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Showing posts from October, 2011

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:TEPCO Successfully Tests Cover for Fukushima Daiichi Reactor 1October 31, 2011Plant StatusTokyo Electric Power Co. reports that pilot tests of the ventilation system associated with the cover it has installed over Fukushima Daiichi reactor 1 showed the system successfully filtered more than 90 percent of the radioactive cesium released from the reactor. TEPCO is considering installing similar covers for reactors 3 and 4, both of which were damaged by hydrogen explosions following the March 11 accident.Industry/Regulatory/Political IssuesJapan’s environment ministry said it will store radioactive soil and waste for at least three years within Fukushima prefecture before it is moved out of the area for final disposal. The ministry said it hopes to build the temporary storage facilities by 2014.Media HighlightsThe Daily Yomiuri reports on the results of Kansai Electric’s first-stage stress test on its Ohi reactor 3 and on the uncertainties surrounding the timi…

Dreaming About a Repository

Last week, I sat in on a House hearing about the Blue Ribbon Commission’sdraft report. The hearing rapidly departed from the subject and veered to Yucca Mountain, which the commission was asked not to consider. None of the commission members were at the hearing – they want to wait until the release of the final report in January to talk about it.But here’s the thing. The commission’s draft report suggests final disposition of used fuel in a deep geologic repository – just like it-that-will-not-be-named. And interestingly, a kind of mirror image of the hearing occurred a few days later – again intended to be about the commission’s draft report but really about Yucca Mountain.Many who spoke Friday urged the commission to fight for Yucca Mountain, a proposed long-term nuclear waste storage site in Nevada that is on the verge of being rejected by the federal government.[State] Sen. John Howe said the commission – which took a neutral stance on Yucca Mountain in its report – should support…

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:First of Japanese Reactor Stress Test Results Sent to RegulatorOctober 28, 2011Industry/Regulatory/Political IssuesKansai Electric is to submit to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) the results of a “stress test” on reactor 3 of its Ohi plant in Fukui prefecture. The test consists of computer simulations to gauge whether a plant can withstand a major earthquake and tsunami. It is the first to be reported to NISA for consideration on restarting a shutdown reactor. Eighty percent of Japan’s nuclear energy facilities (44 out of 55) have been shut down for safety inspections since the March 11 earthquake.Japan’s health ministry said that as levels of radioactive contamination continue to fall, it will be ready to lower its radiation safety limits for food back to international standards as early as next April. After the March accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the government had provisionally set the acceptable limit at 500 millirem per year, five time…

Stakes Through the Heart

From Treehuggers’ Sarah Hodgson:"Every new nuclear plant licensed and built is a stake thru the heart of energy efficiency, offshore wind, solar, and other clean energy sources," said Susan [Corbett, the chair of the South Carolina Sierra Club.]A stake through the heart? Isn’t that what you do to the undead? In any event, Happy Halloween! (Yes, yes, it’s Monday, but the parties will be this weekend.)Oh, and you can buy the t-shirt here.---From the AP, about Florida Power & Light getting permission from its Public Service Commission to charge ratepayers a little more while pursuing new nuclear generation:The law is being challenged in federal court and legislation has been introduced to repeal it next year. A similar bill this year failed to get traction in the Legislature, which passed the cost recovery law in 2006 to encourage the expansion of nuclear power. Utilities otherwise would have to borrow the money, but many investors are reluctant to take a chance on nuclear …

Will Europe Struggle to Keep the Lights On?

A new study from consulting company Capgemini said that Europe may have trouble “keeping the lights on” this winter thanks to the nuclear phase-out in Germany. Following its reactor shutdowns, Germany began to import electricity from its neighbors, including more than 2,000 MW per day from France. During the winter electricity peak, France mainly imports electricity from Germany and this will no longer be possible in coming years. This represents a real threat to some countries “keeping the lights on” for winter 2011/2012 and future winters. The report sums it up well: without German nuclear generation, energy security is down, emissions are up. First, security. The Europeans better cozy up to the Russians because they will be more dependent on them than ever. In 2010, the EU imported 113 bcm of gas by pipeline from Russia, representing 33% of total gas imports. In 2030, gas flowing through Gazprom pipelines is expected to represent 50% of all European gas supplies.That’s right, 50 pe…

On The Discovery of Blinky in Argentina

Like a lot of folks, we've been seeing the reports out of Argentina that locals have caught a 3-eyed fish (leading to inevitable Simpsons comparison) in a lake adjacent to the Embalse nuclear power plant.

Here are just a couple of thoughts before the shots get mainstream media pickup:
While the photos in question might be interesting to those who get their science from a prime time cartoon, one would hope they would be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism.
If the photos are real, we need to keep in mind that while seeing examples of mutation can be unsettling, they're not uncommon and occur naturally all the time.
Drawing a connection between this fish and the power plant is more than a bit of a stretch. During normal operations, nuclear power plants are a source of clean and reliable, carbon free power. As even a source like Scientific American has noted, coal plants actually emit more radioactivity than nuclear power plants.

Incentivizing Energy

The American Security Project has put up an interesting podcast that asks whether recent events mark the end of the nuclear renaissance. Andrew Holland and Veronique Lee of ASP host Scott Peterson, NEI’s senior vice-president. Now, before you say, “Well, what’s he going to say?"  ASP aims to create rational debates about the issues it chooses to cover, so Peterson’s side of the discussion brings out a lot of useful datum that you may not know or have considered. You can’t really call it pro-nuclear per se because he sticks very close to facts and doesn’t editorialize much. For example, he points out that American facilities have faced a complete menu of natural disasters this year and came through them all without issue. That’s objectively true and worth hearing. Then the discussion moves on to Germany, Fukushima and issues of risk and risk management in the energy sphere. Well worth a listen.---The problem with nuclear energy is that it is so heavily subsidized by the federal go…

The Sun Rises on New Nuclear

Southern Co. has launched a new print advertising campaign to highlight some of the economic benefits the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant brings to the Georgia area.I particularly like the image--the sun rising on the construction site for Vogtle units 3 and 4. It sheds a hopeful light on a topic that I discussed in a blog post earlier this week: Is the Future Outlook for Nuclear Energy Bright?For the latest on construction at the site, see Southern Company’s website.

Entergy Rejects Reports SR-90 Found In Connecticut River Is From Vermont Yankee

Late on Friday afternoon, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko accusing Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, of being less than truthful when it came to emissions of Strontium-90 (Sr-90) from the plant. The following comes from the Associated Press: Rep. Edward Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, wrote Friday to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko to complain that a spokesman for the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant had made statements “at odds with the factual history of the plant,’’ and that the “NRC had not appropriately responded to concerns raised about this issue.’’ Markey’s letter came nearly three months after the incident in question. On Aug. 2, the Vermont Health Department announced that the radioactive isotope strontium-90 had been found in the flesh of small-mouth bass caught in the Connecticut River about 9 miles upstream from the reactor in Vernon. The plant is about three miles from the Massachus…

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:World Nuclear Operators Approve Post-Fukushima ActionsOctober 26, 2011Industry/Regulatory/Political IssuesThe general assembly of the World Association of Nuclear Operators approved a set of wide-ranging commitments to nuclear safety at the organization’s first major meeting after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. About 600 attended the Oct. 23-25 meeting in Shenzhen, China. Operators of nuclear energy facilities from around the world unanimously pledged support for recommendations developed by the WANO Post-Fukushima Commission. Conference delegates voted to expand the scope of WANO activitiesdevelop a worldwide integrated event response strategyimprove the organization’s credibility, including strengthening its peer review processimprove WANO’s visibilityimprove the quality of all WANO products and services.Yukiya Amano, the executive director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, gave the keynote speech at the WANO meeting in China. "Nucl…

Is the Future Outlook for Nuclear Energy Bright?

To every debate, there are two sides of the coin. How will nuclear energy stack up in a post-Fukushima world? Heads—nuclear energy will continue to prosper and become even safer despite potential regulatory hurdles that could befall the industry. Tails—Fukushima’s impact on the industry will force new nuclear energy production to come to a screeching halt.

David Crane, president and CEO of NRG Energy, believes that the future outlook for nuclear energy is “dim.”

The Hartford Business Journal writes:
America’s long-term energy future lies with both large- and small-scale solar and wind generation, especially solar, backed up by baseload and peaker power plants using a variety of fuels, Crane said. The bulk of that back-up fuel source was supposed to be nuclear power, he said, but after the Japanese nuclear disaster in March, the regulatory burdens make expanded nuclear nearly impossible. The Journal continues:
The problem with nuclear isn’t the typical not-in-my-backyard neighbors conc…

“We cannot keep the lights on without nuclear energy.”

From Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency:
"There will be, in the short term, a slowdown in some countries. But others like France, India or China [won't see] an impact on their [nuclear] programs," he says. A little more:
"For example, China and India are expanding by five to eight times their use of nuclear energy by 2020 or 2022. Brazil is expanding its nuclear-power program. South Africa is looking seriously to do so," he says. "All these large emerging countries, with large populations and development challenges, have to rely on nuclear energy. Lots more at the link. The article says the ElBaradei has political ambitions in his native Egypt, but I’ve read in various other places that his international profile might make that difficult because Egyptian voters might not think he is attuned to homeland issues. Well, we’ll see.
I make no bones about finding ElBaradei an altogether admirable figure. He gathered enough …

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

NRC Commissioners Adopt Near-Term Recommendations

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has directed its staff to implement seven safety recommendations from the NRC’s Fukushima task force. The recommendations are among 12 presented by the task force in July. NRC staff reviewed the task force’s July 12 report and selected the recommendations it believed most appropriate for immediate action. The recommendations cover issues including the loss of all electrical power at a reactor, reviews of seismic and flooding hazards, emergency equipment and plant staff training to manage severe accidents.A panel of the Japan Nuclear Safety Commission has issued a draft plan for determining emergency areas around the country’s nuclear energy facilities. The proposal calls for designating areas within three miles of a plant as zones that should be evacuated immediately in the event of an accident. People within 18 miles of a reactor wo…

Germany Counts Cost of Nuclear Shutdown

Nuclear energy. It’s expensive, right? That’s what a lot of our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace keep saying. Alright, then let’s shut down some plants and start saving money, right? Surely, just on a cost basis alone, it makes sense. To be fair, let’s replace the electrons generated using fission with a mix of (more expensive) renewables and (relatively cheaper) fossil fuels. We can use more domestic coal, maybe import some natural gas and use local renewables to drive down electricity prices. That should save ratepayers real money every month. But wait. Something quite similar is happening in Germany and electricity prices have gone up, not down [FT, subscription req’d. Original article: “Electricity Prices Jump in Europe,” March 15.]. Just after the Fukushima accident, as Germany announced it was shutting down several nuclear power plants, the FT reported: The cost of electricity in Germany, the European benchmark, immediately rose as utilities are likely…

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:


NRC Creates Long-Term Fukushima Steering Committee
October 19, 2011
Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has created a steering committee to oversee the longer-term review of lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident and implementation of recommendations from the agency’s near-term task force. Its responsibilities also include identifying additional steps for the NRC to take. Decontamination work has started in Fukushima City, a project that will clean 110,000 houses as well as public facilities and roads near schools by March 2013. Workers are cleaning roofs, removing topsoil and cutting down vegetation. Residents and volunteers have been asked to help in areas with lower radiation levels.Farmers in Nihonmatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture are shipping this year’s rice crop following confirmation that radiation levels are below the government limit. The city is about 40 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi n…

Mothers in Nuclear – Yes, They Do Exist

The Clean Energy Insight blog, which is the blog for the North American Young Generation in Nuclear, just published four stories from mothers who work in the nuclear industry. Being a mother and having any job is tough enough; working in the nuclear industry on top of it is, well, it makes for some good stories. Here’s one nugget from a mother who described the unique circumstances she found herself in when it came to breastfeeding:Issue #1: Getting a breastpump through security. Need I say more? The situation was usually comical, but one special day stands out in my mind. After what seemed like the hundredth time passing my breastpump through security, a well-meaning guard asked me to open the “mechanism.” The breastpump itself is sealed for sanitation and functional purposes, so opening the “mechanism” was a tall order. After a few minutes of trying to explain this to him, he was saved by a coworker who took over the search and muttered an apology to me without ever raising his eyes…

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:TEPCO, Government to Revise Timetable for Returning Evacuees October 17, 2011 Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues Tokyo Electric Power Co. expects to achieve a stable “cold shutdown condition” of reactors 1, 2 and 3 by the end of the year, a month earlier than originally planned, according to a revised“Roadmap Towards Restoration From the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi.” The report says TEPCO has brought the release of radioactive materials under control. NHK World reported that the revised timetable will allow the government to begin discussions on allowing evacuees to return to their homes.As of Oct. 13, TEPCO has decontaminated more than 128,000 cubic meters of highly radioactive cooling water at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. The company told Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency it expects to treat about 250,000 cubic meters by March. The decontamination and recycling efforts have been instrumental in the company’s being able to bring the temperat…

America Technology Gets Ready to Go Big Again with New Nuclear Projects

I hear it all the time lately.“What’s happening to American technology? Are we losing our edge?”No more space shuttle. Steve Jobs logging off for good. The next generation space telescope on the chopping block. So, it was with no small satisfaction last week that I listened into an NRC hearing on combined construction and operating license for new reactors at the V.C. Summer site in South Carolina. Perhaps the best bit was Stephen Byrne, executive vice president of South Carolina Electricity and Gas, explaining why a utility executive would opt to build a new nuclear power plant. “We choose nuclear over other energy alternatives for four main reasons. First, the need for baseload power. The new units will help meet state regulatory reserve margin requirements. Second, cost. Nuclear is competitive with other baseload options when evaluated over its 40-year design life. Third is fuel diversity, adding units 2 and 3 [at V.C. Summer] will increase the share of nuclear in our fuel portfoli…

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:IAEA Experts Conclude Japan's Decontamination Efforts Going WellOctober 14, 2011Industry/Regulatory/Political IssuesA visiting IAEA team of international radiation experts has submitted a report to Japan’s Environment Minister Goshi Hosono that generally commends the central and local governments for their decontamination efforts in areas surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi facility. The report advises the government to “avoid over-conservatism” in its remediation efforts and instead to “focus on those activities that bring best results in reducing radiation doses to the public.” The team also encourages authorities to clearly signpost areas under evacuation orders.Plant StatusTokyo Electric Power Co. conducted a drill at the Fukushima Daiichi facility Wednesday to determine if the plant could successfully recover from a magnitude 8 earthquake. TEPCO says the results of the exercise confirm that operators can restore water injection to reactors 1 through …

Nuclear Energy Is Go in Britain

The other day, we ran a bit noting that the British government issued a report that cleared the way for new nuclear build in the United Kingdom. I used it to make a larger point, but it is rather a point in itself. For one thing, it has led to a very substantial change of heart for the Liberal Democratic Energy Minister Chris Huhne.In the most pro-nuclear speech by a Cabinet minister for years, Mr. Huhne, who campaigned against nuclear power before taking office, told the Royal Society: ‘Nuclear energy has risks, but we face the greater risk of accelerating climate change if we do not embark on another generation of nuclear power. Time is running out. Nuclear can be a vital and affordable means of providing low-carbon electricity.”The British government is currently a coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The latter, which doesn’t quite line up with the American Democratic party (it’s a little further to the left by U.S. standards), but close enough, is very much …

Fluor Invests in NuScale

You know, it’s kind of sad that no one is willing to invest in nuclear energy anymore. Wait, what?NuScale Power celebrated the news of its company-saving $30 million investment from Fluor Corp. Thursday morning with a press conference in Washington, D.C.Fluor is a design, engineering and construction company involved with some 20 plants in the 70s and 80s, but it has not held interest in a nuclear energy company until now.Fluor, which has deep roots in the nuclear industry, is betting big on small-scale nuclear energy with its NuScale investment. "It's become a serious contender in the last decade or so," John Hopkins, [Fluor’s group president in charge of new ventures], said.And that brings us to NuScale, which had run into some dark days – maybe not as dark as, say, Solyndra, but dire enough:Earlier this year, the Securities Exchange Commission filed an action against NuScale's lead investor, The Michael Kenwood Group. The firm "misappropriated at least $53 mi…

60 Years of Energy Incentives – An Analysis of Federal Expenditures for Energy Development from 1950-2010

In 2008, NEI published a study based on an analysis by the Management Information Systems, Inc. that detailed the amount of subsidies that go to each energy source. The study has just been updated and now shows 60 years of energy incentives. Here’s the intro:With concern about the price and availability of energy increasing, public interest in the role of federal incentives in shaping today’s energy marketplace and future energy options has risen sharply. That interest has met with frustration in some quarters and half-truths in others because of the difficulty in developing a complete picture of the incentives that influence today’s energy options. The difficulty arises from the many forms of incentives, the variety of ways that they are funded, managed and monitored, and changes in the agencies responsible for administering them. It is no simple matter to identify incentives and track them through year-to-year changes in legislation and budgets over the 50-plus years that federal in…