[ RadSafe ] [Nuclear News] Regulators partially suspend review of new Texas nuclear plants

Sandy Perle sandyfl at cox.net
Wed Feb 13 15:59:41 CST 2008


Regulators partially suspend review of new Texas nuclear plants
Russia to build nuclear plants in India
Report raises terrorism concerns for nuclear research reactors
Conservatives, NDP blast cost overruns at Bruce nuclear site
Is private money ready to go nuclear?
Analyze The Nuclear Power Industry In The US
British Energy reviewing designs for new nuclear
NRC findings mean more oversight for Peach Bottom nuclear plant

Regulators partially suspend review of new Texas nuclear plants

The Dallas Morning News - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission suspended 
portions of its review of NRG Energy's application for a license to 
build two new nuclear reactors in South Texas.

The agency told the New Jersey power company in a letter in late 
January it will continue to review some sections of the application 
but must stop reviewing incomplete sections.

A spokesman for NRG said the company continues to negotiate with some 
equipment vendors, and therefore cannot yet finish some portions of 
the application.

The move gives those opposed to new nuclear plants more time to 
present their case, and it could slow down the lengthy process of 
building what could be the first new nuclear plant to be built in the 
U.S. in decades.

NRG spokesman Dave Knox declined to say what the sides are 

NRG has a deal to use Toshiba technology, but the reactors could draw 
on parts from various vendors.

"You're going to have some discussions that go on longer and some 
that dont," Mr. Knox said.

He added it's not clear whether halting portions of the review 
process might delay the entire project.

Russia to build nuclear plants in India

NEW DELHI, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has 
concluded negotiations in New Delhi for Russia to build four more 
nuclear power plants in India.

"We have finalized negotiations in regard to reaching an agreement on 
cooperation in the construction of additional nuclear power plants in 
India," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after meeting with 
Zubkov, the Hindu newspaper reported Wednesday.

"We (also) affirmed our commitment to build on our defense relations, 
which is an important pillar of our strategic partnership," Singh 

India's economic boom has increased the country's demand for nuclear-
generated energy but the country has faced nuclear trade blockade 
from the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group since its nuclear test in 

The new nuclear cooperation, which must be cleared by the NSG, calls 
for building four additional reactors at Kudankulam in the southern 
Indian state of Tamil Nadu, the BBC reported. Russia is already 
building two 1,000 megawatt light-water nuclear power reactors at 
that location under an agreement reached before 1998.

Separately, the Press Trust of India reported India and Russia agreed 
to shortlist "friendly countries," which will be allowed to import 
the BrahMos joint venture supersonic missile system, currently under 
production for the Indian army and navy.

Report raises terrorism concerns for nuclear research reactors

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The federal agency charged with safeguarding 
nuclear reactors has underestimated the potential for terrorists to 
attack small research reactors on college campuses as well as the 
potential impact of such attacks, congressional investigators said in 
a report released Tuesday.

A congressional report takes a critical look at nuclear research 
reactors on college campuses.

Investigators said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission bases security 
requirements at the nation's research reactors on "questionable 
assumptions" and needs to reassess both threats and possible 

But in a pointed response, the commission said the report by the 
Government Accountability Office is flawed and "misrepresents the 
considerable efforts made by the NRC" to improve security at research 
reactors after the September 11, 2001, attacks. PDF: Full GAO Report.

There are 37 research reactors in the United States. Four are 
operated by national laboratories under the jurisdiction of the 
Department of Energy. But the remaining 33 are on college campuses 
and are licensed and regulated by the federal nuclear commission.

Although research reactors are less powerful than commercial nuclear 
power reactors, they may nevertheless be targets for terrorists 
determined to steal reactor fuel for use in a nuclear weapon or dirty 
bomb, the GAO said. Or terrorists could sabotage a reactor to 
disperse radiation into neighboring communities, it added.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said the commission's 
security and emergency response requirements "are largely based on 
the regulations it had in place before September 11."

The NRC assumed that terrorists would use certain weapons and tactics 
in attacking a reactor but "did not fully consider alternative attack 
scenarios that could be more damaging," the GAO said.

The agency also assumed that only a small portion of a research 
reactor would be damaged in an attack, the report said.

The report identifies potential shortcomings at some of the reactors 
the agency's investigators visited. At one reactor, the GAO said, 
direct access to the reactor room was unlocked and unalarmed. It said 
the operator, which it did not identify in the public version of the 
report, was relying on "another security measure" that might be 

The report says that before 2006, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
did not require research reactor operators to conduct extensive 
background checks on their staff members. But the commission has 
since begun subjecting them to FBI background checks. In May 2007, 
the commission ordered such checks for all staff members who are 
allowed access to the reactors without escorts.

The report also said that the commission does not require first 
responders to reactor security alarms to carry weapons. Unarmed 
campus police -- and not local law enforcement -- are designated 
first responders to alarms, the report said.

"The events of September 11, 2001 ... demonstrate that terrorists are 
capable of innovating how they conduct attacks," the GAO said. 
"Consequently, we believe that [the nuclear commission] should have 
considered a fuller range of threats, including both the threats that 
have occurred and the possibility of emerging threats."

In a five-page rebuttal letter, Nuclear Regulatory Commission 
Executive Director Luis Reyes wrote that the GAO report "provides an 
unbalanced assessment" of the commission's actions.

Reyes said the report appears to be based predominantly on reports 
from Sandia National Laboratories and Idaho National Laboratory. Both 
labs, he said, wrote letters challenging the use of their material in 
the GAO report.

The commission called the attack scenarios "highly unlikely" and said 
the GAO did "not provide a sound technical basis to demonstrate that 
a [research reactor] could be damaged as GAO assumes."

Although the report focuses on university-based research reactors, 
the GAO said it also found a security weakness at a Department of 
Energy research reactor.

"We discovered that a Web site for one DOE research reactor contained 
information about its refueling schedule. According to security 
experts, reactors are more vulnerable during refueling because large 
doors that are normally tightly secured must be opened to deliver 
fuel," the report said.

After the GAO brought the matter to the energy agency's attention, 
the agency removed the information from its Web site, the report 

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman said the commission 
considers the GAO report "unbalanced."

"It misrepresents and excludes facts, and fails to acknowledge 
experts who disagree. The report's credibility is questionable at 
best," the spokesman said.

Conservatives, NDP blast cost overruns at Bruce nuclear site

The $300 million cost overrun in the Bruce nuclear station 
refurbishment is an indictment of the Liberal government's energy 
plan, critics warn.

In the wake of revelations in the Star yesterday that the price tag 
for overhauling two reactors near Lake Huron is rising, the 
opposition parties expressed alarm.

So far, what had been proposed as a $2.75 billion project is now 
expected to top $3 billion with electricity consumers footing about 
$150 million of the additional costs.

Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said he doesn't buy Energy 
Minister Gerry Phillips's explanation for why the project is already 
10 per cent over budget when it's just over half completed.

"I see the minister says the reason for the cost overrun is in part 
because they decided to speed up the process. I think when you see 
the government acknowledging that their timetable ... is responsible 
it indicates what I've said all along: These people have no plan for 
energy," said Tory.

"They're dithering on decisions they should be making faster. They're 
speeding things up that cost the taxpayers and others a lot more and 
they have no plan," said Tory, who supports nuclear power, which 
accounts for about half of Ontario's electricity.

NDP Leader Howard Hampton, who opposes any expansion of Ontario's 
nuclear capacity, said the Bruce debacle is "another example that 
(the) Liberal electricity plan of `go nuclear, go big' means `go very 

"There will be more cost overruns at the Bruce. This is not the end. 
This is the beginning," said Hampton. "Ten per cent at this stage is 
quickly going to grow to 20 or 30 per cent by the end of this 

Is private money ready to go nuclear?

Markets lukewarm, even with long-term power purchase deals shifting 
much of risk to ratepayers

OTTAWA - Global makers of nuclear reactors are looking to add some 
high-octane fuel to the much-touted nuclear renaissance by tapping 
private capital pools to finance their multibillion-dollar projects.

But it's not yet clear that hedge funds and investment banks are 
willing to take on the financial risks long associated with the 
capital-intensive projects that are prone to cost overruns.

As a result, critics worry that it will be ratepayers and taxpayers 
that continue to bear the risks, while the corporations earn 
guaranteed returns.

In Canada and the United States, private companies are proposing to 
finance and own nuclear power plants, and sell the power to 
utilities. To do the deals, they need utilities to sign long-term 
power purchase agreements that essentially shift much of the risk 
from the firms themselves to ratepayers.

Backed by those power purchase agreements, they will then go to 
capital markets for financing.

In New Brunswick, a consortium of private sector firms led by the 
nuclear division of SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. is teaming up with Atomic 
Energy of Canada Ltd. in a plan to finance the construction of AECL's 
$5-billion ACR1000 reactor.

Ontario-based Bruce Power, as well as the Team Candu group, are also 
eyeing Alberta as a possible site for a privately financed reactor.

But Mark Winfield, a York University environmental studies professor, 
said private sector players will only finance nuclear projects if 
they can shift the risk to the public. He said the power purchase 
agreements provide the developer with an assured market on an 
uncompetitive basis.

"Fundamentally, you are transferring the risk to the ratepayer," he 
said. "You have to guarantee market and commit your electricity 
market to that technology. That's different from any kind of a 
merchant notion."

The Team Candu group has not offloaded the risk completely. It will 
have to spend as much as $30-million for a site assessment, while 
AECL itself says it will guarantee performance of the untested 
ACR1000, and insists it will not need federal loan guarantees to do 

The AECL approach in New Brunswick is similar to the model followed 
by Bruce Power, a private company that is partly owned by TransCanada 
Corp. and Cameco Corp. Bruce Power leases the eight Bruce reactors 
from the province and sells power to the Ontario grid.

It is undertaking a $5.25-billion refurbishment at the plant, an 
investment backed by the lease agreement and long-term power purchase 
deal with the provincial utility. While Bruce Power argues it is 
shouldering much of the risk, Ontario's Auditor-General reported last 
year that the company has transferred costs to consumers with over-
generous agreements.

In a study released yesterday, David McLellan of the Centre for 
International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ont., concluded that 
would-be builders of nuclear power plants face major financial 
challenges, especially when faced with competition from coal or 
natural gas plants.

"In competitive electricity markets, new nuclear plants may not be 
financially attractive to private investors without government action 
to tilt the economics in nuclear's favour, at least for first-of-a-
kind plants," Mr. McLellan said.

Bryne Purchase, a Queen's University professor and former Ontario 
deputy energy minister, said there are myriad levels of risk that 
have to be assessed in a multibillion-dollar nuclear power project, 
especially when the principal vendor has not completed the design and 
licensing of the reactor.

In the past, utilities like Ontario Hydro not only purchased reactors 
but participated in the construction. Backed by provincial taxpayers, 
they assumed virtually all the cost of construction delays, 
technology failure and poor performance.

However, in China and South Korea, AECL sold reactors on a "turnkey" 
basis, in which it would assume the liability for cost overruns. 
Those projects were completed on time and on budget. AECL is 
proposing the same approach in Ontario.

"The question on privatization does really focus around risk, whether 
you actually transfer risk to the private entity," Mr. Purchase said. 
"Because most private entities [in other sectors] aren't guaranteed 
to make money."

In the United States, the nuclear industry can reap billions in 
federal subsidies and loan guarantees to help close the competitive 
gap with coal-fired and natural-gas-powered plants. According to the 
industry, some 17 companies and consortiums are pursuing licences to 
build 31 new reactors in the U.S.

But even with that assistance, utilities and private financers remain 

In Texas last week, Austin Energy, a municipal utility, said it would 
not participate with NRG Energy Inc. in the New Jersey-based 
company's plan to build two reactors in the state.

A consultant hired by the Austin utility said the $7-billion (U.S.) 
project represented an "unacceptable degree" of risk.

In fact, debt-rating agencies like Moody's Investors Service Inc. 
have warned that vendors routinely underestimate the cost of building 
a nuclear power plant.

And Wall Street has signalled it is unwilling to underwrite nuclear 
projects that are not covered by government loan guarantees. Last 
year, six major investment banks, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan 
Stanley, told the U.S. Department of Energy that they believed the 
technology risks, combined with high capital costs and long 
construction schedules, "will make lenders unwilling at present to 
extend long-term credit."

Analyze The Nuclear Power Industry In The US

DUBLIN, Ireland - Research and Markets 
(http://www.researchandmarkets.com/reports/c82699) has announced the 
addition of "Analyzing the Nuclear Power Industry in the US" to their 

As of 2007 in the United States, there are 104 (69 pressurized water 
reactors and 35 boiling water reactors) commercial nuclear generating 
units licensed to operate, producing a total of 97,400 megawatts 
(electric), which is approximately 20% of the nations total electric 
energy consumption. The United States is the worlds largest supplier 
of commercial nuclear power.

In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in nuclear power 
in the US. This has been facilitated in part by the federal 
government with the Nuclear Power 2010 Program, which coordinates 
efforts for building new nuclear power plants, and the Energy Policy 
Act which makes provisions for nuclear and oil industries.

As of 2005, no nuclear plant had been ordered without subsequent 
cancellation for over twenty years. However, on September 22, 2005 it 
was announced that two sites had been selected to receive new power 
reactors (exclusive of the new power reactor scheduled for INL) and 
two other utilities have plans for new reactors. There has also been 
an application for an early site permit at Exelons Clinton Nuclear in 
Clinton, Illinois to install another reactor as well as a reactor 
restart at the Tennessee Valley Authority Browns Ferry nuclear 

On September 25, 2007 South Texas Project filed the application for a 
Combined Construction and Operating License (COL). Two new GE-Hitachi 
ABWRs will be built adjacent to the existing PWRs. This is the first 
application for a new nuclear plant in the US for nearly 30 years. 
This was followed in October, 2007 by TVA and NuStart filing for a 
COL for two Westinghouse AP1000s to be built at Bellefonte in 
Hollywood, Alabama.

In 2007, the Nuclear Energy Institute even started an advertising 
campaign to increase public support of nuclear power.

As of December 2007, the U.S. power industry has announced intentions 
to submit approximately 30 applications to the Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission for new nuclear plant licenses.

The report - Analyzing the Nuclear Power Industry in the US, explores 
the importance of nuclear power in today's world, with Section One 
being dedicated to Understanding the Basics of Nuclear Power. The 
report looks at the basics of the nuclear industry that is, how a 
plant works, analyzing and understanding the fuel cycle, the various 
components which are involved in the working of a nuclear power 
plant, and much more. Economics, issues and barriers, and other such 
factors are also explored in-depth in this report.

New offering includes a complete analysis of the US Nuclear Power 
Industry, including an analysis of the nuclear power stations in the 
US, the major US players in nuclear power, and much more. Industry 
profile, industry developments, technological developments, non-
proliferation developments, Uranium fuel cycle developments, and lots 
more information is included in this research report. This research 
offering is a comprehensive A to Z guide on the US' nuclear power 

Companies Mentioned:

Ameren UE

American Electric Power

Constellation Energy

Dominion Nuclear

Duke Power

Entergy Nuclear


First Energy

FPL Nuclear

Progress Energy

Scana Corporation

For more information, visit 

British Energy reviewing designs for new nuclear

LONDON (Reuters) - British Energy Group said it was looking at four 
designs for the next generation of nuclear power stations in Britain, 
as it posted a 4 percent fall in nine-month core earnings on 

"Negotiations with a number of potential partners are ongoing and we 
expect to provide a further update around the end of this financial 
year (end-March), the company said.

British Energy said it still expected four reactors at Hartlepool and 
Heysham 1 to return to service in the second half of 2008 after 
modifications costing no more than 50 million pounds in its 2008/09 

It said lower prices and higher unit operating costs meant its 
adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation 
fell to 745 million pounds in the nine months to end-December, 
meeting forecasts.

It announced an additional dividend of 14.5 pence, towards the top 
end of expectations. British Energy has a policy of paying an 
additional dividend after nine months to return all surplus capital 
to shareholders.

At 9:50 a.m., British Energy shares, which had fallen a fifth in 
value over the past five weeks, were up 6.3 percent at 520 pence to 
be the biggest gainer among London's top 350 companies.

Cazenove analysts, who rate British Energy stock as "outperform", not 
least because of its dividend yield, said in a broker note: "In a 
risk averse market, sentiment towards British Energy remains 
exceptionally weak.

"However, the fundamentals of the investment case continue to improve 
with high electricity prices, lifetime extensions for plants and the 
ever growing likelihood of new nuclear build."


On January 10, Britain gave the go-ahead to a new generation of 
nuclear power stations, setting no limits on nuclear expansion and 
adding momentum to atomic energy's worldwide renaissance.

The ruling Labour government considered nuclear power unattractive as 
recently as 2003 but now says it will help Britain meet climate 
change goals and avoid overdependence on imported energy amid 
dwindling North Sea gas and oil supplies.

Nuclear power stations provide about 18 percent of Britain's 
electricity now, but many are nearing the end of their lives.

British Energy said eight sites its owns next to existing licensed 
nuclear facilities "rank among the best potential candidates for the 
construction of new nuclear power stations".

British Energy also said it had signed a deal with electricity 
network operator National Grid to provide extra capacity from 2016 at 
four of its sites in the south of England -- Bradwell, Dungeness, 
Hinkley Point and Sizewell.

NRC findings mean more oversight for Peach Bottom nuclear plant

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to increase its level 
of oversight at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station as a result of an 
inspection that found inattentive security officers and an 
ineffective behavioral observation program at the facility.

Under the NRC's reactor oversight process, the inspection findings 
have been coded as "white," a classification that signifies a low to 
moderate safety concern.

The NRC classifies findings by color based on their significance. The 
colors range from "green," for a minor issue, to "red," for a high 
safety issue.

A team of five inspectors was sent to the plant after a video of 
sleeping guards was released to the public last September.

The plant, owned by Exelon Corp., was expecting the white finding to 
be issued, said spokeswoman Bernadette Lauer.

During a series of public meetings about the plant, NRC officials 
said their finding would be "greater than green," she said.

"This is their official word that they have issued us a white 
finding," she said.

The inspectors found that, though there were breakdowns in security, 
overlapping security measures at the plant prevented security from 
being significantly degraded. They also reported that Exelon acted 
quickly to address the issues
when they were brought to light.

Changes made: Exelon terminated its contracts with Wackenhut Corp., 
the company that provided the security guards, and switched to in-
house security.

The company also made environmental
changes to the "ready room," where the guards were taped sleeping, 
and improved the climate control in the room, which was always warm, 
Lauer said.

A television and computer were brought in, and officers are also 
rotated more often, she said.

A follow-up NRC team inspection was performed the week of Nov. 5, in 
part to determine if the company's corrective actions were sufficient 
to prevent further issues.

During a public meeting on Dec. 3, the team said the final 
classification of the inspection findings would be released later.

As a result of the "white" finding, the NRC will provide additional 
oversight, above and beyond the extra NRC inspections already being 
devoted to Peach Bottom in response to the sleeping guards.

Though the company has 30 days to appeal the finding, Lauer said the 
company will not.

"We accept that finding and aren't going to appeal," she said. "There 
certainly was an issue and we accept that and we're moving forward 
from there."

While the NRC was charged with overseeing Exelon, the House Energy 
and Commerce Committee announced last month that it plans a 
"comprehensive review" of the NRC's response to the incident. 

Sander C. Perle
Mirion Technologies, Inc., Dosimetry Services Division
2652 McGaw Avenue
Irvine, CA 92614 

Tel: (949) 296-2306 / (888) 437-1714  Extension 2306
Fax:(949) 296-1144

Global Dosimetry Solutions, Inc.: http://www.dosimetry.com/
Mirion Technologies, Inc.: http://www.mirion.com/

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