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Showing posts from October, 2014

Radiation Visible

If you think about nuclear energy, you’re bound to run into a lot of anti-nuclear chatter. Most of it is exceptionally dumbbell in nature, uninformed and trying to gin up fear where there need be no fear. It’s the kind of thing that cable news thrives on – about everything, not just nuclear energy – so trolls of various kinds will always find work, as long as they are presentable.But occasionally, you run into something that has at least some value – maybe not a lot but some.Consider this:One in three Americans lives within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant (MSNBC) that routinely releases radioactive poisons (EPA) into the environment, but there are no public health alerts when these invisible poisons are released into our air and water and the utility companies are only required to make annual reports on their averaged quarterly emissions.Well, okay, that’s dumbbell writ large. The page is devoted to the idea of adding a dye to radiation to make it visible and for you to sign a petit…

Where Wind Outpaces Nuclear: Carbon Emissions

Forbes provides a pretty good primer on why the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan for limiting carbon emissions can make a nuclear advocate a little grumbly – maybe a lot:The Clean Power Plan calls for a near 20% reduction in U.S. carbon emissions from 2012 baseline levels by 2030. But here’s how the Clean Power Plan works—or doesn’t work, in the case of nuclear power. The draft rule sets forth an emissions rate baseline of CO2 emitted per megawatt-hour of fossil fuel generation … The draft rule allows for a 100% credit for all existing wind, solar, and geothermal sources, but only a 6% credit for nuclear. There’s no room at the inn for the other 94% of nuclear.Remember, these are proposals, so they will change. Still, the issue of relative valuation in the proposed rule is at the root of discussions about properly valuing nuclear energy. Natural gas is currently priced very low due to its ubiquity. The problem is that natural gas only works as a replacement for coal because it p…

Diplomatic Differences Don’t Alter Shared Goals in International Nuclear Safety

The following is a post by Dale Klein, former Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and now Associate Vice Chancellor for Research at The University of Texas System.

All nations with nuclear energy programs share the same goals of protection of the public health and safety along with the efficient operation of their commercial reactors, implemented in accordance with their own policies, laws and regulations. Never more so than since the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi site three and a half years ago.

Recent reports from both Bloomberg News and Reuters have shed new light on differences in approaches to enhancing safety at nuclear power plants in the international community. With that in mind, I’d like to take a closer look at the post-Fukushima actions the U.S. industry has taken to make plants that are already safe even safer.

Each U.S. plant site is procuring additional equipment such as portable pumps and generators to perform key safety functions if off-site el…

Why DOE Shouldn’t Split Issue of Radioactive Waste Management

The following is a guest post by Dr. Everett Redmond, NEI's Senior Director, Policy Development.

Yesterday the Department of Energy released its “Assessment of Disposal Options for DOE-Managed High-Level Radioactive Waste and Spent Nuclear Fuel.” This report is in response to a recommendation made by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future (BRC). The BRC had recommended that the Administration conduct a review of the current policy to dispose of defense and commercial high level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel in a single repository or repositories.

The DOE report states: “Specifically, this report recommends that the DOE begin implementation of a phased, adaptive, and consent-based strategy with development of a separate mined repository for some DOE-managed HLW and cooler DOE-managed SNF, potentially including some portion of the inventory of naval SNF. This report notes that, in addition to early development of a separate repository for cooler DOE-manage…

NEI's Marv Fertel on Nuclear Science Week

With Nuclear Science Week in full swing, NEI's Marv Fertel passed along some thoughts:
NEI is proud to support Nuclear Science Week. Thanks to nuclear science, the world has enjoyed the benefits of clean air energy, explored the far reaches of space and expanded the boundaries of medicine. As teachers introduce a new generation of students to nuclear technologies this week, one wonders what incredible new innovations we will enjoy in the future thanks to their efforts. For more on Nuclear Science Week, please follow our friends via their Twitter feed, @NuclearSciWeek, as well as NEI's Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides.

The National in National Nuclear Science Week

Nuclear Science Week (NSW – but very safe for work) is a national, broadly observed week-long celebration to focus local, regional and national interest on all aspects of nuclear science. Seattle is hosting NSW this year, bit let’s focus on the national aspect. In fact, plans in other locales are – well, pretty darn awesome.I’ll zero in on South Carolina:The Citizens for Nuclear Technology Awareness (CNTA) will hold their 23rd Annual Edward Teller Lecture and Banquet on Monday, October 20, 2014.  The lecture is a community event attended by community leaders, CNTA members, local and national business and corporate interests, government and Savannah River Site officials, and elected officials from Georgia and South Carolina.Guest Lecturer – Robert Stone (Director – Pandora’s Promise and Oscar-Nominated & Emmy-Nominated Documentary Filmmaker)This is especially impressive. One would imagine that, two years after making Pandora’s Promise, Stone would have moved on to his next project…

Valuing Nuclear Assets in A National Energy Review

President Obama in January directed the heads of nearly two dozen federal agencies to create an integrated review of U.S. energy policy “in the context of economic, environmental, occupational, security, and health and safety priorities.” The task force is charged with developing “integrated guidance to strengthen U.S. energy policy,” building on the administration’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future and Climate Action Plan. The first of the quadrennial energy reviews is due this coming January. It will be updated every four years thereafter, if future administrations continue with it.Quadrennial might sound like a old European dance (that’s a quadrille), but it’s a kind of roadmap timed to occur near the mid-point of an administration’s term. Even if the review is based on administration priorities that the next president does not follow, it will encourage continuity and transparency in energy policy. Public comments were due October 10. NEI submitted a few, focusing on several p…

Into the Fusion Breach with Lockheed Martin

It’s a short story in Scientific American that might make you say, Uh-oh, here we go:Lockheed Martin Corp said on Wednesday it had made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion, and the first reactors, small enough to fit on the back of a truck, could be ready in a decade.Now, Lockheed Martin is certainly a legitimate outfit – my father worked there for years - and likely wouldn’t make a statement of this sort unless it were serious. Still, there are some red flags:Tom McGuire, who heads the project, said he and a small team had been working on fusion energy at Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works for about four years, but were now going public to find potential partners in industry and government for their work.Words such as secretive don’t inspire confidence, especially for what would be a gigantic breakthrough. Four years also seems odd, given the much longer amounts of time that other fusion projects, such as ITER and the the National Igni…

In Virginia, No Debate on Nuclear Energy

The physical presentation of the Virginia Senatorial debate this past weekend wasn’t all that polished – it didn’t really need to be - but Sen. Mark Warner (D) and his Republican challenger Ed Gillespie certainly were on their respective games. Both stayed on-point and came prepared with well-tuned arguments. And they represent starkly different worldviews, which makes voting for one or the other easier for voters.However, if you’re a one-issue voter and that issue is nuclear energy, you’ve got a problem. Here is Ed Gillespie from his campaign Web site:Virginia is blessed with abundant energy resources, from coal and natural gas in the Southwest to offshore wind and deep sea oil and gas off our coast. We are home to a large number of employers in the nuclear industry and nearly 40 percent of the energy Virginians consume comes from the state’s safe, emission-free nuclear facilities. Energy companies and energy production create good, high-paying jobs across the professional spectrum, …

Cascading Ironies and the Nuclear Green Option

Kids today! From the Daily Trojan, the paper of the University of Southern California:Nuclear power production has rapidly grown since the 1930s …Indeed it has. They don’t reference President Roosevelt’s famous “We have nothing to fear but a nuclear-free future” speech, but otherwise, all systems go.Joshing aside, the editorial is very favorable to nuclear energy:Nevertheless, it’s time for opponents to realize that compared to other energy sources, including wind, solar and coal, nuclear energy is the best possible option. They make what we could call “the green argument - ” not just for nuclear energy as a source carbon emission-free energy, but against renewable energy because it gobbles up land. I thought when reading this that it relates to a Los Angeleno sensitivity to overcrowding, but judge for yourself.Proponents of other energy sources such as wind and solar argue that these energy sources also emit less carbon than coal. Wind farms and solar photovoltaic parks, however, oc…

U.S. Nuclear Technology: The Right Choice

The global nuclear energy sector will descend upon Paris next week for the World Nuclear Exhibition, at the home of the famed Paris Air Show in Le Bourget. Under the leadership of the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council, NEI and other American companies (including AREVA, CB&I, Westinghouse, NuScale Power and GE Hitachi) will represent U.S. nuclear products and technology to an energy hungry world where nuclear energy will need to play a vital role.

In a forum such as this, it is particularly important that the U.S. turn up with our "A" game, if for no other reason than to reinforce the fact that U.S. nuclear technology is still the world leader. American ingenuity led the way in establishing the world’s largest and safest nuclear energy program. As we complete construction of five new reactors this decade and gear up for deployment of SMRs in the next, it is important to communicate to global suppliers that we are still going strong. That is exactly what NEI's Dan L…

Energy Diversity

In an October 7, 2014 article, New York Times reporter Matthew Wald aptly describes the market forces, technological changes, and policy choices challenging electricity providers today. He artfully distinguishes two aspects of electric generation that are important to understand the value of diverse sources of electricity. One is the energy contributed by a generator, the other is the power it provides. Wind and solar contribute energy (i.e., electric current flowing when the wind blows or sun shines). Nuclear, coal, and gas-fired generators contribute both energy and dependable power (i.e., current flowing when and in the quantities needed by the grid). Mr. Wald's article nicely complements two recent posts on this blog by our NEI colleague Mark Flanagan on October 1 and September 29. It is also gratifying to note that Mr. Wald refers to nuclear power as "zero-carbon", a frequent subject of this blog. For a more quantitative look at market trends, we commend to you the…

Outage Season Buttresses Nuclear Energy's Unmatched Reliability

Earlier today, Unit 1 at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Station went offline after a record 644-day non-stop run. But in order to match that record or beat it next time, the 550-megawatt reactor will now head into a scheduled refueling outage to make sure the plant is ready to provide power during what is projected to be a harsh winter.

To get a better idea of what a refueling outage looks like, you might want to review a photo album we posted online earlier this year with a wide selection of photos from around the industry - including a shot from Prairie Island's Unit 2 when it replaced one of its steam generators. The album was part of a larger package on nuclear reliability that we originally posted over the summer. We also ought to point folks back to an interview we did last November with Curtis Wilson, who tweets under the moniker of the "Nuke Roadie." In the spring and fall, it's the efforts of outage workers like Wilson who make sure nuc…

Stripping Arizona’s Uranium Resources

The U.S. District Court in Arizona sided with the Department of the Interior in its decision to withdraw one million acres of public land from new claims for uranium mining. The tract of land, called the Arizona Strip, has supported uranium mining and the support structure that has grown up around it for many years. None of that is changed by the current decision, but no new mines can be opened up for the 20 years that the land is withdrawn. The most interesting aspect of this decision is that judge ruled that the withdrawal could happen despite Interior’s recognition that it presents “a low risk of significant environmental harm.” But if mining there is not problematic, why ban additional claims? In addition, the Court was not bothered by the lack of Interior’s interest in relying on a full or even a reasonable set of facts in making its withdrawal decision.The Court’s explanation is telling but not satisfying if you believe that the government should base its decisions on available …

The Economic Value of Nuclear Energy in Illinois

Exelon made its case – see post below – and now we get a chance to look more deeply into the economic impact of the company’s 11 nuclear reactors (not to mention its corporate headquarters) in Illinois. NEI has released a report containing an independent analysis using a nationally recognized model to estimate the facilities’ economic impacts on the Illinois economy.Consider:Thousands of high-skilled jobs. Exelon employs 5,900 people at its nuclear energy facilities in Illinois. This direct employment creates about 21,700 additional jobs in other industries in the state. A total of nearly 28,000 jobs in Illinois are a result of Exelon’s nuclear operations.Economic stimulus. Exelon’s Illinois nuclear plants are estimated to generate $8.9 billion of total economic output annually, which contributes $6.0 billion to Illinois’ gross state product each year. This study finds that for every dollar of output from Exelon’s Illinois facilities, the state economy produces $1.65.Tax impacts. Exel…