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Showing posts from April, 2012

Japan and the Impact of No Nuclear Power

It’s not hard to understand the reason why:Kansai Electric Power said it incurred a net loss of 242.26 billion yen ($3 billion) turning around from a year-before profit of 123.14 billion yen.This is in Japan. I mentioned last week that a nuclear plant can be very expensive to build but very inexpensive to run – both in absolute terms and relative to other power plants. That can make them quite profitable over time. But if Kansai and other electricity providers in Japan – Tepco is the one that owns Fukushima Daiichi – switch off the plants and begin depending on electricity imports or coal imports to fire up older plants, this is the result.“Operating costs surged from the year before with the lower utilization rate of nuclear power plants and higher fuel prices pushing up costs of thermal power generation and of electricity purchases from other companies," it [Kansai] said.How are the other electric companies doing?Hokkaido Electric Power, which until it flicks the switch on May …

TVA Building Watts Bar 2 and Building Up the Tennessee Valley

Here’s some good news:The Tennessee Valley Authority board in the US has approved continuing with construction of the second generating unit at Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant located on the Tennessee River near Spring City following a revised estimate.The estimate presented to TVA in early April, revealed the project requires an additional $1.5bn to $2bn to complete, bringing the total cost to complete the unit at nearly $4.5bn, with the most likely estimate of $4.2bn.Now, it may seem counterintuitive to splash out that kind of money – one might call it the fixed cost issue. The fixed cost of building a large industrial plant – much less a nuclear facility – is fantastically high, at least if one is trying to raise the money for it in a fairly short time. But the variable costs of running the plant are relatively low. If the plant runs for 40 years – as the current generation has done – and then goes another 20 years – then that plant cost can generate electricity quite economically ev…

Governor Whitman Answers Greenpeace

A few days ago, we wrote about big tech companies moving their data centers to nuclear friendly states and getting some grief for it for not being “green” enough. I take no credit for the following, but it’s nice not to be talking in a vacuum.This a letter to the editor of the New York Times commenting on the same topic (same article actually):“Report Faults Online Services Over Reliance on Coal and Nuclear Power” (Business Day, April 18) discusses a Greenpeace report suggesting that emissions-free nuclear power and coal constitute “dirty energy.” It’s true that by opening up new data centers in states like North Carolina, Virginia and Illinois, major Internet companies are using more nuclear energy — and at affordable prices. What’s untrue and insinuated in both your article and the Greenpeace report is that this reliance on nuclear somehow sullies a company’s environmental reputation, when nuclear is in fact playing an important role keeping the cloud clean. Nuclear energy accounts …

American Nuclear Society Ready to Cover Pilgrim Meeting

Received the following in my email box concerning some American Nuclear Society work around a public meeting on the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant that will take place later tonight. If you're up on Twitter, please consider listening in to their feed and retweeting the best parts.
WHEN: Wednesday, April 25, 7-9 PMWHAT: Freeze Pilgrim Forum. Plymouth, MA: http://freezepilgrim.org/news.htmlWHERE: Plymouth South Middle School, Plymouth, MAWHO: Russell Gocht, PhD student at UMASS Lowell and ANS student member, will be opposite David Lochbaum of UCS. Expect Mr. Lochbaum to discuss the Union of Concerned Scientists' report on the NRC’s post Fukushima actions (on the UCS website).WHAT YOU CAN DO: Attend or Follow the ANS live twitter feed: @ans_org or https://twitter.com/ans_org

A Reader's Guide to the San Onofre Steam Generator Situation

For a number of weeks, we've been paying close attention to our colleagues at Southern California Edison (SCE) as they work to resolve a problem with the steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station or SONGS. Unit #2 and #3 at SONGS have been out of service for several weeks ever since leaks were detected in the steam generators of both units.

In a press briefing earlier this week, SCE's CNO delivered some good news, and said that there's a 50% chance that one or both of the plant's reactors will be back in operation by the Summer. The thing to remember here is that SCE and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission won't allow the plant's two reactors to restart until both parties are convinced that it is safe to do so.

For real time updates from SCE, please visit SONGSCommunity.com.

A number of outside observers, most notably Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates, have been commenting on the situation as well, with Gundersen publishing a pair …

Support Grows for Small Reactor Partnership in Missouri

Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric Co. last week revealed a new partnership to compete for federal funds to develop and license a small reactor at the Callaway nuclear plant site in Missouri. The joint collaboration has the potential to open the doors for nuclear energy to play a more prominent role in the Midwestern state’s energy portfolio—a move that is being met with increasing enthusiasm by local leaders.

Given the previous challenges to new nuclear plant development in the state, it is exciting to see several notable people and institutions come forward to voice their support. Below is a sampling of some of the positive coverage we have come across so far.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on the day of the announcement:
Designing, developing and commercializing next-generation nuclear technology will create good jobs for Missourians, expand our global exports, and ensure that Missouri has affordable, abundant, safe and reliable power for generations to come.  Missouri offers Westin…

Nuclear Energy Not Affected by French Election

We’ve followed the French election here a bit because we were interested to see whether challenger Francois Hollande would hold to his stand to close 30 nuclear plants – a promise he made to the Green party when it appeared he might need its help against incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy. He’d already broken away from his pledge, but let’s see how things are going. In the round one voting, Sarkozy (conservative) won about 25% of the vote, Hollande (liberal) about 28% and Marine Le Pen (reactionary) about 20%. Le Pen and the other minor party candidates now drop out and it’s Sarkozy vs. Hollande on May 6.Anyway, Hollande has backed away from his earlier negative view of nuclear energy (but see below – he’s basically returned to his original view):He wants to reduce the share of nuclear energy in the power supply to 50% from 75% by 2025, and promises to close the ageing Fessenheim nuclear plant but complete work on the advanced Flamanville European pressurized reactor power station.But by incr…

Radio Debate on Vermont Yankee Set for Tuesday Morning

Some folks in Vermont shared the following about a radio debate on the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant that will take place on Tuesday morning. WHEN: Tuesday, April 24, 8-10 AM WHAT: Vermont Yankee Power Struggle: Radio Panel, Northhampton, MA WHERE: WHMP Radio with frequencies at AM1400/1240/1600 and FM96.9, broadcasting from Sylvester's Restaurant in Northhampton, MA. WHO: The Energy Education Project is sending Meredith Angwin (Yes Vermont Yankee) and Richard Schmidt to defend nuclear energy and provide factual information about Vermont Yankee. Two people will speak in opposition to Vermont Yankee and nuclear power: long-time activist Michael Daley and Jeff Napolitano, an anti-nuclear civil disobedience trainer with the American Friends Service Committee WHAT YOU CAN DO:Listen, call in, attend in person! It will not stream on the web but will be podcast later. Call-in number is 413-586-7140. Questions can also be posted in advance on the station's Facebook page:

South Africa’s Nuclear Energy See-Saw

Words to live by:Not only would a nuclear expansion create mining and construction jobs, it would also open opportunities in the scientific sphere. "We have sufficient local capacity in terms of scientists and scientific companies and we can capitalize from our own intellectual capacity instead of sourcing from abroad," she pointed out.She is South African Energy Minister Dipuo Peters. The main thrust of the story is that she wants to reassure coal miners that their jobs will not disappear and, anyway, there are plenty of uranium mining jobs. But along the way, you get some interesting nuggets:South Africa plans to generate 9.6 GW of electricity from nuclear energy by 2030. The integrated resources plan also calls for 6.3 GW of new baseload coal capacity.Really? Good for nuclear, but that’s a lot of new coal. When you look at the integrated resource plan and the studies that informed it, you find out why.  ---In the study that provides the engine underneath the plan, coal re…

Why the World Can't Afford to Phase Out Nuclear Energy

Today's Washington Post features an unsigned editorial that asks an important question: CAN THE WORLD fight global warming without nuclear power? One major industrialized country — Germany — is determined to find out, and another — Japan — is debating whether to try. Both illustrate how hard it would be. Give it a read right now.

The IBM Battery 500 Revs Up

Although IBM is largely focused on computer science issues, it has labs all over the world that do all kinds of things – after all, IBM is also focused on making money. This page contains a good slice of what IBM is doing in the energy sphere.But I was most interested in its battery technology project for electric cars. IBM correctly notes drivers’ range anxiety, the fear that they’ll be in the middle of nowhere when the battery runs dry. Using today’s lithium-ion technology, electric cars can get about 100 miles on a charge – with the air conditioning blasting, 4 miles (kidding.)So that’s the problem. Here’s the proposed solution:Recognizing this [range anxiety], IBM started the Battery 500 project in 2009 to develop a new type of lithium-air battery technology that is expected to improve energy density tenfold, dramatically increasing the amount of energy these batteries can generate and store. Today, IBM researchers have successfully demonstrated the fundamental chemistry of the ch…

How to Stand Up to Helen Caldicott

Last week, I hinted that Dr. Helen Caldicott had gotten more than she had bargained for when she visited the University of South Carolina recently. Unfortunately, I failed to follow up and link to the following post at the Nuclear Literacy Project. The author is Kallie Metzger, a graduate fellow studying nuclear engineering at the University of South Carolina, and she deserves some applause for the way she conducted herself: Ultimately, I hoped this presentation would provide a platform for discussion —And it did, but not nearly as peaceably as I envisioned. I imagined proponents of nuclear refuting the speaker’s false statements and exaggerations (respectfully, of course), the speaker conceding to our reasoning, and the whole night ending in a campfire kumbaya session between the opposing groups. Instead, Dr. Caldicott refused questions, became increasingly hostile and arrogant, and created a strained environment for everyone. I could quote more, but that would be unfair to the…

Energy Northwest Employees Tout Benefits of Nuclear Energy in New PSA

In conjunction with Earth Day, our friends at Energy Northwest have issued a new public service announcement touting the benefits of nuclear energy. What's the twist? The message is deliverer by their own employees: Here's a copy of the press release that the company issued in conjunction with the video: In honor of Earth Month, Energy Northwest is releasing a new public service announcement, “Clean Energy.” It features employees from departments throughout the agency, including training, chemistry, security and engineering. The 30-second PSA will be aired on broadcast stations throughout Washington over the next several weeks.The employees are spreading the message that nuclear energy is one of the cleanest baseload sources of energy, surpassed only by hydroelectric as a carbon-free source of full-time power.“Energy Northwest and its employees want the region to understand that power from Columbia Generating Station is a vital part of the clean energy mix for the Northwe…

From Sweden to the Green River

Sort of a silly article from the New York Times:Internet companies often cloak themselves in an image of environmental awareness. But some companies that essentially live on the Internet are moving facilities to North Carolina, Virginia, northeastern Illinois and other regions whose main sources of energy are coal and nuclear power, the report said. Virginia generates 36 percent of its electricity from nuclear, 35 percent from coal; North Carolina, 56 percent coal, 31 percent nuclear; and Illinois, 47 percent nuclear, 46 percent coal. So, where clean energy is concerned, internet companies are doing reasonably well given the world we live in.And some want to improve their profile further:Apple immediately disputed the report’s findings, saying that the company planned to build two huge renewable energy projects at its recently opened data center in North Carolina that would eventually offset much of the coal-fired and nuclear energy use. To me, this sounds like the wrong way around – …

Governor May Announce Plans for New Nuclear Reactor in Missouri

From the Associated Press:
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and energy officials are to announce plans Thursday that could include the development of another nuclear reactor in the state.

The Democratic governor's office called the plans significant for energy development and economic growth in Missouri. Nixon and officials from Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric are scheduled to make the formal announcement Thursday afternoon at the Missouri Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City.

A Nixon spokesman declined to provide further details Wednesday before the planned announcement.We'll keep an eye on this today.

UPDATE: Hold on a second. Ameren just pushed out the following press release clarifying the situation about today's announcement:
Recent press reports speculating that Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric Company will be announcing a definitive plan to build a new nuclear reactor at Ameren Missouri's Callaway Energy Center site are inaccurate.

Details surrounding a …

Minnesota Senate Passes Resolution Urging Federal Government to Act on Consolidated storage

Earlier today, the Minnesota State Senate passed a resolution urging President Obama and the U.S. Congress to carry out the recommendations of Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, especially with regard to consolidated storage of used nuclear fuel.

The resolution passed by a vote of 63-0.

We like to think of it as a great example of bipartisan cooperation that ought to be emulated nationwide. We'll have more later if events warrant.

How Do You Haiku?

Did you know that yesterday, April 17, was National Haiku Poetry Day? Well, we sure did—and to have a little fun, we decided to launch a contest on our Facebook page to see who could write the best nuclear energy-related haiku. Not sure how the contest would go over with our fans, I was surprised to see that people came out of the woodwork to share some of the most creative haikus I have ever seen, making this the start of more fun contests to come on our page!To select a winner, we asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers to ‘like’ their favorite haiku. This morning, we announced that the winning entry came from Southern Co.’s Leah Burch:Energy we need,
for society to feed,
Nuclear indeed.She won a “Nuclear. Clean Air Energy” water bottle, which I will be putting in the mail to her later this afternoon.Now, if you recall from your 9th grade English classes, haikus follow a 5-7-5 format, meaning five syllables on the first and third lines, and seven syllables on the m…

Our Question for UCS: Why not charge your car with nuclear-generated electricity?

Yesterday the Union of Concerned Scientists published a new study about how using electric vehicles could help the U.S. cut fuel costs and reduce emissions. When auto companies begin manufacturing electric vehicles in larger numbers, the nation's 104 nuclear reactors (and counting) will be standing by to supply that zero emission electricity that UCS loves so much.

Unfortunately, the press team at UCS apparently forgot how to spell the word nuclear (I know you're shocked) when they put together their report. From the press release:
[T]o fully realize the benefits of EVs will require changing not just the kind of vehicles people drive, but also the power that drives them. Electric drive vehicles can be zero emission today, when powered by renewables like solar and wind. But it will take continued steps to ramp down coal and ramp up renewables so that every region can enjoy clean energy and the best benefits EVs have to offer.Given that wind and solar only generated about 3% of U.…

Some Questions About AP's Pulitzer Nominee

Yesterday the winners of the 2012 Pulitzer Prizes in journalism and the arts were announced. Though it failed to win a Pulitzer, a series by the Associated Press (AP) on safety at American nuclear plants was nominated in the national reporting category. We were a little taken aback by the news considering some of the criticism that was directed at the series by the Columbia Journalism Review earlier this year:
[T]he AP series, while it tackles a critically important public policy issue, suffers from lapses in organization, narrative exposition, and basic material selection, what to leave in and what to leave out. Too much is left to rest on inconclusive he-said-she-said exchanges that end up more confusing than illuminating for readers.
CJR's Irene M. Wielawski also concluded: "Reading it was, for me, a hugely frustrating experience." One wonders whether the Pulitzer committee might have come to the same conclusion.

POSTSCRIPT: Click here for the formal response to the AP s…

The State of Play

Harvard professor David Ropeik takes a look at radiation and the concept of risk and find a number of linkages that inculcate a fear of radiation beyond the actual risk from it.Particularly among baby boomers, our nuclear fears are rooted in existential Cold War worries about nuclear weapons, which transitioned into fear of nuclear fallout from weapons testing , which transitioned into environmental concerns. Beyond that stigmatizing past, nuclear radiation bears many of the psychological characteristics that research has found make any risk scarier.We're more afraid of risks imposed on us than those we choose, which is why medical radiation is accepted but nuclear power radiation isn't.A sign of a good article is that it is not afraid to tread into uncomfortable areas.The more pain and suffering they cause, the more afraid we are of risks, and nuclear radiation is associated with cancer, even though studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have firmly established th…

Challenging Helen Caldicott

Yesterday, we made sure to note that Dr. Helen Caldicott was set to appear at the University of South Carolina to talk about the health effects of the incident at Fukushima -- all in an effort to point folks to more reliable sources of information on radiation and public health.

In today's edition of The State, there's a profile of Caldicott based on an interview that was done before last night's event. Curiously, the reporter didn't attend the lecture in person, but rather interviewed a local anti-nuclear activist about the event after the fact. And there I found an interesting morsel of information that was found encouraging.
About 50 people, mostly students, attended the talk, said Clements, a long-time anti-nuclear activist who is now with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. One student challenged some of Caldicott’s assertions, he said.Indeed. In fact, we're hearing that there were some rather tense moments last night, details of which will be revealed else…

Eating Peppo

We’ve written a bit about the upcoming French election and the fact that one of the candidates, Francois Hollande, is less nuclear friendly than incumbent Nicholas Sarkozy. Hollande has said he would like to knock nuclear energy down from 80 percent to 50 percent of electricity generation, though I ‘m not sure why. One could guess a desire for energy diversity, which would be defensible, but it could be a knee-jerk reaction to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, not so defensible.Electricite de France SA, at the center of a debate over the future of nuclear power in France, may not fare as badly as feared if presidential hopeful Francois Hollande is elected because the Socialist candidate will discard promises to scale back atomic energy, HSBC Holdings Plc said. “We expect backtracking,” HSBC analysts wrote today in a report. Hollande’s pledge to lower France’s dependence on nuclear power is “unworkable” and lacks union as well as public support, they said. Note, EDF isn’t saying this.…

A Reminder Ahead of Helen Caldicott's Apperance Tonight at the University of South Carolina

Over the weekend, I got a note from a friend that Dr. Helen Caldicott is scheduled to give a lecture tonight at the University of South Carolina on the medical implications of Fukushima. A little less than a month ago, Caldicott made a similar appearance in Santa Barbara. At the time, I posted the following information, and given tonight's event, it seemed prudent to reprint it in its entirety.
------------------------------------------------------
A couple of days ago, a friend of mine passed some news onto me that Dr. Helen Caldicott is hitting the lecture circuit again, this time to talk about the health implications of the incident at Fukushima Daiichi. Her next event will take place tonight in Santa Barbara and will be sponsored by the Nuclear Peace Age Foundation.

Obviously, this blog has a long history debunking Dr. Caldicott's claims about commercial nuclear energy -- one that extends all the way back to 2005 when we disputed her claims about a USEC uranium enrichment fac…

Japan and The Summer Heat

Germany is exhibit A for the economic havoc that turning off nuclear facilities can wreak if care and planning aren’t taken. No energy source should be seen as an economic trap or be allowed to become one – it’s one reason the term “energy diversity” is bandied about – and countries should be able to respond to price spikes in, say, the cost of natural gas, uranium or coal without the cost of electricity likewise going haywire. That’s another reason for energy diversity. But if a country makes too precipitous a change, without adequate planning, well, you’ve got Germany.
Japan, of course, is a different case. If it were to allow a similar outcome, it would be especially distressing because Japan has so few other options.
With some of its reactors running, Japan’s gross domestic product in 2012 would grow 1.9 percent, according to the first scenario. Industrial production would rise 5 percent from the previous year, and the country would have a trade surplus — its standard for three de…

99th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

Welcome to the 99th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, a get together that we at NEI Nuclear Notes have been honored to host from time to time since its inception. This week, we've got selections from seven of the best blogs the online nuclear energy community has to offer. If you would like to host a future edition of the carnival, please contact Brian Wang of Next Big Future to get on the rotation. And please, don't ask to host the 100th edition of the carnival, as that honor has already been parceled out to a well-deserving blogger.

Nuclear Power Talk: What's Good for the Goose. Gail Marcus takes a hard look at Mark Cooper's claims about the economics of nuclear energy.

The Nuclear Green Revolution: The Clinch River Reactor Failure, Lessons Unlearned. Did AEC make a mistake by pursuing the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor over other designs? Read and find out.

Yes, Vermont Yankee: Green Jobs and Taxes. In this guest post, Guy Page of the Vermont Energy Partnershi…

Arnie Gundersen Authors Another Shoddy Report

Nuclear consultants Fairewinds Associates and anti-nuclear activists Friends of the Earth are at it again with a new “report” that seeks to create concern, with little to no substance, over steam generator tube leaks at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS). The report, “Steam Generator Failures at San Onofre,” claims that without a thorough root cause analysis of why the plant’s recently installed steam generator tubes have become worn, that:“…radioactive releases might be significantly larger than those that occurred after the January 2012 tube leak. Such an accident would cause implementation of the California emergency evacuation plan and closing of the San Clemente beach and Interstate I-5, potentially for an extended period of time.”Fairewinds’ opinion misleads the general public to believe that the plant already released a large amount of radiation, which in fact, it has not. In a February 17 press release, Southern California Edison (SCE) clarified:The radioactivity re…