Myrhha reactor contract signed; Satellites could clean up nuclear sites; Indian plant hit by cyber attack

Our pick of the latest nuclear power news you need to know.

The Myrhha research reactor will be built at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre.

Myrhha reactor to ‘pave way for sustainable nuclear energy’

Belgian Tractebel and Spanish Empresarios Agrupados have signed a EUR7.6 million ($8.4 million) contract for the Myrhha accelerator-driven research reactor at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre's (SCK-CEN).

Myrhha will be used to develop new radioisotopes for innovative cancer treatments, as well as reducing the volume and radiotoxicity of high-level radioactive waste through transmutation.

The deal was signed during the Myrhha World Days conference, attended by Carlo Rubbia, the Nobel Prize winner in Physics on whose technology the Myrrha project is based.

Rubbia’s Accelerator Driven System (ADS) concept is for a nuclear reactor which produces electricity and burns nuclear waste. Its lead-cooled core does not have enough fissile material to spontaneously maintain a chain reaction, which is why it is being coupled with a particle accelerator. This particle accelerator shoots protons into a target, producing neutrons which will maintain the fission reactions in the reactor.

The Myrhha project will fuel the world’s approach to treating nuclear waste and pave the way for the development of sustainable nuclear energy, according to Rubbia.

The developers aim to commission phase 1 of the Myrhha project in 2027.

Satellites could help clean up nuclear sites

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is working with the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to explore using satellites to gather data which could be used in nuclear decommissioning and waste management.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Space Data Challenge is aimed at small businesses and academic start-ups, with a 10,000 pound (US$12,800) prize on offer to help the winning concept to market.

“Remote monitoring is just one example of the uses of satellite technology that could benefit the nuclear sector,” said NDA’s Head of Innovation Sara Huntingdon. “There are so many opportunities here which we could explore.”

Possible applications of satellite data include monitoring groundwater flow and site monitoring.

A UK Space Agency spokesperson told Nuclear Energy Insider: “The competition is aimed at unearthing new ideas on how space data and satellite-enabled applications can support nuclear decommissioning.”

India’s largest nuclear plant hit by cyber attack

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in Tamil Nadu was the victim of a cyber attack, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) admitted after initially denying rumours spread on social media.

NPCI said a malware attack had targeted a personal computer of a user at the plant and that the core systems were isolated from the internet, and therefore not affected.

A cybersecurity analyst, Pukhraj Singh, who was formerly with the government's National Technical Research Organisation, posted news of the attack on Twitter on 28 October after being made aware of the incident and notifying the National Cyber Security Coordinator on 4 September.

Authorities at the Kudankulam plant quickly rejected the claim, with spokesperson R. Ramdoss saying a cyberattack on the plant was not possible as the control systems were not connected to the internet or any external network. He added that no attack had been “noticed” in any computers connected to the internet.

A day after the denial, a press statement from NPCIL said: “Identification of malware in NPCIL system is correct.”

Nuclear Energy Insider