Nuclear: Mickey Mouse energy solutionToday's big stories from the nuclear industry:

French nuclear sector re-thinks strategy after UAE setback

The French nuclear power sector is to re-focus its strategy, notably in Britain and the United States, after losing out to a South Korean consortium on a $US20.4 billion ($A22.99 billion) project in the United Arab Emirates. "The French team spent too much time getting itself together," Claude Gerant, the French presidential secretary general, told the newspaper Les Echos. The French group Areva, the world's largest producer of nuclear power, had joined forces with French energy heavyweights EDF, GDF-Suez, Total and Vinci to bid for a huge contract -- worth E14.11 billion ($A22.87 billion) -- to build four nuclear power plants in the United Arab Emirates. The contract was awarded on Sunday to the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). "The French sector is poorly coordinated and the problem needs to be addressed by the majority shareholder in Areva and EDF, that is, the state, through the voice of the government and if necessary the president of the republic," said Francois-Michel Gonnot, vice-chairman of the energy studies group in the National Assembly and a member of the ruling UMP party.

Areva eyes California's Central Valley for nuclear reactors

French nuclear power giant Areva SA is talking to a group of investors about putting one or two atomic power plants in California's Central Valley. Paris-based Areva said Tuesday it's signed a letter of intent with Fresno Nuclear Energy Group LLC, which it calls "a group of investors," about early work necessary to bring the company's advanced EPR technology to California. It's a long way from a letter of intent to building actual power stations - there are many technical, regulatory and political hurdles to clear, particularly in the United States, which is more leery of nuclear power than Areva's home nation of France, which generates about three-quarters of its power that way. But the new plant would be a big help, said William Ibbs, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He thinks the EPR, or competing technologies offered by General Electric or Korean competitors to Areva are worth the investment, despite the delays and cost overruns that often accompany huge projects like this.

Nuclear power plans in Africa, Middle East

Many countries in Africa and the Middle East have said they want to develop civilian nuclear programmes to meet rising power demand. Nuclear is seen by many as a long-term solution to high fuel costs and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the electricity generation sector. A fall in fossil fuel prices since summer 2008 has made nuclear power less attractive than it was when oil CLc1 was above $147 a barrel in July 2008. South Africa is the only country in the region with an operational nuclear power plant. Below are the nuclear aspirations of countries across Africa and the Middle East.

Radioactive isotope found at Nuclear Power Plant complex

Federal regulators say there is no danger to the public after a small amount of a radioactive isotope was discovered on the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Plant complex in Scriba. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says Tritium was discovered in a sump near the reactor building. The sump is used to keep groundwater away from the building. An NRC spokesman tells us the isotope most likely came from inside the plant, at a level far below what is allowed in drinking water. The NRC is continuing to monitor the situation, and says the current level of the isotope poses no health risk.

Iran 'close to deal' for Kazakh uranium

Iran is said to be close to an agreement to buy more than 1,300 tons of uranium ore from Kazakhstan, a move that would allow the country to pursue its nuclear programme without conditions imposed in a UN-brokered uranium-for-fuel swap. The deal, thought to be worth about $450m (Ł280m) for Kazakhstan, could yield nuclear fuel to keep Iran's medical and research reactors churning, and, western countries fear, further its nuclear weapons programme. The transfer of purified uranium was reported by the Associated Press, which cited a report produced by an unnamed member state of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "The price is high because of the secret nature of the deal and due to Iran's commitment to keep secret the elements supplying the material," a two-page summary of an intelligence report said. An official of the country which drew up the report said "elements" refers to rogue officials in the Kazakh government brokering the deal.

Speculative Design For Freitas Nuclear Nanobot to Replace Food

Michael Anissimov, at Accelerating Future, nuclear powered nanorobots for replacing food. http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/2009/12/wfs-update-robert-freitas-on-how-nuclear-powered-nanobots-will-allow-us-to-forgo-eating-a-square-meal-for-a-century/ Here's how these would work: the only reason people eat is to replace the energy they expend walking around, breathing, living life, etc. Like all creatures, we take energy stored in plant or animal matter. Freitas points out that the isotope gadolinium-148 could provide much of the fuel the body needs. But a person can't just eat a radioactive chemical and hope to be healthy, instead he or she would ingest the gadolinium in the form of nanorobots. The gadolinium-powered robots would make sure that the person's body was absorbing the energy safely and consistently. Freitas says the person might still have to take some vitamin or protein supplements but because gadolinium has a half life of 75 years, the person might be able to go for a century or longer without a square meal.

The Middle East's Interrupted Atomic Dreams

As oil prices drop, nuclear power is becoming less attractive in the region. So why is Iran still hanging on to its program? In light of Iran's rapidly accelerating nuclear program, more than a dozen states in the Middle East have also announced their intention to develop nuclear energy programs. The trend has caused much anxiety among members of the global community. It has sparked concerns about the spread of nuclear technology that could contribute to nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East, intensify arms races in the region among all classes of weapons, and become a target for terrorist activity. On this site, Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, wrote about the United Arab Emirates (UAE): "After they have developed nuclear technologies, trained nuclear scientists and engineers, and plugged into global nuclear markets, will they go one step further and build uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing plants that could be used to make fuel -- or bombs?"