The NFRC was established in 2002 to promote the construction and operation of nuclear reprocessing facilities. NFRC promotes reprocessing commercial spent nuclear fuel that is generated by commercial nuclear power plants.

Reprocessing dramatically reduces the amount of high-level radioactive waste that would have to be stored in a geologic repository. We also support reprocessing plutonium and highly enriched uranium from nuclear warheads into fuel for use in commercial nuclear power plants.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Update: Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository

Yucca Mountain repository entrance
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing a June order by a Construction Authorization Board (CAB) panel that flatly said the Department of Energy (DOE) had no authority to pull the application for developing the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository. The Bush administration submitted the application in 2008. NFRC supports the CAB ruling that DOE does not have authority to pull the application. NFRC supports Yucca Mountain as the repository for America's nuclear waste.  DOE officials insist the agency has the authority to end the project and that a better national strategy for managing nuclear waste can be found.

Yucca Mountain peak
Largely because one NRC commissioner—George Apostolakis—has recused himself from the proceedings, the numbers are against NRC overturning the CAB decision and backing DOE’s efforts to halt work on Yucca. The recusal leaves NRC with four commissioners and a 2-2 a tie would leave the CAB decision intact, meaning a 3-1 vote would be needed to overturn it. Apostolakis, a Democrat, recused himself because of his past work as chairman of a panel that reviewed certain aspects of DOE’s work in developing Yucca. 

George Apostolakis & Norris McDonald (Jaczko in background)

Many surmise that the most likely vote to overturn the CAB and back DOE’s efforts to sink Yucca is NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko, a former Harry Reid aide who is considered a likely anti-Yucca vote out of allegiance to his former boss. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid opposes Yucca Mountain. Jaczko, a nuclear physicist, has given no indication what he might do on Yucca and has generally been seen as an even-handed commissioner and chairman.

Bill Magwood & Norris McDonald
 But if Jaczko were to try to line up two more anti-Yucca votes, it would be difficult. First, he would have to win the vote of at least one Republican commissioner—either Bill Ostendorff or Kristine Svinicki—which could endanger either Republican’s chance of re-nomination, given that most GOP leaders support Yucca. Second, there is no reason to believe that the commission’s other Democrat, Bill Magwood, is inclined to undermine Yucca. He is seen as moderate and served as director of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy under both Democratic and Republican administrations, including under the George W. Bush administration when Yucca was being advanced.

Besides Apostolakis' recusal, none of NRC’s four other commissioners have signaled their intention on Yucca, and the upcoming decision turns strictly on their interpretation of DOE’s authority to yank the Yucca application under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.

Although the NRC’s upcoming ruling will certainly inform the outcome, the legality of DOE’s effort to yank Yucca will likely ultimately be decided in the courts, however. (The Energy Daily, 9/22/2010)

Friday, September 17, 2010

South Africa Ends Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Program

The Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) project has been cancelled and the program has been reduced to a few people with the focus now being on the retention of its intellectual property, certain skills and the preservation of its assets. The PBMR project has not been able to secure an anchor customer or another investment partner and it is estimated that further investment in the project could exceed an additional R30-billion. The Westinghouse consortium was lost in May when Westinghouse withdrew from the programme.

The government also announced that should the country embark on a nuclear build programme in the future it will not be using the PBMR technology, which was still in the research and design phase. The project has been missing deadlines constantly, with the construction of the first demonstration model delayed further and further into the future. Over the last years a total R9,244-billion has been invested in the PBMR project, government having contributed an amount R7,419-billion or 80,3% of that amount. Eskom also contributed 8,8% with Westinghouse and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) accounting for 4,9% each.

Originally, it was envisaged that Eskom would be the PBMR's anchor customer, with a possible purchase of up to 24 reactors as part of the country's expansion of its electricity generation capacity to meet increasing demand with a first demonstration PBMR to be constructed on the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station site in the Western Cape. "However, between 2005 and 2009, it became increasingly clear that, based on the direct-cycle electricity design, PBMR's potential investor and customer market was severely restricted and it was unable to acquire either; hence government has been constrained to make decisions about the future of the project. (Engineering News, 9/16/2010)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

India Passes Law To Hold Nuclear Equipment Suppliers Liable

India passed a law that exposes firms supplying equipment to nuclear plants to liability in the case of accidents. This law threatens to effectively exclude U.S. companies from Indian projected $150 billion nuclear power market. In nearly all countries with nuclear power, suppliers are immune from lawsuits while all liability is channeled to nuclear-plant operators.

India's nuclear-plant operator, state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd., believes making suppliers liable, whether domestic or foreign, will hurt India's nuclear projects because no manufacturers will want to participate in them. Under India's law, the cap on liability for any nuclear accident is about $322 million . Though plant operators would be primarily responsible for accidents, they could seek "recourse" by suing suppliers.

India generates about 3% of its electricity from nuclear energy. (WSJ, 9/9/2010)