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Showing posts from December, 2014

The Nuclear Year 2014

Years end, as everything finds an ending. Vermont Yankee is ending its 42-year run. Nuclear energy, which generated 70 percent of Vermont’s electricity, is ending in the Green Mountain state – as the year ends – as everything finds an ending.But you don’t need to see the old feller of 2014 shuffling off as the 2015 babe supplants him to know that endings portend beginnings. Vermont Yankee is closing because it is not making enough money, not because it has ceased to be an effective supplier of clean energy. Under the proposed EPA rules regulating  carbon dioxide  from electricity generators, Vermont is the only state that did not have to reduce emissions at all – in large part due to Vermont Yankee (hydro supplies most of the remaining 30 percent, so Vermont had a particularly good emissions profile). So now Vermont will turn to its neighbors New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Quebec to fill the gaps in its energy portfolio – some of that may be nuclear, but a lot of it likely will not…

Winter Fury, Meet Nuclear Reliability

Unless you live in Siberia, you probably don’t care much about when it snows there. But some meteorologists care, because it may act as a bellwether for how things will go in the rest of the northern hemisphere. And things are looking a little rough this season:About 14.1 million square kilometers of snow blanketed Siberia at the end of October, the second most in records going back to 1967, according to Rutgers University’s Global Snow Lab. Global Snow Lab? And their logo isn’t a snow globe!? Anyway, what does the snow in Siberia mean for us? Taken together they signal greater chances for frigid air to spill out of the Arctic into more temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia, said Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, who developed the theory linking Siberian snow with winter weather. There’s been a tendency lately to pay more attention to the weather, likely because the polar vortex last year …

Vogtle First to Implement New Voluntary Rule Allowing Improved Safety Focus

The following guest post comes from Victoria Anderson, senior project manager for risk assessment at NEI.

Since the NRC published the Probabilistic Risk Assessment Policy Statement in 1995, both the industry and NRC have worked to use risk information to better focus implementation of regulations at our country’s nuclear reactors. Risk information has helped advance maintenance efforts, routine inspections and testing procedures to ensure that licensees direct resources to the equipment and practices that are most important to safe, reliable operation of their plants.

In one such effort, in 2004, the NRC published a voluntary rule – 10 CFR 50.69, Risk-informed categorization and treatment of structures, systems and components for nuclear power reactors – that would allow licensees to refocus their equipment special treatment requirements on the structures, systems and components that are the most important to protecting the plant. Specifically, licensees implementing this voluntary ru…

Chief Nuclear Officer, Passionate Communicator

I have the fortune of being able to meet and work with plenty of exceptional people in this industry. Randy Edington is one of them. As the executive vice president and chief nuclear officer for the largest nuclear energy facility in America, Edington travels domestically and internationally sharing his passion for our technology. He welcomes the opportunity to convince plant neighbors and nuclear opponents that Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station is a safe, clean and reliable source of power—not to mention the nation's largest source of power.

Edington knows well the importance of communicating nuclear after logging 33 years in the commercial nuclear energy industry and serving in the U.S. Navy's nuclear submarine program prior to that. Last week, he shared a career's worth of lessons learned with the communications team at NEI. His presentation is truly remarkable and something to behold in person. I'll do my best to convey the highlights below.
Shared Respon…

What Do Amazon's Drones and Advanced Nuclear Reactors Have in Common?

Later this morning, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing on the "Future of Nuclear Energy". Click here to watch the hearing live on UStream at 10:00 a.m.

Featured on the witness list is a name that our readers will be familiar with - Dr .Leslie Dewan of Transatomic Power. She was kind enough to pass along a copy of her testimony so we could preview it for you right now.

We've gotten to know Dr. Dewan very well over the past year thanks to her role in NEI's Future of Energy campaign. Transatomic is developing a new reactor that's designed to burn used nuclear fuel. It's an incredibly promising new technology, but one that Dr. Dewan is concerned won't come to market first in the U.S. because of regulatory hurdles. It was just those sort of challenges that led the Bill Gates nuclear startup Terrapower to decide to build their first prototype in China:
The commercial nuclear regulatory structure in the United States is currently set up only for li…

Cyber Security and Defending What’s Important

We read all the time about various data breaches that cause – potentially, anyway – a good deal of pain. Probably the best known example recently was the theft of over 40 million credit card numbers from Target last year, which has led to a lawsuit from the companies that had to replace all those cards and a class action suit from disgruntled customers.We’ve no brief on Target’s cyber security strategy, except that we expect it to get a full review. But it certainly suggests the value of a good cyber security program:  defending what must be defended to ensure the public good.Cyber security at nuclear energy plants – and all essential infrastructure - is extremely important because the potential for malicious mischief is very high – not from thieves as much as terrorists and others who want to cripple the electricity grid or cause a radioactive release. Stealing credit cards can be discomforting, but attacking a nuclear facility could have grave impacts.For these and other reasons, nu…

Reading the Morning Nuclear News

From Fox News (which can be intensely partisan, but this is by former Senators Evan Bayh (D-Indiana) and Judd Gregg (R-New Hampshire). They have a plan, which I’ve extracted here (read the story for the rest of it):Before we close more nuclear power plants, we need a national conversationWhat might be done to ensure that existing nuclear energy plants are preserved? … [W]e have laid out a framework of possible solutions that might be considered by policymakers.First, markets should appropriately value existing nuclear energy plants for their reliability…  Second, electric transmission lines could better link nuclear energy plants to the markets that need their power… Finally, nuclear energy plants could be recognized for the fact that they emit no carbon…  The whole thing is worth a read.From the Business Standard:China launches nuclear power expansion schemeScheme? Let the evil laughter and overwrought rubbing of hands commence.They write letters, this one to the Morris County N.J. D…

NEI's Pietrangelo to Testify Today Before Senate EPW Committee

Later today, Tony Pietrangelo, NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer, will testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee concerning "NRC’s Implementation of the Fukushima Near-Term Task Force Recommendations and other Actions to Enhance and Maintain Nuclear Safety (click 'Live Hearing' at link beginning at 9:00 a.m. U.S. EST to watch webcast).” 

The first panel will be comprised of the five current members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, including outgoing Chairman Allison Macfarlane. Pietrangelo will appear in the second panel in the afternoon, along with Daniel Hirsch of UC-Santa Cruz and Sam Blakeslee, a former California state senator who was once a member of the state's Seismic Safety Commission. A preview of Pietrangelo's oral testimony follows.

America’s 100 nuclear power plants provide approximately 20 percent of our electricity and nearly two-thirds of our carbon-free electricity.

They produce that electricity 24 hours/day and are not de…

To Jupiter and Beyond with Nuclear Energy

Sometimes, irony abounds:When it comes to space travel, plutonium-238 is the perfect fuel: long-lasting and, as I'll explain later, relatively safe. Without it, we have no hope of going much further than Mars, after which it simply becomes too dark to rely on solar panels, the most common alternative power source in space. But the world is rapidly running out of plutonium-238. Where’s the irony? Plutonium-238 is a byproduct of producing plutonium-239, which was used in nuclear weaponry. With the end of the cold war, and the dismantling of much of the nuclear arsenal, there’s no call for plutonium-239. It a case of undoubted progress blocking further progress.Happily, that’s not the end of the story. The government is looking into another way of making plutonium-238. Sarah Zhang at Gizmodo explains the process:The production plan, for now, involves hopping between no fewer than three DOE labs all over the country.Idaho National Laboratory: The precursor material, neptunium-237, is …