November 24, 2009

Hyperion Reveals Design Details Of Its 25 MW Reactor

Firm kicks-off effort to prepare a submission to the NRC for safety review

Hyperion-Nuclear Power Generation, which is designing a small, 25 MWe, nuclear reactor, revealed design details on November 18, about the company's product at the Winter meeting of the American Nuclear Society taking place in Washington, DC.

This is the first release of reactor design information by the company. It marks the kick-off of the firm’s pre-application process with the NRC for safety analysis review that leads to a reactor design certification decision by the agency.

No matter where, globally, Hyperion plans to build their reactor, the NRC certification is a critical success factor because the agency’s regulatory review is considered to be the “gold standard” by other countries.

According to John Grizz Deal, Hyperion CEO, the firm plans to submit its design to the NRC in late 2010 or early 2011. Hyperion technical staff said the NRC learning curve is a challenge since it is not a light water reactor.

“We hope that it will not be too hard for them to understand our design. We choose technologies for fuel and fuel cladding that are well understood from a safety perspective.”

Design details

The sealed core, which is good for up to 10 years, does not require refueling at the customer site. Instead, the entire mechanism is replaced by a new one. The first use of the reactor at a customer site will be to produce electricity. The planned output of the reactor will be 25 MWe. Other applications include process heat and power for remote military applications. The company claims to have numerous customers lined up to buy the units.

Features Include

* Each unit will generate approximately 70MWt and 25MWe – enough to power 20,000 average American homes.

* The temperature of the secondary loop is 450-500 F. The secondary loop is a liquid metal circuit to produce steam so that there is no contact between the primary reactor and water in any form.

* Overnight costs are estimated by the firm to be $2,000 - $3,000 per KW capacity. The bottom line market goal is to generate electricity for approximately US$0.10 per kWh anywhere in the world.

Hyperion Reactor Information

* Operation is limited to reactivity adjustments to maintain constant temperature output and it has much fewer in-core components than a light water reactor. Hyperion claims that operational reliability is enhanced by the reduction of moving mechanical parts. Staffing will be at least two people at all times to comply with NRC requirements.

The reactor is intended to meet requirements for dedicated power by hospitals, factories, foundries, government centers, water treatment, or irrigation and desalinization. Resource intensive uses at remote sites include mining and oil production & refining. Military facilities that cannot compromise tactical readiness relative to having enough electricity may find the small footprint of the reactor and ease of transport to be of interest.

Safe shutdown

The reactor has two shutdown systems which provides redundancy. In event of a problem, there is a space in the center of the core into which the operator can rapidly dumped marble size boron pellets which will lead to rapid shutdown of the reactor.

Hyperion Plan Review of Active Core

Once reactor comes to end of fuel cycle, in about 5-10 years, it takes two years to cool down via air circulation. Then the entire reactor can be removed for disposition. Ideally, a customer will have two setups for these reactors so that one slot is empty at startup of the first one. When it’s done, you put the new one in the empty space, and let the old one cool off in place for two years. Then the customer can arrange for Hyperion to remove it. It gives new meaning to the term “plug and play.”

Future fuel fabrication plans

Fuel will be enriched to between 15-19.6% because this small reactor needs more highly enriched fuel to get power levels to point of economic value. Fuel is a uranium nitride alloy. No fuel has been fabricated or tested so far. A system engineer at Hyperion said in an interview INL’s ATR is an option for testing fuel. Other international sites (unnamed) are also interested if ATR is not available. The firm’s goal is to verify that fuel meets requirements for higher burn-up rates.

Hyperion said in October it plans to build a factory to make the reactors in the UK. CEO Deal is making a simultaneous announcement there about design details this week. Nuclear Engineering International Magazine published a technical update 11/19/09.

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November 18, 2009

Australian Opposition Anger At India-Canada Uranium Deal

Australia's federal opposition is complaining of what it calls a colossal missed opportunity for Australia, after it was revealed that Canada is soon to resume uranium sales to India.

The Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has visited New Delhi to sign a series of agreements on trade and energy, and he has also announced a new civilian nuclear deal with India, which will include big new uranium sales.

India has been asking for Australian uranium for years, but the government of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has a ban in place preventing any sales.

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Recent News Regarding Canada's Close Ties With India
September 2009

OTTAWA -- Canada is close to signing a deal with India to sell nuclear technology and materials, Trade Minister Stockwell Day said on Friday, adding he was confident that remaining security concerns would be resolved.

Mr. Day made similar comments in May, saying at that time that a deal was imminent.

He told reporters on a conference call that he was now ironing out a few final stumbling blocks.

"I had a telephone meeting just last week with India's national security adviser. We are down to four fine points ... He and I both agree that final agreement is possible within days, if not just a matter of a few weeks," Mr. Day told reporters on a conference call from India.

Mr. Day said he did not foresee any threat of Canadian materials being diverted to military uses elsewhere in the region because of India's commitment to allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency as well as tough transparency and reporting requirements.

"These are very strong provisions," he said.

Canada halted nuclear co-operation with India after the country diverted material from Canadian-designed reactors to make a nuclear bomb in 1974. The conflict between India and Pakistan at the time led to widespread international concerns about India's nuclear intentions.

Canada and other countries lifted their moratorium on nuclear trade with India last year.

Mr. Day said one of the four items to be resolved before signing a deal was the "question of reprocessing", without providing details.

"I'll let our negotiators make progress on those and the others without unduly trying to raise pressure points publicly on them," he said.

The deal means Canadian uranium producers will be able to sell to an Indian market that is seen, along with China's, as one of the top areas of growing demand for nuclear fuel.

Cameco, a top uranium miner, recently said it plans to open a marketing office in India.

"Certainly we're looking forward to having the opportunity to do business in India. It's a large market opportunity for any uranium fuel supplier," said Cameco spokesman Lyle Krahn.

The company plans to open the office next month.

"Once we have the agreement in place, we'll certainly be moving forward," Cameco's spokesman.

On Wednesday, the Canadian government announced a similar nuclear deal with Kazakhstan, where Cameco already has operations.

November 10, 2009

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In the early 1980s Gwyneth Cravens was one of the protesters against the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant on Long Island, and also participated in ban-the-bomb rallies. After 15 years of deepening familiarity with nuclear power, she says she still would ban the bomb, but she now regrets that the Shoreham reactor was shut down.

Who changed her mind was a nuclear expert at Sandia Labs in Albuquerque, D. Richard Anderson, known as “Rip.” “Here was someone who thinks in thousands of years, about climate, about nuclear waste storage,” she said. “He applies to nuclear issues the same probabilistic risk assessment that helps us understand what we’re facing with climate change.”

One concept that altered Cravens’ perspective was realizing what “baseload” requires. Rip Anderson, on the stage with her, explained that baseload is the fundamental currency of grid power. It is massive power constantly available 24/7. It comes from only three sources— fossil fuels, hydro-electric dams, and nuclear. Hydro is maxed out. Fossil fuels have to be cut back to slow global warming. That leaves only nuclear growth to handle the expected doubling of energy demand in the world by 2030.

Anderson added that his first scientific discipline was oceanography, so one of his greatest concerns about CO2 loading of the atmosphere is that the resulting carbonic acid in the oceans is dissolving the calcifying organisms and could effectively end the crucial carbon sink that oceans provide.

Cravens went into detail about the harm brought by coal, which currently provides 51% of US electricity (while hydro is 7%, nuclear 20%). Estimates are that coal pollution causes 24,000 deaths a year in the US, 400,000 a year in China (not counting the 5,000 who die annually in Chinese coal mines).

She also mentioned the still-incomplete science of the effects of low radiation— the amounts below 10,000 millirems. People encounter much higher levels of natural radiation at higher elevations and in some radon-rich areas, but there is no indication of higher cancer rates in those places. The fears of long-lingering cancer effects in the Chernobyl region have not proven out.

Comparing the environmental footprint of nuclear versus coal was the most persuasive mind-changer for Cravens. Coal involves vast quanities of mine spoil, vast quantities of fuel, vast quantities of pollution (including mercury and uranium), and vast quantities of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere. Nuclear, by contrast, uses the most concentrated form of energy in the world, the plants are small, and the waste amounts to one Coke can per person’s lifetime of energy use.

There is said to be no geological repository for nuclear waste yet, but Rip Anderson pointed out that the WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant) in a deep salt formation in New Mexico has been operating since 1999. It now handles only military waste, but there is no reason except political that it could not take all of our civilian spent fuel.

Two questions from the audience addressed possible limitations on fast growth of nuclear energy in the world. One was, “Won’t we quickly run out of uranium?” Anderson said that 10% of US electricity currently comes from recycled Soviet nuclear warheads, and we haven’t begun to draw the energy from decommissioned US warheads. The price for uranium ore has been so low in recent decades that mines closed and discovery stopped. Now that the price is rising, mines are reopening and new reserves are being found. (They’re mostly in Canada and Australia, some in the US.) Meanwhile, spent fuel in the US still has 98% of its energy in it. Once we reprocess the spent fuel the way the rest of the world does, we will extract more of that energy, and the final amount of waste will be drastically smaller.

Second question: “Are there enough nuclear engineers in the pipeline to deal with a worldwide nuclear renaissance?” Answer: No. That’s the most limiting resource at this point.

Gwenyth Craven’s new book, The Power to Save the World.

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The uranium spot market was relatively quiet last week, with uranium market consultant TradeTech's U3O8 Weekly Spot Price Indicator slipping just US$0.50/lb to US$46.00/lb after a drop of US$3.50/lb the previous week.

There were only three transactions totalling approximately 400,000 pounds U3O8 equivalent registered by TradeTech for the week.

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November 9, 2009

Go Nuclear, France Tells Australia

France - the world's most Nuclearised country - has thrown its weight behind a nuclear power industry in Australia.

The French government's environment ambassador, Laurent Stefanini, said nuclear power was a good fit for Australia, and offered his country's technological know-how to get the industry started.

"We think that Australia is certainly a country that would win much from putting in place ... a nuclear program," Stefanini told AAP in an interview in the ministry of foreign affairs in Paris.

"It's a reliable and useful way to avoid greenhouse gas emissions."

Australia, which has the world's largest uranium reserves, exports uranium to France but does not have any nuclear power reactors.

Close to 80% of France's electricity comes from 59 nuclear reactors dotted across the country.

Nuclear power has negligible greenhouse gas emissions; France's emissions are about one-third of Australia's on a per capita basis.

"You've got the primary material, you're a serious country which is democratic, organized, and has reliable institutions," Stefanini said.

"You've got plenty of space ... that makes it easier. You've got the territory to build (reactors) a certain distance (from towns)."

Some French reactors are located near towns and villages.

Stefanini said France's experience of more than 20 years of nuclear power was that the industry created jobs - in security and maintenance - and while construction costs were high, as a 30-year investment the price tag was not prohibitive.

There had been no major accidents in France's nuclear industry, but it was very tightly monitored and regulated, Mr Stefanini said. There was a national consensus on the utility of nuclear power but an accident would jeopardize that consensus.

An adviser to French president Nicolas Sarkozy was also positive about the potential for nuclear power in Australia.

"Nuclear should be one of the possible options ... we think it's one of the solutions for producing carbon-free energy," he told AAP in an interview in the French presidential palace, l'Elysee.

"Australia is a country which offers all the guarantees of an excellent mastery of technology, and there are no concerns about nuclear (weapons) dissemination."

The adviser said he didn't want to tell other countries what to do with their electricity generation, but nuclear power had worked well for France and had kept greenhouse gas emissions low.

Australia exports about 10,000 tonnes of uranium oxide a year and has the world's largest uranium deposit, at Olympic Dam in South Australia.

The vast majority of Australia's electricity comes from coal, which has high greenhouse gas emissions.

The federal government says there's no need for nuclear power because renewable energy - like wind and solar - is a better way to green up the electricity grid.

The opposition has been more open to the nuclear option, with former prime minister John Howard floating the idea at the last election and various MPs recently calling for it to be considered afresh.

Opinion polls in Australia show that the long-running hostility towards nuclear power is breaking down, and roughly half the population now thinks it could be a good idea.

France's nuclear reactors are state-owned and the country is an electricity exporter.

No country gets more of its electricity from nuclear sources than France. France also has nuclear weapons.

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The uranium spot market was relatively quiet last week, with uranium market consultant TradeTech's U3O8 Weekly Spot Price Indicator slipping just US$0.50/lb to US$46.00/lb after a drop of US$3.50/lb the previous week.

There were only three transactions totalling approximately 400,000 pounds U3O8 equivalent registered by TradeTech for the week.


Britain To Accelerate Plans For New Nuclear Plants

Britain will face a serious energy crisis unless plans to build new nuclear power plants are speeded through without having obstacles placed in their way, the Government will warn next week.

Published: 9:30AM GMT 07 Nov 2009

Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, will give the go-ahead for a new generation of power stations and explain how new planning guidelines will speed up the time it takes for them to come into operation.

In a major series of policy statements on Monday Mr Miliband will say that “saying no” to nuclear is no longer an option.

The move is certain to arouse opposition in Labour ranks, sweeping away many of the concerns on the traditional left. But Mr Miliband said that business backs his plans and companies need to have confidence that they will not be thwarted if they invest in Britain’s new energy order.

Last night he told The Daily Telegraph: “Saying no is not a good energy policy. In fact we’ve got to say yes to all of the key technologies, nuclear, renewable, clean coal. It isn’t just about the green thing it’s about doing the right thing by way of energy security.

“We are going to have to see significant infrastructure built in the coming years. We have to understand people's concerns and where they’re coming from but to say no to all of these things isn’t an option because it will be bad for Britain in terms of our security of supply and it’s bad in terms of low carbon as well.”

He added: “We can’t have endless delay. I don’t think that’s good for people themselves whether they’re for or against. It’s not good for business and it’s not good for Britain as a whole.

“So it’s an important, significant moment because it’s saying we’re pressing ahead with these plans and it’s the right thing to do for Britain and people need to get behind them.”

The list of sites will include many that have previously had nuclear reactors. They include two in Sellafield, Wylfa in North Wales and Dungeness in Kent.

It is understood that after a six month consultation period the sites are considered the best because of the existing infrastructure and a local community that is not resistant to the prospect of a new installation.

The new planning rules are designed to stop nuclear plans being bogged down in legal wrangles for years. Instead, Mr Miliband said that he wants to new power stations in place by 2017-18.

He said: “The truth is that we need to reform the planning system because the current system involves duplication, it involves delay and it won’t get the infrastructure built in time. So that’s why I think it’s right to do the reforms.

“We’re putting in place a planning system that actually enjoys the support of business, the support of investors and I think its time that they recognised that and supported it.”

Ministers were angered when the Conservatives used government figures to claim Britain risked being plunged into an era of 1970s-style blackouts because of poor energy planning

While maintaining that blackouts will not happen, Mr Miliband makes it clear that Britain cannot afford delay if it is to avoid having to import energy in the coming years.

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November 5, 2009

Deep Yellow & Rio Tinto To Possibly Enter Iron Ore Deal


Uranium play Deep Yellow could potentially enter into an off take agreement with the Rio Tinto-backed Rossing Uranium to supply iron from its INCA deposit to the Namibian uranium operation.

Subiaco-based Deep Yellow said it has signed an agreement with Rossing
Uranium, which is majority owned by Rio Tinto, to investigate the potential of supplying ferric iron to the Rossing uranium operation and enter into a commercial offtake agreement.

Portions of the INCA deposit in Namibia contain massive iron oxide that is either uranium poor or totally unmineralised and could be supplied to Rossing, which it will use in its processing plant, Deep Yellow said.

"If the iron product is suitable, early indications are that it is, then exploiting
it will serve a number of purposes while detailed investigations into a uranium processing plant at INCA continue in conjunction with the required Stage Two environmental and other studies," the company said.

Deep Yellow has also applied for a mining licence for its Omahola project, 
which contains the INCA and the Tubas Red Sand uranium deposits, despite not having completed a definitive or bankable feasibility study.

Deep Yellow said it had presented a case for exemption to Namibia's Ministry of Mines and Energy based on a two stage environmental clearance procedure where no chemical processing would initially occur on site.

It said high-grade uranium bearing mineralised sand from Tubas Red Sand could be trucked to nearby uranium producers, like Rossing Uranium, for treatment.

INCA Project

Mineralisation at INCA, which is located 30 km inland from the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay has characteristics of both metasomatic and magnetite (calc-silicate) skarn types which is distinct and different from the known lower grade alaskite hosted uranium mineralisation being mined at Rossing and on the projects controlled by other companies in the district and also the higher grade Rossing South discovery of Extract Resources which in part exhibits some similarities to the INCA mineralisation.

Although discovered by Reptile in December 2007, the initial drilling returned 115 metre at 229 ppm eU3O8 from 14 metre in diamond drill hole ADM 02 which is typical of the wide intersections of around 200 ppm as commonly found in alaskites.

Reptile’s technical team had determined that a grade closer to 400 ppm is required for a viable hardrock mining operation and therefore did not pursue this project until later when it was recognised that uranium mineralisation may well be controlled by later alteration systems and not necessarily only with the granites. RC drilling was then undertaken over an approximate 2 by 2 km area on a nominally 100 metre square grid to a vertical depth of 100 metre.

This drilling delineated an area of 300 by 500 metre within which a number
of holes contained 400 ppm U3O8 or better close to the surface and which was deemed prospective and have potential for an open-cut mining operation.

Reptile then set about drilling out this potential pit area on a 50 by 50 metre grid in order to delineate resources down to a nominal depth of 100 metre. While this programme was underway it was decided to deepen two holes in the northern portion of the grid to test an airborne electromagnetic (AEM) anomaly at depth. This drilling led to the discovery of the INCA Deeps mineralisation with hole INCR139 returning 1,734 ppm U3O8 over 20 metre from 206 metre associated with massive magnetite. This hole ended in mineralisation due to excessive amounts of water curtailing the RC drilling but testing of the AEM anomaly had successfully discovered a zone of mineralisation towards the north that is tens of metre thick located approximately 200 metre below surface.

The mineralisation appears to be at least partly structurally controlled and occurs within a partly overturned fold or syncline. There is a 20 to 70 metre thick crystalline marble unit within the metamorphic package which, for all intent, is totally unaffected by the alteration associated with the uranium and iron mineralisation and occurs below the mineralisation. This marble unit is being used as a footwall marker and all previously drilled holes that finished above the marble marker are being deepened to intersect it. Where the mineralisation has not been intersected in the 50 metre spaced holes on the southern and western margins of the deposit, the hole spacing is being reduced to 25 metre.

Along with the drilling programme, metallurgical and other scoping studies have continued and a shortlist of consultants, who will undertake the detailed investigations leading to a Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS), is almost complete. It is anticipated that an announcement with respect to the successful group will be made during October 2009.

The conceptual/initial mine and production scenario that DYL has modelled is to combine ore from the Tubas Red Sand project with that from INCA to produce around 1,000 to 1,500 tonne per annum of U3O8 at a feed grade of +400 ppm. It is estimated that an initial resource of 8,000 to 10,000 tonne will suffice to fund this development while drilling will continue with a view to increasing the resource as regional holes indicate a much larger zone of alteration and mineralisation is present at INCA.

Heap leach trials have also been carried out in columns using a blend of 20% Tubas Red Sand and 80% INCA uraniferous magnetite which was acid cured and then agglomerated. The agglomerate essentially remained intact after 17 days of leaching and washing. All testwork has been completed on unscreened and uncrushed RC drill chips with excellent recoveries of above 80%. This would appear to indicate that milling, which is an extremely energy intensive and expensive step, may not be required.

Consistent drilling results are being returned above 400 ppm U3O8 grade that is required by in-house modelling to support an open-pit mining operation at INCA. 

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November 4, 2009

Nuclear Restart For Refurbished Canadian Units Gets The Green Light

3rd November 2009

Two reactors at Canada's Bruce A nuclear power plant that have been out of service for over a decade have been given regulatory approval for refueling and restart. At the same time, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has announced five-year operating Licence renewals for the Bruce A and B nuclear power stations.

Units 1 and 2 at the Bruce A plant have been undergoing a major refurbishment to replace their fuel channels and steam generators plus upgrade ancillary systems to current standards in an operation that should enable them to operate for a further 25 years. The announcement by regulator CNSC that refueling can go ahead means the project looks to be on line for the projected 2010 restarts.

The regulator also announced that it had decided to renew the operating licences for Bruce A and the four-unit Bruce B plant, with the new licences valid from 1 November 2009 to 31 October 2014. (The five-year renewal is in line with Canadian regulatory practice, whereby nuclear power plant operating licences are granted for a fixed term and must be renewed periodically.)

As part of its ruling, CNSC has requested that detailed information on the status of the refurbishment of the Bruce A units and on the status of Bruce Power's follow-up monitoring be included in its own annual Status Report on Power Reactors. It has similarly requested detailed information on the status of Bruce Power's follow-up monitoring, ageing management, any safety-significant dates for equipment, and any forecasted end of life plans, be included in the annual Status Report for Bruce B.

Units 1 and 2 at the four-unit Bruce A plant started up in 1977, but unit 2 was shut down in 1995 because a steam generator suffered corrosion after a lead shielding blanket used during maintenance was mistakenly left inside. In the late 1990s then-owner Ontario Hydro decided to lay up all four units at the plant to concentrate resources on other reactors in its fleet, and unit 1 was taken out of service in December 1997 with units 3 and 4 in following in 1998. The four units at sister power station Bruce B continued to operate. Bruce Power took over the operations of both Bruce plants from Ontario Hydro in 2001 and restarted units 3 and 4 by early 2004. Bruce A units 3 and 4 are likely to undergo a similar refurbishment once units 1 and 2 are back in operation.

The decision to refurbish the units followed a 2005 agreement by Bruce Power and the government of Ontario to refurbish the two 769 MWe Candu reactors as a faster option than building new ones in the face of impending power shortages. A similar approach has been adopted elsewhere in Canada, with refurbishment work already completed at Pickering A units 1 and 4, ongoing at Point Lepreau 1 and planned to commence at Gentilly 2 in 2011.

Bruce Power decided to withdraw its application for a third nuclear power station at Bruce in July, saying it would focus on the refurbishment of the existing Bruce plants rather than building Bruce C. It also announced it was scrapping plans for a second new nuclear plant at Nanticoke in Ontario.

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November 2, 2009

Small Reactors Given Senate Support


Two leading senators sign on with Colorado Sen. Mark Udall

Sen Mark Udall (Colorado Senator Mark Udall, below)
Has introduced a bill to authorize federal R&D for small, modular reactors. Udall said in a speech on the Senate floor he believes nuclear energy is an important part of the nation's response to global warming.

"Given the economic, national security, and environmental threats that our current energy system creates, we need a comprehensive and cleaner energy policy. In this regard, nuclear energy clearly has emerged as an important player in our search for a stable and domestic energy source that has less greenhouse gas emissions."

Video of Udall’s Senate speech on nuclear energy

In supporting nuclear energy, Udall is going against his political base and family history. Colorado is one of the greenest states with a long history of opposition to nuclear energy spurred in part by the failure of the Ft. St. Vrain nuclear reactor located 40 miles north of Denver. It never had an accident, but it was a technical and financial failure. Decommissioning was completed in 1992.

Also, Udall is the son of the late Arizona congressman Morris Udall. He is the nephew of former secretary of the interior Stewart Udall. According to media reports,he is considered an strong supporter of environmental organizations and has support their drive to expand the use of renewable energy sources including solar, wind, and biomass.