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Submission + - Secret government papers show taxpayers will pick up costs of Hinkley nuclear wa (theguardian.com)

mdsolar writes: Taxpayers will pick up the bill should the cost of storing radioactive waste produced by Britain’s newest nuclear power station soar, according to confidential documents which the government has battled to keep secret for more than a year.

The papers confirm the steps the government took to reassure French energy firm EDF and Chinese investors behind the £24bn Hinkley Point C plant that the amount they would have to pay for the storage would be capped.

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – in its previous incarnation as the Department for Energy and Climate Change – resisted repeated requests under the Freedom of Information Act for the release of the documents which were submitted to the European commission.

“The government has attempted to keep the costs to the taxpayer of Hinkley under wraps from the start,” said Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace chief scientist. “It’s hardly surprising as it doesn’t look good for the government’s claim that they are trying to keep costs down for hardworking families.”

Submission + - China's Nuclear Power Plans Melting Down (thediplomat.com) 1

mdsolar writes: For China’s nuclear industry, 2016 has been a frustrating year. So far, construction has started on only one new plant, and its target of bringing 58 gigawatts of nuclear capacity in service by 2020 seems impossible to meet.

At present, China has 19.3 gigawatts of nuclear supply under construction and a further 31.4 gigawatts already in service. Given that new plants take five years or more to build, the country faces a shortfall of more than seven gigawatts on its target.

All the plants started between 2008 and 2010 are online except for six imported reactors. These include four AP1000 reactors designed by Westinghouse, based in the United States but owned by Toshiba of Japan, and two European Pressurised Reactors (EPRs), developed by Areva, a French multinational group specializing in nuclear power.

The plants are not expected to be completed before 2017 and all will be at least three years late, an unprecedented delay in China’s nuclear history. It would be surprising if China was not disillusioned with its suppliers and their technologies.

The EPR and AP1000 reactors have been problematic to build. The two EPRs are three to four years late although there is little available information detailing why. Meanwhile, EPR plants in Finland and France, which should have been completed in 2009 and 2012, respectively, will not be online before 2018.

There are no obvious problems that account for the majority of the delays at any of the sites, just a series of quality and planning issues that suggest the complexity of the design makes it difficult to build.

The four AP1000s are also running three to four years late. They are being built by China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Company (SNPTC), which has not built reactors before. There is some publicly available information about the problems suffered in China with the AP1000s, including continual design changes by Westinghouse. The reactor coolant pumps and the squib valves, which are essential to prevent accidents, have been particularly problematic, for example.

Submission + - Tensions reignite over West Texas nuclear waste storage (fuelfix.com)

mdsolar writes: The years long fight over whether to build a nuclear waste storage facility in West Texas has touched off again over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s decision to move ahead on the review process.

Earlier this month the federal government’s top-nuclear division wrote a letter to Waste Control Specialists, the Dallas-based company developing the waste facility, informing them that the agency would be beginning its environmental review of the project even though the company’s initial application remained incomplete.

“By starting the EIS process now, the NRC will be able to engage interested members of the public earlier and accord the public additional time to review the WCS license application,” the letter reads.

That prompted four environmental groups to write the NRC Wednesday, arguing it should dismiss the application because Congress never intended for a privately-owned facility to take possession of nuclear waste when it passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act in 1982.

The facility proposed by Waste Control Specialists would be located in Andrews County, northwest of Midland on the Texas-New Mexico border. It would initially store 5,000 metric tons of spent fuel though has raised the prospect of increasing that volume to 40,000 metric tons – more than half the total waste from nuclear plants in this country.

Submission + - Nuclear plants leak critical alerts in unencrypted pager messages (arstechnica.com)

mdsolar writes: A surprisingly large number of critical infrastructure participants—including chemical manufacturers, nuclear and electric plants, defense contractors, building operators and chip makers—rely on unsecured wireless pagers to automate their industrial control systems. According to a new report, this practice opens them to malicious hacks and espionage.

Earlier this year, researchers from security firm Trend Micro collected more than 54 million pages over a four-month span using low-cost hardware. In some cases, the messages alerted recipients to unsafe conditions affecting mission-critical infrastructure as they were detected. A heating, venting, and air-conditioning system, for instance, used an e-mail-to-pager gateway to alert a hospital to a potentially dangerous level of sewage water. Meanwhile, a supervisory and control data acquisition system belonging to one of the world's biggest chemical companies sent a page containing a complete "stack dump" of one of its devices.

Other unencrypted alerts sent by or to "several nuclear plants scattered among different states" included:

Reduced pumping flow rate
Water leak, steam leak, radiant coolant service leak, electrohydraulic control oil leak
Fire accidents in an unrestricted area and in an administration building
Loss of redundancy
People requiring off-site medical attention
A control rod losing its position indication due to a data fault
Nuclear contamination without personal damage

Submission + - Lawsuit Seeks to Halt New York Subsidies for Upstate Nuclear Plants (nytimes.com)

mdsolar writes: A collection of energy companies and trade associations have filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse a decision by the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to subsidize several struggling upstate nuclear plants, arguing that the state overstepped federal authority to regulate energy prices.

The suit, filed Wednesday in Federal District Court in Manhattan, comes a little more than two months after Mr. Cuomo announced a deal to provide hundreds of millions of dollars per year in subsidies to buttress the bottom lines of four upstate plants. The subsidies were included in an order from the Public Service Commission, whose chairwoman, Audrey Zibelman, is named as the lead defendant.

But the suit argues that such action oversteps the federal government’s policy of allowing market forces to set wholesale energy prices, and benefits a single company: Exelon, based in Chicago, which owns all four plants. The plan also effectively makes New York residents pay billions through higher electrical rates to prop up the plants, several of which would have failed without the governor’s plan, the suit claims.

“Unless enjoined or eliminated, these credits will result in New York’s captive ratepayers paying the owners an estimated $7.6 billion over 12 years,” the suit reads.

Submission + - Nuclear Power Plant and Nuclear Lab Hacked (securitytaco.com)

zootsewt1 writes: In two separate incidents, a nuclear power plant and a nuclear lab were targeted for cyber attacks. Director Yukiya Amano from the IAEA disclosed that a nuclear power generation facility came under cyber attack within the last few years. He declined to state which specific nuclear facility was involved. Mr. Amano advised that "This issue of cyber attacks on nuclear-related facilities or activities should be taken very seriously. We never know if we know everything or if it's the tip of the iceberg."

In a separate incident, a nuclear lab in the University of Toyama in Japan conducting research on tritium (used in nuclear power plants), also came under cyber attack earlier this year. The attacker appears to have been able to exfiltrate large large amounts of data, some of which was related to the Fukushima clean-up. It is unclear who is responsible for this attack.

Submission + - Nuclear Fusion World Record: MIT's Alcator C-Mod Tokamak Breaks Its Own Plasma P (ibtimes.com)

mdsolar writes: On Friday, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center announced that they had achieved a key milestone — one that brings us closer than ever before to viable fusion reactors. The MIT team at the Alcator C-Mod tokamak nuclear fusion reactor set a new world record for plasma pressure at 2.05 atmospheres — 15 percent higher than the previous C-Mod record of 1.77 atmospheres set in 2005.

“This is a remarkable achievement that highlights the highly successful Alcator C-Mod program at MIT,” Dale Meade, former deputy director at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, who was not directly involved in the experiments, said in a statement. “The record plasma pressure validates the high-magnetic-field approach as an attractive path to practical fusion energy.”

Submission + - Britain's Nuclear Cover-Up (nytimes.com)

mdsolar writes: If the Hinkley plan seems outrageous, that’s because it only makes sense if one considers its connection to Britain’s military projects — especially Trident, a roving fleet of armed nuclear submarines, which is outdated and needs upgrading. Hawks and conservatives, in particular, see the Trident program as vital to preserving Britain’s international clout.

A painstaking study of obscure British military policy documents, released last month by the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, demonstrates that the government and some of its partners in the defense industry, like Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems, think a robust civilian nuclear industry is essential to revamping Britain’s nuclear submarine program.

For proponents of Trident, civilian nuclear projects are a way of “masking” the high costs of developing a new fleet of nuclear submarines, according to the report. Merging programs like research and development or skills training across civilian and military sectors helps cut back on military spending. It also helps maintain the talent pool for nuclear specialists. And given the long lead times and life spans of most nuclear projects, connections between civilian and military programs give companies more incentives to make the major investments required.

One might say that with the Hinkley Point project, the British government is using billions of Chinese money to build stealth submarines designed to deter China.

Submission + - Green, conservative groups align against Cuomo nuclear subsidy (pressrepublican.com)

mdsolar writes: A coalition of environmental and consumer activists say New York electricity customers will be jolted by a "huge tax" stemming from Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to subsidize aging nuclear power plants.

Customers of National Grid, New York State Electric & Gas and other state-regulated utilities will see bills climb by more than $2 per month beginning next year — and even more in subsequent years — if the plan stays on track, the critics said.

The proposal is part of Cuomo's plan to ensure New York gets at least 50 percent of its power from renewable sources, including solar and wind, by 2030. He contends it makes New York a national leader in the push to curb climate change linked to greenhouse gases.

But representatives of more than 70 groups — consumer, environmental and conservative — announced this week that they are working in unison to derail the "bailout" of reactors near Rochester and Syracuse.

The subsidy's cost is expected to top $7 billion, according to a projection by the Public Utility Law Project, which is fighting the plan. Household customers would shoulder about $2.3 billion of that, it said, with the rest passed to industry, institutions and school systems.

"This is one of the biggest transfers of wealth in New York state history," said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Submission + - SPAM: Nuclear Power Rapidly Losing Race With Renewable Energy

mdsolar writes: Two new reports from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirm that nuclear power is rapidly losing the race with renewable energy sources.

EIA's latest "Monthly Energy Review" notes that during the first six months of this year, renewable sources—i.e., biofuels, biomass, geothermal, hydropower, solar and wind—accounted for 5.242 quadrillion Btus (quads) of domestic energy production. This includes thermal, liquid and electrical forms of energy. By comparison, nuclear power provided only 4.188 quads. That is, renewables outpaced nuclear by more than 25 percent.

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