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Showing posts from February, 2013

Thailand and a Whimsical Energy Policy

The other day I mentioned that electricity seems more a human right than anything else and if it has to be generated by coal, natural gas or nuclear energy – or any other source – countries that want to electrify will do what they feel they have to do. But I wondered if I could offer a recent experience of this kind as an example – with a nuclear angle.Yes, sort of. A better example would be about a place with a considerable number of people without electricity. That’s not true of Thailand. But let’s see where this takes us. It starts with a story in the Thai TimesThe Thai National Shippers’ Council (TNSC) proposed nuclear power as an alternative energy solution to protect the country’s economy from future risk of power disruption. Power disruption! Even countries with electricity cannot always rely  on it and not being able to rely on it is almost as bad as not having any. And to the Shipper’s Council, it’s clearly untenable. The story that follows doesn’t really explain this.TNSC c…

Guest Post: Oral Argument Set for Tomorrow in NEI Complaint on Mining in Arizona Strip

The following is a guest blog post submitted by Ellen Ginsberg, vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

On March 1, 2013, the federal District Court of Arizona will hear oral argument on the NEI’s pending motion for summary judgment in its challenge to the Secretary of Interior’s withdrawal of over one million acres of public lands in Northern Arizona, including promising uranium deposits, under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”).

NEI, joined by the National Mining Association, has argued that the Secretary of Interior lacked authority for the withdrawal in light of an unconstitutional legislative veto in the provision of FLPMA relied upon by the Secretary in issuing the withdrawal. The government has already conceded that the provision’s legislative veto is unconstitutional, leaving to be decided whether or not the remainder of the provision and the Secretary’s authority to issue such large-scale withdrawals survives.

This we…

No Tears, Please, for Nuclear Energy

Natural gas is priced lower than ever, a fair number of nuclear reactors have been sidelined with extended outages – enough to bring the fleet’s total capacity down for the year – and a couple of plants are closing albeit for different reasons. Surely, we could be excused for being a little – lachrymose, yes?Growing fearful that the nuclear energy industry will suddenly crater or more subtly wave a handkerchief goodbye as it gradually leaves the scene is not really backed up by facts. Consider: Natural gas will increase in price; the carbon emission profile between natural gas and nuclear energy has become more apparent (as we’ll see as we go along); utilities loath putting all their energy eggs in a single basket; and nuclear energy, finally, is a mature and well understood technology. All these weigh in favor of hesitating before composing an epitaph. (“You glowed brightly, but too briefly.”) No one is going bankrupt running a nuclear facility, a majority of reactors will continue t…

Why the Leaking Underground Tanks at Hanford Have Nothing to Do With Used Nuclear Fuel at US Nuclear Power Plants

Late on Friday night Washington Gov. Jay Insleee announced the following news:
Six underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation along the Columbia River in Washington state were recently found to be leaking radioactive waste, but there is no immediate risk to human health, state and federal officials said on Friday.

The seeping waste adds to decades of soil contamination caused by leaking storage tanks at Hanford in the past and threatens to further taint groundwater below the site but poses no near-term danger of polluting the Columbia River, officials said.

The newly discovered leaks were revealed by Governor Jay Inslee a week after the U.S. Energy Department disclosed that radioactive waste was found to be escaping from one tank at Hanford.

Inslee said he was informed on Friday by outgoing U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu that a total of six of the aging, single-walled tanks were leaking radioactive waste.

"There is no immediate or near-term health risk assoc…

Guest Post: Nuclear Energy and the Value of CWIP

The following guest post was written by NEI's Mitch Singer.

Jeff McMahon bases his argument against nuclear cost recovery “Editors Rebel Against Ratepayer Financing For Nuclear Plants,” on the sole premise that because natural gas is inexpensive at this point in time it will remain so for decades. Therefore, energy companies should rely solely on one source of electricity generation. Ignoring the old adage of not putting your eggs in one basket is as relevant in generation choices as it is in financial investments.
Energy companies evaluate a variety of factors to determine their generating mix and plan not in years, but rather decades ahead. Public utility commissioners do the same. They conduct an extensive analysis of the state’s demand growth commonly known as a “determination of needs” that looks at all methods of generation to see which ones are most suitable. Commissioners are also obligated to make sure there is diversification in the state’s generating portfolio, balance …

Nuclear Energy: In the Hands of Experts (And That’s a Bad Thing)

Yesterday, I highlighted a good list of reasons to use nuclear energy that worked its case a little too hard – why oversell when you can just sell, after all? Anti-nuclear advocates almost always oversell. Some of the arguments are fact-based - the disposition of used nuclear fuel, proliferation, etc. These, at least, are debatable. But some root in what might be called deep dish ideology, with a soupcon of academic mumbo jumbo. Take this list by Jim McCluskey of “10 urgent reasons to reject nuclear energy” for example:6. They [nuclear energy plants] Epitomize the Centralization of Power.There is a burgeoning awareness among citizens that they are more free and more in control of their lives if facilities and decision-making occur at the local level, that national government should only control those matters that cannot be dealt with locally. Nuclear power is the ultimate way of centralizing power, putting it in the hands of experts, multinational corporations and national - often dis…

A Fool for Nuclear Energy

The Motley Fool offers a list of myths about nuclear energy, with an eye, as you might expect, to investing your hard-earned money into various projects. Writer Maxx Chatsko seems to really like TerraPower, which is fine, as long as we recognize that it is one of many projects out there. But we’re smart enough to figure that out, I think. What I found interesting about this list, which is useful and well-intentioned, is that it rather oversells nuclear energy.We should  like that, yes? Well, maybe, but it can lead to cul-de-sacs, making more complex what should be quite simple to grasp. For example:28. Radiation exposure from abandoned medical equipment, which kills two to four people each year, is more deadly than living or working at a nuclear plant.  But here’s the point: contracting radiation sickness at or near a nuclear power plant isn’t just rare, it hasn’t happened. That’s all you really need to say. Accidents at American plants are occupational in nature, and nuclear faciliti…

The Meteorite Over Russia–and Its Nuclear Facilities

When I think of a meteorite, it’s usually the one that hits Earth at the beginning of The War of the Worlds (1953). In that movie, you start with this:And end up with this:The meteorite that flew over Russia today provided some very striking videos itself, minus Martians and heat rays. This video shows both the tail and and the air burst, complete with shattering glass and a lot of car alarms going off: The title means Explosion in Chelyabinsk. Naturally, we were curious about the nuclear plants in the region. The closest to where many of the videos were taken is also called Chelyabinsk, about 140 miles distant, but it looks as though Rosatom, the Russian nuclear authority, got more questions about Mayak, which is not a reactor but a reprocessing plant.Russia’s state-run atomic agency, Rosatom, said there were no damage to the nuclear facilities in the region and all operations continued as usual. Mayak nuclear plant -- one of the largest nuclear facilities of Rosatom -- is located in …

Another Economist for Nuclear Energy

From the earliest days of the blog, we've tried to introduce our readers to personalities who support the expanded use of nuclear energy. That was the whole idea of a series of posts called, "Another Blogger for Nuclear Energy."

In the same vein, I'd like to present Ujjayant Chakravorty, an economic professor at Tufts University who specializes in resource and environmental economics.

A graduate of the prestigious IIT in Delhi, Prof. Chakravorty came to Tufts from the University of Alberta. For him, supporting the expansion of nuclear energy is all about helping the world transition to clean energy. Here's what he had to day in an interview with Phys.org:
What are the advantages of nuclear power?

If you look at where base load power comes from—the least amount of energy we need to provide power—you need a major source, something that is non-stop. Nuclear provides non-stop generation. It's not like depending on sun or wind. Nuclear plants are available day…

The Super-Hot Nuclear Reactor–and the Hydrogen Cars that Love It

It’s a good thing we learned young not to touch the stove:This nuclear reactor’[s] the new approach is a "super-hot" type of nuclear reactor cooled by helium gas, not water, and can reach 2000 degrees. That's about three times hotter than existing reactors.Something went sic in this Fox News Oregon story. It’s about a new approach to nuclear energy that will be demonstrated at Oregon State University.Construction began today on the $4.8 million facility meant to test a new nuclear energy technology that could be safer, more efficient and produce less waste than existing approaches.Researchers say it is a viable and versatile energy concept for the future.[…]Researchers say it could produce electricity, hydrogen to power automobiles, steam to heat a building complex, or provide a cheaper way to desalinate seawater.I admit that “hydrogen to power automobiles,” puzzled me. Are there cars that do that now?If they can make the cars, we could use this technology to make the hy…

NEI CNO Disputes LA Times Editorial on San Onofre

Earlier today, the Los Angeles Times ran a letter to the editor from NEI Chief Nuclear Officer Tony Pietrangelo disputing an earlier editorial by the newspaper concerning the potential restart of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station:
There is a comprehensive, deliberative process at work to resolve the steam generator challenge at San Onofre, one involving the independent federal regulatory and oversight body, the NRC. It's one that even lawmakers and activists with agendas should respect.

For more than 30 years, San Onofre has safely provided clean electricity, employed thousands of workers and become a bedrock community asset in generating millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Edison ought to be accorded due process in a regulatory framework, whose stringency and commitment to safety is second to none. For more information on San Onofre, please visit SONGSCommunity.com.

Guest Post: Nuclear Energy’s Value Proposition Still Strong, Will Reassert Itself in Next Decade

The following guest post was written by J. Scott Peterson, NEI's senior vice president, communications.

NEW YORK CITY—Despite challenging electricity markets and natural gas prices at a 13-year low, industry leaders are confident in the long-term prospects for nuclear energy and its contributions to the electricity mix and U.S. economic growth.

On average, America’s 104 commercial reactors are the most efficient power producers on the grid—operating at 86 percent capacity factor. Capacity factor is a measure of efficiency, with a 100-percent rating equaling full power production 24/7, 365 days. Absent reactors in California, Florida and Nebraska that have been closed virtually all year for extended maintenance, the capacity factor at the other 100 reactors was just shy of 90 percent.

“We continue to invest in these facilities to preserve their asset value,” NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel told nearly 200 financial analysts and journalists at the Institute’s annual briefing in…

Partnerships and Information Sharing in President Obama's Executive Order on Cyber Security

Yesterday President Obama signed an Executive Order aimed at helping nation harden its critical infrastructure against cyber attacks, and introduced it to the nation as part of his State of the Union address.

The Order states, "We can achieve these goals through a partnership with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure to improve cybersecurity information sharing and collaboratively develop and implement risk-based standards."

The partnership model has a history of success, and it is prudent to continue and support this model.

The nuclear power industry has an active partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security specifically geared toward enhancing the security of commercial users of nuclear materials.

Under HSPD-7, the industry established the Nuclear Sector Coordinating Council (NSCC), and the government established the Government Coordinating Council (GCC).These groups meet quarterly under the Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council

Nuclear Energy Institute Comments on President Obama’s State of Union Address

Alex Flint, Nuclear Energy Institute senior vice president of governmental affairs, made the following comment in response to President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress.

“As the President and Congress work to return the economy to sound footing, it is worth remembering that sustained economic growth will require affordable, reliable energy supplies. For decades now, nuclear energy—with its added advantage of being the nation’s leading low-carbon source of electricity—has been one of the pillars of our electric sector. It is imperative that nuclear energy facilities continue to play a key role in the mix of electricity sources for U.S. energy, environmental and economic goals to be achieved.

“Beyond the massive amounts of electricity they generate, nuclear energy facilities create hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect revenue for state and local economies. With five reactors being built in the United States and nearly 70 more under construction internatio…

“The Nuclear Option is Still There”

This comment makes sense only if Crystal River’s closing can be seen to have wider application:Despite increasing demand for carbon-free power generation, the future of nuclear plants is clouded by the abundance of domestic natural gas, which has led many utilities to embrace that fuel for power generators. That has eased the pressure on operators to keep nuclear plants open, especially if there are questions about their safety.“There is more of a feeling that because you have very low natural gas prices, there is another alternative out there,” Mr. Dean said.“This has eased the pressure on operators to keep nuclear plants open.” Pressure? If there are questions about their safety? Mr. Dean is John Dean, president of JD Energy, an energy and environmental forecasting firm based in Frederick, Md. In this instance, the main reason Mr. Dean can say this is because Duke’s plan to close Crystal River provides a basis for saying it. As we explained a couple of days ago, it’s awkward to use …

Guest Post: Alex Flint Introduces NEI's Congressional Resource Guide

The following guest post was submitted by Alex Flint, NEI's senior vice president, governmental affairs. 

One of NEI’s most important roles is ensuring that policymakers and their staffs have access to information they want about our industry. We pride ourselves in having on hand the technical expertise to answer any and all questions, and we are always willing to bring to Washington the experts with first-hand knowledge from our facilities.

But today, just having the information isn’t enough; we are also working to ensure that it is available whenever and however members and their staff want it. In past years, we would spend the first few months of each Congress delivering detailed three-ring binders to House and Senate offices. Those binders were crammed full of information about how reactors work, the uranium fuel cycle, and radiation, and included jobs and economic data broken down by state and district.

That's not how information works today. Members and their staffs …

Nuclear Facilities and “Whatever Wicked Weather Comes Their Way”

The storm bearing down on the northeast – not Washington, D.C. this time, for a change – has sent our friends at the Weather Channel into a tizzy. When I visit the channel on TV, it’s usually quite placid and useful for sleepy time.
Not lately: a tone of impending doom hovers over the reports and the channel has even named the storm Nemo. I don’t know if this is the fish or Winsor McCay’s dreamy little boy, but since the latter is one of the finest comic strips ever done, I pick that Nemo.
I like that an NRC public affairs officer has decided to address the preparation undertaken by nuclear energy plants in the path of the storm – it sort of forestalls the more sensational approach sometimes taken by newspapers.
NRC inspectors stationed at all operating plants on a full-time basis will likewise be busy, as they independently verify the facilities – particularly the Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts and the Seabrook plant in New Hampshire — are positioned for whatever wicked weather com…

Crystal River: End Days of Nuclear Energy?

When you hear that a nuclear power facility is closing, you may wonder if the end is nigh and all other facilities will close willy-nilly in rapid succession. Well, it could happen, just as anything could happen, but it seems far more likely that other factors play a role and are unique to the plant itself.
Following a comprehensive analysis, Progress Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, announced today that it will retire the Crystal River Nuclear Plant (CR3) in Citrus County, Fla. The plant has been safely shut down and offline since late 2009. There’s no question this is not happy news. But Progress Energy Florida has been pretty straightforward about the whys and wherefores of it:
The company’s decision comes after a comprehensive, months-long engineering analysis of the damaged [Crystal River] containment structure. The nuclear unit, which began operating in 1977, had been shut down in the fall of 2009 for refueling and replacement of its steam generators when a delamina…

Guest Post: Mothers in Nuclear Support CORE Education

The following guest post was submitted by Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, NEI's Senior Manager, Workforce Policy and Programs.

Educating the next generation of nuclear professionals begins early. How early? According to North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NA-YGN) member and fellow Mother in Nuclear Ginger Jones it begins in kindergarten. Jones, a chemist by training, full time nuclear utility employee and mother of three, is volunteering her time to serve on her local school board.

"I had always been a really active volunteer especially at my oldest son’s school," Jones said. "I had been the president of the Parent Teacher Organization at Saratoga School [Morris, IL.] for nearly three years when four school board seats came up for election."

The Saratoga school board has a strong track record for attracting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals, but this is not a normal occurrence across the United States. According to the…