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Showing posts from September, 2006

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power – Rounds Six, Seven and Eight

We’re going to speed things up in this post and hit the next three chapters. The main reason is because chapters 7 and 8 deal primarily with nuclear weapons, and since NEI is the policy organization of the commercial nuclear energy and technologies industry, I would like to stay focused on nuclear power.

Chapter 6 – Generation IV Nuclear Reactors

Other than the cynical tone throughout this chapter, nothing really stuck out for me to comment on. Dr. Caldicott did cite David Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists as saying (p. 127):

It is inappropriate for the industry to talk about Generation IV reactors when neither the United States nor the rest of the world has a Generation I high-level waste disposal site.That’s a good point. We should be focusing on what we are going to do with the used fuel. And that’s what NEI has been doing. Over the past month there has been much activity with Congress, such as hearings and legislation, to support the safe disposal of used fuel.

The great…

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power – Rounds Four and Five

Since we are only on chapter four out of 10 chapters I’m going to speed things up and do two chapters for each post.

Chapter 4 – Accidental and Terrorist-Induced Meltdowns

Caldicott, p. 83:
In a thirteen month period from March 7, 2000, to April 2, 2001, eight nuclear power plants were forced to shut down because of potentially serious equipment failures associated with aging of their mechanical parts – one shut down on average every sixty days. The NRC aging-management programs are thus failing to head off the equipment failures these programs are designed to prevent.I don’t know about “potentially serious” but nuclear plants shut down quite frequently. Actually, more than every 60 days. If you ever follow my Energy Markets Reports (PDF) you can find a table on page 3 of the power status of each reactor during each day of the week. About once every week or two a reactor will scram automatically or the operators will decide to take a reactor down for maintenance. Most of the time, reacto…

Postcards from a Nuclear-Free Zone, Part 2

As I was looking through my notes from Helen Caldicott's book-signing last night, I remembered how many times she said the nuclear industry tells lies. She said, "In science, you can't lie" and "You can't use propaganda when it comes to people's health."

I agree wholeheartedly, which is why her book and last night's event stun me so.

One of the things that shocked me was her assertion that an incident in Sweden this past summer was "two minutes from meltdown."

That is patently untrue. As explained in the post linked above, two of the four emergency diesel generators failed to start automatically and had to be started manually after the unit was disconnected from the grid. Similar to U.S. designs, each generator is capable of providing at least 50 percent of the power to run the usual safety systems. And this is in addition to the other redundant safety systems that, when all else fails, can prevent the core from damage.

Through my activiti…

Postcards from a Nuclear-Free Zone, Part 1

David Bradish and I attended Helen Caldicott's book signing last night in Washington, DC at Busboys and Poets (I'm not Zagat, but I liked the place; good food, nice space, decent red wine).

There were a little over 30 people there and the event was co-sponsored by NIRS and the Nuclear-Free Takoma Park Committee.

The event began with an introduction by Linda Gunter of NIRS. She asked for donations for NIRS because they are there to help "you and people around the world" end nuclear power. She said that despite the propaganda their side is winning. She also mentioned that she was proud to be in Nuclear-Free Takoma Park. A lovely woman that I spoke to after the event pointed out to a person on that Committee that they really aren't nuclear free if they have smoke detectors, lighted exit signs and the like. The fellow from the Committee said, "Yes, we aren't unreasonable about it." Well, that's good to know!

In introducing Helen Caldicott, Gunter said …

NEI Nuclear Performance Report (August 2006)

Here's a summary of U.S. nuclear plant performances last month:
For August 2006, NEI estimates the average net capacity factor reached 97.8 percent. This figure is 0.4 percentage points higher than the same one month period in 2005. NEI estimates monthly nuclear generation at 72.2 billion kilowatt-hours for August 2006 compared to 71.6 BkWh for the same one month period in 2005.For 2006, NEI estimates year to date nuclear generation at 532.0 billion kilowatt-hours compared to 520.3 BkWh in 2005 (2.2 percent increase).For the report click here (pdf). It is also located on NEI's Nuclear Statistics webpage.

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Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power – Round Three

Chapter 3 – Nuclear Power, Radiation and Disease

This chapter appears to be where Dr. Caldicott spent the most time writing her book. Caldicott, p. 39: Routine and accidental radioactive releases at nuclear power plants as well as the inevitable leakage of radioactive waste will contaminate water and food chains and expose humans and animals now and for generations to come.What do you mean “inevitable leakage”? I wonder if she’s aware that in Gabon, West Africa, a natural nuclear reaction occurred 2 billion years ago in which all the radioactive waste was contained. And that's with a nuclear reaction. It's more evidence that nature and humans will be able to contain and store waste for thousands of years.

Caldicott, p. 44: However, no dose of radiation is safe, and all radiation is cumulative.A great basic understanding of radiation can be found in Dr. Max Carbon's book, "Nuclear Power: Villain or Victim?" On page 29, you can read that: radiation doses in the range…

Domenici Introduces Yucca Mountain Bill

Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) today introduced legislation designed to enhance the management and disposal of used nuclear fuel from commercial nuclear power plants and high-level radioactive waste from U.S. defense programs at a geologic repository planned for Yucca Mountain, Nev.

According to handouts at a press briefing Domenici held this morning, the bill:
authorizes the Department of Energy to permanently withdraw 147,000 acres for purposes related to used fuel storage, in addition to land required for rail transportationrepeals the 70,000-metric-ton statutory limit on emplacement of radioactive material at Yucca Mountain (the capacity of the mountain should be determined by scientific and technical analysis)gives DOE authority to begin construction of infrastructure for the repository and surface storage facilities as soon as DOE completes an environmental impact statement that evaluates these activitiesrequires DOE to issue contracts for used fuel and high-level waste acceptance by…

EIA's Natural Gas and Oil Reserves' Annual Report

The Energy Information Administration recently released an Advance Summary of U.S. Crude Oil, Natural Gas, and Natural Gas Liquids Reserves - 2005 Annual Report (PDF). Here's are some highlights: Reserves additions replaced 164 percent of 2005 dry natural gas production as U.S. natural gas proved reserves increased for the seventh year in a row according to estimates released today by the Energy Information Administration. The 6 percent increase in 2005 was the largest annual increase in natural gas proved reserves since 1970.Reserves additions of crude oil replaced 122 percent of the 2005 production. Crude oil proved reserves went up in 2005 for the first time in 3 years, increasing by 2 percent. Two of the four largest U.S. oil-producing areas, Texas and California, reported increases in proved crude oil reserves in 2005 while the Gulf of Mexico Federal Offshore and Alaska reported declines.U.S. crude oil production declined in 2005 due to lower production in the Gulf of Mexico …

NEI Energy Markets Report (September 18th - 22nd)

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week: Electricity prices were again mostly decreasing throughout the country last week (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices continued to fall at the Henry Hub declining $.47 to $4.70/MMBtu (see page 4).Gas and oil futures dropped quite a bit for the winter months (see page 6) while uranium prices rose $.75 to $54/lb U3O8 according to UxC and remained at $53/lb U3O8 according to TradeTech (see page 7).Nuclear capacity availability was at 90% last week. Eight reactors were down for refueling and three were offline for maintenance (see pages 2&3).For the report click here (pdf). It is also located on NEI's Nuclear Statistics webpage. Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power – Round Two

Chapter Two – Paying for Nuclear Energy

Caldicott, p. 19: The nuclear industry myth says that nuclear power costs only 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour, whereas coal costs 2 cents and gas-fired power costs 5.7 cents.What I find irritating about this statement is that Dr. Caldicott didn't even source NEI for the numbers. These came from us, and if she’s going to dog us, we at least want the recognition. The numbers were the 2004 production costs found here (PDF, now includes 2005 figures, which the production costs of coal and gas have increased.)

On the same page, she cites a report from the New Economics Foundation that concluded “that the cost of nuclear power has been underestimated by almost a factor of three.” Here’s a previous blog done on the NEF report about a year ago.

Caldicott, p. 19: Indeed, the nuclear industry baldly provides false estimates of the financial cost of nuclear electricity, failing to account for the total nuclear fuel cycle, basing their numbers on incomplete d…

Cool Stuff for Nuclear Nerds

Since I'm not doing engineering work on a day-to-day basis anymore, sometimes I don't hear about what kind of cool research is going on. For instance, at MIT engineers are doing some fascinating work to improve the performance of PWRs.

First, they are playing around with fuel pellet design. They changed the shape of the fuel from solid cylinders to hollow tubes. This added surface area that allows water to flow inside and outside the pellets, increasing heat transfer. The new fuel turned out even better than Hejzlar dared hope. It proved to be easy to manufacture and capable of boosting the plant power output of PWRs by 50 percent.
They are also looking at improving the overall efficiency of the plant. Some of you may remember my tongue-in-cheek suggestion about improving on the efficiency of the thermodynamic cycle in a post last month.

Well, color me red and call me jolly--that's exactly what they are trying to do![Buongiorno's] laboratory works on nanofluids - base f…

Dr. Caldicott vs. Nuclear Power – Round One

During the course of this week I plan to tackle each chapter of Dr. Caldicott’s book and battle the claims made against the nuclear industry. I can probably predict who’s going to win round one, as it is an issue we have beaten to death on this blog and others. But let’s see what I come up with before we declare a winner.

Chapter 1 – The Energetic Costs of Nuclear Power

The first sentence of Chapter 1 starts with:
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the propaganda wing and trade group for the American nuclear industry, spends millions of dollars annually to engineer public opinion.Don’t we feel special? I guess we should take it as a compliment that we’re mentioned right off the bat because that means we’ve been doing our job of getting nuclear industry messages out to the public.

But according to the author, our clean-air messages are “fallacious and misleading.” If you can guess what the topic of the first chapter is, you’re probably right -- the lifecycle emissions of nuclear power. A…

Interesting Point...

Kristen Nelson at 20/20 Energy makes a good point, and Dr. Helen Caldicott should take notice as she tours the country with her new book, "Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer."

The Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that a person typically gets about 1 millirem of radiation for every thousand miles of jet travel. By that calculation, Dr. C. will pick up about 4 millirems on her book tour. (Even more if she has a layover someplace and spends time watching TV in the airport bar.)

The American Nuclear Society figures it out by hours in the air. ANS says she'll get about 0.5 millirems per hour in the air. Helen's flights should take at least 13 hours -- please don't keep her in a holding pattern -- so, by ANS's method, she's actually getting about 6.5 millirems.

ANS also adds another .002 millirems every time you go through airport security. Assuming that she's going to be flying in and out of eight or nine major cities, she'll pick up another .016 or so mil…

News from the North

The Ottawa Business Journal reports that ...
Ontario Power Generation has taken the first step toward construction of a new nuclear generating station at Darlington, east of Toronto.... by submitting an application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The next step is for the CNSC to complete an environmental review.

OPG's current energy portfolio is 41% nuclear and 30% hydro so that a whopping 71% of its electricity production is emission-free. The province as a whole is over 50% nuclear and 22% hydro.

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Nuclear Energy Industry Transitions

In anticipation of the separation of its gas and electric operations into two stand-alone companies, Duke Energy has named the future executive leadership team for its electric business. Effective Jan. 1, 2007, James Rogers, president CEO of Duke Energy, is expected to become chairman of the board as well. As previously announced, David Hauser will continue in his role as group executive and chief financial officer. In addition:Henry “Brew” Barron Jr., currently group vice president of nuclear generation and chief nuclear officer, will become group executive and chief nuclear officer.Bryan Dolan will be managing director of nuclear projects.Dhiaa Jamil will be group vice president of nuclear support.Ronald Jones will be group vice president of nuclear operations.Aon Corp. has named Scott Malchow vice president and head of investor relations. Malchow joins Aon Corp. from Andrew Corp., where he was director of investor relations.

Black & Veatch has appointed Paul Weida vice president…

Please Irradiate My Spinach

While we tend to focus here on commercial power, we shouldn't forget to mention other beneficial uses of nuclear science and technology. My colleague Todd Flowers recently wrote about food irradiation and the role it could play in preventing food-bourne illnesses related to bacteria like E.Coli in a letter-to-the-editor in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

For more information about food irradiation visit this page by the American Nuclear Society, this page from the Centers for Disease Control, and this page from the the USDA Food Safety Research Information Office. Here are a couple of quotes from that last link:Currently irradiation is the only known method to eliminate E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in raw meat. Irradiation also significantly reduces levels of other pathogenic organisms including Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, Campylobacter and the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondi on raw products. and Extensive studies have been performed by the World Health Organization (WHO), Foo…

“Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer”

I’m sure many of the readers of NEI Nuclear Notes already know what I’m going to discuss just by reading the title of this post. For those who don’t know, I plan to take time this week to bore in and give my thoughts on Helen Caldicott’s new book, “Nuclear Power Is Not the Answer.” This is great timing because she will be in D.C. this week for part of her book tour.

To start off her book, she acknowledged many of the usual anti-nuclear suspects. Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith are two whom we have discussed many times on this blog with regards to their lifecycle emissions analysis. David Lochbaum was cited many times throughout the book, as he has been critical of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear industry. Amory Lovins was all over this book with his solutions of using energy efficiency, renewables and decentralization. And of course, we can’t forget one of our favorite anti-nuclear critics who occasionally stirs up debate on this blog, Paul Gunter, of th…

Taking a Break ...

I'm going on vacation next week, so this will be my last post for about 10 days. I'm headed for North Carolina with my golf clubs.

In the meantime, Janice, David, Lisa and all of the guest bloggers will be able to take care of you. I'm interested to see what they come up with.

Go nukes! See you all again in October.

Progress Applies for Crystal River Uprate

Off the wire from Progress Energy:
Progress Energy Florida (PEF) has asked state regulators to approve increasing the output of the utility's Crystal River nuclear plant, a proposal that is expected to save billions of dollars for customers.

Increasing the plant's gross output from 900 megawatts (MW) to 1,080 MW will be enough to serve an additional 110,700 homes. (Based on approximately 615 homes per MW, the higher-output plant could serve about 664,200 homes.) Because nuclear energy is the most cost-effective way to generate electricity, the uprate is expected to save customers more than $2.6 billion in gross fuel costs through 2036.Technorati tags: , , , , , , , ,

Anti-Nukes on Patrol at Shearon Harris

NEI Energy Markets Report (September 11th - 15th)

Here's a summary of what went on in the energy markets last week:
Electricity prices were again decreasing throughout the country last week (see pages 1 & 2). Gas prices continued to fall at the Henry Hub declining $.21 to $5.17/MMBtu (see page 4).Electricity consumption is expected to increase by 0.9 percent in 2006 and by 1.2 percent in 2007. Electric power sector consumption of coal is projected to grow by a modest 0.3 percent in 2006, and then increase by another 2.0 percent in 2007. Barring extreme weather for the rest of the year, we expect the Henry Hub spot price to increase to an average of almost $10 per mcf by this January and then fall back to an average $7 per mcf by next summer. The Henry Hub price, which averaged $8.86 per mcf in 2005, is expected to average $7.51 per mcf in 2006 and $8.30 per mcf in 2007 (see page 8).For the report click here (pdf). It is also located on NEI's Nuclear Statistics webpage.

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IBEW Passes Pro-Nuclear Resolution

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) adopted a resolution in support of nuclear energy at its annual international convention Sept. 15.

The resolution (PDF) encourages “legislation that creates an integrated, environmentally sound, secure high-level radioactive waste system that ensures timely central storage, safe transportation and permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuels and nuclear byproducts.” The resolution also urged the siting, construction and operation of low-level radioactive waste facilities.

The IBEW also called on the federal government to continue to partner with private industry on research and development of “standardized advanced reactor designs which will improve safety, economy and performance to help meet increasing electricity demand.” Partnerships also should focus on providing the nuclear energy industry with a well-trained work force, the resolution said.

Finally, the IBEW supported regulatory reform to make the regulatory process “more obj…

CASEnergy's Whitman on E&E TV

On the latest edition of E&E TV's On Point, CASEnergy Coaltion co-Chair Christie Todd Whitman talks with Mary O'Driscoll about the work of the coalition and how expanding the use of nuclear energy can help boost energy diversity and security. Click here for a transcript.

To join the CASE Coalition, click here. Both individuals and organizations can become members.

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More Environmentalists For Nuclear Energy

If I had to come up with a short list of pro-nuclear blogs, I'm pretty sure TreeHugger wouldn't make the list. In general, I think it's safe to say that most of their contributors range from neutral to overtly hostile when it comes to the question of nuclear energy.

The readers, however, seem to be a different story. Because whenever somebody attacks nuclear energy, supporters of the technology manage to chime in and fight the good fight. Take a look at just a few of the comments that were inspired to respond to a post at TreeHugger on the recent UCS report:
This report seems to focus only on older plants. So what about the Third and Fourth Generation nuclear plants being developed to replace the old? And "Chernobyl Like Disaster"? Please spare me the scare tactics.

[ ... ]

This article seems designed to turn up the FUD factor on nuclear power. Read the PM (Popular Mechanics) articles on new reactor designs.

[ ... ]

AS I have posted here before nuclear is no more …

Duke Energy CEO: Nuclear Energy Headed for the Carolinas

Over and over again, we've heard nuclear critics say that any company that announced plans for new nuclear build would get clobbered by Wall Street. I wonder what those folks would have to say about this story:
North Carolina or South Carolina are the likely sites for the rebirth of nuclear power plants in the United States, Duke Energy Corp. (DUK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Chief Executive James Rogers said on Wednesday.

Rogers, speaking at a Bank of America investment conference in San Francisco, said in response to a question that if a new nuclear plant is built in the United States, "it will be in the South and it will be in the Carolinas."Short of an actual announcement that Duke is ordering components, I don't know what else you might want to hear. As always, the place to hang if you want to talk nuclear energy in the Carolinas is We Support Lee. For more discussion, check out The Liberty Lounge.

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Aussies to Gear Up Uranium Production

With massive Asian economies needing ever larger supplies of energy, Australia is getting ready to export more uranium.

I know I've mentioned this issue before, but I think it bears repeating: I sleep well at night knowing that one of America's closest allies -- and one with rock solid political stability -- holds the world's largest reserves of uranium. The map on the left displays just how extensive the Australian uranium industry really is. It's good news for America and it's good news for the world.

As always, to keep up with the latest developments on the Aussie nuclear industry, check in with Robert Merkel.

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A Look at Generation IV Reactors With Popular Mechanics

Detail from a Generation IV reactor.

Popular Mechanics -- which is rapidly proving to be a reliable source on technology issues in a world where plenty of folks seek to take advantage of technological illiteracy -- has just completed an excellent primer on Generation IV nuclear reactors. And if case you missed it, here's their latest podcast (MP3), where they deal with a bunch of nuclear energy issues. All good stuff. Thanks to our friends at NAM Blog for the pointer.

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Why Al Gore Downplays Nuclear Energy

Roger Pielke, Jr. has read Al Gore's latest speech on climate change, and thinks he knows why the former Vice President continually downplays the role nuclear energy could play in reducing future carbon emissions:
Gore'’s technological optimism on just about every other area of climate change policy does not square with his technological pessimism about nuclear power. My guess --– and it is only an uninformed guess -- is that Gore's views on nuclear power provide the strongest signal that he is positioning himself for a run at the Presidency in 2008. His views on nuclear power seem carefully crafted so as not to offend his base of political support. Otherwise, why wouldn'’t he call in grand fashion (as he has in every other area) for solving the problems of nuclear power that accompany its abundant carbon free energy? If we can freeze carbon dioxide levels we can sure keep nuclear material safe.Gary Jones builds on that thought over at Back40:
True, but far too gentle. L…

The New Reality of Reactor Safety

In response to the UCS report on reactor safety, A Musing Environment takes a closer look at what's really been happening when it comes to reactor safety:
An important theme in Jared Diamond’s Collapse is how often people won’t change behavior that gives status; the Easter Island example is cutting down trees for statues. There are many examples today, such as how and how often we drive and fly.

Another way we can get into trouble is by not changing our views with changing realities. Union of Concerned Scientists has just produced a report on the dangers of nuclear power. The report is new, but the data are mostly old, excepting for the Davis-Besse plant.There's more. Please read it right now.

POSTSCRIPT:I don't think the Jared Diamond reference is a conincidence.

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Wind Power Fails Test During California Heat Wave

The next time somebody tells you that we can replace nuclear energy with renewables, you might want to pass along this article from Energy Pulse by David Dixon of the Department of Energy. He took a look at the performance of California's 2,500 MWe of wind capacity during this Summer's heat wave.

The results? Well, I'll let Dixon tell you himself:
So what happened in California during the mid-July heat storm when that electric grid was put to the test, and California avoided rolling blackouts amid a Level 1 Emergency in which Californian’s were asked to raise their thermostats to 77 and many manufactures and business voluntarily shutdown? By most people’s analysis, wind’s performance was disappointing. Specifically during this period of peak demand, statewide wind often operated at only 5% of capacity, or less. The specific data is plotted in the attached graph. The upper line shows the peak daily electric demand as recorded by the California Independent System Operator, C…