Plant cyber security questioned; UK SMR offer launched; US' Terrapower to develop fast reactor with China

Nuclear news you need to know.

Nuclear cyber security must be improved: UK think tank

Executive management and on-the-ground nuclear personnel may not realise plant vulnerability to cyber threats and are inadequately prepared to deal with cyber attacks, UK think tank Chatham House said in a report published October 5.

Conventional industrial thinking that all nuclear facilities are ‘air-gapped’ (isolated from the public internet) is misinformed, Chatham House said.

Commercial benefits from internet connectivity have meant that a number of nuclear facilities have Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections and some operators are not aware of this, it said.

Flash drives can breach air-gapped facilities and, given access, search engines can readily identify critical infrastructure components, it said. Supply chain vulnerabilities also compromise the safety of nuclear equipment.

The nuclear industry should focus on the issue and develop guidelines to measure cyber security risks, raise the risk of cyber security with engineers and contractors, implement rules to limit the use of personal devices and establish Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), Chatham House said.

NuScale aims for UK SMR deployment mid-2020s

US SMR developer NuScale is looking to install the first of its 50 MW nuclear power units in the UK by the mid-2020s, the company said in a prospectus launched in the UK on October 5.

Nuscale is on track to submit its SMR technology for design certification in the United States in 2016, and expects to receive regulatory approval in the early 2020s towards first commercial deployment by late 2023.

“Off the back of progress in the US, our presence in the UK market has been developing fast. We’re working closely with the government, building collaborative links with key players in the nuclear sector such as the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and National Nuclear Laboratory and are in talks with a range of potential partners," Nuscale said in a statement.

NuScale Power’s Executive Vice President Tom Mundy will be speaking at the SMR UK summit taking place October 20-21 in London.

Terrapower to develop fast reactor technology with China

US firm TerraPower has signed a memorandum of understanding with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to further develop technology based on a liquid sodium-cooled fast reactor that uses depleted or natural uranium as fuel.

Terrapower is a company founded in 2006 by Bill Gates and other private sector investors, and is developing technologies based on a fuel type which has not been manufactured in the United States for more than 30 years.

"The TerraPower-CNNC collaboration on advanced nuclear technology aims to benefit to the world by pioneering new options in civilian nuclear energy that address safety, environmental and cost concerns. Additional work must be done to define what a possible joint venture may look like, but this MOU signals that we are well on track," Terrapower said in a statement September 23.

Earlier this year, Terrapower conducted a management reshuffle to focus on technology commercialisation, appointing as CEO Lee McIntire, former Chairman and CEO of environmental and engineering consultancy CH2M HILL.

GE Hitachi, Exelon to jointly develop digital data optimisation

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Exelon Generation, the US' largest nuclear plant operator, have agreed to jointly develop two digital solutions based on GEH' Predix cloud-based data analytics platform.

The Watchtower application will use data to predict asset performance, providing real-time status of plant equipment and proactive notifications of operational issues, the companies said in a statement September 29.
The Lighthouse application will use analytics to examine company organisational performance in a bid to reduce costs.

"The applications are part of GE’s new Digital Power Plant solution that will enable utilities and customers around the world to apply software, analytics and artificial intelligence to the crucial task of generating and managing electricity cleanly, efficiently, safely and securely in the cyber environment," the firms said.

GE Hitachi, DTE Energy prepare ground for future ESBWR build

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Michigan utility DTE Energy have agreed to explore the resource requirements to advance the development of the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design.

DTE Energy received in May the first-ever ESBWR-based combined construction and operating license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

DTE has not committed to build an ESBWR plant, but is keeping the option open and has agreed to investigate resource requirements and development plans, so that work can be more readily began if it decides "at a later date" to proceed with a new build project, GEH said in a statement October 5.

Kazakhstan becomes leading supplier of uranium to US

US plant purchases of Kazakh-origin uranium doubled year-on-year, from 6.5 million pounds in 2013 to 12 million pounds in 2014, U.S. Energy Information Administration said October 5.

The central Asian country supplied 23% of the 53.3 million pounds purchased by the owners and operators of the 100 operational US plants, overtaking Australia, Canada and Russia as the leading suppliers.

Kazakh uranium prices have been lower than other major supplying countries' prices for the past two years.

Uranium from Kazakhstan was $44.47/pound in 2014, compared with an average price of $46.65/pound from producers outside Kazakhstan.

Europe should build over 100 reactors by 2050: trade group

European Union countries should build more than 100 nuclear reactors over the next 35 years in order to maintain the current capacity of nuclear generation up to and beyond 2050, Foratom, the European nuclear trade association, said.

Foratom published October 2 its recommendations for a supportive nuclear power framework, ahead of the publication of the European Commission's "Illustrative Programme for Nuclear Energy" (PINC) report, expected later this year.

Nuclear specific taxes should be scrapped, the European Commission's State Aid clearance procedure must be clarified, and the EC should not discriminate between low carbon technologies in the context of the renewable energy boom, Foratom said.

Belgium's oldest plants approved for 10 year lifespan extension

Belgian nuclear safety regulator FANC has approved the 10 year life extension plan for the Doel 1 and 2 nuclear power reactors, submitted by operator Electrabel.

Doel 1 and 2 are the oldest operational nuclear plants in Belgium, online since 1974/5, and had been set for closure from this year.

However, gas power plant closures and operational issues on other nuclear reactors have squeezed Belgian power supply and the government agreed in February to extend the lifespan of the Doel 1 and Doel 2 reactors until 2025, provided they were deemed safe to operate.

In July, FANC said the Electrabel's maintenance plan for the plants was complete, and on October 1 it said a deeper analysis has shown that the plan is implementable.