France creates nuclear strategy group; UK launches SMR competition

Nuclear power news you need to know.

France confronts competition with new strategy group

France's EDF, Areva and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) have created a tripartite body called the French Nuclear Platform (PFN) to "confront the profound changes currently underway in the highly-competitive nuclear sector" and set shared medium and long-term goals, the state-controlled groups said April 1.

The PFN is to establish a working agenda by the end of this year which will cover the following priority topics:

• The prospects for the French nuclear sector in accordance with France's Energy Transition law.

• The nuclear sector’s international strategy established in cooperation with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development and other concerned ministries.

• The review of technological options for the EPR NM, an improved version of the EPR design.

• The consolidation of relations with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the sector in coordination with the French Industry Strategic Committee.

• The coordination of positions on regulatory changes notably regarding safety requirements and objectives.

The PFN will also work together on a Research and Development program for fourth generation reactors, the future of the closed fuel cycle in France and abroad, the optimization of the CIGEO deep waste disposal project and the development of dismantling technologies, the groups said.

UK launches SMR competition, prepares roadmap

The UK government has launched the first phase of its competition to identify the best value Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design for the UK, inviting expressions of interest from technology developers, utilities and potential investors.

"The government is keen to ensure that any subsequent stages of the competition are informed by participants’ views on how to secure commercial deployment of SMRs and on potential timeframes for deployment," the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in a statement March 17.

The government will engage further with industry participants over the summer and expects the first phase of the competition to be completed in the fall.

In parallel, the government is to develop an SMR Roadmap which will summarize evidence on SMR development and set out the policy framework and potential "pathways for SMRs to help the UK achieve its energy objectives," it said.

The roadmap will define the process the government will use to identify suitable sites or types of sites for SMRs and the work the government will undertake with the Office for Nuclear Regulation towards regulatory approvals such as Generic Design Assessments.

"We intend that the Roadmap will be published after the close of Phase One, in parallel with publication of plans for the next steps in the SMR competition," DECC said in its guidance document.

US operators call for streamlined decommissioning licensing

US industry group Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has called for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reduce the number of licensing actions needed during decommissioning in order to make the transition from operational to decommissioned status more efficient, NEI said in a statement March 17.

Operators are spending more than $1 million per month on rules that should no longer apply, NEI said.

So far, ten U.S. commercial power reactors have completed decommissioning and 18 are undergoing the process.

According to NEI's members, existing regulations do not adequately recognize risk reductions which take place when a power reactor is stopped, fuel is removed and the facility is decommissioned.

This forces operators to apply for multiple exemptions and license amendments in areas such as emergency planning, security, staffing and insurance.

"As we go through these transitions, the exemption process typically takes 12 to 18 months to complete, with more than $1.5 million a month in expenditures, two-thirds of which is on the industry side, while plants spend over $1 million per month complying with requirements that should no longer apply to them,” Rodney McCullum, NEI Senior Director of Used Fuel and Decommissioning Programs, said.

US, Europe agree landmark enriched-uranium swap

The US and Europe have agreed a multilateral swap of nuclear material which will see around 700 kilograms of excess Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) transferred from the Dounreay nuclear site on the north coast of Scotland to the US.

The transfer will represent the largest ever single move of HEU, the UK government said March 31.

In exchange, the US will send a different type of HEU to the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in France, where it will be converted into medical isotopes.