Saturday, June 28, 2014

(OT: Graphic Images) A Man Sets Himself on Fire in Protest Against Abe Administration's Collective Self-Defense Stance in Central Tokyo

It happened within the last hour on June 29, 2014 (Japan time). So far it is only on Twitter and Instagram.

A man set himself on fire after making a speech to the passers-by as he sat atop a pedestrian bridge over a busy street in Shinjuku, Tokyo. According to the eyewitness accounts on Twitter, he looked like a regular office worker in suits, and he was expressing his disapproval of the Abe administration and the administration's plan to allow collective self-defense without formally modifying the Constitution by national referendum.

I was very surprised that self-immolation like this happened in Japan (of all places) now (of all times) as a political protest (of all things).

But I was more surprised to see some tweets (like this, and this, and this) accusing this man of carrying out an act of "terrorism" - setting himself on fire and thus endangering others on a busy street, when freedom of speech and universal suffrage are guaranteed [by the Constitution].

Never mind that the Abe administration's ultimate goal is to gut that Constitution with such niceties. My tweet wondering about those people and their perception of "terrorism" is getting retweeted by people who then spit out "Of course this man is such a nuisance!"

People on the street apparently wasted no time in capturing the images with their smartphones.

Russia's Fast Breeder Reactor BN-800 at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station Reaches Criticality, "Closed Nuclear Fuel Cycle"

If that's the case, Japan's Monju should be learning from Russians, not from French.

What reads like an official PR piece, from RT (6/27/2014):

Fast reactor starts clean nuclear energy era in Russia

Controlled nuclear fission has been started in Russia’s newest fast breeder reactor in the Urals, heralding a closed nuclear fuel cycle and a future without nuclear waste. Russia is the only country that operates fast neutron reactors industrially.

The next generation BN-800 breeder reactor (880 megawatts) assembled at Russia’s Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant has been put in the so-called critical state on Friday, a week after all necessary nuclear fuel was loaded into the active zone.

The press service of Rosenergoatom, the electric energy generation branch of Russia’s nuclear monopoly, Rosatom, has confirmed to the RIA news agency that nuclear reaction in the BN-800 reactor has been initiated.

“Starting from that moment the reactor started to ‘live’,” RIA said, quoting the source in Rosenergoatom.

This means that controlled nuclear fission in the reactor is self-sustaining and ongoing at a constant speed. Once this most important stage of the start-up work is done, the reactor will be gradually prepared to achieve the desired 880 megawatts output expected to be reached in October, when the reactor will be commissioned for industrial use.

The BN-800 uses liquid metal sodium (Na) as a coolant heat transfer agent. The start of commercial operation of the new reactor is planned for early 2015.

Service life of the BN-800 breeder reactor is expected to be 45 years. Every month it will produce 475 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to ensure constant supply to 3.15 million families (considering that the average monthly consumption of a family of three is 150 kilowatt hours).

Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant is situated in Zarechny, some 45 kilometers from the regional center of Yekaterinburg, in the Urals region.

The fast-neutron nuclear reactors use so-called breeder reactor technology that enables the use of a wider range of radioactive elements as fuel, thus considerably enlarging the potential stock of nuclear fuel for electricity generation.

Fast fission reactors close the question of potentially ending uranium nuclear fuel as they could ‘burn’ even nuclear waste.

Besides producing electric energy, it generates more fissile material that can be used as nuclear fuel. This brings us to the closed nuclear fuel cycle, a long-lasting dream of the nuclear energy industry that appears to have come true.

Unlike ‘traditional’ nuclear reactors that use assemblies of uranium-235 as the principal fuel, breeder reactors use specially designed MOX (Mixed Oxide) fuel based on plutonium-239.

Russia’s nuclear monopoly, Rosatom, is finishing a plant in Krasnoyarsk region that will produce MOX fuel for the BN-800 reactor. The production line is assembled in a mine 200 meters underground. This will be operable by the end of 2014, and, starting from 2016, it will be running at full capacity.

Russia has unique experience of operating fast reactors, although the first one, CLEMENTINE, was constructed in the US in 1946 at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Over the decades, the USSR, then Russia, introduced a number of industrial and research fast neutron reactors. One of them, the BN-600 (600 megawatt), since 1980 running at the same Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant, is the only fast neutron reactor in the world that generates electricity on industrial scales. The BN-600 is also the most powerful operable fast neutron reactor in the world.

After decades of research, practically all breeder reactor projects around the world, including in the US, France, Japan and several other countries possessing nuclear energy technologies are now closed down. The only country that currently possesses operating breeder reactor power generation is Russia.

Russian physicists have already elaborated the next step for the revolutionary technology: a BN-1200 breeder reactor that is set to be assembled at the same Beloyarskaya nuclear power plant by 2020.

Overall, eight BN-1200 breeder reactors are expected to be constructed by 2030, which means that Russia is the only nation that is entering a new era of nuclear energy power generation – a truly clean and ecologically secure closed nuclear fuel cycle.

BN-800 on wiki:

The BN-800 reactor will be a sodium-cooled fast breeder reactor, under construction now at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Station, in Zarechny, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia. Designed to generate electrical power of 880 MW in total, the plant will be the final step to the commercial plutonium cycle breeder. It is assumed to start by the end of 2014. By now (2014 June) reactor start-up is in progress.

The plant will be a pool-type reactor, where the reactor, coolant pumps, intermediate heat exchangers and associated piping are all located in a common liquid sodium pool. The design of this plant was started in 1983 and was totally revised after the Chernobyl Disaster in 1987 and for somewhat lower degree in 1993 according to the new safety guidelines. After the second revision the electric output power was increased by 10% to 880 MW.

The reactor core is very much like in size and mechanical properties to the BN-600 reactor core, but differs very much in the fuel composition. While BN-600 uses medium-enriched uranium dioxide, the new plant will burn mixed uranium-plutonium fuel, helping to reduce the weapon-grade plutonium stockpile and provide information about the functioning of the closed uranium-plutonium fuel cycle. It was specially mentioned that the closed cycle will not require plutonium separation and other chemical processing.

The unit employs a three-circuit coolant arrangement; sodium coolant circulates in both the primary and secondary circuits. Water and steam flow in the third circuit. This heat is transferred from the reactor core via several independent circulation loops. Each comprises a primary sodium pump, two intermediate heat exchangers, a secondary sodium pump with an expansion tank located upstream, and an emergency pressure discharge tank. These feed a steam generator, which in turn supplies a condensing turbine that turns the generator.[1]

Thursday, June 26, 2014

US Westinghouse Is Asking NRC for Approval for 'Specialized Seismic Option' for Its AP1000 Nuclear Reactors, Eyeing Earthquake-Prone Markets

The news is from Reuters (6/26/2014; emphasis is mine):

Westinghouse eyes nuclear reactor technology for higher seismic locations

Westinghouse Electric Co on Thursday announced it has begun the process of attaining regulatory approval for developing technology that would enable its AP1000 nuclear reactors to be used in locations with higher seismic activity.

The company said it started the process of obtaining approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for its 'Specialized Seismic Option' at a meeting on Wednesday.

The 'Specialized Seismic Option' being worked on by the company and its majority owner, Toshiba Corp will allow new units to be built in areas with a higher seismic spectrum seen in some portions of the western United States and other countries.

Eight units of its AP1000 reactors are being constructed worldwide, including in China and the U.S., the company said.

I guess Toshiba wants to be the one-stop total nuclear solution company - from building reactors (AP1000) to soaking up radioactive materials (SARRY, ALPS) after reactors get damaged.

Westinghouse's press release (6/26/2014) doesn't discuss the detail of this "Option", other than saying:

"...In addition, customers in more active seismic environments have expressed a strong interest in incorporating this Westinghouse technology into their energy portfolios,” said Jeff Benjamin, Westinghouse senior vice president, Nuclear Power Plants.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the non-proprietary information package submitted by Westinghouse/Toshiba on May 29, 2014, but the critical part of it (what the "Specialized Seismic Option" is) is blank (whiteout). The slide presentation says:

Target sites are select hard-rock sites west of the Mississippi River. Range also envelopes certain sites in other countries

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

(UPDATED) #Fukushima I NPP: 4700 Bq/L of Tritium Detected from Groundwater Taken from 20-Meter Deep Near Reactor 1/2 Turbine Building

(Updated with information of the depth of the frozen soil wall holes, which is 30 meters)

The water was drawn from the lower permeable layer 20-meter deep, according to Kyodo News (6/24/2014) from an observation hole newly dug in preparation for monitoring the frozen soil impermeable wall that is to surround the reactor/turbine buildings of Reactors 1-4.

Cesium and all-beta (that includes strontium) are below detection levels, but tritium in 4-digit Bq per liter is apparently not what TEPCO has expected (or so they claim).

TEPCO's handout for the press on 6/24/2014 is about the observation hole No.H25J7 between the Reactor 3 turbine building and the Reactor 4 turbine building, whose water sample taken on June 10 was found with 140 Bq/L of tritium:

However, the handout also shows the test results for the sample water drawn from the observation holes for future monitoring of the frozen soil impermeable wall (whose construction has just started around the corner of the Reactor 1 building), Fz-4, Fz-5, and Fz-8.

The water sample drawn from the frozen soil wall observation hole Fz-5 between the Reactor 1 turbine building and the Reactor 2 turbine building on June 4 was found with 4,700 Bq/L of tritium (in red rectangle below):

TEPCO's simplified cross-section drawing:

English labels are by me, but I don't pretend that I understand what they mean by "groundwater pressure for the lower impermeable layer" (green line in the diagram).

Kyodo News says this will likely delay the construction of the frozen soil impermeable wall because an added work of preventing the spread of contamination is necessary when drilling holes for the frozen soil wall. The holes for the frozen soil wall are to be 30-meter deep.

The construction of frozen soil wall is already a challenge of dodging the underground structures (trenches, pipes, and other facilities) that TEPCO doesn't quite know about. No one apparently knows what's underneath the surface, after 40-plus years of plant operation and continuous construction and maintenance of the site. I suppose that problem would be the same whether it is Kajima's frozen soil wall or more traditional wall of sheet piles, as proposed by Kajima's competitors. (Not that it is any consolation.)

But this is hardly a piece of news, hardly anyone cares, as Japan's politicians, mainstream media and alternative media and social media are abuzz and obssessed with "sexist heckling" by a fifty-something LDP male politician in Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly against a 35-year-old assemblywoman whose former life was a pin-up girl for men's magazine and a minor TV "talento (talent, or personality)".