Friday, June 28, 2013

“Nuclear is indispensable as part of the global energy mix today.”

Just because you’re new at this nuclear energy stuff doesn’t mean you can’t have an opinion about it:

"Countries with nuclear reactors continue to operate their reactors - 434 nuclear power reactors are in operation today, 69 under construction and more are planned," said Mr Al Mazrouei. "This demonstrates, despite the challenges, that nuclear energy will continue to play a significant role in the global energy sector."

Mr. Al Mazrouei is UAE Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei. I doubt nuclear energy was even on his radar 10 years ago, but the UAE recently poured concrete for the second of four planned reactors at Barakah.

And good for him. He was speaking at an IAEA summit in St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida) and he wasn’t the only emirati there.

"The reality is nuclear is indispensable as part of the global energy mix today," Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE permanent representative to the IAEA, told The National.

"It continues to be economical and environmentally sound … Fukushima might have slowed down the expansion pace in some countries but the general global outlook for nuclear energy has not changed "

The National is the UAE’s main newspaper and the point of April Yee’s story is to suggest that the wind behind nuclear energy’s sails is coming from developing countries not developed ones. I’m not sure I fully buy the premise or that UAE fits it as well as other countries might – the article also mentions Turkey, ditto – but maybe. It’s certainly true that the atom has broadened its scope and welcomed in some interesting new family members.

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I took a look at some of the other stories at the National, which has been right on top of Barakah and Enec.

Emiratis in the Western Region are being targeted for training and future employment in the country’s first nuclear power program.

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) is focusing its recruitment efforts and scholarships programs on such citizens ahead of its 2017 opening.

I believe the western regions refers to sections of Abu Dhabi, where Barakah is sited, not the other emirates per se. UAE is a collection of seven emirates, more of a Canadian confederation than a United States; still, it’s sort of odd not to extend these opportunities across the whole country (if I’m right).

“We have 260 students in our scholarship programs, and by the end of 2013 we are hoping to have about 410 students recruited.”

Mr Al Qahtani said Enec was offering a range of exclusive scholarships and career opportunities to train the most talented science students and experienced professionals to become pioneers of the emerging nuclear energy sector.

Fahad Al Qahtani is the external communications director at Enec.

The National also has a story about Barakah’s impact on the town nearest it, Al Ruwais.

“To quote our chief executive, for every nuclear-plant employee we will need six workers in supporting services,” Mr Al Qahtani said.“These supporting services include schools, shops, restaurants and so on.”

This means the town, in the Western Region 240 kilometres west of Abu Dhabi city, will see rapid growth, with at least 17,000 people arriving: 2,000 plant workers with 3,000 family members, plus 12,000 support workers.

Exactly the kind of things that happen here, with perhaps some differences because of the widely spaced towns in a desert environment – there’s a lot of housing construction going on is Al Ruwais.

This nuclear energy thing is working out pretty well for UAE.

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Closer to home, the funniest line of the day, from The Motley Fool:

Few things are as controversial as nuclear energy.

Read the newspaper today or any day. Does nuclear energy really seem the most controversial thing? Really?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Why Extension of the U.S.-ROK Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation Agreement is Critical to U.S. Interests

Ted Jones
The following is a guest post by Ted Jones, Director of International Supplier Relations for NEI.

This afternoon, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing on H.R. 2449, to authorize the President to extend the current U.S.-South Korea nuclear cooperation agreement until March 2016.  U.S. and South Korea negotiators had hoped to conclude negotiations for a long-term successor to the 30-year agreement earlier this spring, but ran out of time. 

Temporary extension of the current agreement will avoid a disruption of U.S.-ROK nuclear energy cooperation while negotiation of the long-term renewal agreement is finalized.  Bilateral nuclear energy trade flows in both directions and increasingly to third countries.  For example, U.S. Export-Import Bank last year authorized financing for $2 billion in U.S. exports to a South Korean-led project in the U.A.E. 

Seamless continuation of U.S.-ROK nuclear cooperation is essential for the United States and South Korea to remain reliable nuclear energy partners and suppliers to the global nuclear energy market.  Disruptions in our partnerships would encourage countries developing nuclear energy to reduce their reliance on U.S. sources of nuclear components, technology and services. At stake are billions in U.S.exports and tens of thousands of jobs

Exports and jobs are not the only U.S. interests at issue in U.S. nuclear energy commerce.  As a group of former defense and national security leaders recently explained in a letter to the President, U.S. influence in global nuclear security, safety and nonproliferation requires U.S. engagement in global nuclear energy markets. 

South Korea demonstrates the benefits to nuclear security and nonproliferation of U.S. nuclear cooperation.  The current U.S.-ROKSection 123 agreement provides the United States with consent rights over South Korea’s reprocessing of U.S.-origin fuel. When the long-term successor agreement is concluded, this consent right will be extended to used fuel from non-U.S. reactors, and to South Korea’s enrichment and storage of plutonium or highly-enriched uranium. These consent rights, plus 8 other nonproliferation assurances and guarantees, are required in every standard Section 123 agreement.

The U.S.-South Korea Section 123 agreement is the basis for a robust U.S. partnership in nuclear energy cooperation. By approving the clean extension this agreement, and the conclusion of nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries, Congress will enable the United States to compete in the growing global marketplace and create tens of thousands of jobs, while maintaining its beneficial influence over global nonproliferation policy and international nuclear safety.

Insistence on the “Gold Standard” in Nuclear Trade Will Harm U.S. Nonproliferation Goals

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. 

The authors of the recent Weekly Standard opinion piece “Hucksterism vs. Nonproliferation, Irreconcilable U.S. Nuclear Policies,” (subscription required) insist that the U.S. government condition all of its peaceful nuclear cooperation agreements with other nations on their renunciation of the technologies used for the enrichment of uranium or reprocessing of used fuel. Proponents of this restriction, known as the “Gold Standard,” claim it will raise a higher standard against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It would in fact have the opposite effect.

Because enrichment and reprocessing technologies can potentially be used to produce a nuclear weapon, it is important to restrain their spread. But proliferation of these technologies through legal nuclear energy trade isn’t an urgent problem. Most incidents of nuclear proliferation have occurred through dedicated military programs. Since the international Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was established in 1974, there have been no legal transfers of enrichment or reprocessing technologies to a country that did not already possess them.

There is a place for restrictions on legal transfers of enrichment and reprocessing, but they must be undertaken multilaterally in order to work. The United States is no longer the world’s dominant supplier of enrichment and reprocessing technologies. Today, countries including Russia, France, South Korea, Canada, China, India and others, supply the majority of nuclear energy technology, equipment and services to an expanding global marketplace. The 46-nation NSG recently adopted tighter restrictions on transfers of enrichment and reprocessing technologies

To restrain nuclear trade partners from producing their own nuclear fuel, the United States is working to increase the reliability of the global fuel supply through fuel banks, and has encouraged its partners to rely on international markets. Where a partner country – such as the United Arab Emirates – has been willing to forswear enrichment and reprocessing within a nuclear cooperation agreement, the United States has properly included that commitment within the bilateral agreement. But U.S. insistence on the “Gold Standard” in all nuclear cooperation agreements is self-defeating for U.S. nonproliferation interests.

Experience has shown that very few nations are willing to accept the “Gold Standard.”  Since the United States opened negotiations for nuclear cooperation agreements with Vietnam and Jordan in 2010, both nations have made it clear they have no interest in forswearing enrichment and reprocessing technologies. As parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), they have agreed to forswear the right to acquire nuclear weapons in exchange for cooperation in peaceful nuclear energy. They strongly oppose, as a matter of principle, additional demands that they foreswear the right to make nuclear fuel, which they properly regard as a sovereign right that is protected by the NPT. Because other nuclear supply countries do not make the “Gold Standard” demand, Vietnam and Jordan do not need a U.S. cooperation agreement. Both countries have moved forward in partnership with other countries.

By preventing the conclusion of nuclear cooperation agreements, U.S. insistence on the “Gold Standard” has dealt a setback to nonproliferation standards and U.S. influence.  No other nuclear supplier matches the standards of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act and Nuclear Nonproliferation Act of 1978, which include nonproliferation assurances and guarantees not required by other supplier countries. By withholding nuclear cooperation from countries such as Vietnam and Jordan that are developing nuclear energy for the first time, the United States will cede influence over their nuclear energy policies to other supplier countries that care less about nuclear proliferation than the United States.

Insisting on the “Gold Standard” harms other U.S. national interests as well.  As several former defense and national security officials explained in an April letter to the President , U.S. nuclear cooperation advances global nuclear power safety and reliability, U.S. leadership in nuclear energy technology, job creation through export growth, and maintenance of the U.S. manufacturing base for nuclear energy technology and services.

There is no doubt that the use of nuclear energy to generate electricity will continue to grow in the worldwide marketplace for the foreseeable future. Only by engaging in this market can the United States ensure that the expansion of nuclear energy is consistent with the highest standards for nuclear security and nonproliferation. Insistence on the Gold Standard in all nuclear cooperation agreements would have the opposite effect. It would isolate the United States from global nuclear energy development, lowering global standards for nuclear nonproliferation.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Move Along, Nothing to See Here: The President’s Uncontroversial Comments About Nuclear Energy

Favorite reactor to President Obama’s climate change speech has to be this headline from Power Engineering:

Reaction to Obama climate speech varies by interest group

Who’da thunk it? The article does supply a roundup of “interest group” reactions. Here’s NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel for nuclear energy:

[A]tomic power is critical to any domestic climate plan. "There is no debating this fact: Nuclear energy produces nearly two-thirds of America's carbon-free electricity,” Fertel said.

So no debating – since it’s true – and it’s also true that nuclear energy will claim a large share of the carbon-free electricity pie for a long time to come.

In all, the President’s shout-out to nuclear energy was not controversial, perhaps surprisingly so. Fertel is stating a simple truth that is generally accepted. Even the staunchest anti-nuclear advocate must be fairly sanguine by now about Obama’s view of the atom and can only sigh at the injustice of it all.

If there will be controversy arising from the speech, it is more likely to stem from the disposition of the Keystone XL pipeline (about which we have no brief) and perhaps the blunt force use of the Environmental Protection Agency to bring about change. The Washington Post put it like this:

Though these rules will presumably apply to many different kinds power stations, the EPA will probably aim its new restrictions at the very dirtiest — those that burn coal, spewing a toxic mixture of gases and particles into the atmosphere in the process. There are a variety of reasons to phase out widespread coal burning, having to do with public health and environmental protection.

This is pretty over-the-top – all that’s lacking is the coal industry chasing Little Nell out onto the thin ice – and it’s all too familiar to a nuclear industry that’s been in the crosshairs itself. But let the American Coal Council make that case.

But I saw nothing in the mainstream press suggesting that Obama’s support for nuclear energy was anything to even note. Even pro-nuclear sites like Nuclear Street were left with very little to say about it:

In a speech announcing the plan, the president made an early reference to Generation III reactors under construction at the Vogtle and V.C. Summer nuclear plants: "Thanks to the ingenuity of our businesses, we're starting to produce much more of our own energy.  We're building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades in Georgia and South Carolina."

So there it is: nuclear was in the speech and is recognized as a means to achieve the president’s goals. Any controversy has nothing whatever to do with nuclear energy. It is what it is.

And it’s about time, isn’t it?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Carbon-Free Nuclear Energy Must Play Strong Role to Achieve U.S. Climate Goals, NEI Says

Marv Fertel
Following is a statement regarding President Obama’s plan to address climate change and control carbon emissions by the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and chief executive officer, Marvin Fertel:
“The strength of America’s electric system is diversity of technologies and fuel types. When it comes to reducing the U.S. electric sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, efforts can succeed only if carbon-free nuclear energy plays a larger role in the nation’s electricity mix. That’s not simply the opinion of our industry. It is the determination made by several independent organizations that analyzed the leading climate change bills pending in Congress some five years ago when prospects for enacting legislative measures to curb greenhouse gas emissions appeared to have momentum. These include the Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Information Administration, which found that between 69 and 187 new nuclear energy facilities would be needed to meet the bills’ carbon reduction objectives in the electricity sector.

“There is no debating this fact: Nuclear energy produces nearly two-thirds of America’s carbon-free electricity. As a nation, we cannot reach our energy and climate goals without the reliable, carbon-free electricity that nuclear power plants generate to power our homes, businesses and infrastructure.

“President Obama recognized this during the presidential campaign when he said, ‘It is unlikely we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option.’ Likewise, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz supports the expansion of nuclear energy to meet national energy and environmental imperatives.

“Nuclear energy must continue to be a major part of the nation’s energy portfolio if we wish to effectively reduce carbon emissions to protect the environment, and to expand our supply of reliable, affordable electricity. We look forward to working with the administration to help achieve these extremely important goals.”
For more on the President's speech, please follow our Twitter feed.

Excerpts from President Obama’s Climate Action Plan Regarding Nuclear Energy

President Obama
Like plenty of folks in Washington today, we'll be paying close attention to President Obama's speech on climate change. The President will be giving the speech today at 1:30 p.m. U.S. EDT at Georgetown University. You can watch the speech via a live stream from WhiteHouse.gov.

Copies of the climate plan were leaked to the media overnight. Brad Plumer of Wonk Blog has already done an initial analysis. Here at NEI, we've already taken a look at the plan and excerpted all of the sections below that contain references to nuclear energy.
With abundant clean energy solutions available, and building on the leadership of states and local governments, we can make continued progress in reducing power plant pollution to improve public health and the environment while supplying the reliable, affordable power needed for economic growth. By doing so, we will continue to drive American leadership in clean energy technologies, such as efficient natural gas, nuclear, renewables, and clean coal
technology.

Unlocking Long-Term Investment in Clean Energy Innovation: The Fiscal Year 2014 Budget continues the President’s commitment to keeping the United States at the forefront of clean energy research, development, and deployment by increasing funding for clean energy technology across all agencies by 30 percent, to approximately $7.9 billion. This includes investment in a range of energy technologies, from advanced biofuels and emerging nuclear technologies – including small modular reactors – to clean coal. To continue America’s leadership in clean energy innovation, the Administration will also take the following steps:

Expanding Clean Energy Use and Cut Energy Waste: Roughly 84 percent of current carbon dioxide emissions are energy-related and about 65 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to energy supply and energy use. The Obama Administration has promoted the expansion of renewable, clean, and efficient energy sources and technologies worldwide through:

• Financing and regulatory support for renewable and clean energy projects
• Actions to promote fuel switching from oil and coal to natural gas or renewables
Support for the safe and secure use of nuclear power
• Cooperation on clean coal technologies
• Programs to improve and disseminate energy efficient technologies

Looking ahead, we will target these and other resources towards greater penetration of renewables in the global energy mix on both a small and large scale, including through our participation in the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative and accelerating the commercialization of renewable mini-grids. These efforts include:

Nuclear Power. The United States will continue to promote the safe and secure use of nuclear power worldwide through a variety of bilateral and multilateral engagements. For example, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission advises international partners on safety and regulatory best practices, and the Department of Energy works with international partners on research and development, nuclear waste and storage, training, regulations, quality control, and comprehensive fuel leasing options. Going forward, we will expand these efforts to promote nuclear energy generation consistent with maximizing safety and nonproliferation goals.
Also, recall that the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in March called on the White House to support the development of new reactor technologies and to lead the development of a nuclear fuel management program. Specifically, PCAST recommended:
Nuclear power requires special attention, as the Federal Government’s role is different than for all other technologies. Nuclear power currently supplies 19 percent of U.S. electricity. Achieving low-carbon goals without a substantial contribution from nuclear power is possible, but extremely difficult. Nuclear power involves large capital investments recovered over long time periods. Even if current market conditions driven primarily by low natural gas prices persist for a decade or more, it is important to eliminate obstacles now that would impede renewed commitments to nuclear energy as energy economics shift over time. Today, a critical issue is progress in nuclear-waste management, and we recommend implementation of the recommendations put forward by the Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) on America’s Nuclear Future. Indeed, nuclear waste disposal needs to be addressed independent of whether nuclear power deployment continues. The recent DOE strategy document generally endorses the BRC and proposes a timeline for some key steps towards a functioning waste management system. Implementation is key.
That's it for now. Look for more all day long as we follow the coverage via our Twitter feed.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Nuclear Numbers Up in France

A poll over at Ouest France shows that support for nuclear energy has risen over the last two years, to the point that the percentage of people who do not support it has become strikingly small – at least among those with an opinion. Since there is no English version of the site, let’s look at the numbers as reported by World Nuclear News:

Of the 2004 respondents, 36% declared themselves to support the use of nuclear energy in France, up from 33% in November 2011 and 32% in July 2011. Meanwhile, the proportion expressing opposition to the use of nuclear energy had fallen to 14%, down 3% from the November 2011 figures and 6% from July 2011.

That leaves out half the population. What about them?

About a third of the population polled (34%) described themselves as "hesitant", or undecided, towards nuclear energy. Ifop [the polling firm] notes that for the first time since Fukushima, the pro-nuclear percentage of the population outnumbers the undecided. Meanwhile 16% of respondents said they had no opinion at all on the subject.

Hesitant and undecided are not the same thing, so I’ll assume these are two different groups squashed together. These folks are reachable – if Electricite de France is working for their support, it’s working. From an American perspective, meanwhile, the high number of hesitants can seem a case of French intransigence. But that’s a clich√©,right?

59% of those polled agreed that France should maintain its current nuclear share in order to ensure its energy independence, up from 54% in a study carried out in March 2013.

The high on this metric was 67 percent in 2008, so the number here is getting better from what I assume is its low after the Japan accident. And it shows that the French fully understand that their country is rather resource poor – the reason it invested so heavily in nuclear energy back in the 70s.

Why care? Well, in a way, we need not. France could do with a little energy diversity – putting all its eggs in the nuclear coop has caused some issues in charging electric cars, at least it might theoretically  – and French President Francois Hollande wants to reduce the share of nuclear energy from about 80 percent to 50 percent. The poll numbers suggests this might be a harder sell than when Hollande ran for office last year, so, consequently, there will be a good deal of interest in his administration’s new energy policy when it is issued this fall.

This policy seems to be at the root of the poll and some of the news stories emerging in the French press now. Nuclear energy wasn’t precisely on the ropes last year when Hollande won the presidency and it’s even less so now. It’ll be interesting to see the reaction if the policy is markedly nuclear–unfriendly.

VIDEO: Simona De Silvestro on Parallels between IndyCar and Nuclear Energy Industry

Earlier this year, IndyCar driver Simona De Silvestro sat down in the NEI studio to discuss her involvement with the Nuclear Clean Air Energy campaign. She emphasized the passion, innovation and results-oriented approach found in both racing and the nuclear energy industry. De Silvestro also spoke about the importance of promoting STEM education and nuclear energy to students around the country.

Watch the video below and learn why nuclear and IndyCar racing pair together so well:

Friday, June 21, 2013

Memo to Fox News: Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Energy Are Not The Same

Last Wednesday, word leaked out through media channels that President Obama would include a call for further nuclear arms reduction in a speech has was scheduled to deliver in Berlin, Germany at the famous Brandenberg Gate. When Fox News got hold of the story, they figured the best image to twin with a picture of the President would be a shot of a cooling tower at an unnamed nuclear power plant.

Now you see the cooling tower ...
Needless to say, while I understand why editors and reporters often conflate nuclear weapons and commercial nuclear energy, it doesn't make it any less annoying when it happens. As we've pointed out in the past, generating nuclear electricity actually contributes to a more peaceful world. The best example of why that's true has to be the Megatons to Megawatts program, an effort to downblend former Soviet nuclear warheads into reactor fuel. Right now, about half of the electricity generated by our nation’s nuclear energy facilities is from fuel that was once part of the Soviet Union's Cold War nuclear arsenal.

It's a powerful story, and one that's actually part of Pandora's Promise. Here's Stewart Brand:


Thankfully, the error didn't persist for long thanks to nuclear energy consultant Brian Gutherman:
And then a few minutes later ...
... And now you don't.
Thanks to Brian for the heads up, and thanks to Fox News for correcting the error so quickly.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Song of SONGS: The Moral Dimension of Nuclear Energy

The San Diego Union-Tribune offers an exceptionally interesting op-ed on the closing of San Onofre (which is about midway between San Diego and Los Angeles):

For economical reasons alone, it would be shortsighted to exclude nuclear from California’s future power mix, particularly given major technical advances made in the 60 years since SONGS technology was conceived.

San Onofre didn’t stand still in terms of technology, but it’s a good point. What’s really striking about the editorial is that it spends many of its column inches waxing philosophical about nuclear energy and electricity production more broadly. That’s not usual in case-making op-eds.

Electricity empowers modern industrialized nations. Those that don’t have economical energy are at a disadvantage in an increasingly globalized economy. If energy is expensive because of insufficient supply or high costs of generation, consumers suffer. This can mean lower productivity, slower business and jobs growth, lower wages and lower living standards.

This is what Japan is finding out. Writer Linden Blue, vice chairman of General Atomics, departs from the specifics of SONGS to elucidate what we might call the moral argument for nuclear energy.

Failing to have diverse economical sources of energy can have adverse consequences. Today, about 40 percent of the world’s population is without electricity. Frequently that also means no sanitation facilities or potable water. Without those, health deteriorates. Without good health, people are only marginally productive. This alone should put reliable low cost electricity on top of our priorities.

Why moral? Because people must have access to electricity to thrive. The industrialized world would like developing countries to avoid oil and wood and fossil fuels, but how do you enforce that preference when people must have electricity and, it’s fair to say, will have it regardless of larger issues? Nuclear energy answers to that question and facilitates progress without producing harmful emissions. That’s a strong point in its favor.

Blue does return to the sandy site of SONGS:

The good news is that better generator alternatives have evolved with time and technical progress (including compact, high speed turbine generators, magnetic bearings, solid state inverters and permanent magnet armatures). With advanced ceramic fuel cladding materials, it is technically possible to make reactors whose cores last 20 times longer than today’s reactors, and noncorrosive helium can replace water. The risk of Fukushima-like hydrogen explosions also goes away.

Fair enough, and Blue probably has a company in mind that can deliver this – but he does stay fairly general in his view. It’s a really good op-ed, especially because it addresses issues beyond just the SONGS situation. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Pandora’s Promise in Review

Opening Reviews? Mixed, with a tilt to the positive.

nytimesManohla Dargis in the New York Times grabbed a little harder than I did at the drubbing of Dr. Helen Calidicott got in the picture and said it showed the movie’s one-sided view of nuclear energy.

This comic divide — the strident old lady environmentalist with the apparent bad dye job (Ms. Caldicott) versus a Yoda of the modern environmental movement (Mr. Brand) — makes for quite a setup. Yet such deck-stacking in movies can also be a viewer turnoff, no matter how seemingly worthy the cause. And “Pandora’s Promise” is as stacked as advocate movies get.

The descriptions of Caldicott and Brand are pretty terrible - remind me not to get on Dargis’ bad side. I used to work in the independent film business in New York (briefly, ineffectually) and a positive review from the Times was very important to launch an independent picture. One of the companies I worked for went pear shaped after a poor NYT review.That’s not as true now as it was when Vincent Canby ruled the NYT reviewing roost in the 70s and 80s Happily, the rise of specialized theater chains such as Landmark allow worthy films such as Pandora’s Promise to open in more than one city at a time, just like Man of Steel – well, minus 12,000 screens, but still, plenty for an adequate launch.

In many of these cities, the documentary picked up exceptionally good reviews.

wapoFor example, Michael O’Sullivan at the Washington Post understands a better than Dargis that Pandora’s Promise is more an essay than a news account.

Although the documentary ultimately argues in favor of nuclear power, an energy source that’s anathema to many tree huggers, it does so in a way that’s less strenuous than strenuously ambivalent. In the end, its somewhat equivocal message — that nuclear power might just be the lesser of several evils — is more convincing than you’d think.

This is a good point to bring out. The film does not downplay issues environmentalists – including those in the movie - have had with nuclear energy. If O’Sullivan errs a bit in considering energy choices greater or lesser evils, he sees that there is an argument to made for nuclear energy. Going from “anathema” to “ambivalent” is not nothing.

A little more:

chireadJ.R. Jones in The Chicago Reader:

The pro-nuclear left grabs the bullhorn in this lively advocacy documentary, which argues that nuclear power is much less damaging to the environment than people think and, given the exponential rise in energy demand, the only credible alternative to fossil fuels.

minnstarColin Calvert in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

While the film may not soothe every skeptic’s misgivings, it argues persuasively that nuke-produced electricity can be a major contributor to the needs of an energy-hungry world. Like many advocacy documentaries, it offers a one-sided argument. This time, however, it’s advanced by people who spent much of their lives on the opposite side.

There’s plenty more reviews, but the ability to quote them thins out behind pay walls – I’m sure Stone and his distributor will find them all the positive ones for the ads – but generally, the reviews are well-considered and judicious. Those that don’t like the film generally call it one-sided, following Dargis, but a lot get past simple minded views of journalistic balance to see the movie as it is, a film essay on nuclear energy.

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Manola Dargis is a fine reviewer, but I cannot help but think that the Times in general cannot quite figure this movie out. In an odd feature article entitled Rebel Filmmaker Tilts Conservative, writer Tom Roston works with the notion that conservative documentarians have trouble getting their wares into festivals such as Sundance, yet Stone had little problem with Pandora’s Promise.

But the Sundance director, John Cooper, said, “We like films that create dialogue.” Asked whether Mr. Stone’s history — he has had three previous films at Sundance — was a factor, Mr. Cooper replied, “The credibility of a filmmaker does matter to us.”

So, clearly, Stone’s reputation preceded him – as it should – what is the point of a reputation, after all? But more troubling is the effort in the article to pin down the ideology of the film because it is about nuclear energy. Although the focus is on environmentalists, several of them are not American, and none of their ideological affiliations are discussed. Assuming they’re all liberal or that Stone is less liberal because he supports nuclear energy is just – insulting. Access to electricity is pretty close to being a human right – no affiliation necessary.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Does Nuclear Energy Still Have a Future? You Better Believe It Does.

Ever since last week's announcement of the closure of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, we've been seeing a spate of stories in the press questioning whether or not nuclear energy has a future as part of the nation's energy mix. Here at NEI, the answer is a resounding yes, and part of the confidence springs from the fact that we've passed this way before. Back in the 1990s, we saw 10 reactors shut down for a variety of different reasons, and it wasn't uncommon for the press to wonder if the only growth part of the business was in decommissioning reactors.

So what happened? Well, the industry got back to work figuring out how to do our jobs better than before. Over the course of a decade or so, the industry's average capacity factor rose from the high 70s to near 90% across the entire fleet. And thanks to a number of companies performing plant uprates, the U.S. nuclear fleet actually produces more electricity today from fewer reactors.

So reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated before. So what's the good news today? How about five reactors currently under construction in the U.S. with plenty more planned or on order overseas? How about small reactors? And, as we've recently seen, there's growing realization on the part of many environmentalists that keeping the lights on while constraining carbon emissions means that nuclear energy must be part of the world's energy mix going forward.

NEI's Scott Peterson and Monica Trauzzi of E&E TV
But that doesn't mean folks aren't entitled to ask tough questions, which is exactly what Monica Trauzzi of E&E TV did earlier this week when she had NEI Senior Vice President Scott Peterson in the studio to talk about recent items in the news, including the San Onofre shutdown. Here are some highlights from the transcript:
Monica Trauzzi: How big of a hit is this to the industry, and is it in some ways a sign of surrender on some of the sticky safety issues that surround nuclear energy?

Scott Peterson: Absolutely not. The nuclear industry will continue to play a vital role in the electricity system for hundreds of millions of people in this country. San Onofre is an unfortunate situation for the consumers of Southern California, who relied on that plant for reliable power, for grid stability particularly in the hot summer months. And it'll be interesting to see how they survive this coming summer. But we believe that nuclear energy certainly has a role to play in this country. San Onofre is a unique situation, to the replacement of those steam generators, but when you look at the prospects of our industry, we're building five reactors today in this country. We just finished a major uprate at, FPL's plant's putting on another 500 megawatts. We're renewing licenses, and we're developing new reactor designs for the future. So we feel very good about nuclear energy's role in the electricity system going forward.
And on the progress in Georgia and South Carolina at Plant Vogtle and V.C. Summer:
Monica Trauzzi: The nuclear industry has seemingly taken hit after hit recently. What - how are investments looking in your sector? Is it difficult to secure investments?

Scott Peterson: Not at all. When you look at the new projects that we're putting in in Georgia and South Carolina, both projects are getting the financing they need. In fact, they're over-subscribed in the financing as they go into the markets to get financing for building those four AP1000 reactors. So there is a, very much the financial support for the industry. As we're putting new technologies online, we want to make sure there's an equal commitment with a cost-shared program to develop small modular reactors at the Department of Energy and through the appropriations that Congress provides for that program, as another part of moving our industry future. So there is investment happening today. There is still a strong support for nuclear energy, certainly a strong role to play, particularly when you're looking at meeting 28 percent electricity growth by 2040, and doing it in a way that really reduces greenhouse gasses as a whole.
Bottom line: not dead yet. Not by a long shot.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Power of Doubt in Pandora’s Promise

Note: Be sure to look at all of Nuclear Notes’ coverage of this important movie, most notably Eric’s review below.

Should you trust a “review” of Pandora’s Promise, Robert Stone’s new movie on nuclear energy, from this particular site? Well, that’s up to you to decide. If I thought the movie terrible as a film going experience, there would still be a lot to say about it – and I wouldn’t want people who have waited a long time for a pro-nuclear movie to avoid it on my account unless it was a briar patch of lies.

But Pandora’s Promise is good. It’s skillfully made, accessible to an interested general audience (in both style and content – this isn’t a dry dissertation) and it maintains a simple interview approach – shots are composed but the compositions are largely determined by the subjects – it isn’t as tightly controlled as an Errol Morris special.

And it allows a more complex point-of-view than is usual for a subject vulnerable to blunt polemics – for example, it shows how decisions made early in the history of domestic nuclear energy exacerbated the current issue of storing used nuclear fuel. (Of course, making different decisions would have opened up different issues.) If nothing else – and there’s plenty else –the movie demonstrates that domestic nuclear energy was founded at the nexus of government, military, scientific, industrial and energy interests, against the 50s backdrop of an escalating cold war.

The history of domestic nuclear energy is fascinating and I’m glad the movie gives such an interesting account of it (Charles Till, of Argonne National Labs, provides a lot of the interesting background.) , but the theme of the film, in brief, is doubt – not doubt about nuclear energy per se but doubt about not nuclear energy. Because: if not nuclear energy, what then?

As the environmental movement expanded from concerns about water and air quality to the more existential issue of climate change, its highly negative view of nuclear energy began to seem, to some movement adherents, more and more untenable. From their perspective, the world would almost certainly experience disaster if  nuclear energy did not exist to provide plentiful greenhouse gas-free base load energy. And that bred another doubt: that nuclear energy was ever as bad as they had believed.

To explore these doubts, Stone spoke to (and sometimes traveled with) various environmentalists, including Stewart Brand, Gwyneth Cravens (her Power to Save the World, at the link, is a great book), Mark Lynas, Richard Rhodes, and Michael Shellenberger. I assume Stone is their interlocutor, but you hear him on the soundtrack only occasionally and rarely see him. Since these are stories about their gathering doubts, the focus is on them.
They’re an impressive crew, and Stone clears space for them to explain themselves. Changing your mind about a key tenet of your guiding philosophy is very hard, akin to deciding there is no God. For many, it would be nearly impossible to fully process.

Doubt for these people occurred because personal curiosity provoked further investigation into nuclear energy; or the terms of their environmental activism changed as the impact of climate change became more apparent; or simply because age burned away some of the certainty (if none of the idealism) of their younger selves.

Most of them still consider themselves primarily as environmental activists (Shellenberger is president of The Breakthrough Institute, for example – NEI’s Insight newsletter has an interview with his partner Jesse Jenkins) but some express very severe doubts about the environmental movement in general. 

Other factors doubtless weighed in, too, notably the arrival of the next generation. Mark Lynas is quite explicit that fatherhood changed many of his views while Gwyneth Cravens never loses sight of her children in any of her activism. Her original distaste for nuclear energy and her current advocacy both root in her concern for her kids – and by extension, all kids everywhere, otherwise known as the future. Others, such as Stewart Brand, seem to have bypassed the experiential and gone straight for the cosmic. Whatever road they traveled down, they arrived at a place where nuclear energy is the most potent solution to climate change, the issue that now most engages them.

One might reasonably have expected some stridency or pugnaciousness from these activists, after lives speaking and arguing and protesting. But, no, this is a very amiable crowd. There is a photograph shown of Shellenberger in younger days that suggests he could bring it when required, but in the new footage, he’s so relaxed he can barely bother with shoes.

Is the movie perfect? Is there such a thing?

From my perspective, there is one serious misstep. One small bit of footage shows Stone making a fool of Dr. Helen Caldicott, a long-time anti-nuclear activist. (Nuclear Notes has a long history with Dr. Caldicott’s brand of mendacity.) Leaving aside how easy this is to do, it inserts a Michael Moore-style mean-spiritedness into a very friendly show – the same thing could probably have been done to Gwyneth Cravens or Stewart Brand in their anti-nuclear days. It’s there for pro-nuclear people to snicker at, which in this context has no useful purpose.

I’ve read some reviews that say the film should have aimed for more balance – i.e. included some anti-nuclear activists in the mix – but this isn’t that kind of film. This is a documentary not a news report and it need not aim for any balance at all. In many news stories, after all, such balance is very often a route to confusion, with information mixed so completely with misinformation that the truth recedes into the distance.

Pandora’s Promise is clearly Robert Stone’s film about nuclear energy and he’s not in the least conflicted about nuclear energy – so there’s no reason for the film to generate artificial conflict. Think of it as an essay, not a news story. An anti-nuclear Robert Stone can have a go at his or her own film essay, but in the meantime, this is what it is.

Like many documentaries that aren’t by Ken Burns and 12 hours long, the goal here is to present a viewpoint as fully as possible and then leave it in our hands. There isn’t time to tell everything, but there is time to suggest a lot of routes for further research, including into the biographies of these people and their plentiful writings (few of them are well-known outside their sphere of interest) and the information provided about nuclear energy (for example, I had no idea that Chernobyl continued operation after the 1987 accident there well into the 1990s, but it did). Such research is unlikely to go unrewarded and I know the perfect place to start.

Did Pandora's Promise Miss John Kerry's Change of Heart on Nuclear Energy?

Sec. John Kerry
One of the big ideas pushed by Pandora's Promise concerns the potential of breeder reactors to provide a technological fix to the political question of what to do with used nuclear fuel. A considerable segment of the film tells the story of the Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBR-II) project at Argonne National Laboratory in Idaho and how funding for the project was killed in 1994 at the behest of the Clinton Administration.

The film contains a brief clip of U.S. Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) urging his fellow senators to end funding for the EBR-II. But what the film didn't mention is that like the five environmentalists profiled in Pandora's Promise, Secretary Kerry has undergone something of a conversion on the question on nuclear energy himself.

Back in 2010, then-Senator Kerry was a co-sponsor of the American Power Act. Though it failed to pass into law, the proposed legislation included a number of key incentives that would have encouraged construction of new nuclear power plants here at home. The following points were culled directly from the press materials announcing the introduction of the legislation:
Increasing Nuclear Power Generation
  • We have included a broad package of financial incentives to increase nuclear power generation including regulatory risk insurance for 12 projects, accelerated depreciation for nuclear plants, a new investment tax credit to promote the construction of new generating facilities, $5.4 billion in loan guarantees and a manufacturing tax credit to spur the domestic production of nuclear parts.
  • We improve the efficiency of the licensing process.
  • We invest in the research and development of small, modular reactors and enhanced proliferation controls.
  • We designate an existing national laboratory as a nuclear waste reprocessing Center of Excellence.
Here's a clip we culled from C-SPAN's website of Secretary Kerry participating in a press conference announcing the introduction of the legislation.


The evolution of thinking on nuclear energy is happening across America, including at the highest levels of government.

A Brief Review of Pandora's Promise

Robert Stone behind the camera.
It was back in 2006 that NEI Nuclear Notes published its first post with the title, "Another Environmentalist for Nuclear Energy." At the time, I could certainly have understood how a statement like that might seem more than a bit unbelievable.

Environmentalists? Supporting? Nuclear? Energy? Wasn't the environmental community unanimously opposed to nuclear energy? 

But what I had begun to see at the time was a growing understanding on the part of a number of thoughtful people about the size and scope of the challenge before mankind. How do you support a world with a growing population that aspires to enjoy the same standard of living that we've grown accustomed to in the developed world? And how do you do it without causing catastrophic damage to the planet?

It's was that conundrum that led environmentalists like Patrick Moore, James Lovelock and the late Rev. Hugh Montefiore to reconsider their position on nuclear energy. What began as a trickle has since become a flood, which is why filmmaker Robert Stone has spent the past several years making Pandora's Promise, a film tracing the journey of five environmentalists as they reconsidered their beliefs about nuclear energy.

Many of the individuals featured in the film will be familiar to the readers of NEI Nuclear Notes. Stewart Brand is the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog and one of the leading lights in the counter-cultural movement of the 1960s. Richard Rhodes is a journalist well known for his work chronicling the race to build the first atomic bomb. Gwyneth Cravens is an author who cut her teeth fighting the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant on Long Island in the 1970s. Mark Lynas is a veteran of the U.K. environmental movement who at times has been best known for episodes of bombastic public behavior.

So what can you expect out of Pandora's Promise? As I wrote earlier this week, it was impossible not to be heartened to see nuclear energy talked about in terms of the benefits it delivers instead of its supposed shortcomings, and to see that story be told in such a skillful manner. I think the world has a lot to learn from the five principal figures profiled in the film. It takes a lot of guts to seriously examine your beliefs, and decide, as Brand does near the start of the film, "that everything you thought about nuclear energy was wrong."

The driver for their change of heart, of course, is the fear that rising levels of atmospheric carbon are contributing to potentially calamitous changes in the earth's climate. Here at NEI, we're not climate scientists and have never taken a position on anthropogenic global warming. But like Pandora's gang of five, we've come to the conclusion that if you're looking for a zero emission source of baseload power, then nuclear energy is the only option that fits the bill. As Stone himself said in a post-screening discussion on Monday night in Pleasantville, NY, "To take nuclear out of the equation when we need it most is irresponsible."

Pandora's Promise opened in New York City on Wednesday night, and premieres in 15 other cities nationwide today, with additional screenings being added all the time.




Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lost in the Nuclear Clouds

I watched Cloud Atlas (2012) over the last two nights (it’s almost 3 hours long) and was surprised that one plotline involves a nuclear energy facility, at least tangentially.

If you haven’t seen the movie, it tells six distinct stories in widely variant time periods, each in its own style. Like D.W. Griffith’s similarly structured Intolerance (1916), its stories are built around a common theme – in the case of Cloud Atlas, the interconnectedness of everyone through eternity.

To bring this point home, many of the actors play roles in all six stories, crossing gender, racial and ethnic lines. This is different than the David Mitchell novel the movie is based on, which doesn’t suggest the characters reincarnate; the novel also tells the six stories sequentially while the movie intercuts them, sometimes in very quick shots, to make the theme and the connections clearer.

All this sounds tricky, even gimmicky, but the filmmakers (the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer) work very hard to keep the stories coherent. The nuclear plant story, put together by Tykwer, is probably the most coherent because it uses the familiar framework of a 70s paranoid thriller (think The Parallax View (1973) or Klute (1970)) to tell of a reporter (Halle Berry) who uncovers a vast conspiracy that involves the purposeful sabotage of a new nuclear facility.

When I broke at the ninety minute mark the first night, this section played like the mutant spawn of The China Syndrome (1979)and Silkwood  (1982). I didn’t expect the second half to go well, especially after the intrepid heroine’s car is forced to plummet into a lake by a shadowy assassin (Hugo Weaving) employed by the shadowy nuclear plant.

Let’s pause and expand on the idea of nuclear energy as a villainous force. There’s no particular reason to get exercised by movie ideas like atomic twisters or evil energy executives having likeable young people killed. Movies, especially thrillers and other genre movies, don’t particularly care if their treatment of a subject lacks objectivity or accuracy; audiences understand this because they quite reasonably want action and thrills, not an essay on the perils or benefits of nuclear energy. The villain is a villain – just give him or her silky diction, darkly ridiculous motivations and enough henchmen to get their shadowy cabal union cards. Then, let the mayhem commence.

But – resuming our review of the story -

Cloud Atlas did not choose nuclear energy as its viper du jour. Quite the opposite. <Note: spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading now>.

An army friend (Keith David) of Berry’s deceased father (who was also a journalist) enters the story and reveals to Berry (she survives her trip into the water; surprised?) that the evil spider den is actually  occupied by disgruntled gas and oil executives who want nuclear power to fail because “it is the energy of the future.” These executives, led by a rotted looking Hugh Grant, are afraid of being rendered irrelevant. You could have knocked me over with a fuel rod at that revelation, but there it is.

Cloud Atlas is meant to be taken fairly seriously while delivering a load of entertainment and a fortune cookie moral. I’m not underestimating the filmmakers’ desire to have of fun with the premise – they know that the movie’s busy narrative agenda is almost a parody of ambition, so why not add a little fun?

Tykwer achieves this by setting the nuclear/oil segment in the 70s and evoking the style of that period by aping the moviemaking techniques and ideas of the time. But the titles it is referencing were interesting, well-done thrillers, not fat slabs of cheese. Even The China Syndrome is genuinely suspenseful if fantastically mendacious. The decision to take this approach, which occasionally turns Halle Berry into Pam Grier’s karate chopping Foxy Brown, makes the irresponsibility of the segment really glare. Just because the nuclear energy industry is absolved of wrongdoing (whew!) and given a shout out doesn’t make the conceit less problematic.

So, the segment’s not free of problems, but it isn’t the second coming of The China Syndrome, either. is Cloud Atlas a good movie overall? Well, the comparison to Intolerance remains apt: like its 95 year old precursor, it’s big, often silly when it means to be serious and the treatment of the theme is very, very blunt.

But it is also gigantic in scope, shot through with narrative if not thematic ambition and extremely well performed (the actors in all their roles are fascinating to watch – some of it feels genuinely transgressive, especially in light of the Larry-to-Lana Wachowski transition). It is, like many recent movies, an audio-visual experience rather than an affecting piece of work. You may come out of it feeling pummeled by the propulsion of its imagery, but at least not too annoyed at the filmmakers for their rather cavalier treatment of the atom.

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With the opening of Pandora’s Promise Friday, let’s consider this movie week at NEI Nuclear Notes.

Robert Stone and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Clash After Screening of Pandora's Promise

On Monday night, I traveled to Pleasantville, NY to attend a screening of Pandora's Promise. While I had originally intended to provide live coverage of the event via NEI's Twitter feed, I was foiled by poor reception inside the theater. I'm writing this summary to take it's place.

Pleasantville is only a 27-minute ride from Indian Point Energy Center, and a number of local anti-nuclear activists as well as plant employees were in attendance. All of us were met at the theater entrance by a volunteer from Riverkeeper who was distributing a copy of Pandora’s False Promises, a primer produced by Paul Gunter’s Beyond Nuclear. The presence of the Riverkeeper volunteer led the film’s director, Robert Stone, to quip from the podium that it was the “first time he had been picketed.”


I'm planning on posting a full review of the movie here on NEI Nuclear Notes ahead of Friday's nationwide premiere, so I won’t go into much detail concerning the film itself. From a personal perspective, it was heartening to see our industry’s value proposition explained in such an inspirational and artful manner. I don’t doubt that nuclear enthusiasts will enjoy the film and want to share it with friends and family.

Following the screening, Andrew Revkin of the New York Times moderated a discussion between Stone and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of Riverkeeper, and it was here that the tenor of the event became contentious. The theater is not far from Kennedy’s boyhood home, and it was clear from the start that he views the film as something of a personal affront, a feeling that was no doubt magnified by the fact that he makes an appearance. In a brief clip, Kennedy is seen giving a speech to the Colorado Oil and Gas Association where he talks about how he believes that large renewable energy projects are actually natural gas plants.



Kennedy was not pleased, claiming that the clip was taken out of context, and that overall the film was “an elaborate hoax.” Among the more colorful exchanges:
  • According to Kennedy, none of the individuals who appeared in the film were actual environmentalists and all were compromised by the fact that they either worked for or had been paid off by the nuclear industry. That led Revkin to interject, "You invest in solar, why should I believe you?"
  • Kennedy said he considers The Breakthrough Institute to be an “anti-environmental” organization, and that founders Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger are “liars.” Stone retorted,"Why would I or any people in my film, lie?"
  • When Kennedy admitted he didn’t know much about climate change advocate Mark Lynas, Revkin interjected that he was a person “who cared about science.”
  • And when Kennedy complained that there weren’t any alternative voices in the film that might have disputed studies concerning the health impacts of radiation, Stone stood his ground saying, “I will not put people in my films who would say documented untruths.” And after one extended Kennedy tirade, Stone said “you shouldn’t be attacking me, you should be attacking the fossil fuel industry.”
As for Stone, while he might have seemed taken aback by some of Kennedy's comments, he was clearly pleased with his finished product and the reaction it's been getting as he's been screening the documentary around the country, primarily on college campuses. According to Stone, the ideas in the film have "really brought people together," around the issue of nuclear energy, with the support crossing partisan lines.

"The solid middle realizes that climate change is a serious issue," said Stone. "To take nuclear out of the equation when we need it most is irresponsible."

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reactions to San Onofre Closing: It “ought to jolt the governor”

The reaction to the closure of San Onofre in the California Press has been mixed, to say the least. The anti-nuclear feeling out there has faded a bit, as demonstrated by the failure to get enough signatures for ballot measure to close San Onofre and Diablo Canyon, but there’s still a fair amount of it.

Still, this leads to a Jekyll-Hyde response to the closure. sacbeeHere, as exhibit A, is the Sacramento Bee. Take it away, Jekyll:

But San Onofre and California's one remaining nuke, Diablo Canyon, delivered more than 15% of the state's electricity. San Onofre, located in northwest San Diego County, supplied power to 1.4 million homes. The plant cannot be replaced solely with sun and wind, at least not with current technology.

Still to be answered: Will the bills of Edison customers go up because of the utility's need to purchase more expensive power from elsewhere?

Your turn, Hyde:

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and anti-nuclear energy activists hailed the closure. Clearly, nuclear power long ago failed to live up to its promises.

Yes, clearly. At this point, Jekyll strangles Hyde:

But word that a huge source of California's electricity will be dark forever ought to jolt the governor [Jerry Brown], the official who will be held most responsible if California faces rolling blackouts this summer and beyond, as happened during [former Gov.] Gray Davis' truncated tenure.

And the two merge gracelessly:

California is leading the nation and in many respects the world into a future that embraces renewable energy. But the power grid -- and the economy -- will require reliable baseline power for the foreseeable future. With the San Onofre plant forever shuttered, there must be alternatives.

Reliable baseline power? Isn’t that the promise of nuclear power?

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LATimesOver at the Los Angeles Times, Marc Lifsher makes sure the implications of the closure are clear:

Without that nuclear plant, which accounted for about 9% of the electricity generated in California, power supplies will be tight in parts of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties for at least the next three summers, officials said. That means periods of reduced use of air conditioners, lights and swimming pool pumps for customers of Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

"Losing 2,250 megawatts from the system is a big deal, and if we ask for conservation, we need them to respond," said Steve Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, which manages most of the state's long-distance electric transmission system from a control room in Folsom, east of Sacramento.

It’s a big deal.

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The L.A. Times editorial blames Southern California Edison for the whole situation – which cannot really be true when dealing with a situation like this  - but notes:

To its credit, Edison was trying to replace its old steam generators with ones that were better and safer when it contracted with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Which isn’t nothing. Then, it’s back to the blame game.

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sandiegotribThe San Diego Union-Tribune is really unhappy:

As for a long-term fix, there is none in sight. California needs more power plants, but they’re not being built. California law prohibits the construction of new nuclear plants until the industry finds a way to permanently dispose of radioactive waste. The state also has a “loading order” law that says fossil-fuel burning plants, regardless of how efficient, should only be considered once efforts have been made to reduce demand and find power from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

Even before the decision was made to close San Onofre, state regulators said the idled plant presented “operational challenges” and warned that a severe heat wave could lead to rolling blackouts. ISO officials also expressed concern over the potential threat from wildfires to transmission lines carrying imported power into the region.

Feels like our very own slice of Germany, doesn’t it?

The theme linking all these stories and editorials together is the fear of shortages that could occur because California makes it so difficult for most energy sources to thrive. It already imports about 40 percent of its electricity and if the spigot slows for any reason or for any length of time, California’s resources will thin out. Californians have seen this happen-they really don’t want to see it again. And yet, San Onofre and SoCal Edison got boxed in.

To repeat the statement made by NEI spokesman Steve Kerekes two posts down:

He said that “this situation underscores the need for an efficient and effective regulatory process that results in timely decisions on the operation of these critical energy resources.” He said that independent firms had endorsed plans to restart San Onofre’s Unit 2 and that “it’s simply intolerable to delay decisions that impact millions of customers and the company’s obligation to provide electricity to those customers.”

That’s about the size of it – and California is now waking up to the implications.

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Speaking of news, “All Things Considered,” will include a piece today on San Onofre closure impacts in California and relevance to the nuclear energy industry more broadly. NEI will be represented.

Where Can I See the Nuclear Energy Documentary Pandora's Promise?

This evening in Pleasantville, NY at the Jacob Burns Film Center, Robert Stone's new documentary, Pandora's Promise, will have its New York premiere. Following the screening, Stone will have a discussion with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of Riverkeeper about the film. The discussion will be moderated by Andrew Revkin of the New York Times. NEI will be in attendance, and we'll be following the discussion live via our Twitter feed, @n_e_i. Please check in around 9:00 p.m. U.S. EDT for our live coverage.



So Where Can You See Pandora's Promise?

The official opening will be in New York City on June 12 at Sunshine Cinema on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Two days later, on June 14, the film will open in an additional 15 cities nationwide (AtlantaBerkeleyBostonChicagoDenverHoustonIrvineLos AngelesMinneapolisPhiladelphiaSan DiegoSan FranciscoSeattleSt. LouisWashington, DC) with another four cities being added on June 21 (AustinCharlotteDallasScottsdale) with other cities (DetroitSanta FeRhinebeck, NY) being added all the time. Tickets should also be available online through Fandango and MovieTickets.com. Consult the film's web site for a complete list of theaters. On April 30, 2013, CNN Films announced that it had acquired cable television broadcast rights to the film and intended to air it sometime in November 2013.

If and when you see the film, be sure to tweet about it and include the #PandorasPromise hash tag and the official handle, @PandorasPromise.