Experts say nuclear power firms around the globe are struggling to survive heavy debt and spiraling construction costs that have delayed new projects, while at the same time competing with declining natural gas and renewable energy prices and uncertain political support. "If we have stability, and if we can give comfort to investors on the fact that the models we're developing are the first of their kind and bring them value for money, then we can finance our projects with private money," said Xavier Ursat, senior executive vice president in charge of new nuclear projects at Electricite de France.
The Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico last month suspended shipments of transuranic waste to the state's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant after the the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board questioned the accuracy of documentation on how much calcium-and-salt residue the waste contained. Volatile chemicals like calcium are banned from storage at the WIPP underground storage facility.
France's nuclear regulator ASN has cleared utility Electricite de France to restart the Cruas nuclear power plant's Units 2 and 4 following the completion of safety checks required due to the reactor's shutdown, which was triggered by a Nov. 11 earthquake. Cruas Unit 3 remains offline pending further testing.
South Korea has put into commercial operation its third-generation APR-1400 advanced pressurized water nuclear reactors at the Shin-Kori Nuclear Power Plant, even as the Korean government moves forward with its nuclear energy phase-out policy. The APR-1400 received a design certification from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission earlier this year, making it the only design developed outside the US to obtain an NRC design certification.
Rolls-Royce wants to use small modular nuclear reactors located at individual plants to generate the power required to produce hydrogen needed to create carbon-neutral synthetic aviation fuel. The company is looking to speed regulatory approval by building its first 16 SMRs on former UK nuclear power plant sites already approved for nuclear power use.
The Idaho National Laboratory has received its third supercomputer, designed to calculate mathematical equations for fuel and reactor designs six times faster than the current systems. "With advanced modeling and simulation and the computing power now available, we expect to be able to dramatically shorten the time it takes to test, manufacture and commercialize new nuclear technologies," said associate laboratory director John Wagner.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted Florida Power & Light, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, a 20-year license extension to operate two reactors at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station through July 2052 and April 2053. The two reactors will be permitted to operate twice as long as was allowed in their original 40-year operating licenses.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy says tests show no excessive radiation levels in the Detroit River following the Nov. 26 collapse of a riverside storage site that formerly housed nuclear development programs. The former Revere Copper and Brass Corp. site produced uranium materials in the 1940s and 1950s for the atomic weapons program.
Canada is considering a site on the shores of Lake Huron as a possible permanent repository for its spent nuclear power plant fuel, but four US House members from Michigan have written Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressing "strong opposition" to the plan. "Allowing a permanent nuclear waste storage facility anywhere near the Great Lakes basin, for any amount of time, is a risk we cannot afford to take," they wrote.
Bulgaria's Kozloduy nuclear power station has asked US-based Westinghouse Electric Company to possibly supply fuel for use alongside existing fuel assemblies supplied by Russia. Bulgarian and EU regulations require the power station to pursue a fuel diversification program with alternative supply sources.