Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Canada eyes more nuclear cooperation with S. Korea

"Korea would be an ideal market in which to use recycled uranium in its Candu fleet..."
The statement is particularly noteworthy as it comes from Ontario MPP Reza Moridi, Ontario's Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, during a just completed trade mission to South Korea.

(Yonhap Interview) Canada eyes more nuclear cooperation with S. Korea: minister:
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) - Canada wants to step up cooperation with South Korea in the nuclear energy industry as a bilateral free trade deal and Seoul's revised nuclear agreement with the United States provide more room for advanced projects, a senior Canadian official said Sunday.
Reza Moridi, head of Ontario's Ministry of Research and Innovation, said South Korea has made "landmark technological achievements" since importing four Candu reactors from Canada four decades ago and is getting ready to team up with Canadian partners to tap into the global market.
Korea has played a strong role in the development of nuclear science and technology. I am encouraging Korea and the Ontario Candu energy sector to work together in terms of new reactors and services, as well as various other nuclear technologies in the world," Moridi said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
Minister Moridi's focus on the promise of recycled uranium is one I share, although the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCI) official news release following the trade mission describes collaboration flourishing in many areas, with South Korea, China and India.

Recylced uranium (RU) is the focus of efforts in China this year as the Qinshan CANDU reactors are poised to operate on fuel bundles constructed primarily of waste products from the light water reactor (LWR) fuel process.

Demonstration of a new recycled fuel for CANDU (.pdf) | Nuclear Engineering International, January 2014:
Natural uranium equivalent (NUE) fuel 
CANDU: graphic from green lemons into lemonade facebook post
NUE fuel is a mixture of recycled uranium (RU, also known elsewhere as RepU) and depleted uranium (DU) combined in a 37-element fuel bundle such that the resulting fuel will behave similarly to natural uranium (NU) fuel. That is, the reactor performance as a result of using NUE fuel will be similar to the performance with NU fuel. RU is recovered from recycled light water reactor (LWR) fuel (originally enriched to between 3-5% wt% U-235) and has a nominal U-235 concentration in the range of 0.85-0.99 wt%, concentrations higher than natural uranium used in CANDU reactors (0.7 wt% U-235). DU, the ‘tails’ of the uranium enrichment activity, has a typical U-235 concentration range of 0.2-0.3 wt%. RU and DU are blended in such a manner that NUE will have an effective U 235 concentration similar to natural uranium found in nature. In practice, the U-235 content of RU and DU will vary and the ratios of RU and DU required to produce NUE will also vary. 
LWR: graphic from green lemons into lemonade facebook post
The use of RU and DU to manufacture NUE fuel for CANDU reactors has multiple benefi ts. It reduces the burden faced by facilities for conditioning, monitored storage, and/or costly re enrichment and handling for reuse in LWRs. It improves the utilization rate and supply longevity of NU. It results in increased electricity production from otherwise waste materials. It has potential economic benefi ts with lower expected front fuel cycle costs. The cost of RU and DU materials is expected to be lower than NU. It creates a symbiotic relationship with other nuclear reactor technologies (three-to-four LWRs can fuel one CANDU reactor). It is the first and necessary step to achieving a closed fuel cycle.
China has more LWR's than CANDUs (only the 2 at Qinshan), but having both it is the key driver of efforts to utilize CANDU's as "the first and necessary step to achieving a closed fuel cycle."

The World Nuclear Association has a page on China's Nuclear Fuel Cycle. The article notes efforts in China may be different than effort in South Korea - where the idea to use wastes from LWR's fuel stream had been most advanced:
Early in 2008, CNNC subsidiary the Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC) signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to undertake research on advanced fuel cycle technologies such as recycling recovered uranium from used PWR fuel and Generation IV nuclear energy systems. Initially this seemed to include DUPIC, the direct use of used PWR fuel In Candu reactors, the main work on which so far has been in South Korea.
The WNA page notes China's push to self-sufficiency on fuel and connects it with a vision that includes different reactors utilizing different fuels:
Image from WNA
China has stated it intends to become self-sufficient not just in nuclear power plant capacity, but also in the production of fuel for those plants. However, the country still relies on foreign suppliers for all stages of the fuel cycle, from uranium mining through fabrication and reprocessing. As China rapidly increases the number of new reactors, it has also initiated a number of domestic projects, often in cooperation with foreign suppliers, to meet its nuclear fuel needs.
The national policy is to obtain something like one-third of uranium supply domestically, one-third from Chinese equity in foreign mines, and one-third on the open market. 
The WNA notes China's work on fabrication of NUE fuel bundles for it's CANDUs has already included thorium (which China has plenty of).

India, where OCI will be in the fall, has far fewer light water reactors than China, and has struggled to find uranium to fuel it's heavy-water reactors. While April's agreement allowing Canada's CAMECO to supply India with uranium helps with supply, work on developing natural uranium equivalent (NUE) fuel bundles utilizing India's very significant thorium resources might also be very beneficial for both India and CANDU technologies.


An interview with Minister Moridi is in Korea Joongang Daily, "Expert says nuclear education key"
...Korea’s use of both the CANDU reactor and its own light-water reactor technology, which it imported from the United States and further developed, can be the future of the Korean nuclear industry.

“Korea has its own strength, of owning CANDU and light-water reactor technologies from the United States,” said Moridi. “If Korea develops technologies to join the two, such technology can be Korea’s new strength, which can be also exported to other countries. Korea will be the world’s first and only country that has such technologies. That should be the new growth point for the Korean nuclear industry.”

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