IAEA to help fight Coronavirus; China completes first hot-performance test

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The nuclear-derived diagnostic technique known as RT-PCR can help detect and identify the novel coronavirus accurately within hours. (Source: IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will provide diagnostic kits, equipment and training in nuclear-derived detection techniques to help tackle the worldwide spread of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19, the agency’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on March 9.

Some 14 countries across the world had requested assistance from the IAEA as part of the intensifying global efforts to contain the virus. The diagnostic technique is known as Real-Time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) and can help detect and identify COVID-19 in humans and animals within hours.

“The Agency takes pride in its ability to respond quickly to crises, as we did in the recent past with the Ebola, Zika and African Swine Fever viruses,” said Mr Grossi in a statement to the IAEA Board of Governors. “Contributing to international efforts to deal with the coronavirus will remain a priority for me as long as the outbreak persists.”

The first training course will take place near the end of March in Seibersdorf, Austria and will include medical experts from Cambodia, Republic of Congo, Cote d´Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mongolia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Viet Nam, while additional regional courses will be organised for other countries, the agency said.

Meanwhile, the heads of the four main Vienna-based United Nations organisations, including the IAEA, announced March 13 that all personnel at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) will be told to work remotely March 16-April 3 in line with recommendations from Austrian authorities.

China’s CNNC completes first hot performance test at Fuqing 5

A key hot performance test has been conducted on unit 5 of the Fuqing nuclear power plant in eastern China, the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced March 2.

The test increases the temperature of the reactor’s coolant system to ensure all circuits and safety systems are operating correctly. By simulating the thermal working conditions of the plant, the test aims to verify if the nuclear island, equipment and systems meet design requirements.

“Following the series of tests, the performance was verified to meet design requirements,” CNNC officials said in a statement.

Unit 5 is the world’s first nuclear power project using Hualong One (HPR 1000) technology, a third-generation, domestically developed, reactor design, the CNNC said.

The Fuqing nuclear power plants already has four operational units of 1,089 MW each and two 1150-MW units under construction.

U.S. Department of Defence calls for public comment on mobile micro-reactors

The U.S. Department of Defence, acting through the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), has invited public comment on the scope of an Environmental Impact Statement of a prototype advanced mobile nuclear microreactor, the DoD said in a joint public document early March.

The public is invited to make comment on the scope of the EIS from March 2 to April 1, 2020, the document said.

“In defining the scope of the EIS, SCO will consider all comments received or postmarked by the end of the scoping period,” it said

The DoD, the Office of the Secretary of Defence, acting through the SCO, and in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Office of the Nuclear Energy has proposed the construction and demonstration of the prototype of an advanced mobile nuclear microreactor.

The prototype microreactor will support DoD domestic energy demands and operational energy demands, the government said.

Europe, Japan sign fusion energy collaboration

The European Atomic Energy Community (Euroatom), represented by the EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson and Kuzuo Kodama, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan, signed a joint declaration on the Broader Approach activities in the field of fusion energy early March.

The Broader Approach represents a collaboration between major players in fusion research and the joint agreement reaffirms their commitment to continuing joint activities in the field, the European Commission said in a statement.

“Fusion has the potential to provide a safe, cost-efficient and sustainable solution to European and global energy needs,” the EC said.

More than 35 nations are collaborating to build in France the world’s largest tokamak, a magnetic fusion device that has been designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free energy source in a project dubbed ITER.

The EU, China, India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States, as joint members of the ITER project, will share in the cost of construction, operation and decommissioning over the next 20 years.

“As ITER is approaching its own First Plasma and the beginning of its operation, teams working on the Broader Approach will work ever more closely with ITER to ensure that it moves forward as smoothly as possible,” the EC said.   

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