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Showing posts from March, 2013

Protesting Nuclear Fusion On the Basis of Nothing

We sometimes bring up nuclear fusion as an object of fun, because activists say that fusion will scale successfully and become commercially viable in 10 years or so – and have been saying so for at least  20 years. That’s one joke. Another one is that it takes a city to power a town with fusion energy because it requires a lot of electricity to produce a little energy.None of this is (completely) fair, of course, and there are several projects exploring the use of fusion. The most significant of these is the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).ITER is a large-scale scientific experiment that aims to demonstrate that it is possible to produce commercial energy from fusion.This undertaking requires a full-scale reactor – in fact, a full-scale facility. ITER is located in France and financed by the European Union, China, Russia, South Korea, Japan, India and the United States – the big boys and girls of the nuclear world. (The EU is shouldering about 50 percent of th…

Little Controversies: A Slew of Nuclear Energy

From U.S. News and World Report:Despite a slew of developed nations putting the brakes on nuclear programs in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster, global nuclear energy generation is expected to increase significantly, climbing 30 percent by the end of the decade, according to recent research.A slew? Is that like a murder of crows?Rapidly increasing demand for electricity coupled with surging fossil fuel prices is making nuclear power an increasingly attractive option for many countries, especially in those where large-scale alternative-energy generation—such as wind and solar—is impractical. Around 45 current nuclear-free nations including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Poland and Bangladesh are looking at adding the controversial power source to their energy portfolio, the GlobalData report noted.That controversy might be a little overhyped if 45 countries that have never used nuclear energy are considering implementation. If you’ve really got to promote the idea of contr…

Media Advisory: Be Sure to Fact Check Joseph Mangano, Janette Sherman and Robert Alvarez

We've gotten a heads up that Joseph Mangano, the brains behind the "Tooth Fairy" project, will be holding a press conference tomorrow afternoon fronting more junk science about nuclear energy. He'll be back with the usual suspects, Robert Alvarez and Janette Sherman, this time claiming that closing the Rancho Seco nuclear plant (click here for a photo) in California "might" have coincided with a decrease in cancer deaths.

Mangano and company are making these claims despite the fact that nuclear power plants only account for .1% of the radiation that a typical American is exposed to over the course of a year. Meanwhile, exposures from life saving medical procedures like CT scans and X-Rays account for about 50%.

Putting that aside, a number of third party experts and journalists have regularly taken turns debunking Mangano's research. In 2011, Michael Moyer of Scientific American said the following about one Mangano study that claimed Americans were suff…

All the President’s Science Advisors–Endorse Nuclear Energy

President Barack Obama made climate change an issue he wants to focus on in his second term. This may lead somewhere or nowhere, depending on the variables, but so it goes. In crafting a policy(which hasn’t yet emerged), the President turned to his advisors on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) for comment.What is PCAST?President Obama established the current PCAST in 2010 as an advisory group of leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President; one of the members serves as the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology (the Science Advisor). PCAST’s charter is to advise the President on matters involving science, technology, and innovation policy, including, but not limited to, policy that affects science, technology, and innovation, as well as scientific and technical information that is needed to inform public policy relating to the economy, energy, environment, public health, …

The Clear Case for CWIP – A Rebuttal to Mark Cooper’s Analysis on “Advanced Cost Recovery”

Two nuclear critics, Peter Bradford and Mark Cooper, recently published a report (pdf) explaining how “advanced cost recovery” for nuclear plants in Florida and South Carolina “creates another nuclear fiasco.” Cooper’s main argument seems to be that Construction Work in Progress (CWIP) shifts to ratepayers all of the risks of building nuclear plants. This is either a deliberate distortion or a misunderstanding of how the cost recovery mechanism works.

How “advanced cost recovery” (aka CWIP) works

When a utility builds any type of project, it uses a mix of debt and equity to pay for the construction. The debt comes from banks and other investors and, of course, the utility must pay interest to use the debt. The equity comes from the utility’s shareholders and also requires a return for its use. The CWIP financing mechanism, which is also allowed by the federal government for interstate transmission projects, allows a company building a project to include the interest on debt and a retu…

Nuclear Advocate Simona De Silvestro Kicks Off IndyCar Series in Florida

Folks, start your engines. The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is this Sunday, March 24, and marks the start of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series. NEI is proud to join member companies Entergy and AREVA in sponsoring open wheel racing’s rising star Simona De Silvestro. This season De Silvestro joins the KV Racing Technology team and sits behind the wheel of the No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Chevrolet.

A long-standing advocate of the industry, the 24-year-old racer hails from Switzerland, where nuclear energy supplies 40% of the nation’s electricity. De Silvestro’s background gives her a unique appreciation for the importance of nuclear in providing emission-free power: “Nuclear is clean, safe and reliable, and that’s what makes it a quality option for producing electricity.” Her support is energizing our future workforce too, as proven by her recent visit to the University of Florida to promote STEM education and careers.

We are excited for the series and expect a great year for De S…

NEI Comments on Renomination of Allison Macfarlane to the NRC

Nuclear Energy Institute president and chief executive officer Marvin Fertel issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s renomination of Allison Macfarlane as chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
“Just this week, with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s most recent vote on post-Fukushima safety enhancements, we witnessed the importance of having a fully staffed, collegial NRC commission. The NRC has a unique safety mission in America, and maintaining its full complement of five commissioners of distinct and diverse viewpoints is central to fulfilling that mission.

“In her brief tenure as NRC chairman, Allison Macfarlane has achieved notable progress in returning a climate of collegiality within the commission. The nuclear energy industry commends her for this and supports the president’s effort in seeing the chairman continue in her leadership role.” Click here to read NEI's previous statement when Macfarlane was first nominated to replace Greg Jaczk…

One Nuclear Energy Student Makes the Case for Cost Recovery Laws

Earlier this week, a Florida State Senate committee held a hearing on the state's nuclear cost recovery law. Paul Genoa was on hand to deliver testimony on behalf of NEI, but today I'd like to focus on another individual who testified on Monday.

His name is Diego Garcia. He's a senior at the University of Florida currently and is double majoring in nuclear engineering and political science. He's also president of the campus chapter of the American Nuclear Society. That's him in the picture with a few of his classmates who showed up at Monday's hearing.

So why should we listen to Mr. Garcia? Put simply, nuclear cost recovery laws have been put in place all over the country in order to allow electric utilities to engage in the sort of long-term planning that's desperately needed on the electric grid. And when we're talking about facilities that could potentially be producing emission-free power for up to 60 years, it's safe to say that Diego and his …

Relying on Nuclear Energy to Keep the Lights Working

The nuclear energy situation in Great Britain has been full of drama, with Spanish and German interests dropping in and out of the mix and the government’s will to even build a new reactor brought into question. But, really, the most notable thing about the virtually daily drumbeat of news was that there was a drumbeat of news – to me, that meant the issue wasn’t going to expire until a solution was reached one way or another.Meet the solution:Energy giant EDF was today given permission to construct a new nuclear facility at Hinkley Point C in Somerset.
The announcement was seen as a huge boost to the industry which ministers are relying on to keep the lights working.
EDF said the plant’s two nuclear reactors would be capable of producing seven per cent of the UK’s electricity, enough to power five million homes.“Relying on to keep the lights working.” To quote Orson Welles from a notorious Paul Masson ad, Ahhhh the French. EDF just got knocked back by the NRC on building a…

NEI Comments on NRC Decision to Commence Rulemaking on Containment Filtering Strategies

From the NRC Blog:
The NRC has already ordered numerous upgrades to nuclear power plant safety based on what we’ve learned about the Fukushima nuclear incident in 2011. Now, the NRC’s Commission is doing more. They have just approved a two-track approach for additional improvements to systems at 31 U.S. reactors that would vent pressure during accidents.The following statement concerning the NRC action comes from Tony Pietrangelo, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer of NEI:
“The nuclear energy industry concurs that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff should develop the technical basis for a rulemaking for filtering strategies and severe accident management of BWR Mark I and II containments. The rulemaking process is the proper approach for consideration of this matter, as it affords all stakeholders the opportunity to participate.

“With this direction to the NRC staff, the Commission is addressing the central issue: What is the most effective way to filter containment v…

What the President Said About Nuclear Energy

The President doesn’t talk about energy issues that much in his weekly address – it isn’t the homiest topic, I guess – but this week, he did, from the Argonne National Labs. The motivation for this is the recent spike in gas prices, coming a little earlier in the year than previously.
Obama’s approach to rising gas prices is to continue to invest in technology to make gasoline less necessary.
But the only way we’re going to break this cycle of spiking gas prices for good is to shift our cars and trucks off of oil for good.  That’s why, in my State of the Union Address, I called on Congress to set up an Energy Security Trust to fund research into new technologies that will help us reach that goal.
Here’s how it would work.  Much of our energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together.  So I’m proposing that we take some of our oil and gas revenues from public lands and put it towards research that will benefit the public, so that we can support American ingenuity…

Guest Post: The Callaway Coastdown

The following is a guest post written by NEI's Tom Kauffman. Though Tom now works in NEI's media relations shop, he spent 23 years working at Three Mile Island, seven of those as a licensed reactor operator. 
Ameren's Callaway Energy Center in Missouri is in a "coastdown." No, it's not rolling to a stop like a skateboard that's missing its rider, it's actually running low on fuel - exactly as planned.

Nuclear plant operators shut down their units to refuel the reactor (aka refueling outage) and do a lot of maintenance work every sixteen to twenty-four months depending on the unit's operating cycle. The Callaway reactor is on a year and-a-half operating cycle.

The uranium fuel in about a third of the fuel assemblies in the nuclear reactor has been used so those fuel assemblies will be removed for storage. The fuel assemblies have been in the reactor for a few cycles of operation and are now located toward the center of the reactor where the greates…

Issues in Context: The NRC Webinar on Palisades Nuclear Power Plant and Pressurized Thermal Shock

In recent days, we've seen a lot of media coverage concerning an upcoming NRC webinar on the Entergy's Palisades Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan. Earlier today, Entergy released the following statement by Tony Vitale, the plant's site vice president:
"The Palisades nuclear plant is a safe and secure facility, and we have an NRC license to operate this facility through 2031.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has strict rules, regulations and limits for all aspects of nuclear plant operations. This includes a program to monitor nuclear power plant reactor vessels and the potential impact of a rare accident scenario – pressurized thermal shock – in which a large amount of cold water is injected into the reactor resulting in rapid cooling of the reactor vessel.

This is not a new topic or one that is unique to Palisades. In fact, for decades pressurized thermal shock has been well understood and well monitored by the owners and operators of the nation’s pressur…

Negative Nuclear News Narratives

Because of the low price of natural gas, which has benefitted utilities and caused some of them to reweigh their portfolios, the prospects for coal, nuclear energy, even renewable energy sources have become considerably stiller – milkier - stagnant. Agree? If you’re looking for a simple narrative around energy, I suppose that works well enough apart from being false. But variations on it can feed news stories and editorials for quite awhile. You don’t have to like or dislike nuclear energy (or coal, etc.) to fit it to the narrative, it’s all very “factual” and non-partisan. It’s like a theory, really. You observe events and derive a larger meaning from them. Here’s the thing: theories evolve with the collection of new data, but news narratives often do not. They can be useful in a quick moving newsgathering environment, but a bane, too, because they allow reporters to lean on set storylines rather than on the relevant fact set. The latter can even become a bother if it clashes with…

San Onofre: Closer to the Truth, Further from the Bluster

This sounds serious:
[Sen. Barbara] Boxer (D-Calif.) said in a letter to Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chair Allison Macfarlane that a confidential report obtained by her office shows Southern California Edison and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the Japan-based company that built the generators, were aware of design problems before the equipment was installed.

Boxer, who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the report written by Mitsubishi raises concerns that Edison and its contractor rejected safety modifications and sidestepped a more rigorous safety review. A little mysterious, yes? This is about San Onofre, which has been off-line for a little over a year because of a steam generator problem. If Edison and Mitsubishi pressed ahead with a problematic steam generator, that would be very bad, but also rather inexplicable.

Just to get you up to date, here’s a refresher course on what happened at San Onofre:
Both of San Onofre's reactors have been offline f…

Press Release: SCE&G Completes First Nuclear Concrete Placement

Just received the following from SCE&G:
SCE&G Completes First Nuclear Concrete Placement

CAYCE, S.C., March 11, 2013—South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation (NYSE:SCG), completed on March 11, 2013, placement of the nuclear island basemat for V.C. Summer Unit 2 in Fairfield County, S.C. This major milestone is the first new construction nuclear concrete to be poured in the U.S. in three decades.

“This is an exciting achievement for SCE&G, Santee Cooper, CB&I, Westinghouse Electric Company, and others who support our new nuclear project,” said Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of SCANA. “We recognize the significance of this event and appreciate the strong commitment to safety and collaboration demonstrated by all involved in reaching this milestone.”

Lonnie Carter, president and CEO of Santee Cooper, which co-owns V.C. Summer, said, ”This is a tremendous day for South Carolina as we work with SCANA to deliver new nuc…

The Nuclear Death By a Million Little Cuts

You’re motoring down a lonely country road. Ahead of you, there is a person walking in the middle of the road. You honk your horn. Nothing. So you go around the person, take a quick look to make sure there’s nothing wrong, and continue on your way. But you might have had a collision and killed the person. That was close, a near-miss. You saw risk (person in road who might be killed by your driving), tried to reduce the risk (honked at person), avoided the risk (drove around the person). But the risk was always there and could have ended in disaster. So, logically, driving when other people are around, even only one other person, always presents a risk. Shouldn’t driving therefore be banned to eliminate the risk? We’d be safer, right? Even if the initial risk is small and you mitigate it and avoid it, risk is risk. So when I hear the Union of Concerned Scientists offer its comments about nuclear energy, I sometimes wonder, Why not driving? Why nuclear energy? Isn't driving riskier? UCS…

Filtered Vents and Boiling Water Reactors: It’s Not About the Costs

Recently, we've seen a spate of media reports that have accused the nuclear industry of opposing the installation of filtered vents on Mark I and II boiling water reactors (BWRs) simply because of cost considerations.

Needless to say, a number of us here at NEI are troubled by that accusation given the extensive research industry has produced buttressing our position that demanding that filtered vents be installed on every Mark I and II BWR is a "one-size fits all" solution.

Instead, the industry advocates what we call a "performance-based" approach where each of the 31 BWRs in the U.S. would make an individual determination of what course constitutes the best way forward -- an approach that would neither rule out nor mandate the installation of filtered vents.

To shed some additional light on this alternate way forward, Jason Zorn, NEI's assistant general counsel and Steven Kraft, NEI's senior technical advisor, have co-authored an article called, &qu…