital as a precaution after a few grams of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) leaked from a container in a preparation facility.
Urenco said today that the incident occurred at 14:32 local time yesterday. The worker became contaminated as a result of the leak and was admitted to Münster university hospital for 24 hours’ observation.
The incident posed no risk to the local population because the affected air passed through filters. Readings from the plant’s chimney show emissions remain well below regulatory limits, the company said.
UF6 chemically decays when it comes into contact with humid conditions and releases highly aggressive fluoric acid.
According to Urenco, the hospital has reported that the worker concerned was feeling better today and “in good shape considering the circumstances”.
Urenco said appropriate authorities had been told and it is determining the cause of the incident.
Gronau is close to the Dutch-German border in North-Rhine-Westphalia, some 40 kilometres from Urenco’s Dutch enrichment plant. Uranium is enriched in centrifuge cascades to the U235 assays required by nuclear power plants.
Urenco’s shares are held one-third by the UK government, one-third by the Dutch government and one-third by the German utilities RWE AG and E.ON AG.