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Showing posts from April, 2011

Weekly Update

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake launch page:
NEI Weekly Update on Fukushima Daiichi
Plant Status:
Priorities this week at Fukushima continued to be cooling the reactors and fuel pools, draining water from the turbine buildings and concrete structures that house piping to reduce radiation levels, and containing the spread of radioactive materials. Tokyo Electric Power Co. is increasing the amount of cooling water injected into reactor 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant as part of a plan to cover the fuel.TEPCO plans to build a storage and processing facility that can hold 70,000 tons of highly radioactive water at the plant. Overall, site radiation dose rates are stabilizing or decreasing. The most recent radiation readings reported at the plant site gates ranged from 4.8 millirem per hour to 2.2 millirem per hour. TEPCO has released a map showing radiation levels around the site, based on readings taken on different days since the incident began.TEPCO said this week that it will build a wall o…

Build From, Not Run From

U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce says the U.S. nuclear energy industry doesn't have technological problems — it has "political problems."The "United States developed the nuclear power field and then regulated it out of existence. We have built no new nuclear power plants in 30 years," Pearce said Wednesday, the first day of a two-day international nuclear energy conference in Hobbs.The Republican New Mexico congressman said nuclear power is essential to the nation's energy future, and suggested that the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan brought on by a devastating earthquake was an incident to build from, not run from.About right, though he really doesn’t like regulation.  "We should be analyzing exactly what went on, instead of saying 'no' to all nuclear," Pearce told the gathering, which is considering how to make nuclear energy a viable and essential piece of the world's energy portfolio.Saying no to nuclear energy squeezes a world hungry fo…

Exelon and Constellation Merge; E.ON; Japan

Here's the news, via World Nuclear News: Exelon and Constellation Energy have announced a $7.9 billion merger. Under the name Exelon, the resulting firm will be America's largest generator of nuclear power by an even greater margin. 

A definitive agreement posted today will see a stock-for-stock transaction combine the two companies. The new firm wants to take advantage of Exelon's large low-carbon generation fleet and Constellation's customer-facing business. The CEO's of the two company's, John Rowe of Exelon and Mayo Shattuck of Constellation, and Exelon's COO Chris Crane, held a press conference about this a little earlier today, so there'll be more on this later. 
Exelon is headquartered in Chicago and Constellation in Baltimore; the former has full or majority share in 17 nuclear reactors at 10 sites while Constellation Energy nuclear Group operates operates five reactors at three power stations - Maryland's Calvert Cliffs and New York'…

“This is a huge step for Iowa”

"This is a huge step for Iowa, and it is a huge step if we believe we want to grow the great state of Iowa," said Rep. Chuck Soderberg, R-Le Mars, chairman of the House's commerce committee and floor manager of the bill. "If Iowans, if businesses are expected to stay here, we need to provide them with power."A huge step? Well, it just may be:The Iowa House gave the go-ahead Tuesday to legislation that helps pave the way for a new nuclear power plant in IowaIt’s MidAmerican that wants to build a new nuclear plant – this legislation doesn’t mandate that occurring, it just allows MidAmerican to charge ratepayers a modest monthly fee to help pay for the construction. That may sound obnoxious. In fact, the story in the Sioux City Journal leaves objectivity to say so:Whether MidAmerican Energy will decide to build a plant is not a done deal, but its ratepayers would be on the hook to help cover the cost of nearly all facets of the pre-planning and construction of a …

On Vermont Yankee and States’ Rights

Over at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, Meredith Angwin who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee, makes the case for why the NRC has jurisdiction over nuclear plants:Watching the POP [Vermont Public Oversight Panel] at work, it was clear to me why the NRC has jurisdiction, and why nuclear regulation cannot be a state privilege. Nuclear energy cannot be regulated by a group of people who may be eager to please their legislative employers. There needs to be objective criteria, assessed by full-time experts, in order to keep a plant working well.Having the internal workings of the plant doubly-assessed, by a group of people chosen politically, could get in the way of plant operations. It could even possibly degrade safety. Part-time inspectors with political agendas? This is not the same as having the Occupational Safety and Health Administration come to the plant. Trained OSHA inspectors go to many industrial facilities.The NRC catches a lot of guff in the nuclear industry: The NRC is slow to act. The NRC…

Japan to Tennessee

Terrific article at Bloomberg that takes a first try at crafting a minute by minute account of what happened at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11. Full of interesting details I did not know, including this bit about the number of workers at the plant that day:The Fukushima Dai-Ichi station had 6,415 people on site that day. More than 5,500, like Matsumoto and Imamura, were subcontractors who reported to their clusters of offices in the plant for a head count.It’s a big plant, but that’s a gigantic number. Then, this, following the earthquake:After the head counts, thousands of subcontractors left to check if families were safe…Before the tsunami struck.Almost 1,500 town residents were killed or are listed as missing, out of a national toll exceeding 26,000.After the tsunami.I doubt Tepco knows for sure how many of its contractors were caught by the tsunami and the story doesn’t hazard a guess. Let’s hope all made it away safely.It’s a long, detailed story and worth reading complete. Sinc…

Video of Radiation Shield to go Over Chernobyl

In light of today’s quarter-century anniversary of the accident, below is a fascinating nine minute video by the French consortium Novarka showing how the “new safe confinement” will entomb Chernobyl unit 4 so it can “accommodate future dismantling of the object shelter.”For further discussions of the accident this anniversary, stop by to check out a few of the pro-nuclear pieces below. ANS Nuclear Cafe – Chernobyl: 25 Years Later by Joe Colvin (President of ANS and former president of NEI)Atomic Insights - “Chernobyl” – 25 years as a profitable brand by Rod AdamsTo add from NEI’s website, see our vintage 1997 source book on Soviet-designed nuclear plant operations. It’s a fat document but pretty interesting stuff.

The World and the Safety Agency

How’s the world coping?Turkey:Speaking about a trip to Ukraine last week to mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster and discuss nuclear security, Minister Taner Yıldız said: “Greenpeace members had a placard there, reading, ‘No to Chernobyl.’ I agree with that placard. Still, the correct one sign should have been, ‘No to Chernobyl, yes to Akkuyu.’”Akkuyu is the town where Turkey will build its first nuclear energy plant.Austria:Austria's environment minister [Nikolaus Berlakovich] says safety tests for European nuclear power plants must be mandatory and take into account the possibility of plane crashes or terror attacks.Austria has no plants of its own. I’d be surprised if European utilities haven’t taken these elements into account – American plants certainly have (see this page for answers on these and other myths about nuclear energy plants).Pakistan:International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Monday declared the nuclear program of Pakistan as safe and secure and ap…

No Fear Detected

The headline blares “Indiana fears future of nearby nukes,” then fails to find anyone in Indiana fearing those nearby nukes. There’s an anti-nuclear advocate:"They have no idea exactly what it's going to cost, how they will operate or respond," said Kerwin Olson, program director for the Citizens Action Coalition in Indianapolis. "What this bill does is says any and all costs of extending Cook beyond 40 years can be passed on to consumers."The subject of the story (and this quote) is pending legislation in Michigan implementing a variation of CWIP, Construction Work in Progress, which allows utilities to collect a fee from ratepayers while a new plant is under construction rather than after the plant is operational. In this instance, the fee will help extend the life of the Cook plant in Michigan (it sends electricity to Indiana.) But I don’t detect fear here – annoyance, maybe, no fear.(To be honest, I’m not sure why a surcharge would be used for this purpose…

Weekly Update on Fukushima Daiichi

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake update page. Of course, we’ll bring you information during the week, too, if something significant takes place at Fukushima.Plant Status:Tokyo Electric Power Co. released a roadmap to bring the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a stable condition.Priorities at Fukushima this week continue to be cooling the reactors and spent fuel pools, draining water from the turbine buildings and concrete structures that house piping to reduce radiation levels and containing the spread of radioactive materials. Overall, site radiation dose rates are stabilizing. The most recent radiation readings reported at the plant site gates ranged from 5.7 millirem per hour to 2.6 millirem per hour.Japan’s government has expanded evacuation to selected areas outside the original 12.5-mile zone. Authorities also are barring entry into nine municipalities near the plant.TEPCO released a presentation on April 18 summarizing the impact of the earthquake and the current status of the plants.Regu…

Renewables did not surpass nuclear in 2010

Cleantechnica has a post referencing a report (pdf) from the Worldwatch Institute that claims renewables (wind, solar and biomass) have surpassed nuclear energy. This is only true if we were to look at one metric: capacity additions (megawatts). A more important metric, however, is output (megawatt-hours). Here’s the Institute’s claim (page 4):In 2010, for the first time, worldwide cumulated installed capacity of wind turbines (193 gigawatts*), biomass and waste-to-energy plants (65 GW), and solar power (43 GW) reached 381 GW, outpacing the installed nuclear capacity of 375 GW prior to the Fukushima disaster.Good job for those technologies. They still have a long ways to go, however, to be able to match the same output as nuclear. Below is a chart showing the electric generation fuel shares worldwide from the International Energy Agency’s 2010 Key Stats report (pdf).Nuclear provided 13.5% of the world’s electricity in 2008 and renewables provided 2.8% (excluding hydro). The Other cate…

Italy, Poland (and Its Neighbor Germany), Exxon

Italy has decided to forestall any decision on proceeding with nuclear energy in the wake of Japan. But they need a plan:Italy currently gets 80 percent of its energy from fossil fuels and the remaining 20 percent from hydroelectric and renewable energy, according to data from power grid operator Terna SpA. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right coalition government had made nuclear energy part of a strategy to cut dependence on fossil fuels to 50 percent, reducing imports from abroad and cutting energy prices in the long term.And that’s something the country really needs to do:Italian companies paid twice as much for power in 2010 as their French counterparts, 40 percent more than the U.K. and 27 percent more than German rivals, according to Eurostat, the region’s official provider of statistics.And all those countries do that with nuclear energy – well, Germany for now, anyway. The Italian government isn’t particularly well known for getting things done, but the drive towa…

Thursday Update

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake launch page:UPDATE AS OF 11 A.M. EDT, THURSDAY, APRIL 21:
As workers continue to pump cooling water into the reactors and used fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, they also continue to deal with contaminated water at the site.A particular problem has been the leakage of highly radioactive water on the turbine building side of reactor 2. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) workers this week completed injecting liquid glass and cement-based grout to seal a concrete enclosure outside the building. They also installed iron plates at the screen room of reactor 2 and silt fences in front of the screen rooms of reactors 1-4. TEPCO is placing sandbags in strategic locations around the site.Workers also continued to pump water out of the reactor 2 turbine building into a tank at the on-site waste processing facility. This is a slow-moving process estimated to take 26 days. In all, TEPCO estimates that 67,500 tons of radioactive water has accum…

ANS Nuclear Cafe - “Why is there irrational fear of radiation?”

A number of folks at the Cafe have contributed thoughts on why the public fears radiation and nuclear energy. Much of the fear, they discuss, could be caused by the confusing number of different radiation units that are communicated in the media. Dan Yurman started it off:The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear reactor complex in Japan, caused by a record earthquake and equally record shattering tsunami, has created a maelstrom of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) when it comes to radiation measurements.For instance, the importance of distinctions between fast and slow decaying isotopes of iodine and cesium are sometimes lost on media and the public.Worse, the differences between accounting for the sheer amount of radiation and giving an assessment of the potential health effects of uncontrolled releases takes place using different sets of measurement units. Is it any wonder that mainstream news media editors get headaches when their reporters file stories about radiation?It hasn’t helpe…

Indian Point, Vermont Yankee, V.C. Summer

If you happen to live in New York's 26th Senate District, which contain the Indian Point nuclear plant and is represented by state Senator Liz Krueger, well, the senator would like to know what you think of the plant. She wants to close it, but to her credit, she does want to know what her constituents think. I would guess that a fair number of her constituents work at Indian Point or at one of the many businesses that benefit from its presence. Even constituents who have no connection to the plant might regret losing clean energy in favor of something other.

So go ahead. Tell Sen. Krueger what you think. She wants to know.
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The Christian Science Monitor has up an interesting story on what the effect may be of the lawsuit brought by Entergy - actually, two of its subsidiaries - against the state of Vermont. Naturally, this is all speculative, with the possibilities ranging from "nothing" to "a whole lot." Read the post a few below to see what the lawsuit is a…

Analysis of Replacing Japan’s Nuclear Plants With Other Technologies

Over at Forbes’ blog, Sara Mansur has dug into the numbers to see what it would take if nuclear were phased out in Japan:If nuclear power were to be completely taken out of Japan’s power supply, the country’s carbon emissions would rise by at least 414 million tons over current emissions [assuming nuclear is replaced by coal and gas]. Carbon emissions would increase by at least 10% and as much as 17% across the entire economy, while power-sector emissions would soar by 29% to 49%, depending on the mix of replacement power.What about renewables instead?the 203 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar capacity required to replace Japan’s current nuclear fleet would cover roughly 1.3 million acres, according to a land area calculator created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the United States. That’s the equivalent of roughly 52% of Japan’s total land area.Using an estimate of $5 per watt of installed solar PV capacity, installing this 203 GW of solar capacity would cost th…

A Certain Logic in Russia

There’s a certain logic here:Kiriyenko said the impact from the Fukushima plant disaster would not only increase safety concerns but also quicken demand for new reactors to replace the industry's ageing plants."There will be a need to build new plants more quickly to more swiftly replace previous-generation plants," he said.He added that Russia may speed the retirement of its older generation plants in the wake of Japan's nuclear accident.I can’t decide if what Kiriyenko is asking here is, essentially, why let Fukushima go to waste? If the accident there allows new plants to be built in Russia whether or not they are needed, that seems rather too cynical. Because the corollary would be to say that the older plants need replacing and that would be irresponsible. Maybe Kiriyenko is just musing out loud. He does say this:Russia has said it has no intention of curbing its drive for more nuclear power at home and for export.Russia here presumably being Kiriyenko. Russia …

Robots at Fukushima

What everyone’s been waiting for: Robots:A U.S.-made robot built for bomb disposal were set to make its way into a reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Sunday to find out whether conditions were safe enough for workers to begin badly needed measures to put the crippled plant under control.And it’s been busy with other duties, too.The robot, measuring 70 centimeters long and 53 centimeters wide, has already been used at the Fukushima plant to remove highly-radioactive rubble, that had resulted from the explosions at the reactor buildings.Made by iRobot, here is the product description for the 510 Packbot, the model being used in Japan:Modular, adaptable and expandable, 510 PackBot is a tactical mobile robot that performs multiple missions while keeping warfighters and first responders out of harm’s way. Bomb Disposal / EOD (IEDs / VBIEDs / UXO) Surveillance / Reconnaissance Checkpoints / Inspections / Explosives Detection Route Clearance Explosive Hazard Id…

NRC Chairman Jaczko Responds to Questions from EPW Chairman Boxer on Fukushima-Daiichi

On March 17, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asked for a thorough review and posed a number of questions to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on US nuclear power plants. Chairman Jaczko responded on April 8 (the pdf was posted on 4/15). Below are a few highlights from the letter:1. Please identify all U.S. nuclear facilities subject to significant seismic activity and/or tsunamis.Although we often think of the US as having "active" and non-active" earthquake zones, earthquakes can actually happen almost anywhere. Seismologists typically separate the US into low, moderate and high seismicity zones. The NRC requires that every nuclear plant be designed for site-specific ground motions that may be expected at their locations. In addition, the NRC has specified a minimum ground motion level to which all nuclear plants must be designed. The designation of the general type of seismic zone that may apply at any specific site is subject to i…

U.S. District Court to Decide Vermont Yankee’s Future

Entergy filed a complaint today with the U.S. District Court to seek “a judgment to prevent the state of Vermont from forcing the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to cease operation on March 21, 2012.” Looks like they have a solid case, though I’m not a lawyer so don’t quote me. Here’s one of the more notables lines from Entergy’s statement:“We have made every reasonable effort to accommodate the state of Vermont and its officials while allowing the continued operation of Vermont Yankee – an outcome that benefits all stakeholders, including Vermont consumers and the approximately 650 men and women who work at the plant,” said Richard Smith, president of Entergy Wholesale Commodities. “Despite the fact that Vermont Yankee is important to the reliability of the New England electric transmission grid, emits virtually no greenhouse gases, and provides more than $100 million in annual economic benefits to the state of Vermont, it has been made clear that state officials are singularly fo…

TEPCO’s Plans to Stabilize Fukushima-Daiichi

Yesterday, TEPCO released their plans on how to stabilize the plant in the short term. Below is a one-page overview of the plans (pdf).Nuclear Street has a good description of some of the main objectives:TEPCO said that after 3 months it expects radiation levels to decline at the plant, followed by cold shutdown in reactors 1 though 3 within six months. Also in that timeframe the company plans to cover units 1, 3 and 4 using a temporary “scaffolding” to minimize the escape of radioactive elements from damaged reactor buildings.In the near-term, TEPCO will strengthen the walls and base of the spent fuel tank in unit 4. Unit 2 will continue to be drained of irradiated water believed to contribute to some of the highest dose readings at the plant. Eventually, the company will flood the containment vessels of units 1 through 3, with unit 2 requiring additional work to seal its containment vessel beforehand.At TEPCO’s press release, you can find more links and descriptions of the plan. The…

UCS Science: How Many Cancers Did Airlines Really Cause?

There is a lot of confusion about how many excess cancer deaths will likely result from exposure to radiation at low-dose and low-dose-rates. As we see below, 79,000 and 40,000 are reasonable estimates of the number of excess cancers and cancer deaths attributable to the flying in the past decade.

I was inspired to investigate this subject after reading an article in the socialist magazine Monthly Review by Lisbeth Gronlund, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which was entitled "How Many Cancers Did Chernobyl Really Cause?" In this article, she uses the "best possible risk estimates for exposure to low-dose, low-LET radiation in human subjects," which was proposed by the BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) Committee of the National Academy of Sciences to estimate the number of additional cancers and cancer deaths (above the number of "naturally occurring" cancers) that could be attributed to the Chernobyl accident. It …

INL Director Discusses Lessons Learned from TMI, Fukushima

Idaho National Laboratory's Director John Grossenbacher explains how the U.S. nuclear industry has boosted its safety procedures as a result of the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident in 1979 and how the industry plans to use current events at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plants to further enhance safety.See a number of great video on all kinds of topics at the NEI Nuclear Network

Nuts in April – the German Energy Plan

With Germany aiming to shut down its nuclear energy plants by 2022, it needs replacement energy and quickly. Prime Minister Angela Merkel has put forward a 6-point plan to accomplish this. From Der Speigel:Expanding renewable energy. Investing in more wind, solar, and biomass energies will try to raise the renewable-energy share of Germany's total energy use -- from a baseline of 17 percent in 2010. Expanding grids and storage. Building a much larger storage and delivery network for electricity -- particularly wind energy, which can be generated in the north but must be carried to the south -- will be a main focus. Efficiency. The government hopes improve the heating efficiency of German buildings -- and reduce consumption -- by 20 percent over the next decade. "Flexible power." The government wants to build more "flexible" power plants that can pick up slack from wind or solar energy when the weather fails to generate enough electricity during peak demand. Th…

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake launch page:UPDATE AS OF 11 A.M. EDT, FRIDAY, APRIL 15:
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is continuing to manage the transfer of large amounts of contaminated water from basements and tunnels at Fukushima Daiichi as it works to restore the plant's cooling systems. On Friday TEPCO said the level of radioactive water was increasing in a tunnel at reactor 2 after an earlier drop. The company had on Wednesday finished transferring some 660 tons of water from the tunnel to a condenser in a turbine building, resulting in a drop of the water level in the tunnel by 8 centimeters. However, by Friday morning the level in the tunnel had returned to its previous level. TEPCO says there are at least 50,000 tons of contaminated water at the plant. It plans to use a waste-processing facility, makeshift storage tanks and a floating tank to store the radioactive water.TEPCO also reports that radiation levels of Iodine-131 and Cesium-134 in water in so-called sub-drain pi…

More on Level 7

About a week ago, the Japanese government rated the event at Fukushima Daiichi at level 7, the highest such level on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. This put it on par with the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in 1986 (then in the Soviet Union, now Ukraine.)For some commentators, that meant that Fukushima Daiichi is as serious as Chernobyl. For others, it qualified as a head scratcher, as the two events seem to have many points of departure. One quick way to find out which view is closer to the truth is to consult the scale itself. It was created and is maintained by the International Atomic Energy Agency. A brochure explaining it can be found here. From the introduction:The INES Scale is a worldwide tool for communicating to the public in a consistent way the safety significance of nuclear and radiological events.Just like information on earthquakes or temperature would be difficult to understand without the Richter or Celsius scales, the INES Scale ex…