SONE Newsletter 284 – February 2023

Posted by Wade Allison on 17 February 2023 in Newsletters

Tagged with: BEIS, Canada, Equilibrion, Estonia, Fusion, Great British Nuclear, JET, Japan, Korea, Moltex, Poland, TRISO, USA, Uranium.

This month

SONE escapes from the clutches of the Green and opts for the blue!

It is rather pathetic that the media and political commentators have to hang all that they have to say on a single peg - currently everything has to be GREEN. Currently the EU is squabbling about the colour of Hydrogen, apparently:

As a way to classify nuclear power as worthy of investment, the use of colour seems rather childish. But the grade designation is important and coming soon, readers of the Telegraph are assured: (You can get the headline without subscribing.)

Members may have noticed that SONE has been weaning itself off Green and onto Blue! For example, the head graphic of our web pages is now a picture of the Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Lab. This shows the pretty blue Cherenkov radiation emitted in water by the relativistic electrons from radioactive beta-decay. Electric charges do this when they travel faster than light (in water).

Coincidentally, the same picture appears as an illustration in my book “The Flight of a Relativistic Charge in Matter‌/book/9783031234453 to be published in April, although the rest of the book is not likely to be of immediate interest to SONE members.

However – another coincidence – a report this month tells how Cherenkov radiation is to be used in the imaging of nuclear fuel.

Change in Whitehall

Adrian Bull MBE writes:

Whether in industry or Government, fiddling with the org chart is rarely enough to fix an urgent problem. So it’s hard to be over-enthusiastic about the news that we’re to have new bodies to replace the “Dept formerly known as Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)”. One covering Energy Security and Net Zero – where the majority of nuclear departments will now reside – and another looking after Science and Innovation, which is likely to be the new home of nuclear fusion (historically funded by the science budget, not by the energy side). And the old business remit sitting in a Dept for Business and Trade (where considerations around supply chains and export prospects will now reside).

The real questions will be which of these departments (if any) carry any negotiating weight with Treasury and how much further delay and confusion we can now expect while new Ministerial teams are appointed, new accountabilities and interfaces agreed, and the teams of officials work out how to work together and what needs doing first. In his former BEIS role, new Energy and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps promised that Great British Nuclear would be established “soon”. Let’s hope he’s empowered to keep his own promise in his new job!


The Nuclear Industry Association published the following graphic today (12 Feb) to show that nuclear was the largest clean electricity generator. But the NIA has its eye only on the nuclear slice. What the graphic also shows is that imports, notably from Norway (generated largely by hydro) and France (generated largely by nuclear), were greater than our domestic nuclear generation (which is also French).

Current GB generation mix, 12 February 2023

This dependence on interconnectors to Europe is an example of lazy incomplete thinking. Such a policy is secure neither militarily nor politically. In fact, Norway, that also sends a large fraction of our gas imports, is considering its own needs and adjusting its legislation accordingly, and so it should. And then there is every reason to think that France might think of doing the same for internal reasons. After all, there is considerable domestic turmoil in France, including over the final nationalisation of EDF, who also own all the UK domestic nuclear plants. The UK government seems careless – if the French government gets into even more political trouble with EDF, the UK will not have much of a vote on the matter.

News from Poland, Canada and Estonia

Good news from Poland where they are investing in the nuclear education of their young people, as well as in power plants. Its government last year selected Westinghouse’s AP1000 for the first part of the country’s six-reactor plan to build up to 9 GWe capacity by 2040. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has agreed a separate plan for a nuclear power plant in Patnow with two Polish companies. Then they have plans for SMRs. Among these, Rolls-Royce SMR and Polish group Industria have signed a Memorandum of Intent to collaborate on deploying small modular reactors to produce 50,000 tonnes of low-carbon hydrogen each year. Rolls-Royce are hoping to get their first SMR online in the UK by the end of the decade.

But the news of cooperation between regulatory authorities in Poland and Canada is potentially even more significant. This makes particular reference to the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR, the same reactor that has been chosen by Fermi Energia for Estonia, as announced a few days ago.

Problems in US

If we think that we in the UK and EU have bureaucratic problems, consider the reports by several responsible voices in the USA about the counter-productive behaviour of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which charges nuclear utilities nearly $300/hr for its engineers to review license applications for life extension, or renewal, has socked it to Diablo Canyon big time. Sitting on its hands in the federal government’s equivalent of an ivory tower in Rockville, MD, the agency did what all bureaucracies do when faced with a novel set of circumstances. It ducked and ran for cover. In a letter to the utility, the agency cited “the lack of relevant precedent” to support the request by PG&E which formally asked the NRC to resume its review of the license renewal application for the Diablo Canyon plant after the state of California passed legislation that would enable the plant to continue operating until 2030. The agency talks a lot about its “risk informed” approach to licensing, but when the opportunity presents itself to walk the talk, the agency apparently waffles on its commitment.

And the Breakthrough Institute expresses the situation in even more uncompromising terms. Here is an excerpt:

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been writing worst-case scenarios for years, but now the staff has gone to a new extreme. In its framework established to calculate the risk from advanced reactors, it has proposed the impossible. The conditions it postulates are impossible, and the rules are impossible to meet. Among the assumptions:

  • The reactor suffers the worst possible accident, is promptly repaired, and has the same accident again the next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, every year for as long as it is licensed, 40 years.
  • Residents of the area never move, so they are available to soak up the cumulative dose of radiation, every year for 50 years.
  • Residents never die of anything else over the course of the 50 years, so a person who is 65 years old at the time of the first accident is assumed to live to be 115, during which time he or she soaks up doses from each of the next 39 catastrophic accidents.

Evidently, in matters of regulation, the rest of the world should be careful not to rely on advice from the US. This is what has happened far too readily in the past, for instance in the aftermath of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi when advice from US NRC increased panic with consequential casualties without reason. To many supportive comments, Timothy Stout [Operations Shift Manager, Doctoral Student, MEng, BSc, SRO×2 (APR-1400, Westinghouse 2-Loop)] recently posted on LinkedIn “the profound influence wrought by Gregory Jaczko during his tenure as NRC Chair left an indelible negative mark on the Commission as an activist agency seeking to neuter the industry. The glacial design certification process for NuScale, a remarkably vanilla design, on balance, is evidence of this dynamic”. This seems a questionable use of the word dynamic.

Japan supports extended reactor life times – 14 Feb

The Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan, at an extraordinary meeting Monday, approved by a majority vote a bill designed to extend the operating life of nuclear reactors in the country beyond 60 years. Germany has previously followed Japan. Might that happen again now – or is that expecting too much?


Development for the production of High Assay Low Enrichment Uranium fuel (5-20% U235) and the pebble bed TRISO fuel are important matters for advanced reactors. The small reactor size means the extra enrichment is needed to keep the mean neutron path between fission events short. Only then is the escape of neutrons from the reactor core small enough. The first new US centrifuges are being developed It is understood that there are plans for production in the UK too and links to follow this up will be given in a later newsletter.

Uranium mining and fuel milling

When reading about Uranium mining it is worth noting that production is usually given in pounds, not tonnes like other minerals. In mining there are many factors, but this factor of 2000 is exceptional and symptomatic of the very small mass of fuel needed for a nuclear fission. Another property of uranium is its solubility. This means that it can be extracted by drilling and in situ leaching, so reducing environmental destruction.

Work at the Honeymoon uranium project in South Australia remains on track and on budget to start up in the December quarter, Boss Energy Resources said.

Committed expenditure under the re-development programme of the in-situ leach project has now reached the halfway mark, totalling AUD55.1M (USD38.9 million). Development of the first three start-up wellfields is progressing, with overall initial drilling works now 40% complete and 55 of 86 planned new production wells now drilled and cased. Procurements made so far include resin supply, NIMCIX columns, wellfield development, water treatment plant and a 400-tonne crane.

In the US there also plans for new mining plant:

Enthusiasm from Korean shipping lines

A news item this month reports a host of Korean shipping lines including HMM, Sinokor and H-Line Shipping, along with the nation’s class society, are pressing ahead with plans to develop nuclear-powered merchant ships.


Moltex have won a grant for graphite research and are looking for people to join them in Warrington: and

Equilibrion, a new nuclear startup aimed towards hydrogen, heat and synthetic fuels

Phil Rogers writes:

Startup company Equilibrion has opened its doors to drive forward the use of nuclear energy for decarbonisation of our transport, industry, heat and electricity sectors. Led by Caroline Longman and Phil Rogers, Equilibrion will build cross sector partnerships and consult across the nuclear and wider energy sectors to provide the crucial bridge between clean primary energy from nuclear and the end users that must move away from fossil fuels.

Caroline and Phil, who have previously led major Government backed programmes and played instrumental roles in helping secure nuclear energy into policies such as the Hydrogen Strategy, believe nuclear energy is an obvious source to drive hydrogen, heat, synthetic fuels, and ammonia, but risks, benefits and opportunities are still misunderstood Their desire is to break down barriers and bring forward disruptive, low cost solutions that make the energy transition easier and cheaper.

Through both consultancy and building of cross sector teams to deliver long term, whole system decarbonisation solutions, Equilibrion are already looking to grow in numbers and recognise the value in engagement with stakeholders of all different types. A recent example is the release of a Synthetic Fuels Briefing Paper, delivered through a collaboration between the Nuclear Industry Association and Equilibrion. (Synthetic Fuels - Nuclear Industry Association (

Phil Rogers, Director and Owner said “Everything came together in setting up Equilibrion. We recognised that for nuclear energy to play its justified role in the energy transition needs industry to deliver disruptive solutions that create a direct link between nuclear energy sources and the sectors where decarbonisation is needed. The world is already experiencing a primary energy crunch and we just don’t see how net zero can be achieved without clean energy solutions that start with nuclear energy and go far beyond baseload electricity.

You don’t set up a company without being enormously passionate about what you do and that is the foundation of Equilibrion. We are delighted and grateful for the incredible support that we have had from all corners of the industry and can’t wait to work closely with many friends old and new on our journey.”

Equilibrion has an office in Northampton and are members of both Hydrogen UK and the Nuclear Industry Association.

Two features of the natural safety of ionising radiation that deserve wider publicity

  1. Fire is dangerous primarily because it catches and spreads. It is contagious and multiplies like an infection. But radioactivity and the radiation it emits do not multiply like that at all! That is one reason why it is almost harmless. However, it is more than their job is worth for those in charge of radiation protection to say that.
  2. The nuclear fission chain reaction inside a working reactor is completely different. This is spread within the nuclear fuel only by neutrons – but these cannot escape the reactor and are instantly absorbed by almost anything they meet. So nuclear power is failsafe, which fire and fossil fuels are certainly not.

Fusion energy, JET’s impending retirement

JET is 40 years old this year and established the fusion energy record just over a year ago. JET’s time is coming to an end and decommissioning will begin in December 2023. But there is still a long way to go yet for fusion.

Late News

There is a new short video, Atomic Hope, that shows street demonstrations by a number of pro-nuclear groups

In the January Newsletter I suggested that we might keep an eye out for rats starting to leave the listing ship Fossil Fuel. Of course, the change will happen slowly, but the writing is on the wall. Well, here’s a big one to start the ball rolling! “Terrestrial Energy Names Former BP Chief Executive John Browne to Advisory Board.”

Wade Allison
Hon. Sec.
15 Feb 2023