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Showing posts from August, 2013

The Smart Money Is on Nuclear

This week's announcement that Vermont Yankee would be shut down in 2014 was sad news to bear for our industry. Here at NEI, we covered the negative impact on the local economy that this closing will have, and our CEO Marv Fertel's comments expressed how disappointing it is when a well-run and highly productive nuclear plant gets shuttered because of skewed markets.

It was easy to feel discouraged by this, especially knowing all of the hard work put forth by the talented employees and tireless supporters of Vermont Yankee. That's why it was both inspiring and uplifting to read the following message to industry communicators from Caroline Cochran, a nuclear engineer, blogger and advocate.
I wish we were fighting a battle of facts, but clearly that's not what this is. This is a battle of hearts and guts and cool and public opinion. That’s why what you all are doing is so important. Organizations like PopAtomic Studios and The Breakthrough Institute are great because they …

Local Towns Counting the Cost of the Vermont Yankee Shutdown

Here at NEI, we're used to producing economic benefits reports to quantify exactly what sort of impact the operation of a nuclear plant has on a local economy.

But from time to time, it's important to hear from the folks who live closest to the plants to really understand how important they can be. Here's an excerpt from a story that ran earlier this week on VT Digger that reinforces the point:
“Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon, said the closing will have an irreparable impact on local towns. ‘It’s going to be devastating to our communities because of the volunteers,’ he said. ‘Our local rescue is predominantly Yankee employees, the volunteer fire department is predominantly Yankee employees, just about every charitable organization in the county has received something from Yankee. … It will be a brain drain,’ he added. ‘It’s not just the economic impact.’

The economic impact will be significant. Since 2007, the Windham Regional Commission, which is the county planning commiss…

Responding to Mark Bittman's "Half-Baked" Diatribe in the New York Times

Over the past few months, coincident with the release of Robert Stone's Pandora's Promise, we've seen a lot of favorable news coverage concerning how many environmentalists have begun to reconsider their position on nuclear energy. One of the places where we've seen this coverage has been in the New York Times, which recently ran a story by Eduardo Porter urging the nation to get moving on building new nuclear power plant in order to help constrain CO2 emissions.

This apparently got under the skin of the paper's food critic, Mark Bittman, who took a radical departure from his normal area of expertise in order to question folks like Stone, James Hansen and Stewart Brand who no longer see any contradiction between being pro-environment and pro-nuclear energy:
Before we all become pro-nuclear greens, however, you’ve got to ask three questions: Is nuclear power safe and clean? Is it economical? And are there better alternatives?

No, no and yes. So let’s not swap the pe…

Department of Defense Makes it Official: It Never Requested Nuclear Security Report from Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project

Even though the mainstream media has moved on to other topics, there are still a number of other facts we've uncovered concerning the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project and its supposed relationship to the Department of Defense (DoD). Earlier this week, a reporter from NEI's Nuclear Energy Overview made a phone call to the Pentagon to get some clarification about the exact relationship between DoD and the published report. Here's an excerpt:
The U.S. Department of Defense did not request or validate a recent study on security at America’s nuclear energy facilities by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, a DOD official said.

“The Department of Defense did provide funding to the University of Texas at Austin, but did not request a report on that specific topic, nor did we validate its findings,” the Defense Department official said. That's what we all suspected, but it's nice to get it on the record. We'll have more if events warrant.

Think You’ve Got Game? Try NARUC’s Energy Risk Lab

The following guest post was written by Mary Pietrzyk, NEI’s  Manager, Fuel Cycle Policies and Programs.
I had the opportunity recently to participate in a thought provoking and action packed event in Washington, DC—NARUC’s Energy Risk LabNARUC, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, is the national association representing public utility commissioners from each state.  NARUC is a valuable resource for Commissioners around the country and provides fora for dialogue among diverse entities in the public utility industry.
NARUC’s Energy Risk Lab, generously supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a scenario-planning game that looks at decisions and uncertainty facing the U.S. electricity generation sector.  NARUC staff, using natural disaster related emergency tabletop exercises as a foundation, developed this game, along with others, to explore the impacts of new policy, market, or technology developments on electricity generation. 
The basis of this l…

Editor's Note: Cleaning Up the Blogroll

At the behest of one of our friends from AREVA, we took a quick inventory of the links in our blogroll and got to business cleaning things up. Over the years, we've been pretty liberal about who we included in that list, especially when it came to extended periods of inactivity.

There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which was the fact that a number of blogs listed here played an important part in online conversation about the industry during the early days of NEI Nuclear Notes. If an when any of our friends online take a break, we generally like to let them know that we haven't forgotten about them, and if and when they ever decide to come back, we'd be happy to see them return to the conversation.

Still, in checking over the links, things had clearly gotten a bit overgrown. In general, if a blog hadn't been updated in six months or more, we pruned it from the list. That of course begs the next question: are there any new blogs that we ought to be fo…

Welcoming Progressives for Nuclear Progress to the Blogosphere

A new blog, started by Eric Schmitz, presents an increasingly common voice in the pro-nuclear blogosphere: the progressive liberal. Schmitz’s blog, called Progressives for Nuclear Progress, has the tagline of “Bringing the American left on board for a clean nuclear future.”
The blog marks a new trend as more political liberals have come out in support of nuclear. The Breakthrough Institute explains the phenomenon: While historically conservatives have been the prominent supporters of nuclear energy, the urgency of climate change has recently compelled liberals and progressives to reconsider nuclear as the best zero-carbon source of baseload electricity for a world with rapidly rising energy demand. Schmitz is a progressive proponent of nuclear and an engineer by trade. He reminds the reader that he is not a nuclear professional, and he has no education in the field. However, he does admit to be a “cheerleader” for nuclear progress simply by reading every nuclear-related article he co…

Some Final Thoughts on the Nuclear Plant Security Report by Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project

As our readers will recall, we spent a considerable amount of time last week responding to a "study" issued by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project on the security of nuclear energy facilities here in the U.S. Over the weekend, Jim Conca, a blogger for Forbes, took a closer look at the report, and made a number of interesting points (emphasis added in bold):
Those of us who have actually worked within the nuclear complex can tell you this study is grossly flawed. You need only read the limited source materials the author used in making her case and the absence of any references that contradict her thesis. And the lack of any expert review.

But if you read the press on this report, it sounds like it was actually commissioned by the “Office of the Secretary of Defense, which provided financial support for the research”. Inquiries to DoD say the report was not requested by the department. DoD just funds the program as a whole at the University and has no knowledge wha…

NEI Responds to NPPP Report on Security at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

A few minutes ago, NEI issued a statement concerning the security of the nation's 100 operating nuclear reactors. The statement comes in response to the release yesterday of a report by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project. Here's the nut graf:
A report by a graduate research assistant at the University of Texas’ Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project, released Aug. 15, is an academic paper developed for discussion among academia of the appropriate security levels at nuclear energy facilities. It is not a full assessment of security, nor does the author of the report have access to the safeguarded information that she would need to make such as assessment.

Like many such evaluations that examine the potential theft of uranium fuel from commercial reactors, the NPPP report fails to explain how attackers would be able to dislodge highly irradiated uranium fuel—800 to 1,200-pound, 18-foot-tall fuel bundles—and maneuver them from reactors, storage pools or steel and conc…

A Fresh Perspective on Nuclear Plant Security

Nuclear plants are widely acknowledged to be the best-defended facilities among the nation’s critical infrastructure. Critical, independent security experts share the industry’s belief that nuclear power plants are very well-defended, particularly in comparison to other elements of the nation’s industrial infrastructure. These include assessments from the the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The robustness of our industry's security isn't the easiest topic to address in great detail; appropriately, key security features for our sites are Safeguards Information. Still, this NEI video treatment of site security does offer some much-needed perspective relative to reports like today's from Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project (NPPP).

There's a common/recurring flaw in many such evaluations of nuclear plant security: they ever fail to explain how attackers upon a nuclear power plant will be able to dislodge highly irrad…

Understanding the Facts About Radiation and Public Health at Turkey Point

The following guest post was submitted by NEI Media Manager, Mitch Singer.

Last month I attended two public hearings in Homestead, Fla., focusing on the proposed two new additional nuclear plants, Turkey Point 6&7, at the nearby facility that has two operating reactors and a natural gas plant. Turkey Point has significant support and people are upbeat about the prospects of the additional units.

But as to be expected there were a number of opponents. One person who testified identified himself as a biologist.

Unfortunately, he sounded more like a script writer for a 1950s horror film as, he accused the operators of Turkey Point of causing all sorts of flesh-eating maladies as the result of radiation leaks from the plant.

Back in high school, all of my science teachers taught me the same valuable lesson: science is the pursuit of truth based on evidence from study and experimentation.

It was a lesson I took to heart, and one that I wish more members of the public would apply to que…

Duke Energy COL for Levy County Nuclear Plant Still Alive Outside Cost Recovery

We've been watching the wires pretty closely every since we caught wind of a potential announcement by Duke Energy about the proposed nuclear project in Levy County, Florida. So far, several outlets have incorrectly reported that the project has been permanently shelved.

It's too bad those reporters didn't bother reading the fine print of the Duke Energy press release concerning a wide-ranging settlement with the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) that went out about an hour ago (Bold emphasis mine):
In 2008, Duke Energy Florida announced plans to construct two 1,100-megawatt nuclear units in Levy County, Fla.

Duke Energy’s EPC agreement was based on the ability to obtain the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) combined construction and operating license (COL) by Jan. 1, 2014. As a result of delays by the NRC in issuing COLs for new nuclear plants, as well as increased uncertainty in cost recovery caused by recent legislative changes in Florida, Duke Energy will be …