Monday, May 16, 2011

Conference Notes: Uranium Fuel Cycle, Chpt. 3

Remember that these are, well, notes. The value is in gaining an indication of the presentations. Being notes, this material is far from complete.
Conference presentation materials are available at

Gregory OD Smith, CEO, Urenco USA, LLC: Urenco’s diagram of the nuclear fuel supply chain is especially useful. Urenco’s enrichment plant near Eunice has been the nation’s largest construction project for the past four years. Smith expects the project to retain that honor for several more years in the future. Phase 2 f the plant is underway. Phase 3 is in the planning stage.
Former Sen. Domenici is the only reason we’re in New Mexico.

Steve Laflin, president and CEO, International Isotopes, Inc. The Idaho-based firm is a public company. They do nuclear medicine and other things. They are developing a deconversion facility about 18 miles west of Hobbs. Components will come from a plant in Gore, OK.
Deconversion is “a special part of the front end” of the fuel cycle. There is material left over from enrichment, i.e., left over from what Urenco does. International will get its supplies from Urenco. It will strip the fluorine and turn it into comme3rcial industrial products.
The formal design started in mid-April. Customers are talking about co-locating on the site.
The impact of the Japanese (Fukushima) disaster “was fairly immediate.” A $30 million offering on the Toronto stock exchange was in the works and was being sold the day of the earthquake. The demand for the offering disappeared within hours. The investment community has walked away from nuclear—for now.

Dan Lopez, president, New Mexico Tech: He is convinced that Tech needs a nuclear degree within chemical engineering.

John Kelly, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy: U.S. government support of Fukushima—Daiichi:
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent 30 people to Japan. DOE sent about the same number. INPO, the industry group, sent people, as did national laboratories including Sandia. “Virtually all of our laboratories were involved.”
Lawrence Livermore modeled the fallout plume. “Expect insignificant consequences” from radiation release. Current situation: quasi-stable. “Accident forensics” is the major current and future activity. This gets to the “lessons learned” activity.

Van Romero: New Mexico Tech: It’s too early to tell really what went wrong with Fukushima—Daiichi (or what went right”). Romero provided detailed mapping of the Fukushima reactors.
The amount of radiation found in milk on the West Coast can be measured in minute amounts. Such tiny amounts pose no harm. The radon levels inside Carlsbad Caverns are 2,000 times the standard surface level.
Dealing with Spent fuel will be the major lesson learned from the situation.

John Kelly, Office of Nuclear Energy, Department of Energy: The Department of Energy is very excited about small nuclear reactors, known and small modular reactors or “SMRs.”. DOE “want(s) to re-establish the United States as a leader in the nuclear field.”
Small nuclear reactors bring all sorts of advantages. They will be very safe and secure. They cost much less that large units. They can be made in a factory, that is, in a controlled environment. Units can be added incrementally as demand grows. Location can be underground, enhancing security. They are air cooled instead of water cooled, a benefit in the water short West.
A record exists on building small reactors. Nuclear reactors for submarines are built in factories.
The DOE interest is to “enable the development of a fleet of SMRs.”
DOE sites are being considered for SMRs. The TVA has proposed the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Kevin Butterfield, B&W Nuclear Energy Inc. B&W is Babcock and Wilcox. B&W’s SMR project is a joint venture with Bechtel called Generation M Power. B&W saw “a kind of a sweet spot” in the 100-to-1,000 Megawatt range. Butterfield reiterated the SMR advantaged listed by Kelly, above.

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