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Yousry Abushady




The Success in Using Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy; The Possession of a Nuclear Fuel Cycle in the Arabic World


Summary: Energy is the backbone of human civilization, which is the most important elements in the development of different areas of life such as industry, agriculture, urban, tourism, water and other activities. The most important forms of energy are summarized in the electricity, combustion, heating, water desalination and others. The most important energy sources are wood, coal, petroleum, natural gas and water falls, nuclear, solar, wind, bio-energy, and others.    

At the World's level, currently, 90% of the energy use from coal, oil and natural gas (fossil energy) and bio-energy while nuclear energy is 4%, the water fall energy is 3.5%, the sun - wind energy is 1.5% and other energy sources are 1%.

The Arab world is facing now or in the near future, one of the worst energy crises in its history. Fossil resources (based mainly on oil and natural gas, which are used to generate more than 90% of its electricity), will drain quickly. Some Arab countries such as Jordan and Egypt rely on the import of oil and natural gas due to its limitation in having alternative energy resources.  

A paper by: Yousry Abushady

Summary:

Energy is the backbone of human civilization, which is the most important elements in the development of different areas of life such as industry, agriculture, urban, tourism, water and other activities. The most important forms of energy are summarized in the electricity, combustion, heating, water desalination and others. The most important energy sources are wood, coal, petroleum, natural gas and water falls, nuclear, solar,  wind, bio-energy, and others.

At the World's level, currently, 90% of the energy use from coal, oil and natural gas (fossil energy) and bio-energy while nuclear energy is 4%, the water fall energy is 3.5%, the sun - wind energy is 1.5% and other energy sources are 1%.

The Arab world is facing now or in the near future, one of the worst energy crises in its history. Fossil resources (based mainly on oil and natural gas, which are used to generate more than 90% of its electricity), will drain quickly. Some Arab countries such as Jordan and Egypt rely on the import of oil and natural gas due to its limitation in having alternative energy resources.

The Continuous use of fossil sources as the main sources for electricity generation would have a very serious impact on the national income and the people and the development rate.

To solve this serious crisis, we must find alternative sources of energy, either new sources (such as nuclear power or coal) or renewable energy sources (such as solar energy, wind energy and biomass/waste). There are always advantages and disadvantages of these sources. Study and analysis to each source of energy should be performed carefully to conclude the best option.

The energy mix of nuclear power with renewable energy appears to be the most effective option to Arab countries to face this crisis. These energy sources are more sustainable and more economical. Nuclear energy is one of the cleanest sources of energy during normal operation and has a low negative impact on the environment. National industry can has a high share in the nuclear industry as well as renewable energy in near future. The combination of nuclear and renewable energy can offer the best option for the short, medium and long ranges.

It is hoped that in the near future the Arab countries can built together all facilities for peaceful nuclear fuel cycle. At beginning, cooperation with other countries is needed including the Iranian experience which was able alone with help of some illegal partners to own most nuclear fuel cycle facilities. Several Arab countries have potential nuclear capabilities as the availability of nuclear material and other material used for nuclear industry. Also have high level industrial capabilities able for upgrading with high standards.  Human technical capabilities in Arab countries could provide important contribution. There are many suitable sites at different Arab countries suitable for nuclear power plants.

Uranium ore discovered in a number of Arabic countries. In particular in Jordan, Algeria, Egypt and Iraq.  

Large amount of uranium ore found in Jordan at a cost of less than $ / 130 kg. The estimated quantity in Jordan is more than one hundred thousand tons. Thorium is also found in large quantities in the Arab region.

Nuclear research experience in many Arab countries such as Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Jordan and Syria (and was in Iraq) have gained. Egypt has experience of manufacturing fuel for its second research reactor and to a limited extent Algeria has also some experience in this field. Large industrial companies in Arabic countries have the capability to exchange experiences with foreign companies in the nuclear industry and the manufacture of parts of the components of nuclear power plants, both for electricity and desalination of sea water. Such as pressure vessels, steam generators, pressurizes, pipes, turbines, generators, condensers, desalination equipment and others. Also, the Egyptian experience in the manufacturing the model of the first Arab small reactor power of 50 megawatt to produce electricity and water desalination, especially in desert areas, which constitute more than 90% of Arab lands may be an experience to encourage the development and implementation in this area.

Regarding the worries for possible nuclear reactor accidents and as well as the escalation of terrorist operations, the safety and security standards for nuclear installations must reach its maximum efficiency. The selection of the type of new reactors should considers the design type of the highest safety methods as well as the design of maximum security internally and externally.

There is a need now to a quick political decisions in many Arab countries, which must be taken in this regard, as such decision can be considered linked to its national security. 

 Why Nuclear Energy?

* By September 2016 there are 450 nuclear power reactors in the world for electricity production in 30 countries (+Taiwan, China) and 60 new reactors under construction in 15 countries. A number of middle east countries have important nuclear programs for the construction of nuclear power reactors as the UAE, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and recently Egypt.

* Nuclear Power contributes to over 11% of total electricity power generated in the world.

* It is a large source of energy (the power of one reactor varies from 1000 to 1600 MW). Nuclear energy and the renewable energy are the essential and economical solutions for the energy crisis approaching several Arab countries particularly for the next 30 years.

* Nuclear energy is a continuous energy near its maximum power capacity every hour, every day and all over the year (contrary to other sources e.g. Solar and Wind energies). The age of a reactor varies between 60 to 80 years.

* Nuclear energy is clean energy and has minimum environmental impact during its routine operation. It does not produce carbon dioxide and has limited fuel (1 kg of nuclear fuel is equivalent to over 20 tons of coal or petrol).

*There are worries regarding the nuclear energy, raised mainly due to its bad start as a weapon and also because of the wide media coverage to its accidents. In fact neutral analysts consider the worries of nuclear energy should be much less than the worries of other dangers faced as during the transportation and natural catastrophes and others.

Different goals for the nuclear power plants:

1. Electricity Production for all industrial, agricultural, houses, tourism, street lighting, villages, new towns and others purposes

2. Sea water desalination and production of clean water for houses and agriculture

3. Steam production for industry as cement and fertilizer and others

4. Hot water production for heating in houses, farms and others.

 

 

 * Factories of uranium enrichment and fuel reprocessing of spent fuel for plutonium production are the most sensitive facilities for its capabilities to produce nuclear material for atomic bombs.

 

Components of Nuclear Fuel Cycle in the Arab World:

1. Availability of nuclear fuel ore (Uranium, Thorium) at a number of Arab countries, exploitation from mines and processing to get the yellow cake:

Uranium ore found in a number of Arab countries including Jordan, Algeria, Egypt and Iraq. Discovered in particular in large amounts in the central region of Jordan about 100 thousand tons, could be extracted for less than $ 130 / kg costs (according to the Red Book of the Agency for International Atomic Energy). This amount can supply nuclear fuel for more than 10 power reactors each of 1000 MW for 60 years (minimum age of new reactors). If this ore is sold in the market it may get from 10 to 30 billion dollars. Also thorium is present in large quantities in some Arab countries, especially Egypt..

Extracting uranium ore and yellowcake production had begun at limited level in Egypt, Jordan and is expected to increase soon.

 

Figure 2: Nuclear materials ore (uranium and Thorium) and yellow cake in the Arab world

2. Uranium Enrichment:

There are no factories or active facilities of this regard in the entire Arabic World, though neighboring countries e.g. Pakistan, Iran and mostly Israel have such activities.

It would be wise for the sensitivity of this activity to postpone it to the future after the start of the use of nuclear energy from nuclear power reactors due to the availability of enriched uranium sources at different countries in the east and west.

 

3. Fabrication of Nuclear Fuel:

There are a number of theoretical and experimental researches in this field at different number of Arab countries, e.g. in Egypt, Iraq (past), Algeria, and Libya. But the nuclear fuel factory in Inshass for its second research reactor (from Argentine) could be considered the only fuel fabrication plant in the Arabic world. It might be expected following the start of different nuclear power plants in the area to start this activity on commercial level.

 

 

4. Nuclear Research Reactors:

The first Arab nuclear research reactor was in Inshass, Egypt started operation in 1961. Currently there are 9 nuclear research reactors in the Arab world (Egypt, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Syria and recently in Jordan). There were 3 other reactors in Iraq destroyed by the Israeli and American in 1982 and 1991. There are also a number of subcritical assemblies. The main purposes of these research facilities are education, training, researches, radioisotope production and others.

  

The most recent research reactor in the Arab world is the JRTR reactor in north Jordan for researches and training. It has a power of 5 MW thermal which may increase to 10 MW in future. The reactor is similar to the Korean reactor Honaro of 30 MW and also the Canadian reactor Maple of 10 MW. The JRTR reaches its first criticality in 25 April 2016.

 

The new Jordanian research reactor JRTR for researches and training


 

5. Nuclear Power Reactors

A. In the World:

Currently there are 450 operating power reactors in 31 countries (none in Arabic countries) in addition to 60 power reactors under construction in 15 countries (including 4 in the UAE) and 106 power reactors planned in 13 countries.

 

 

B. Nuclear Power Reactors in the Arab World and the Middle East:

Currently, there is no power reactors in operation in the Arab World, but expected to have the first one in the UAE in few months of Korean design (Kepco company) in Baraka site with 1400 MW power, in addition to other 3 reactors of same power to operate by 2020. Egypt contracted also with the Russia company Roseatom to build 4 power reactors at Aldabaa site on the Mediterranean each of 1200 MW power. It is expected the start of site construction in 2017 and the first Egyptian nuclear power reactor to start operation in 2023 and the last in 2026. Also Jordan had a preliminary contract with Roseatom (Russia) for the construction of two power reactors of 1000 MW each, to be build in Alamra site (North Jordan). When the site license is finally approved, the first reactor could start operation in 2026. Other plans in the future for nuclear power reactors are in Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Morocco and Sudan.

 

 Arab Industry Capabilities in sharing the construction of Nuclear Power Reactors:

 

Several Arabic countries have developed industry including heavy, construction, electronic and other industrial types. It can be further developed with cooperation of foreign experts to reach advanced levels of nuclear industry and the manufacture of different components of nuclear power plants whether for electricity or desalination. For example, the current factories for pressure vessels and steam generators, the pressurizers, the pipes, the turbines, the desalination components and others.

The Egyptian experience in the manufacture of the first Arabic reactor model for a small 50 MW reactor for electricity and desalination particularly in the desert areas which form over 90% of Arabic World, worth for further development.

 

Small Nuclear Power Reactors in desert areas:

In 2013 and with the help of B.Sc. students at the nuclear engineering department of Alexandria University and a national Egyptian factory, it was possible to design and manufacture the first real Egyptian / Arabic power reactor model of 1 MW while replacing the uranium fuel by similar steel dummy. The design of this model was upgraded to reach the design of the small power reactor ALEX-50 with power of 50 MW electrical. This reactor can be installed in desert areas (as it does not require large quantity for water cooling). In addition to electricity generation, the reactor can be used for desalination and serves a society of over 100 thousands families. This project is still waiting the moral and financial support.

Recently Saudi Arabia contracted with the Korean Research Center to study the possibility to build two small power reactors of type SMART each of power 100 MW electrical. This type has never been built in any country and requires highly developed technology.

6. Storage of Spent Fuel:

The storage of spent fuel in the world are classified to three types:

- Under water in water pools

- Above ground in cylindrical containers well shielded for heat and radiation

- Deep underground in isolated concrete rooms

Currently all spent fuel from Arabic reactors is stored using the first method.

7. Storage of Nuclear Wastes

The permanent storage of nuclear wastes depends on the degree of its radiation; either Low or Medium or High level. Permanent storage for high radioactive waste does not exist in the Arab world but there are storage for low and medium radioactive wastes, using either barrels on the ground or in isolated rooms under the ground.

8. Reprocessing plants of spent fuel and the Plutonium separation:

These plants require high level of technology and radiation shielding to treat large number of spent fuel units of different power reactors. In particular, its design should handle the poisoning Plutonium and the remaining fission products of very high radiation level. This material should has particular treatment by mixing it with glass to reduce its radiation level and inability to diffuse in case finally stored deep underground.

Reprocessing plants are present in a limited number of developed countries as well as some developing countries (e.g. India, Israel and North Korea), which was able to use this extracted plutonium to manufacture atomic bombs.

Reprocessing plants do not exist or expected to exist in future in any of the Arabic countries, although there were some old experience in hot labs in Egypt, Algeria and Iraq.

In spite of the high sensitivity of these plants, reprocessing reduces significantly the high radioactive wastes and recycle 97% of nuclear fuel by manufacture a new fuel mix of both Plutonium and Uranium (called MOX fuel) for nuclear power reactors.

 

The Iranian Nuclear Fuel Cycle:

The self Iranian experience with cooperation at the beginning with some illegal organizations helped in possessing most nuclear fuel cycle facilities. This experience deserves investigation. Iran has mines for uranium ore (though limited in reserve) and plants for uranium processing and conversion to yellow cake. Iran has three plants for uranium enrichment to different degrees up to 20%, though is able to reach higher enrichment levels.

Iran also has plants for fabrication of nuclear fuel whether for Bushehr reactor fuel or Tehran research reactor or Arak research reactor. . Iran also has a number of research reactors and a Russian power reactor of 1000 MW at Bushehr operating since 2012.

Although Iran does not have reprocessing plants for plutonium separation, it has practical laboratory experience for plutonium separation in its hot cells which give Iran the experience for this important activity. Iran also has a site for storing nuclear wastes.

Although the last nuclear agreement signed by Iran and the 5 + 1 States in 2015 had limiting several Iranian nuclear activities for periods exceeding 10 years, there are different nuclear activities are still on-going. Iran contracted with Russia to construct two new power reactors similar to the one at Bushehr at the same site. Their construction is expected to start next year.

 

 

Safety and Security of Nuclear Facilities, particularly Reactors

The design of nuclear facilities, particularly the reactors, should guarantee its protection from possible terroristic attacks or planned attacks or even accidental events. The selection of their sites far from high population areas and also far from regions of political conflicts.

The selection of the thickness and type of the reactor containment should guarantee the inability of its penetration whether this happened as a collision of huge airplane or missile of 400 tons with a speed of 200 m/second or explosives.

The design of control systems of reactor operation should not permit any human error whether due to terror action or by mistake (as Chernobyl accident).

The design of reactor computers should not permit any virus or cyber attack.

The design of the reactor plant should include at least three strong security fences to prevent any person or terroristic groups to penetrate to reach the reactor. Security system should be automatic and not controlled by a single staff.

The design of the new nuclear facilities should guarantee the highest technical degrees for safety, site safety and its impact on the environment whether during routine operation or in case of accidents.

Currently, some Arabic countries signed (or plan to sign) contracts to construct nuclear power reactors. These countries are looking to two types of Pressurized light water reactors, mainly the highest in technology of safety (generation three plus). These two types are:

The APR-1400 of Korea (Kepco) and the wwer-1000/1200 of Russia (Roseatom).

The Russian reactor wwer-1000/1200 has additional safety advantages as it uses 8 Reciprocal safety systems which include two new systems, mainly a large water tank on top of the reactor containment for cooling with no need for pumps or electricity. Also it has at the bottom of the reactor vessel a ceramic storage capable of holding the molten fuel core in case of sever accident.

Advantages of the Russian reactor wwer-1000/1200:

It is an upgraded version of the old wwer-1000 ( developed from generation two to generation three plus). Today there are 44 reactors of 1000 MW of this type and one with 1200 MW. The number of reactors of both power levels (1000 and 1200) which are in operation or under construction or contracted are 95 reactors in 15 countries (Russia - Ukraine - China - India - Bulgaria - Zech republic - Iran - Belarusian - Vietnam - Turkey - Finland - Jordan - Argentine - Egypt - Hungary).

Egypt has contracted with Roseatom to construct 4 power reactor units of the type wwer-1200 at Aldabaa site. This type has 40 units in the world, two in operation in Russia and 8 under-construction in Russia, and Belarusia. 30 others are close to start construction at Russia, Turkey, Finland, Argentine, Egypt, and Hungary. The first two units started criticality tests and close to be connected commercially to the grade are Novovorich-2 (2016) and Liningrade-2 (2017).

Allover tens of years of the operation of this type of reactors, no accident nor important radiation leakage happened. Many additional safety features added to this design following the accidents of Chernobyl and Fukushima reactors.

 Specifications of safety measures of the wwer-1000/1200 reactors:

- Designed to resist an earth quack of degree 8-9 Richter or a gravity from 0.24g to 0.3g

- Designed to resist a Tsunami (high sea waves), storms and large floods

- Designed to resist an aerial collision (as airplanes, rockets, explosives) with a projectile of 400 tons and speed of 200 meter/second

- Designed with an external double containment. The inner one is made of pre-stressed concrete and lined with stainless steel while the external one is made of special heavy concrete. The total thickness of the containment is several meters. The containment can neither be penetrated nor burnt.

- The design of the control and operation systems of the reactor cannot permit human errors whether by intention or not (e.g. Chernobyl accident)

- The design of the reactor computers cannot permit any virus or cyber attack

- The efficiency of this type of reactors is the highest in the world (37.5%). This cause limited thermal heat production (i.e. the 1200 electrical MW generated from only 3200 thermal MW, while for the Korean reactor APR-1400 electrical MW is produced from 4000 thermal MW, i.e. of efficiency 35%. This lower thermal heat for the Russian reactor enable to cool the reactor more easy, particularly in case of accidents.

- In case of the worth accident that can happened to the reactor (complete loss of the cooling system), the Russian reactor has the following superior safety systems:

* Emergency cooling systems allow the removal of reactor accidental heat within 24 hours

* Every emergency system is repeated entirely at least four times and has negative systems (does need electricity to operate e.g. operates by gravity as the water stored in large tank on top of reactor containment) and has positive systems

* Drop immediately the control rods in the reactor core to stop fissions

* Has several redundant systems for emergency electrical supply (to avoid what happened in Fukushima)

* Emergency Diesel Generators are designed to be located in well closed isolated rooms at elevated levels (to avoid what happened in Fukushima). Each reactor has two separate Diesel units i.e. 8 emergency units for the 4 reactors

A large amount of cold water is stored in a large tank on top of the reactor containment that drop by gravity in case of emergency

The reactor has a negative temperature coefficient that in case of increase the fuel temperature, the nuclear fission would decrease and cause the automatic self shutdown of the reactor (contrary to Chernobyl reactor).

The WWER-1000/1200 is characterized by the presence of several layers of protection of fuel radiation started by:

1. Fuel Pellets

2. Fuel cladding (of Zirconium alloy)

3. Thermal Shield of Stainless steel

4. Reactor Pressure vessel of thick steel ( more than 200 mm thickness) to withstand over 160 atm pressure 

5. Thick Reactor Biological shield of heavy concrete 

6. Missile shield above the reactor for protection against missiles

7. Stainless steel blanket of the inner reactor containment  and

8. Inner reactor containment of pre-stressed heavy concrete

9. External reactor containment of special heavy concrete

10. Ceramic-concrete bottom vessel (core catcher) to hold the molten reactor core. This is a new design to prevent any leakage of molten fuel to the underground (China Syndrome case)

 

The reactor is designed with a sever accident probability (with core fuel melt) is one for each one million years of operation. 

The reactor is designed with minimum number of penetrations to the reactor vessel (e.g. measurement tubes at reactor vessel bottom as the case for the Korean APR-1400 reactor)

Safety surrounding zones are designed with radius of 0.8 km for the exclusion areas (forbidden to any human living) and 3 km for low population zone that can be immigrated in rhe worst case.

There are four redundant fire systems

There is a long stack for the distribution of the air from the inside the reactor containment

 

 

Security of Nuclear Facilities in particular the Nuclear Reactors

The design of nuclear facilities, particularly the reactors, should guarantee its protection from possible terroristic attacks or planned attacks or even accidental events. The selection of their sites far from high population areas and also far from regions of political conflicts.

The selection of the thickness and type of the reactor containment should guarantee the inability of its penetration whether this happened as a collision of huge airplane or missile of 400 tons with a speed of 200 m/second or explosives.

The design of control systems of reactor operation should not permit any human error whether due to terror action or by mistake (as Chernobyl accident).

The design of reactor computers should not permit any virus or cyber attack.

The design of the reactor plant should include at least three strong security fences to prevent any person or terroristic groups to penetrate to reach the reactor. Security system should be automatic and not controlled by a single staff.

 

References:

1. د. خالد طوقان كلمه الوفد الأردني في الدوره الستين للمؤتمر العام للوكاله الدوليه للطاقه الذريه في فيينا في 28 اكتوبر 2016

 [https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/16/09/jordan2016.pdf]      

2. Y.Abushady, " Small Power Reactors For Electricity and Water Desalination in Desert Areas", Gulf Research Conference (GRC), 16-18 August 2016, Cambridge, UK.                            

[http://gulfresearchmeeting.net/index.php?pgid=NzU=&year=2016&day=1]                                     

3. Mohamed Shaker, “Nuclear Power in the Arab world & the Regionalization of the nuclear fuel cycle:an Egyptian perspective”, Daedalus, USA, Winter 2010.                                                                                                                   [http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/daed.2010.139.1.93]

4. Y.Abushady, "Building-Up the Non-Proliferation Nuclear Trust in the Middle East",  IAEA- Safeguards Symposium, 20-24 October 2014, Proceeding S16-07, page 234, Vienna.

                                    [https://www.iaea.org/safeguards/symposium/2014/home/eproceedings/sg2014-slides/000341.pdf]

 5 د.يسري أبوشادي "اتفاق البرنامج النووي الايراني - قراءه تحليليه للايجابيات والسلبيات لكل طرف" , مجله اوراق, المجلس المصري للشئون الخارجيه, ورقه 18, ديسمبر 2013, القاهره.  

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