Entries in Nuclear Reactor (4)


Iran Inserts Domestically-Made Nuclear Fuel Rods into Reactor

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran has begun inserting high grade nuclear fuel rods it has produced into a reactor in Tehran.

At a ceremony broadcast live on State TV Wednesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad watched as the rods were lowered into the Tehran Research Reactor.

The milestone could spark even higher tensions with the West, which has already placed stiff sanctions against the country in an effort to stop it from making nuclear weapons.  But as one expert explains, Wednesday's development has nothing to do with Iran's nuclear program.

"This is absolutely nothing to do with nuclear weapons aspirations.  It's totally for production of medical isotopes for cancer victims," says Mark Fitzpatrick, a nuclear non proliferation expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

He added, "This development and any development right now in Iran's nuclear program is not something that should cause everyone to think, 'Oh my god, Iran's about ready to have the bomb.'

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Could New Nuclear Reactor Have Prevented Fukushima?

STR/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The first new nuclear reactor to be built in the U.S. in three decades is one step away from breaking ground. Federal regulators approved the design for the AP1000 reactor, which Westinghouse Electric Co. developed over 20 years. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission unanimously approved the design, a key certification that will be valid for 15 years.

On the day of the approval, CEO of Westinghouse Aris Candris was interviewed by ABC News Now. “Everyone has heard of what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi plant,” said Candris. “Had an AP1000 been on that site we would have got no nuclear news post-tsunami.”

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered major damage in the 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which hit Japan on March 11, 2011. The tsunami disabled emergency power generators that are critical to cooling the reactor, setting up a dire situation that led to multiple partial meltdown, radiation leaks, and a massive evacuation of surrounding areas. The plant still hasn’t reopened.

The AP1000 was designed prior to the Fukushima disaster, but unlike the GE-manufactured reactors at Fukushima, the new AP1000 doesn’t rely on AC power for its systems. “We decided we needed to have a design that relied exclusively on natural forces,” said Candris. “Things like gravity, convection, and the like...." Candris says that aspect of the AP1000′s design makes it safer. “It’s the same basic concept, fission of uranium. But how that’s being done in the system and the fact that eventually you end up with a much safer design than we’ve had in the past. Not that designs that are out there are not safe.”

"We don’t think the AP1000 is clearly safer than the currently operating reactors for a number of reasons,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist at the nuclear watchdog group Union of Concerned Citizens. “The reliance on passive systems have larger uncertainties in the way they function.”  For example, Lyman says, in the event of an accident, the AP1000 could only continue to cool the reactor without AC power for a few days, after which it would need powered pumps to continue to operate, just like existing reactors. Lyman’s group argues the nation would be better served if the NRC evaluated the AP1000′s design in light of the flaws that became evident at Fukushima.

"There were a lot of lessons from Fukushima and in spite of the fact that nuclear has been around for fifty years, it’s still a learning industry,” said Candris. “There’s no question Fukushima had a significant impact on public opinion even though, especially in the U.S., that is turning around."

But images of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island still linger in the collective consciousness in the U.S., even though more than 100 nuclear power plants around the U.S. now supply almost 20 percent of the nation’s electricity. The latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, done in April after the Fukushima disaster, found that 64 percent of people oppose new nuclear plant construction, a spike in opposition from previous years.

One selling point: The new reactors would bring thousands of jobs to the communities they’re located in. Westinghouse already has orders for six reactors; four of them are already in “prenuclear” construction. The reactors would be added to existing nuclear power plants in Georgia and South Carolina — communities that Candris says “are very much in favor of more.” Fourteen other utility companies in the U.S. have also expressed interest in AP1000s. China has four AP1000s already in the works.

Nuclear power remains a lightning-rod issue among U.S. scientists and environmentalists. On the one hand, nuclear offers affordable, clean (if you don’t count the waste) energy, mitigating U.S. dependence on fossil fuels. On the other hand, any potential nuclear accident could be catastrophic, as evidenced at Fukushima.

The next and last regulatory hurdle for Westinghouse before nuclear construction can begin is a combined operating license from the NRC, which Candris expects to obtain in a month.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Radiation Fears Spark Tokyo Exodus

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The international and domestic terminals at Narita International Airport were crammed with passengers leaving the capital after a small spike in radiation levels was detected in Tokyo. The spike followed a reactor fire that has raged for two days at a troubled nuclear plant 150 miles north of the city; four of the plant's six reactors were damaged in last Friday's earthquake. People living in a 30 kilometer radius of the plant were evacuated, but those further away are no less nervous.

Germany's Lufthansa airline became the first major carrier to cancel flights to Narita and will reroute all flights through Nagoya and Osaka, some 300 miles south of the capitol. Dutch carrier KLM followed.

While the United States and Britain told their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Tokyo, France told its citizens to evacuate the city, a markedly different instruction than from the Japanese government's urging residents to remain calm.

Korean Airlines arranged special charter flights out of Narita to whisk Koreans out. The carrier even offered discounted one-way tickets, with priority going to Koreans living in Japan who are likely to be affected by the explosion.

"It was a spur of the moment decision," said Adam Lobel, an American expatriate who has lived in Japan for 11 years but decided to fly to New York Wednesday.

"It is a heart-wrenching decision, but the situation does not appear good," he said while standing in line with his wife to check in at Narita airport.

Lobel said he would "assess the situation" and planned to return next week if things had become more settled.

Lobel said he arrived at the airport five hours early anticipating long lines.

Many of the city's international schools closed for two weeks in the wake of the earthquake and many of the people leaving from Narita were families with young children.

Julia Chang brought her 11-year-old daughter, who is a student at one of the city's international schools, to the airport today frantically looking for a flight out of Japan to either Korea or China.

"I just want to make sure my daughter is safe. Everything's so confusing and we don't know who to believe. I'm not taking chances with my girl," Chang said.

Chang was able to book a flight only for her daughter to leave on Friday to Seoul, South Korea, where she can stay with her grandmother.

Those who can't leave the country or are keeping their options open are moving further south to Osaka.

Emperor Akihito, the country's revered 77-year-old monarch, did little to reassure the country in a rare public address, saying: "With the help of those involved I hope things will not get worse." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan Earthquake: Third Reactor at Fukushima Nuclear Plant Explodes

Comstock/Thinkstock (TOKYO) -- There was a new explosion Tuesday morning at a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the Japanese nuclear safety agency reported.

The blast, which occurred at Unit 2, is the third at the plant since a powerful earthquake struck Japan on Friday.

The state of the plant and fears of a possible meltdown and radiation release have been growing as workers struggled to keep the reactors cool to minimize the dangers.

The explosion, which occurred at 6:10 a.m. (local time), came shortly after the International Atomic Energy Agency had announced that the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant had been shut down.

During a news conference, the agency's deputy chief Denis Flory said that information from Japan "does not show a high increase of radioactivity outside the containment, which means the containment seems to play its role -- to contain."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio