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Underperforming nuclear plant’s future in jeopardy

Rob Edwards, New Scientist
A British nuclear plant recently constructed to make plutonium fuel for power reactors in Japan and Europe has been plagued with so many breakdowns that it may have to be shut down.

A technical review for the government’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) reveals that the plant at Sellafield in Cumbria has suffered 37,000 minor and 100 major equipment failures in a year. These have prevented production for about 70% of the time.

The state-owned company, British Nuclear Group, has mounted an operation to save the plant but this may not succeed, warns the review by consultants Arthur D Little. “Looked at pessimistically,” it concludes, “the improvement plans will fail to live up to expectation leading eventually to an irrevocable collapse in the business case and closure.” ..

The plant is designed to recycle the plutonium extracted from spent reactor fuel at Sellafield by combining it with uranium to make mixed oxide fuel, known as MOX. In the wake of fierce controversy over a data falsification scandal at a pilot facility, it was given the go-ahead by Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2001. ..

But the plant has repeatedly failed to live up to expectations. In 2001 its builders, the British Nuclear Group’s parent company, BNFL, predicted it would produce 72 tonnes of MOX fuel a year. Last year, according to the NDA, it made just under 3 tonnes.
(22 Sept 2006)

Earlier check for nuclear reactor

An inspection of nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point B power station in Somerset has been brought forward amid new safety fears.

It follows checks on reactors at Scotland’s Hunterston plant, which showed problems with cracked pipes.
(24 Sep 2006)
Earlier: Reactor crack fears played down

Egypt to build nuke plants

Kuwait Times
Egypt will begin building nuclear power plants soon, a cabinet minister was quoted as saying yesterday, three days after President Hosni Mubarak called on his government to pursue nuclear energy.

Minister of Electricity and Energy Hassan Younes told the state-owned Al Ahram newspaper that within 10 years of the project’s launch, Egypt would have an operational nuclear power plant.

Younes said the country’s Supreme Council of Energy is due to meet yesterday to endorse the plans. Egypt plans to build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at El-Dabaa, on the Mediterranean coast. ..

The independent Al Masry Al Youm newspaper reported yesterday that the government plans to build three nuclear power stations with a total capacity of 1,800 megawatts. It quoted unnamed officials as saying the construction of the three plants would be completed by 2020.
(24 Sept 2006)

Russia to start building nine nuclear power units in 2007
(RIA Novosti) – Rosenergoatom, Russia’s state-run nuclear power generating monopoly, said Thursday it planned to begin construction of nine nuclear power-generating units in 2007.

“Next year we will work under entirely new conditions prompted by the market,” the concern’s general director Sergei Obozov said. “We have once again to prove our business efficiency.”

Russia’s nuclear industry is under major revamp aimed at boosting nuclear energy production and increasing Russia’s competitiveness on the global nuclear market.
(9 Sep 2006)

Russia, Iran agree on launch date of nuclear power plant

Russia and Iran have agreed on the launch date of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is being built with Russian help, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday.

Sergei Shmatko, president of Russia’s Atomstroiexport company which is involved in building the plant, was quoted by the Itar-Tass and Interfax news agencies as saying the two sides had signed an additional protocol that set September 2007 as Bushehr’sstart date and scheduled the delivery of nuclear fuel to Iran for March 2007.
(26 Sep 2006)