Tag Archives: non-proliferation

Sniffing Clandestine Nuclear Reactors: the Role of Neutrinos

Antares Neutrino Detector. Image from wikipedia

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works with its Member States to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies. In a context of international tension and nuclear renaissance, neutrino detectors could help IAEA to enforce the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)…[A] futuristic neutrino application could help detect and localize an undeclared nuclear reactor from across borders. The SNIF (Secret Neutrino Interactions Finder) concept proposes to use a few hundred thousand tons neutrino detectors to unveil clandestine fission reactors….The proposed detector will fit inside an oil supertanker. The main challenge would be to operate such a huger detector (138,000 tons) underwater.

Excerpt Thierry Lasserre et al, SNIF: A Futuristic Neutrino Probe for Undeclared Nuclear Fission Reactors, Nov. 16, 2010

 

 

United Arab Emirates Push Ahead with Nuclear Energy Plans

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced today the results of the nuclear fuel procurement competition launched in July 2011. The goal of the fuel competition is to create a strategy to cover supply for the first 15 years of operations.  A portfolio of leading international nuclear fuel suppliers have been contracted to provide a series of nuclear fuel services to cover ENEC’s requirements. The resulting fuel strategy guarantees security of supply, quality assurance of fuel-related materials and competitive commercial terms to protect the interests of the UAE peaceful nuclear energy program by providing volume flexibilities and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions.

The following services have been contracted by ENEC:

• Purchase of natural uranium concentrates

• Conversion services (in which uranium concentrates are converted to material ready for enrichment)

• Enrichment services (in which the converted material is enriched to a level that is used in the fuel for nuclear energy plants)

• Purchase of enriched uranium product

The enriched uranium will be supplied to KEPCO Nuclear Fuels (KNF), which will manufacture the fuel assemblies for use in the four planned UAE units. KNF is a member of ENEC’s Prime Contract consortium, led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Starting in 2014 – 2015, a total of six leading companies in the nuclear fuel supply industry will participate in the ENEC fuel supply program. ConverDyn (U.S.) will provide conversion services; Uranium One, Inc. (Canada) will provide natural uranium, URENCO (headquartered in the U.K) will provide enrichment services; and Rio Tinto (headquartered in the U.K) will provide natural uranium. TENEX (Russia) will supply uranium concentrates, conversion services and enrichment services. AREVA (France) will provide uranium concentrates, conversion services and enrichment services.

The six contracts are valued at approximately US$3 billion according to ENEC forecasts. The contracted fuel will enable the Barakah plant to generate up to 450 million MWh for a period of 15 years starting in 2017, when the first nuclear energy unit is scheduled to begin providing safe, clean, reliable and efficient electricity to the UAE.

“The completion of the fuel supply strategy is a key achievement to ENEC’s program and a clear example of how the UAE continues to set the gold standard for implementing a peaceful nuclear energy program,” said ENEC’s Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Al Hammadi. “These contracts will provide ENEC with long-term security of supply, high quality fuel and favorable pricing and commercial terms. We are also pleased that this marks the start of long-term commercial relationships with companies that have earned excellent reputations in the industry.”

The ENEC fuel procurement strategy is guided by the Government of the United Arab Emirates’ support for international non-proliferation efforts. That support was detailed in a nuclear energy policy document released by the government in April 2008 that outlined a series of commitments, including the decision to forgo domestic enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel. That commitment was ratified by UAE Federal Law in 2009.

The procurement competition was the result of an extensive year-long process that included initial discussions between ENEC and international nuclear fuel suppliers. It was conducted in line with the industry’s best practices, under which companies contract for the various aspects of the fuel cycle as a means to ensure security of supply, high quality fuel and commercial advantage. In addition, this process will enable ENEC to build a strategic commercial capability in nuclear fuel procurement. The comprehensive analysis performed by ENEC included a peer review system to ensure that the procurement process was performed according to global standards.

ENEC expects to return to the market at various times to take advantage of favorable market conditions and to strengthen its security of supply position.  ENEC is planning to build four 1,400-MW nuclear energy units at the recently approved site, Barakah, in the Western Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in order to provide the electricity needed to fuel the economic growth of the UAE. In July, ENEC received regulatory approval from both the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation for the construction of the first two nuclear energy units in Barakah.  Pending further regulatory approvals, the first unit is scheduled to begin delivering electricity to the grid in 2017. The remaining three units are scheduled to come on line in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation Awards Nuclear Fuel Supply Contracts, Nuclear Street News, Aug 15 2012

See also UAE goes Forward with its Nuclear Energy Program

The Quiet Nuclearization of the Middle East, UAE

Can NGOs be Foreign Agents? India Investigates Protests against its Nuclear Plant

The government intensified its drive against NGOs it suspects of being hostile to national interests, with the home ministry zeroing in on 77 organizations whose activities will be scrutinized following a crackdown on four NGOs for allegedly fanning protests against the Kudankulam nuclear plant.

A meeting chaired by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday was told by home ministry officials that the NGOs, mostly from the US and Europe, needed careful monitoring to check whether they were violating rules that guide funding and mandate their actions. The NGOs will be placed on a watch list with the external affairs ministry asked to ensure visa applications of their members are scanned….Most of the NGOs on the “watch list” receive funding from US and European countries…..However, Congress on Thursday supported the government’s moves with party spokesperson Manish Tewari saying that India’s attempts since the 1980s to achieve energy security was regularly thwarted by international interests. “This should be kept in mind by agencies probing the cases,” he said….People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) convener S P Udaykumar has denied any links to foreign funds and has said he is associated with Swedish NGO Idea only in a research capacity. PMANE has served a defamation notice to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for blaming foreign NGOs for being insensitive to India’s energy needs.  Government sources insist the agitators are fundamentally opposed to nuclear energy and argue that while China races to increase its power capacity, India’s attempts to cover a growing deficit are being stalled. The PM’s remarks were followed by bank accounts of four NGOs being frozen. CBI and Tamil Nadu police have filed cases.

The tough talking against NGOs could also escalate into a diplomatic row with the government adamant on acting against those it believes are responsible for funding domestic NGOs involved in political or semi-political protests or activities.Local protests organized at Kudankulam have derailed the commissioning of the first 1000 mw unit of the 4780 mw nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu. The Rs 14,500 crore nuclear project has been built with Russian collaboration. Two units are nearly complete but as of now the bare minimum staff needed to ensure the plant systems are in working order is able to access the site…..PMANE has denied allegations that it is being funded by American NGOs to organise the protest.

Excerpts, Government intensifies drive against NGOs, to scrutinize workings of 77 more organizations, The Economic Times of India, Mar. 2, 2012

Nuclear Medicine and NonProliferation

The National Nuclear Security Administration has signed a cooperative agreement with a medical material supplier to develop technology that can produce molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), an important, but potentially-dangerous material used in medical procedures.The NNSA’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative signed the agreement with NorthStar Medical Radioisotopes, LLC, to further the development of accelerator-based technology to produce molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) in the U.S.

The cooperative agreement between NNSA and NorthStar, which totals $4.6 million and is funded under a 50 percent/50 percent cost-share arrangement, will accelerate the development of the NorthStar technology to produce Mo-99 without proliferation-sensitive highly enriched uranium (HEU), said the agency. The agreement would also support the goal of ensuring a reliable domestic supply of this critical medical isotope for U.S. patients, it said. Supplies of the less dangerous, HEU-deficient, Mo-99 had been coming from companies in South Africa and Australia since last summer.

NNSA said it has partnered with four domestic commercial entities to accelerate the establishment of a diverse, reliable supply of Mo-99 within the United States that is not produced with HEU. NNSA also works with international producers to assist in the conversion of their Mo-99 production facilities from the use of HEU targets to LEU targets, as part of its Global Threat Reduction Initiative’s mission to minimize and eliminate the use of HEU in civilian applications worldwide, including in research reactors and medical isotope production facilities.

The United States currently does not have a domestic production capability for Mo-99 and must import 100 percent of its supply from foreign producers, most of which use HEU in their production processes, said NNSA. Over the past few years, technical difficulties and shutdowns at the major Mo-99 production facilities have caused severe supply shortages, which have greatly impacted the availability of Mo-99 to the medical community, it said. The Mo-99 produced by NorthStar would provide additional reliability for the U.S. supply.

Mark Rockwell. NNSA to co-produce medical radioisotope with another U.S. company, Government Security News, Nov. 2, 2011