TVA invites input on Clinch River plans

An advanced nuclear reactor technology park is hoped for the 935-acre Clinch River site. Image: TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority is seeking public comment on its notice of intent to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) on proposed actions for an advanced nuclear reactor technology park at the 935-acre Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. The notice, published yesterday, is also expected to appear in this Friday’s Federal Register.

The consideration of a new nuclear facility at the Clinch River site “supports TVA’s mission statement and is another way to assess how to serve the people of the Tennessee Valley,” according to TVA.

Your turn: TVA is requesting comments on the scope of the PEIS, alternatives being considered (including a no-action alternative), and environmental issues. Comments are due by March 19 and can be submitted online, via email, or by mail to J. Taylor Cates, NEPA Specialist, 1101 Market Street, BR 2C-C, Chattanooga, TN 37402.

TVA recommends giving feedback electronically, due to COVID-19 teleworking restrictions.

Renewable technologies can’t escape the issue of waste management

A recent article from Deseret News looks at the stark reality of hazardous waste piling up from the green energy revolution. The lengthy article, "The dark side of ‘green energy’ and its threat to the nation’s environment," was written by News reporter Amy Joi O’Donoghue and is based on an Environmental Protection Agency briefing from the Trump administration. The briefing, issued in January, outlines the difficulties the United States will face in recycling and safely disposing of the materials used for green energy technologies.

Green energy’s looming waste problem: While the current fervor around the globe is to decarbonize as quickly as possible using wind and solar, the energy industry has yet to fully tackle the long-term waste stream for these systems. Many supporters think that renewable energy equals no waste, when in reality all energy-producing technologies produce waste that should be managed responsibly. That includes solar panels and wind turbines, which have their own environmental hazards such as toxic metals, oil, fiberglass, and other materials. Andrew Wheeler, EPA administrator at the time, said, “Without a strategy for their end-of-life management, so-called green technologies like solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, and windmills will ultimately place [an] unintended burden on our planet and economy.”

Prospects for nuclear in 2021 looking up, says NEI

Korsnick

Nuclear Energy Institute president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick struck a decidedly optimistic tone last week in remarks on nuclear’s future delivered at the United States Energy Association’s 17th annual State of the Energy Industry Forum.

"In 2020, nuclear energy was highlighted in both House and Senate climate reports," she noted. "Congress significantly increased appropriations to accelerate research and development of new nuclear technologies. And we’ve seen the introduction of bipartisan legislation that recognizes nuclear’s contributions to today’s economy and our clean energy future.”

First reactor designed, developed by China begins service

Unit 5 at the Fuqing nuclear plant in China’s Fujian Province has entered commercial operation, becoming the world’s first Hualong One reactor to do so, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced on January 30.

The unit was connected to the power grid in late November of last year, after having achieved initial criticality the previous month.

Also known as the HPR1000, the Hualong One is a Chinese-designed and -developed 1,000-MWe Generation III pressurized water reactor, incorporating design elements of CNNC’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactors.

There’s more: Fuqing-5’s twin HPR1000, Fuqing-6, is scheduled for commercial startup later this year. In addition, CNNC is building two Hualong One reactors at the Zhangzhou site in Fujian Province (construction of Unit 1 began in October 2019, while Unit 2’s construction commenced last September) and one at Taipingling in Guangdong Province, with another planned for the site.

Also, China General Nuclear is building two Hualong One reactors (Units 3 and 4) at its Fangchenggang plant in Guangxi Province (2022 planned startup), while two CNNC units are under construction at Pakistan’s Karachi plant (commercial start dates of 2021 and 2022).

Wylfa Newydd new-build project scrapped

The loosely connected plug keeping the United Kingdom’s Wylfa Newydd nuclear new-build project alive has been officially pulled.

Horizon Nuclear Power, the Hitachi subsidiary that remained involved in the project following its parent company’s pullout in September 2020, has formally withdrawn its application for a development consent order (DCO) regarding the proposed nuclear plant. (DCOs are required for large infrastructure projects in the United Kingdom to move forward.) The facility was to be sited adjacent to the decommissioned Wylfa reactors, on the island of Anglesey, off the northwest coast of Wales.

A decision on the DCO application, under review by the U.K. Planning Inspectorate since 2018, was expected by April 30, after a series of successful requests for extensions from Duncan Hawthorne, Horizon’s chief executive officer, who had cited “discussions with third parties that have expressed an interest in progressing with the development” of Wylfa Newydd.

North Anna license renewal arguments to be aired

An aerial view of the North Anna nuclear plant. Photo: Dominion Energy

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission Atomic Safety and Licensing Board will conduct an “oral argument” via WebEx early next month regarding a petition to hold a hearing on North Anna’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application, the agency announced yesterday.

ASLBs conduct adjudicatory hearings on major licensing actions by the NRC. Their rulings may be appealed to the commission.

The SLR application, submitted by Dominion Energy last August, was docketed by the NRC in October. The petition objecting to it was filed in December by three antinuclear organizations—Beyond Nuclear, Sierra Club, and Alliance for Progressive Virginia.

On February 4, beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern time, the ASLB will address a rule waiver request from the groups, as well as the admissibility of their proposed contention. The board will entertain comments from representatives for the petitioners, Dominion, and NRC staff.

Canada and Europe team up to drive new nuclear

The Canadian Nuclear Association (CNA) and the European Atomic Forum (FORATOM) have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate in the promotion of advanced nuclear technologies. The agreement, announced on January 27, aims to boost the organizations’ efforts to advance the development, application, and deployment of nuclear energy to meet climate change goals, according to the announcement.

Delay, cost increase announced for U.K. nuclear project

Perspex screens and reduced seating capacity in the Hinkley Point canteens help protect the workforce during breaks, EDF Energy said. Photo: EDF Energy

The unfortunate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on nuclear new-build projects haven’t stopped with Vogtle: EDF Energy this morning reported that the expected startup date for Unit 1 at its Hinkley Point C site is being pushed from late 2025 to June 2026.

In addition, the project’s completion costs are now estimated to be in the range of £22 billion to £23 billion (about $30.2 billion to $31.5 billion), some £500 million (about $686 million) more than the 2019 estimate, EDF said, adding the caveat that these revisions assume an ability to begin a return to normal site conditions by the second quarter of 2021.

NRC agrees to review Westinghouse ATF topical report

Westinghouse last week announced via blog post that a topical report on its Advanced Doped Pellet Technology (ADOPT) fuel has been accepted for review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, calling the decision a “major achievement for the advanced fuel portfolio Westinghouse is developing as part of our EnCore fuel program.”

The company submitted the report in May of last year, requesting approval by February 2022. According to Westinghouse, a draft safety evaluation from the agency is expected this summer.

NRC accepts Point Beach SLR application

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted for review NextEra Energy’s subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for its Point Beach reactors, making them the fifth and sixth units currently under consideration for a second 20-year license renewal. (SLR applications for Dominion Energy’s North Anna-1 and -2 and Surry-1 and -2 are also being reviewed, while SLR approval has been granted for Exelon’s Peach Bottom and NextEra’s Turkey Point units.)

NextEra submitted the SLR application in November of last year—the first such application involving a Midwestern nuclear plant. The NRC approved the plant’s initial license renewal in December 2005, allowing Unit 1 to operate through October 5, 2030, and Unit 2 through March 8, 2033.

Armenia to extend operation of Metsamor-2

Cooling towers at the Metsamor nuclear plant. Photo: ANPP

Armenia plans to extend the operational life of Unit 2 at Metsamor (also matter-of-factly known as the Armenian nuclear power plant) beyond 2026 and has not abandoned plans to construct a new reactor, the Armenian news agency ARKA reported on January 14, citing the country’s new cabinet-approved strategy for energy sector development through 2040. (The Armenian government in 2014 decided to extend Unit 2’s service life to 2026.)

The nuclear advantage: “Having a nuclear power plant in the energy system will allow Armenia to diversify its energy resources, avoid increasing the country’s dependence on imported natural gas, as well as cut the volume of emissions,” the strategy document states, according to ARKA. “The government remains committed to its policy of having a nuclear power plant in the country’s generating capacity. In this context, it should be noted that the option of maximally extending the operating life of the nuclear power plant is a guarantee of the development of the system at the lowest cost.”

Biden designates Hanson as the 18th NRC chairman

NRC commissioner Christopher T. Hanson participates in the commission briefing on the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: NRC

President Biden designated Christopher T. Hanson as the 18th chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the weekend. Hanson replaces Kristine Svincki who resigned from the NRC as chairman on January 20. Svinicki was the longest-serving commissioner in the agency's history (2008-2021).

“I am honored to have been selected by President Biden to serve as the next NRC chairman and to lead the talented women and men who oversee the licensing and regulation of our nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials,” said Hanson. “I look forward to building on Chairman Svinicki’s many accomplishments as the commission takes on new challenges and faces new opportunities as nuclear energy technologies continue to evolve and uses of nuclear materials expand in the future.”

Glick chosen to head FERC

Glick

This morning, on his first full day in office, President Joe Biden appointed Richard Glick chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Glick joined FERC as a commissioner in late 2017, having been picked for the job by President Trump in August of that year. His term ends June 30, 2022.

“I'm honored President Joe Biden has selected me to be @FERC Chairman, thank you Mr. @POTUS,” Glick tweeted. “This is an important moment to make significant progress on the transition to a clean energy future. I look forward to working with my colleagues to tackle the many challenges ahead!”

NRC issues EA & FONSI for Bellefonte construction permit extension

The unfinished Bellefonte nuclear plant. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued an environmental assessment (EA) and finding of no significant impact (FONSI) in connection with its proposed action to extend the completion dates for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Bellefonte plant reactor construction permits. If approved by the NRC, the construction permits for Bellefonte Units 1 and 2 would extend to October 1, 2021.

In a notice on the EA and FONSI published in the January 19 Federal Register, the NRC explained the reason for the proposed action. “In its March 31, 2017, and August 28, 2020, letters, TVA noted that it sold the Bellefonte property at auction, the sale of Units 1 and 2 did not close, and the purchaser filed a lawsuit against TVA,” the notice said. “TVA stated that an extension is needed to allow the parties additional time to obtain a decision in the lawsuit.”

U.S. boosts SMR development in Romania

U.S. ambassador to Romania Adrian Zuckerman (right) and SNN chief executive officer Cosmin Ghita at the January signing. Photo: U.S. Embassy in Romania

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant worth an undisclosed amount to Romania’s nuclear energy authority, Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN), for technical assistance to support the development of small modular reactors in that country, the agency announced on January 14.

The grant will be used to identify a short list of SMR-suitable sites, assess SMR technology options, and develop site-specific licensing roadmaps. SNN has selected Chicago-based Sargent & Lundy to carry out the assistance.

Acting NNSA administrator to step down on Inauguration Day

Bookless

The acting head of the National Nuclear Security Administration will resign January 20, Inauguration Day, according to a report in the Aiken (S.C.) Standard. William Bookless, who has more than four decades of experience in the nuclear security field, will also retire from federal service that day, the agency confirmed to the Standard.

The NNSA has made no official announcement or named a replacement for Bookless as of Thursday morning.

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New year brings into force a new U.K.-EU nuclear pact

Along with the wider Trade and Cooperation Agreement it signed late last month with the European Union to address post-Brexit realities, the U.K. government concluded a stand-alone Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community, better known as Euratom. The NCA went into effect January 1.

More adjustments to Vogtle milestone dates likely

The initial shipment of nuclear fuel for Unit 3 arrives at the Vogtle site in December. Photo: Georgia Power

Largely as a result of the continuing COVID-19 crisis, the Vogtle reactor-construction project team expects to further adjust dates for achieving key project milestones, including the start of hot functional testing and fuel load for Unit 3, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power announced on January 11.

The company added, however, that it continues to expect to bring Unit 3 into service this November and Unit 4 into service in November 2022. Additional updates on the project will be provided during Southern’s quarterly earnings call next month.

EIA: Nuclear, coal will account for majority of U.S. generating capacity retirements in 2021

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s latest inventory of electric generators, 9.1 gigawatts (GW) of electric generating capacity is scheduled to retire in 2021.

In total, it appears that 30 plants (nuclear, coal, petroleum, and others) will be retired in 2021. Five nuclear reactors are included in the closure list—Indian Point-3, Byron (two units at the plant), and Dresden (two units at the plant). Those three plants produce 5.1 GW of power, accounting for more than half of the total capacity expected to be retired.

Hitachi sunsets Horizon

Hitachi Ltd. plans to close Horizon Nuclear Power, its U.K. nuclear development subsidiary, early this spring, according to weekend news reports. Horizon is the firm behind Wylfa Newydd, the proposed nuclear new-build project in Wales.

On January 10, citing a story that appeared earlier that day in The Times, Yahoo reported that Hitachi will close Horizon by March 31—a move, Yahoo said, that “could scupper a sale of the [Wylfa Newydd] site, which has attracted interest from bidders, including a U.S. consortium of Bechtel, Southern Company, and Westinghouse, and dent [the] U.K.’s clean energy goals.”

However, a January 11 item on a Welsh online news service stated, “It is understood that if a sale of the site is not secured before Horizon shuts, the sale process will be continued by Hitachi.”