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.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shutdown of San Onofre Due To Steam Generators Costing SCE

The months-long outage at California's San Onofre nuclear power plant will easily exceed $100 million.  The outlays include equipment repair or replacement costs, the expense of securing power contracts and daily electricity purchases while the plant is off line, as well as items such as increased regulatory oversight and customer-funded incentives for energy conservation.

The electricity San Onofre produces—up to 2,200 megawatts at any given time—is so vital to powering daily life in San Diego and the Orange County-Los Angeles metropolitan area that government and industry officials are scrambling to secure back up sources in case the plant remains idle during a summer heat wave.

In part because of its critical role in Southern California's power grid, the California Public Utilities Commission in 2005 told San Onofre's owners they could spend $680 million (2004 dollars) to replace the plant's four massive steam generators, and recoup the costs through higher customer rates. The commission also agreed to consider additional costs up to a cap of $782 million.
The new steam generators came on line in 2010 and 2011, but the project's final bill has not yet been submitted for review. In the meantime, the steam generator investment began to sour. In late January, Unit 3 was shut down after a small amount of radiation leaked from a steam generator heat transfer tube. Further inspection revealed excessive wear on some of the 19,454 tubes in Unit 3's new steam generators. Inspection of the tubes within Unit 2, which was shut down in early January for planned maintenance, also revealed unusual tube wear. (Unit 1 was shut down in 1992 because it needed costly upgrades that were not considered cost-effective.)
San Onofre can't be restarted until the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is satisfied that the cause of the tube damage has been identified and the necessary repairs have been made to safely operate the reactors.

The NRC and Southern California Edison (SCE), which operates the plant, have said the damage was caused by vibrating tubes knocking against each other and against the tube support structure. Investigators are still trying to determine whether the unusual wear was caused by the way the steam generators were designed, the way they were manufactured, the way they were installed, or the way they were operated.  That question, once answered, could determine who pays the bill.

NFRC Co-Chair Norris McDonald at San Onofre in 2005
The primary candidates are Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which built the steam generators; San Onofre's owners, SCE (78.2 percent), San Diego Gas & Electric Co. (20 percent) and the City of Riverside (1.8 percent); engineering firm Bechtel and other companies involved in the replacement project; and the customers served by SCE and San Diego Gas & Electric.  If the blame rests with the steam generator supplier, repair costs up to $137 million would fall to Mitsubishi under the equipment's 20-year warranty, according to SCE. If the cause—and therefore the financial responsibility—can be disputed, it certainly will be, perhaps through lengthy legal wrangling.

Electricity customers will be in the mix, too, in spite of the cost cap the CPUC imposed when the steam generator replacement project was approved. That's because Mitsubishi's warranty doesn't cover the cost of replacement power, and both SCE and SDG&E said in financial filings that they intend to include those expenses in annual filings aimed at recouping those costs from customers. This year's power purchases will be filed in early 2013 and are subject to "reasonableness" review by state regulators.

So far, the bill for San Onofre’s steam generator troubles includes:

The cost to repair or replace the four compromised steam generators: $70 million to $800 million or more.

SCE, for its part, recently told Wall Street analysts that it spent $30 million on inspection and repair costs related to the steam generators through mid-April, and that it expects its 78 percent share of the total operations-related expenses to be $55 million to $65 million. That translates into a total repair bill of $70 million to $83 million, split among SCE, SDG&E and the City of Riverside.

The cost of buying replacement power: $42 million through March 31.

When San Onofre is running, it supplies enough electricity to power 1.4 million average homes. SDG&E has said the nuclear plant provides 20 percent of its normal power supply, and SCE got 19 percent of its power from San Onofre and Arizona's Palo Verde nuclear plant. Every day San Onofre's reactors are off line, both companies have to buy replacement electricity.  Electricity prices vary based on market conditions and seasonal demand, but experts estimate the cost to replace San Onofre’s power to be $750,000 to $1 million per day.

In a financial filing, SCE said it spent $30 million through March 31 for replacement power tied to the steam generator problems. That total covered 26 days when it offset the lost power from both Unit 2 and Unit 3, and 34 days when the company only bought power to replace Unit 3’s normal production. (Since Unit 2 was originally offline for a planned outage, SCE had previously purchased power to cover its down time until March 5.)  SDG&E reported it paid $12 million for replacement power over the same period.

The California Public Utilities Commission reviews the purchases for “reasonableness,” but the charges are rarely debated.    The bill for replacement power could be substantial, especially if San Onofre remains off line or at lower-than-usual capacity through the summer.

The cost of securing supplemental power: At least $12.5 million.

In addition to buying electricity each day to meet customer demand, SCE and SDG&E must secure commitments from power plants to supply additional energy if called upon. One such contract is with AES Corp., which has restarted two retired units at its Huntington Beach plant to make up for the San Onofre shortfall. The cost to secure that additional 440 megawatt output is about $2.5 million per month through October, according to the California Independent System Operator, the entity that manages California's electricity grid.

The cost of expanding energy conservation measures: Unknown.

State regulators recently approved a new way to reward SCE and SDG&E customers for cutting power consumption during key periods. SCE will spend $3.3 million on a new "10 for 10" program in Orange County that gives non-residential customers not already enrolled in similar programs a 10 percent bill credit in return for reducing power use by 10 percent or more between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2012. The program funding will come from customer money that was already set aside for other conservation incentives.

SDG&E will spend $6.4 million to expand its "peak time rebate" program to small commercial customers. The funding is being shifted from customer money set aside for another purpose
In addition to conservation incentives, state regulators approved using $9 million in customer funds for public service advertisements and announcements that encourage energy conservation during peak periods. The money can be used anywhere in California, but it will likely be heavily drawn upon for Southern California campaigns this summer.

The cost of stepped-up inspections from federal regulators: Unknown.

When things go wrong at a nuclear plant, the NRC sends extra inspectors to review the issue and supervise the plant operator's actions. But their work comes at a cost.

San Onofre will be billed $273 per hour for each extra NRC inspector called upon to assist with the investigation. (Inside Climate News, 5/29/2012)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


The Pantex Plant, located 17 miles northeast of Amarillo, Texas, in Carson County, is charged with maintaining the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. The facility is managed and operated by B&W Pantex for the U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration.

In 1942, the U.S. Army constructed the original Pantex Ordnance Plant on 16,000 acres. The mission of the Plant was to load and pack conventional artillery shells and bombs in support of the World War II effort. When the war ended in 1945, the site’s operations ceased and the land was sold to Texas Technological College (now Texas Tech University) in Lubbock.

In 1951, Pantex was reopened and refurbished for nuclear weapons, high explosive and non-nuclear component assembly operations. By 1960, Pantex Plant had taken on a new high explosives development mission in support of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Between 1965 and 1975, the Atomic Energy Commission moved various weapons modification, assembly and high explosives missions to the Plant from other facilities around the country.

Pantex workers assembled thousands of weapons during the Cold War. The last new nuclear weapon was completed in 1991. Since then, Pantex has safely dismantled thousands of weapons retired from the stockpile by the military and placed the resulting plutonium pits in interim storage.

Pantex has a long-term mission to safely and securely maintain the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile and dismantle weapons retired by the military. Much of Pantex’s future workload includes life extension programs designed to increase the longevity of weapons in the stockpile. (Pantex)

Kurion Inc Nuclear Clean Up Operator

Kurion Inc, an Irvine, California start-up that aided in stabilizing Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power station, is acquiring Impact Services Inc.'s GeoMelt business, which converts soil, debris and other material contaminated by radioactivity or hazardous chemicals into glass, a process known as vitrification. The vitrification process is conducted inside large containers at a contaminated site.  Impact Services, which is based in Oak Ridge, Tenn., filed for bankruptcy protection last week.  The acquisition could help Kurion Inc enter the field of cleaning up radioactive material left behind by Cold War weapons programs.

Kurion is looking for business opportunities after helping Tokyo Electric Power Company with its stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant. Set up four years ago, the start-up became an unexpectedly crucial player in cleaning up the crippled reactor after last year's earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Kurion's technology, a substance used to filter nuclear waste, removed radioactive cesium from contaminated water at the plant.

Last month, Kurion signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to test vitrification technology, which Kurion is hoping to commercialize for use in cleaning up radioactive waste generated by nuclear-weapons programs.

The cleanup activity is dominated by big civil-engineering companies. Bechtel Corp.'s Bechtel National Inc. and URS Corp.  are building a $12.2 billion plant for the DOE at Washington state's Hanford site. About 56 million gallons of waste, some of it in leaking tanks, is stored at the site, where plutonium for atomic bombs was created.

The GeoMelt technology may help Kurion enter the cleanup market, in which the DOE spends roughly $6 billion a year. The department already is considering the GeoMelt vitrification process for use at Hanford.

Kurion also may use the GeoMelt technology at Fukushima Daiichi, where the company designed a system to clean contaminated water and recirculate it as coolant for damaged reactors. Kurion hopes it can use the technology to treat soil and debris at the site, much of which was covered with radioactive substances after a series of explosions at the facility.

Impact Services licensed the GeoMelt technology from GeoSafe Corp., which is part of the deal, and is extending a perpetual world-wide license to Kurion.

Kurion is backed by venture-capital firms Lux Capital and Firelake Capital Management LLC. (WSJ, 5/28/2012)

Monday, May 28, 2012

WIPP Can Supplement or Replace Yucca Mountain

Carlsbad, New Mexico is a YIMBY (Yes In My Back Yard) city when it comes to storing nuclear waste.  This vibrant city of 25,000 would love to replace Yucca Mountain as the nation's repository for high level nuclear waste.  The Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP) already accepts low level nuclear waste.  WIPP is the nation’s only permanent, deep geologic repository for nuclear waste. The Nuclear Waste Fund has already collected about $30 billion from the ratepayers of nuclear reactor owners for a national repository.  Carlsbad wants this money.

Thanks to WIPP, unemployment sits at 3.8%, versus 6.5% statewide and 8.5% nationally. Also, New Mexico has received more than $300 million in federal highway funds in the past decade, $100 million of which has gone into the roads around Carlsbad.  The roads have to be good for the two dozen trucks a week hauling in radioactive drums brimming with the plutonium-laden detritus of America’s nuclear weapons production.

The Department of Energy’s $6 billion program created 1,300 permanent jobs, many of them high-paid engineering positions. Energy’s annual budget for WIPP is $215 million, much of which stays in the community as wages. The leaders of neighboring Lea and Eddy counties have established a 1,000-acre atomic industrial park.  On June 23, 2006, Louisiana Energy Services (LES) was issued a license to construct and operate a $3 billion gas centrifuge uranium enrichment/fabrication plant to be known as the URENCO USA facility, located five miles east of Eunice, New Mexico.

The Energy Department’s budget for the project has fallen in recent years from $250 million to $215 million; last year WIPP contractors shed 130 workers; those who remain are handling fewer shipments and less waste than before.


Since opening in 1999, WIPP has operated so smoothly and safely that Carlsbad is lobbying the feds to ­expand the project to take the nuclear mother lode: 160,000 more tons of the worst high-level nuclear waste in the country—things like the half-melted reactor core of Three Mile Island and old nuclear fuel rods—that are residing at aging nuke plants.

Though taxpayers have already spent some $12 billion mining out and engineering Yucca Mountain, 90 miles from Las Vegas, power brokers in Nevada fought the congressionally approved project from the get-go. Bowing to Nimby—and Nevada’s powerful Senator Harry Reid—two years ago President Barack Obama’s Administration declared Yucca DOA. Contractors have since laid off some 1,000 workers there.

On Mar. 26, 1999 the townsfolk of Carlsbad gathered to cheer the first truck to deliver waste to WIPP.   New Mexico, in agreeing to WIPP, required that Congress enshrine in law a promise that the feds would not send high-level waste into the state. WIPP won’t be the next Yucca unless that issue is wrangled, and reversed, by Albuquerque and Washington, DC.

Carlsbad has perfect geology for the waste because it sits atop the biggest salt deposit in America, stretching from New Mexico clear to Kansas.  The 3,000-foot salt layer is the thickest in the country, is nearly impervious to seismic activity, quickly heals any cracks or faults and remains completely impermeable, with no way for any water to get in or for any radiation to escape.

The waste drums’ final resting place is down an elevator 2,150 feet into the salt.  WIPP’s tunnels and rooms have 15-foot ceilings, enough to stack drums three high. So far it’s swallowed 10,200 shipments totaling 200,000 tons impregnated with 5 tons of plutonium. To get that stuff to WIPP drivers have logged 12 million miles with loaded trucks and 10 million miles empty.

Low-level waste (LLW) is nuclear waste that does not fit into the categorical definitions for interemediate-level waste (ILW), high-level (HLW), spent nuclear nuclear fuel (SNF), transuranic waste (TRU), or certain byproduct materials known as 11e(2) wastes, such as uranium mill talings. In essence, it is a definition by exclusion, and LLW is that category of radioactive wastes that do not fit into the other categories. While the bulk of LLW is not highly radioactive, the definition of LLW does not include references to its activity, and some LLW may be quite radioactive, as in the case of radioactive sources used in industry and medicine.

High level waste (HLW) is very radioactive and contains many of the fission products and transuranic elements generated in the reactor core.  HLW accounts for over 95% of the total radioactivity produced in the nuclear power process. In other words, while most nuclear waste is low-level and intermediate-level waste, such as protective clothing and equipment that have been contaminated with radiation, the majority of the radioactivity produced from the nuclear power generation process becomes high-level waste.  High level waste is very radioactive and, therefore, requires special shielding during handling and transport. It also needs cooling, because it generates a great deal of heat. Most of the heat, for the first several hundred years, is from the fission products cesium-137 and strontium-90.

(Wiki, Urenco, Forbes, 1/25/2012)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nuclear Waste Company Closes In Middle of Night

IMPACT Services, a nuclear waste processing company, closed its Oak Ridge business on Friday, and state officials were at the scene Monday to make sure the radioactive waste housed there — estimated at 1 million pounds — was in a safe and secure condition. The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) confirmed the situation.  IMPACT does have some staff, including a radiation safety officer, there and, according to the TDEC, the material is secure and the company is currently trying to determine what its options are moving forward.

The company told the state that about 60-70 percent of the waste inventory at the site could be returned to the generators. "f so,it would leave about 400,000 pounds that would need to be dealt with.

As part of acquiring its license for housing and processing nuclear materials, IMPACT Services had to provide finance assurance through a bonding process, so there will be money available to handle things if the state has to take an active role in controlling the site.  (KnoxNews, 5/21/2012)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Court Should Order Decision on Yucca Mountain

NFRC Supports Yucca Mountain As National Repository For Nuclear Waste
South Carolina and Washington are two states with large amounts of military and civilian nuclear waste, told a federal court panel on Wednesday that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was flouting the law by declining to decide whether the Nevada desert is a suitable burial spot — even if the Obama administration says the storage plan is dead.

Congress decided 25 years ago that the Department of Energy should build a repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, a volcanic ridge in Nevada 100 miles from Las Vegas, if the regulatory commission determined the site to be suitable. But the commission decided last year to end its consideration, with the chairman, Gregory B. Jaczko, pointing out that Congress was no longer providing money to advance the project. Jaczko obstructs the implementation of Yucca Mountain is every way he can.  Jaczko is also very controversial among his colleagues at the NRC.
The Department of Energy had formally moved to withdraw its proposal for the storage site. In his 2008 run for the presidency, President Obama promised to shelve the project, which is bitterly opposed by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada.

South Carolina, Washington and several other plaintiffs sued the federal government, arguing that the nuclear commission had a legal responsibility to pass judgment on Yucca. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit heard arguments from both sides.
The government is holding about $29 billion collected from utilities for disposal of nuclear waste, but Congress has stopped appropriating the money for that purpose.

Judges on the panel noted that when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission dropped its licensing process for Yucca Mountain, it still had $10 million for that purpose, and that a new Congress next year could appropriate more money. A lawyer for the commission, Charles E. Mullins, countered that with no prospect that the Energy Department would pursue its application for storage at Yucca Mountain, spending the $10 million would be throwing “good money after bad.”

The effort by the Energy Department to withdraw its license application led to a legal morass. The commission’s three-judge licensing panel said the department could not withdraw it, and the commission itself deadlocked on the issue, 2 to 2. The commission’s chairman, Dr. Jaczko, halted the licensing process nonetheless. He is a former aide to Senator Reid. (NY Times, 5/2/2012)