July 25, 2014

BRICS countries are building about 75% of the worlds new nuclear reactors and are forming a new BRICS energy association

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced plans to establish a BRICS "energy association" that will include a fuel reserve bank and an energy policy institute. BRICS is a grouping of major emerging economies that includes Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Fifty of the 66 nuclear reactors currently under construction are in BRICS states.

Russia signed a number of nuclear power cooperation agreements that coincided with Putin's visit to South America. On 12 July, Rosatom director general Sergey Kiriyenko and Argentina's minister of planning, investments and services, Julio Vido, signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the peaceful use of atomic energy. Rosatom plans to participate in the tender in the third quarter for construction of the third unit at the Atucha nuclear power plant.

On 15 July, Rusatom Overseas chief executive Dzhomart Aliyev and Camargo Correa President Dalton Santos Avancini signed a memorandum of understanding with Brazilian Camargo Correa on building an additional spent fuel storage facility and a nuclear power station in Brazil.

The document envisages an expansion of bilateral cooperation in nuclear power, in particular, the construction of engineering and technical facilities at the Brazilian operational Angra nuclear power plant and partnership in the construction of new nuclear power units in Brazil.

On 16 July, Putin held talks with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on broadening their partnership in the energy and defence sectors. Modi has reportedly invited the Russian leader to visit the construction site of Kudankulam 2 during their annual summit in New Delhi, in December. The two countries signed a general framework agreement in April on units 3 and 4.

The key development of the BRICS summit was the launch the long-awaited New Development Bank and a Currency Reserve Pool. With combined resources of $200 billion, they are aimed at fostering greater financial and development cooperation among the five emerging markets.

July 23, 2014

Carbon Nanotubes May Protect Electrodes for commercial version of Focus Fusion and machining has delayed the Tungsten electrode to September, 2014

While LPPFusion’s research team expects to eliminate the major sources of electrode erosion, enough to get rid of significant impurities in the plasma, some erosion will still exist. It won’t be enough to bother us during the current experimental phase, but once they are engineering a generator that fires 200 times second, remaining erosion will limit the lifetime of the electrodes. But there may be a way to protect the electrodes better—with a coating of carbon nanotubes.

Neil Farbstein of Vulvox Nanobiotechnology Corporation suggested to LPPFusion joint development of a coating of CNT to protect the future beryllium electrodes in the Focus Fusion generator. While more research is needed, the extraordinary qualities of CNTs may help to reduce two sources of erosion. The first is sputtering. In this process, high energy ions from the plasma hit against atoms in the electrode, knocking them out of the material one by one. Beryllium is only slowly eroded by sputtering, but CNTs may be still better. Due to their structure, with sheets of atoms surrounding tiny voids, CNTs can allow high energy ions to slow down gradually, dissipating their energy without knocking off so many atoms.

Second, between shots, a layer of boron may form on the electrodes after the molecules of the decaborane feed gas break apart. If the boron condenses fast enough to form a continuous layer, the current from the next shot will have to vaporize it off. (Boron does not conduct electricity at all well.) Since the vaporization temperature of boron is much higher than that of beryllium, some of the beryllium electrode will also vaporize, causing erosion.

Genetically Modified mosquito swarms will be used on a commercial scale to hopefully prevent 50 million incidents of dengue fever per year

Genetically modified mosquitoes will be raised on a commercial scale for the first time, in a bid to stem outbreaks of dengue fever in Brazil. But it is unclear how well it will work.

Next week biotech company Oxitec of Abingdon, UK, will open a factory in Campinas, Brazil, to raise millions of modified mosquitoes. Once released, they will mate with wild females, whose offspring then die before adulthood. That should cut the number of dengue-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. In April, Brazil's National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio) approved their commercial use.

The mosquitoes could be an important step forward in controlling dengue, which affects more than 50 million people every year, with a 30-fold increase in the last 50 years. There is no vaccine or preventive drug, so all anyone can do is to spray insecticide on a large scale in a bid to kill dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Russia will be building 1200 MWe fast neutron reactors as the core of its next generation nuclear fleet

Russia plans to start construction of three BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactors before 2030. OKBM Afrikantov has said it envisages about 11 GWe (9 of the 1200 MW plants) of such plants by 2030, possibly including South Urals plant.

The BN-1200 reactor for Beloyarsk will generate 1220 MWe and have a 60-year life. The core of a fast reactor is much smaller than that of a normal nuclear reactor, and it has a higher power density, requiring very efficient heat transfer.

We associate fast reactors with our strategic goal of a closed nuclear fuel cycle," Romanov said. The first of these units will be located at the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Zarechny, in the Urals, he said.

Last month, Rosenergoatom engineers brought to criticality Beloyarsk 4 - a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design.

Power units with BN reactors have a "unique competitive advantage" and the BN-800 will be able to operate for about 100 years.

July 22, 2014

Video shows Spacex did soft land the Falcon 9 first stage last week

Following last week's successful launch of six ORBCOMM satellites, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage reentered Earth’s atmosphere and soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean. This test confirms that the Falcon 9 booster is able consistently to reenter from space at hypersonic velocity, restart main engines twice, deploy landing legs and touch down at near zero velocity.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 218

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 218 is up at Yes Vermont Yankee

NEI Nuclear Notes - Higher and Higher: EEI Uncovers The Cost of Electricity in Germany

Ever since Germany decided to phase out nuclear energy in the wake of Fukushima, local activists have been touting the results of the shift, known in German as the "Energiewende." But what has the cost been to the nation's economy. NEI's Mark Flanagan looks at a recent EEI report that's full of interesting details.

Household electricity prices in Germany have more than doubled, increasing from €0.14/kilowatt hour (kWh) ($0.18) in 2000 to more than €0.29/kWh ($0.38) in 2013.

This outcome has occurred with many of the nuclear plants still operating, so these costs presumably will only go higher after the plants close in 2021. (The cost for household electricity in the U.S. is about $0.13/kWh , for comparison).

The rapid introduction of renewable energy sources has caused in wholesale prices in Germany for baseload to fall dramatically from €90-95/megawatt hour (MWh) in 2008 to €37/MWh in 2013. This has created a large amount of load and margin destruction for utilities that built and financed thermal plants. Many new gas-fired power plants have been rendered uneconomical, leaving owners to shore up their balance sheets by undertaking large divestitures of some of their holdings, as well as by reducing their operational costs.

Wait – shouldn’t household prices go down if wholesale costs decline?

This is being caused by subsidies granted to renewable energy sources and a provision of Germany’s renewable energy law that mandates electric companies buy renewable energy ahead of thermal-powered energy regardless of need.

Patent troll patent invalidated and ordered to pay costs of the legal case

When Santa Barbara startup FindTheBest was sued by a patent troll called Lumen View last year, it vowed to fight back rather than pay up the $50,000 licensing fee Lumen was asking for. Company CEO Kevin O'Connor made it personal, pledging $1 million of his own money to fight the legal battle.

Once FindTheBest pursued the case, the company dismantled the troll in short order. In November, the judge invalidated Lumen's patent, finding it was nothing more than a description of computer-oriented "matchmaking."

Patent troll ordered to pay the legal costs

The judge overseeing the case has ruled that it's Lumen View, not FindTheBest, that should have to pay the defendants $200,000 in legal expenses. In a first-of-its-kind implementation of new fee-shifting rules mandated by the Supreme Court, US District Judge Denise Cote found that the Lumen View lawsuit was a "prototypical exceptional case."