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Thursday, 27 March 2014

Nuclear Power in Saudi Arabia

(Updated December 2013)
  • Saudi Arabia plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years at a cost of more than $80 billion, with the first reactor on line in 2022.
  • It projects 17 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2032 to provide 15% of the power then, along with over 40 GWe of solar capacity.
In December 2006 the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Oman – announced that the Council was commissioning a study on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. France agreed to work with them on this, and Iran pledged assistance with nuclear technology.
Together they produce 416 billion kWh per year (2009), all from fossil fuels and with 5-7% annual demand growth. They have total installed capacity of about 90 GWe, with a common grid apart from Saudi Arabia. There is also a large demand for desalination, currently fuelled by oil and gas.
In February 2007 the six states agreed with the IAEA to cooperate on a feasibility study for a regional nuclear power and desalination program. Saudi Arabia was leading the investigation and thought that a program might emerge about 2009.
Saudi Arabia is the main electricity producer and consumer in the Gulf States, with 217 billion kWh production in 2009, 120 billion kWh from oil and 97 from gas. Capacity is over 30 GWe. Demand is growing 8% per year and peak demand is expected to be 70 GWe by 2020 and 120 GWe by 2030. Saudi Arabia is unique in the region in having 60 Hz grid frequency, which severely limits the potential for grid interconnections. Its population is about 26 million.
The Ministry of Water & Electricity (MOWE) is broadly responsible for power and desalination in the country.
It has plans to install 24 GWe of renewable capacity by 2020, and 50 GWe by 2032, and is looking at the prospects of exporting up to 10 GWe of this to Italy or Spain during winter when much generating capacity is under-utilised (cooling accounts for over half the capacity in summer). The 50 GWe in 2032 is to comprise 25 GWe CSP, 16 GWe solar PV, 4 GWe geothermal and waste (together supplying 150-190 TWh, 23-30% of power), complementing 18 GWe nuclear (supplying 131 TWh/yr, 20% of power), and supplemented by 60.5 GWe hydrocarbon capacity which would be little used (c10 GWe) for half the year.
The first of three phases of the King Abdullah Solar water initiative is expected to be operating by the end of 2013. Phase 1 involves construction of two solar plants which will generate 10 MW of power for a 30,000 m³/d reverse-osmosis (RO) desalination plant at Al Khafji, near the Kuwait border. Phase 2 will involve construction of a 300,000 m³/d desalination plant over three years. The third phase aims to implement the solar water initiative throughout Saudi Arabia, with the eventual target of seeing all the country's desalination plants powered by solar energy by 2020.

Saudi Nuclear power plans

In August 2009 the Saudi government announced that it was considering a nuclear power program on its own, and in April 2010 a royal decree said: "The development of atomic energy is essential to meet the Kingdom's growing requirements for energy to generate electricity, produce desalinated water and reduce reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources." The King Abdullah City for Nuclear and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) was set up in Riyadh to advance this agenda as an alternative to oil and to be the competent agency for treaties on nuclear energy signed by the kingdom. It is also responsible for supervising works related to nuclear energy and radioactive waste projects.
In June 2010 it appointed the Finland- and Swiss-based Poyry consultancy firm to help define "high-level strategy in the area of nuclear and renewable energy applications" with desalination. In November 2011 it appointed WorleyParsons to conduct site surveys and regional analysis to identify potential sites, to select candidate sites then compare and rank them, and to develop technical specifications for a planned tender for the next stage of the Saudi nuclear power project. Three sites were short-listed as of September 2013: Jubail on the Gulf; and Tabuk and Jizan on the Red Sea. The Nuclear Holding Company was being set up in 2013.
In June 2011 the coordinator of scientific collaboration at KA-CARE said that it plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years at a cost of more than 300 billion riyals ($80 billion). These would generate about 20% of Saudi Arabia's electricity. Smaller reactors such as Argentina’s CAREM are envisaged for desalination. An April 2013 timeline showed nuclear construction starting in 2016.
In May 2012 KA-CARE projected 18 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2032 of total 123 GWe, with 16 GWe solar PV, 25 GWe solar CSP (to provide for heat storage), and 4 GWe from geothermal, wind and waste. About half the capacity in 2032 would still be hydrocarbon, with one-third solar following investment in that of some $108 billion. In addition 9 GWe of wind capacity would be used for desalination.
In September 2013 both GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and Toshiba/ Westinghouse signed contracts with Exelon Nuclear Partners (ENP), a division of Exelon Generation, to pursue reactor construction deals with KA-CARE. GEH is proposing its ABWR and ESBWR, while Toshiba/ Westinghouse is proposing the AP1000 and its ABWR version. Areva is also interested in supplying its technology.
A national Saudi Arabian Atomic Regulatory Authority (SAARA) has been set up and will commence activities early in 2014.

International agreements

A nuclear cooperation agreement with France in early 2011 is likely to energetically advance French interests in the country’s plans. A mid-2011 nuclear cooperation agreement with Argentina is evidently related to smaller plants for desalination. A November 2011 agreement with South Korea calls for cooperation in nuclear R&D, including building nuclear power plants and research reactors, as well as training, safety and waste management. In June 2013 Kepco offered support for the localization of nuclear technology, along with joint research and development of nuclear technologies if Saudi Arabia purchases South Korean reactors. A January 2012 agreement with China relates to nuclear plant development and maintenance, research reactors, and the provision of fabricated nuclear fuel. KA-CARE said it was negotiating with Russia, Czech Republic, UK and the USA regarding "further cooperation".
Saudi Arabia has had a safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA since 2009, but no Additional Protocol.


Muhammad Garwan, K.A.CARE, Nov 2013, Sustainable Energy Mix for Saudi Arabia.

Monday, 24 March 2014

A plan to turn Japan’s nuclear past into its future with molten salt reactors

March 22nd, 2013
Posted by Mark Halper
Motoyasu Kinoshita NRKno
Moto-yasu Kinoshita speaking in Norway in 2011. Kinoshita hopes to run molten salt fuel tests at Norway’s Halden reactor.
Japan’s fleet of conventional nuclear reactors remains mostly shut following the Fukushima meltdowns two years ago but a significant aspect of it lives on – its high level nuclear waste.
One company has a plan that would use that waste for fuel in an altogether different type of reactor and thus turn Japan’s troubled nuclear past into a revived future.
Tokyo-based Thorium Tech Solution (TTS) wants to combine the reactors’ waste – their spent fuel full of actinides like plutonium – with thorium, the element that many people believe makes a superior alternative nuclear fuel to today’s uranium.
And rather than use the fuel in conventional solid rod form, TTS would put it into a liquid, molten salt form. TTS’ molten salt reactor (MSR) would thus deliver the classic advantages of an MSR, while also helping Japan deal with its nuclear waste. Compared to conventional solid fuel uranium reactors MSRs are safer, cannot melt down, generate less long-lived dangerous and weapons-prone waste, and are more efficient. All the better if they use thorium instead uranium, many believe.
TTS, founded by the late Dr. Kazuo Furukawa, bases its designs on the work of Dr. Alvin Weinberg, who built a thorium MSR in the 1960s at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
Furukawa started TTS in 2011, soon before his death in December of that year at the age of 84. TTS picked right up where his previous company, ITheMS (International Thorium Energy & Molten Salt Technology Inc.) left off. It aims to build a 160–megawatt electric MSR called a FUJI, and a smaller 7-megawatt model called a miniFUJI (in this case, the word “fuji” implies “the only one” – as in the only solution for a carbon free energy future).
ITheMS, which was run by Japanese politician Keishiro Fukushima with Furukawa as its chief scientist, closed in 2011 after it was unable to secure $300 million it had sought.
Furukawa, who devoted much of his career to molten salt nuclear research (in the early1980s he worked on an accelerator-drive molten salt system before shifting to the Oak Ridge design), was steeled on making TTS the success that ITheMS was not.
His successors at TTS are working hard to realize that. In a stroke of abject determination, his younger brother Masaaki Furukawa, who is the company’s president, has declared that TTS will build a working prototype by 2018 – not one near the scale of even a miniFUJI, but a tiny primitive version that will produce electricity and prove the concept.
Masaaki Furukawa’s fellow shareholders at TTS include Kazuo Furukawa’s son Kazuro, who is a professor at the Koh Energy Kasokuki higher energy accelerator research group; and chief engineer Moto-yasu Kinoshita.
Kinoshita is also a vice president of the International Thorium Molten Salt Forum and a researcher at the University of Tokyo. We featured him on the Weinberg blog last November from Shanghai, where he was proudly displaying a Chinese language version of Alvin Weinberg’s autobiography, The First Nuclear Era – The Life and Times of a Technological Fixer.
Motoyasu Kinoshita Weinberg Book Halper
The source. Kinoshita displays a Chinese language version of Alvin Weinberg’s autobiography at the       Thorium Energy Conference in Shanghai last November. Weinberg’s MSR design has inspired TTS and other new MSR companies.
I spoke with him  at length this week via Skype, when Kinoshita told me that TTS could begin building commercial FUJIs and miniFUJIs by around 2025.
Obviously, a lot has to happen between now and then, not the least of which will be that TTS has to secure funding.
The company is taking things in stages.
The focus at the moment will require that TTS raise a mere $300,000 – pocket change in the world of nuclear development – to soon test different molten salts. TTS wants to establish which it will use, as it tries to develop a fluid that will not corrode common nickel alloys such as hastelloy and inconel that would form the plumbing in an MSR.
While some competing MSR researchers want to substitute and develop exotic metal replacements, Kinoshita says that TTS is determined to stick with existing materials, an approach he calls “practical and cheaper.”
Instead of material moves, Kinoshita says TTS will apply “chemistry control” to come up with the right recipe of molten salt ingredients that would avoid corroding common alloys.
A typical fluid in MSR designs is a compound known as FLiBe, which is a mixture of lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride. Kinoshita notes that it is the fluid that Oak Ridge National Laboratory used in the MSR it built in the 1960s under the direction of Weinberg (from whom the Weinberg Foundation, publisher of this blog, takes its name; “FLiBe” is also the namesake of Huntsville, Ala.-based MSR company Flibe Energy, another Oak Ridge inspired group).
In fact, Oak Ridge included beryllium to help avoid corrosion.
But Kinoshita notes that beryllium has its own problems.
“It is not easy to use beryllium – it’s a controlled material because of its toxicity,” he says.
And perhaps more to the point in TTS’ plans – beryllium does not get along well with plutonium, which is one of the “waste” elements that would help form TTS’ mixed thorium fuel.
So TTS is investigating other solutions, such as adding sodium to FLiBe. It is also considering another molten salt called FLiNaK, which is a combination of sodium, potassium and lithium.
Kinoshita is confident that TTS will be able to raise the $300,000, which he thinks could come from anti-nuclear weapon groups who would back the idea of destroying weapons-linked nuclear waste.
TTS could wrap up its molten salt tests by “this year or next,” Kinoshita says.
It could then focus on a bigger project, would require about $5 million: Testing the behaviour of nuclear waste’s transuranic elements like neptunium, plutonium, americium and curium.
For that, TTS plans to burn simulated-fuel versions of molten salts in a test reactor. It hopes to use the Halden reactor in Norway – the same place where Norway’s Thor Energy will soon begin irradiating a thorium-plutonium mix, with backing from Westinghouse and others.
Other possible test sites would be the Nuclear Research Institute in the Czech Republic, and Japan’s currently halted Japan Materials Testing Reactor.
Kinoshita envisions about five years of the transuranic tests. Then begins the heavy lifting of building the MSR and overcoming technical challenges that all MSR developers face.
Among the hurdles: molten salts in MSRs tend to solidify when temperature drop to around 460 degrees C.  Molten salt reactors are meant to operate at somewhere between 700 degrees C and 900 degrees C. That’s much higher than conventional reactors, and is a reason why MSRs can make more efficient use of fuel (higher temperatures burn more fuel). One of the great attributes of molten salts is that they don’t boil easily – thus they can flow as they need to in an MSR system at high temperatures.
But if things cool too much, they solidify, and pipes can burst. So-called “freezing accidents” would not pose meltdown type threats associated with extreme accidents in conventional reactors, but they would destroy the reactor.
Another challenge: TTS will have to develop chemistry to separate waste from fuel within its reactor. TTS is using a single fluid approach, unlike the dual fluid approach under development at other MSR projects. In a dual fluid MSR, one fluid produces fissile uranium 233 fuel from fertile thorium, and feeds that into a second fluid where reactions take place. TTS’ single fluid technology will have to apply a still unproven technique for separating the fissile uranium 233 from the fertile thorium and from wastes.
On the other hand, companies developing the two fluid approach will have to overcome materials challenges – in a typical MSR design, the silicon carbide that separates the two molten salt fluids can fail (which is why Furukawa decided on the single fluid approach in the first place).
All told, Kinoshita thinks TTS can start building commercial miniFUJIs and FUJIs by around 2025.
As for the 2018 proof of concept model? That will be tough, but not impossible. Scientific geniuses are welcomed to apply at TTS.
Photos: Kinoshita in Norway, Aksel Kroglund Persson/NRK. Kinoshita with Weinberg book, Mark Halper

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Chinese going for broke on thorium nuclear power, and good luck to them

The nuclear race is on. China is upping the ante dramatically on thorium nuclear energy. Scientists in Shanghai have been told to accelerate plans (sorry for the pun) to build the first fully-functioning thorium reactor within ten years, instead of 25 years as originally planned.
“This is definitely a race. China faces fierce competition from overseas and to get there first will not be an easy task”,” says Professor Li Zhong, a leader of the programme. He said researchers are working under “warlike” pressure to deliver.
Good for them. They may do the world a big favour. They may even help to close the era of fossil fuel hegemony, and with it close the rentier petro-gas regimes that have such trouble adapting to rational modern behaviour. The West risks being left behind, still relying on the old uranium reactor technology that was originally designed for US submarines in the 1950s.
As readers know, I have long been a fan of thorium (so is my DT economics colleague Szu Chan). It promises to be safer, cleaner, and ultimately cheaper than uranium. It is much harder to use in nuclear weapons, and therefore limits the proliferation risk.
There are ample supplies of the radioactive mineral. It is scattered across Britain. The Americans have buried tonnes of it, a hazardous by-product of rare earth metal mining.
As I reported in January 2013, China’s thorium project was launched as a high priority by princeling Jiang Mianheng, son of former leader Jiang Zemin. He estimates that China has enough thorium to power its electricity needs for “20,000 years”.
The project began with a start-up budget of $350m and the recruitment of 140 PhD scientists at the Shanghai Institute of Nuclear and Applied Physics. It then had plans to reach 750 staff by 2015, but this already looks far too conservative.
The Chinese appear to be opting for a molten salt reactor – or a liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) — a notion first proposed by the US nuclear doyen Alvin Weinberg and arguably best adapted for thorium.
This in entirely different from thorium efforts in the West that rely on light water technology used in uranium reactors. The LFTR has its own problems, not least corrosion caused by the fluoride.
“We are still in the dark about the physical and chemical nature of thorium in many ways. There are so many problems to deal with but so little time,” said Prof Li.
The great hope for thorium is that it could restore faith in the safety of nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster. It can be done on a much smaller scale, at atmospheric pressure, without the need for the vast structures than encase uranium reactors. You could have micro LFTRs for each steel mill or a small town, hidden away, almost invisible.
The British have an (underfunded) research project – ThorEA – anchored at Huddersfield University under Professor Robert Cywinksi. He says the technology is intrinsically safer since the metal must be bombarded with neutrons to drive the process. “There is no chain reaction. Fission dies the moment you switch off the proton beam,” he told me.
Thorium may at least do for nuclear power what shale fracking has done for natural gas, but on a bigger scale, for much longer, and with near zero carbon dioxide emissions.
China’s thorium drive is galling for the Americans. They have dropped the ball. As I reported last year, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee actually built a molten salt thorium reactor in the 1960s. It was shelved by the Nixon Administration. The Pentagon needed plutonium residue from uranium to for nuclear bombs. The imperatives of the Cold War prevailed.
The thorium blueprints gathered dust in the archives until retrieved and published by former Nasa engineer Kirk Sorensen. The US largely ignored him: China did not.
Mr Jiang visited the Oak Ridge labs and obtained the designs – entirely legitimately – after reading an article in the American Scientist extolling thorium. His team concluded that a molten salt reactor may be the answer China’s prayers. It is playing out just as he hoped.
The Chinese are currently building 28 standard reactors – by far the biggest nuclear push in the world – and working on several research and development fronts at once. This is to break what it calls a “scary” dependence on imported fuel, but also to fight pollution.
The Hefei Institute of Physical Science in Anhui has just finished building the world’s largest experimental platform for an accelerator reactor that burns nuclear fuel with a powerful “particle gun”.
Professor Gu Zhongmao from the China Institute of Atomic Energy cautioned against too much exuberance on so-called fourth-generation reactors. “These projects are beautiful to scientists, but nightmarish to engineers,” he told the SCMP.

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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

R19bn SA oil hub in the pipeline

NM SBM mooring
Two new single-buoy moorings (SBMs), similar in style to 
Sapref s SBM off the south Durban coast (pictured), are being 
planned as part of a R19 billion oil and petro-chemical hub 
project near Richards Bay by Phangela Storage Farm (Pty) Ltd. 
The SBMs and hub would service the international and regional market.

Durban - A R19 billion project involving the development of two
offshore single buoy moorings (SBM), to be used by giant oil supertankers,
 is on the cards for the Zululand coast, south of Richards Bay.
The twin reversible offshore mooring project is being developed
 and driven by Phangela Storage Farm and will be linked to a tank farm near
 Port Durnford station, about 26km from the port of Richards Bay.
There is also set to be an offshore pipeline connecting with Durban and Richards Bay.
The major project involves a 2 million cubic-metre liquid bulk storage
 and through-put hub. It will include a comprehensive storage tank farm
 and strategic reserve storage on behalf of long-term international and local clients.
The two new SBMs, similar in style to the single-buoy mooring off Isipingo south of
 Durban and providing deep water offshore berthing facilities,
will be served by large crude carriers and ultra-large crude carriers,
known in the industry as VLCC and ULCCs.
The activities include the import and export of crude oil
 and handling of petroleum-related products, bulk liquid petrochemicals,
 bulk liquid fertilisers, LPG and bitumen.
Willie Vogel, executive development director of Phangela,
said a multi-product reversible offshore pipeline would connect the
 Phangela storage tank farm with the three major oil refineries in
 Durban and various industrialists operating in Durban and Richards Bay.
He said that after three years of feasibility studies the ideal location
had been found at Port Durnford, south-east of Richards Bay.
Vogel said the site for the tank farm was 3.6km away from the coast
near the Port Durnford railway station. This gives access to road, rail
 and power supplies and is well outside the area affecting the
 control of the port of Richards Bay.
“Phangela will meet a significant part of the shortage of (oil) storage
 and will fulfil a hub function in the region for the storage and throughput
of liquid commodities, refined products, biofuels and ethanol, LPG and chemicals.”
Vogel said the project would see crude oil being pumped ashore
from the giant tankers moored to either of the SBMs
and stored at the tank farm until required, either locally or internationally.
When required, the crude would be pumped back into another tanker
 and shipped to wherever it is required internationally.
Crude oil required by refineries will be pumped ashore.
Exports of refined fuels could be exported from Durban in reverse manner, he said.
A reversible pipeline between the tank farm and Durban refineries makes
up part of the planned development and will be mainly offshore,
thus avoiding any routing through built-up areas, said Vogel.
“We will be storing crude for international customers so you’ll have
crude coming in through the pipeline to be stored,
then going out again to be shipped overseas.
We’ll also be available as a storage facility for Durban and other refineries.
“In addition, we will be handling the 45 or so various chemical products associated
with a refinery business, so having two reversible SBMs becomes an advantage all round.”
Vogel said the facility would have state-of-the-art through-put facilities via ship,
 rail and road, as well as via the pipeline infrastructure.
American Tank & Vessel, with 30 years’ experience in tank farm development,
 has been awarded the contract for the construction of the tank farm
 and the on-site facilities. Fendercare Marine has been appointed
 as the executing operator for the marine facilities, pilotage,
mooring and diving. The selection of the terminal operator is in progress.
Petrol Storage Broker, an independent brokerage that specialises in finding worldwide terminal storage for suppliers and producers of liquid bulk petrochemicals and biofuels with customers worldwide, has been appointed executive project manager and has begun the sales and marketing for both storage and throughput customers.
Vogel said that subject to regulatory consent, construction of the tank farm was planned
for the end of 2014. This included doing environmental impact studies to secure environmental approvals. He said the total estimated investment was $1.8 billion (R19.3bn).
Durban Chamber chief executive Andrew Layman said the chamber’s forums
 had not discussed the project, but on the face of it, he welcomed the venture.
“Certainly its construction will represent many jobs and a major investment in infrastructure.
I will be interested to know what impact it might have on what is planned
 for Durban in relation to the dig-out port,” he added.
“Perhaps it will relieve Transnet of some of its implementation of new SBM facilities,
 and relocate the hub of oil traffic away to a less populated and less congested part of the coast.
 These might be positive circumstances.
“Environmental issues are inevitable, and one hopes that good sense prevails – on all sides.
 There is no doubt that the South African economy, and that of the region,
needs oil and this has to reach us across the sea.” - The Mercury

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

UAE set to break ground on third nuclear plant in 2014

Construction work at the nuclear reactor plant site at Barakah, near Abu Dhabi.
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, the Gulf state's nuclear power developer, has revealed that it will break ground on a third plant later this year.
Dr Kenneth Petrunik, chief programme officer of ENEC, announced the progress being made in the UAE's nuclear energy sector during a panel discussion at the World Future Energy Summit 2014.
“ENEC has spent the last four years working to develop a safe, reliable and efficient nuclear energy programme for the UAE,” he said.
“Today, we have our first two plants already under construction. We are also on track to break ground on our third plant later this year.”
By 2020, the UAE will have four plants in commercial operations, producing 5600MW of clean electricity which will meet up to a quarter of the country’s energy needs.
Petrunik said no other energy source can provide the same volumes of clean electricity that nuclear energy can.
“There are many more benefits to a world-class nuclear energy programme that the UAE will also gain. These include the economic growth and development of a new, high-tech industry, job creation for thousands of employees and enhanced training and development programs through partnerships with world-leading academic institutions.”
Latest research figures indicate that more than 80 percent of the UAE population believes nuclear energy is important for the nation.
As part of its community awareness initiative, ENEC has been hosting a series of ongoing public forums all over the country to inform UAE residents about the nation’s nuclear energy programme, the progress of the plants under construction and how nuclear energy fits into the country’s energy portfolio.
The UAE's first nuclear plant is expected to commence operations in 2017, pending further regulatory approvals. The second unit will come online in 2018.
With four plants online by 2020, nuclear energy will save the UAE up to 12 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Korea Electric Power Corp won a contract in 2009 to complete four nuclear reactors in the UAE.