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Showing posts from September, 2015

Importance of the Nuclear Safety Culture

As director of engineering at the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant, I’m privileged to be part of a workforce of professionals who recognize their responsibility for upholding safety and make it a priority every day. The U.S. nuclear industry is one of the safest industries in the world, due to close regulation by federal authorities, highly trained and experienced professionals, and a vigorous “safety-in-depth” philosophy applied to the design and construction of our facilities.

But perhaps the defining characteristic of the nuclear industry is a culture that puts safety above all else in everything we do.

Our industry is guided by a set of 10 principles that outline the traits of a robust nuclear safety culture and remind us each of the important role we play in upholding the health and safety of our communities. When put into practice, the nuclear safety culture principles ensure we are meeting the energy needs of our customers while also protecting the environment, our communities…

From Beaver Valley to NEI: Answering the Why Nuclear Question

In my role as a Project Engineer in Security at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), I deal with questions every day. These questions involve language in the code of federal regulations, inspection findings, operational experience, etc. However, whether it is friends, coworkers, and/or industry peers, the most common question I have to answer is “Why nuclear?”
Six years ago I wouldn’t have been able to answer that question. That is when I first started as an Armed Security Officer at FirstEnergy’s Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station. Beaver Valley is a two unit site located in Shippingport, PA, which is about an hour northwest of Pittsburgh, PA. When I was hired in 2009 by Securitas, I was a rookie in the nuclear arena. I was aware of what nuclear energy was, but knew nothing about how a plant operated or the importance of nuclear.

The four and a half years I spent at Beaver Valley taught me the importance of protecting the health and safety of the public, as well as why it is importan…

Tennessee vs. Florida: Rivals in Football & Nuclear Energy

Saturday afternoon will see the renewal of one of the greatest rivalries in college football when Tennessee visits Florida. But while the world might be riveted by the action in "The Swamp" tomorrow, our readers should know that the rivalry between these two members of the SEC extends far beyond the football field when it comes to nuclear energy.

Both Tennessee and Florida boast prestigious nuclear engineering programs, and here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we've told the stories about students from both schools who are well on their way to promising careers. Earlier this week, we told you about Alyxandria Wszolek, a senior majoring in nuclear engineering at Tennessee who will be stepping into a great job at Exelon when she graduates in 2016. In 2014, we published a story by Jitesh Kuntwala, then a graduate student in nuclear engineering at Florida, about how he and a group of Gators got together to lobby Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Power Plant Siting Board in favor of buildi…

Engineering America's Diverse Energy Portfolio

My name is Alyxandria Wszolek and I am a senior at the University of Tennessee, majoring in nuclear engineering with a minor in reliability and maintainability. I could not be more appreciative of the Department of Nuclear Engineering here. I have been given so many opportunities and experiences through this school, and many doors have been opened to me.
Although I only recently accepted a full time job offer to work in the nuclear industry, I have been surrounded by it all my life and passionate about pursuing this career for many years. I have interned at Exelon Generation in BWR core design group, Reactor Engineering at Three Mile Island, and both Reactor Engineering and Electrical Systems at Nine Mile Point. I accepted a full time position at Nine Mile in Reactor Engineering. I am currently president of the University of Tennessee Women in Nuclear Section. I am also involved on a national level in the U. S. Women in Nuclear Communications Committee, serving as the Facebook lead on…

An Energy Truth Shines Through

From Jim Nicholson, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See from 2001 to 2005:
Well, there's another thing that I hope he [Pope Francis] realizes, and that is that the best way to help the poor in this world is to help them come out of that poverty and get electricity. There are over a billion people in the world that still do not even have electricity, and fossil fuel is the hope for that electricity. It's cheap, it's readily producible, and if you can't refrigerate medicine and you can't read in the dark, and you can't grow out of that poverty and there's a real link there, and the Holy Father, I think, needs to be very careful about this green movement that he sort of seems to align himself with in this encyclical on global climate change, and I hope that he will realize that. One may disagree with most of what Nicholson says here. But not with his main point: “the best way to help the poor in this world is to help them come out of that poverty and…

Finding Opportunities to Advocate for Nuclear Energy

As a child growing up on a farm in a small town in rural southwestern Michigan, I never imagined that one day I would be an engineer, let alone work at a nuclear power plant. I grew up in the 1990s watching The Simpsons – probably the worst stereotypical view of nuclear plant workers – and wasn’t even aware of nuclear energy in a different context. I certainly wasn’t aware of the amazing benefits that nuclear provides to America.
That all changed when I began my nuclear career. I majored in mechanical engineering at Western Michigan University. During my last semester, I applied to work at several companies in different industries but none of them afforded me the opportunity to have a major impact on society like working at a nuclear power plant does with all of its environmental and economic benefits to the local communities.

Southwestern Michigan will always be home for my family and me. Our great state has four nuclear reactors – Palisades Power Plant, Fermi Unit 2 and DC Cook Uni…

Swedish Study Examines Nuclear and Climate Change

From the land of lingonberries and aquavit:In just two decades Sweden went from burning oil for generating electricity to fissioning uranium. And if the world as a whole were to follow that example, all fossil fuel–fired power plants could be replaced with nuclear facilities in a little over 30 years.And if you did this?Such a switch would drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly achieving much-ballyhooed global goals to combat climate change. Even swelling electricity demands, concentrated in developing nations, could be met.The Scientific American article says that this would be a heavy lift. Would it? The interesting thing is that someone worked out the numbers and figured it all out – well, at least the industrial and manufacturing parts. That someone would be Staffan Qvist, a physicist at Sweden’s Uppsala University.Sweden gets about 50 percent of its electricity generation from hydro power and 30 percent from nuclear energy. Midnight Sun Land has had mixed feelings a…

The Nuclear Interest in a Government Shutdown

Government shutdown has been all the rage in Washington lately. Appropriations run out at the end of September, also the end of the fiscal year, and the government cannot fully function without them. Well, it can – it’s not like the treasury is empty aside from moths and dust – but without passing appropriation legislation, none of that money can be divvied among government functions, thus shutdown. Now, obviously, essential activities continue regardless. When the government last shut down in 2013, the Department of Homeland Security furloughed about 15 percent of its workforce. But the Nuclear Regulatory Commission sidelined about 90 percent of its staff. Nothing “bad” happened, or was expected to, but it’s not a good situation.There is a notable difference between DHS (and many other government agencies) and the NRC. NRC is 90 percent funded by the industry it oversees; in many ways, it’s a fee-for-service entity and one where the key goal, like that of DHS, is to protect public s…

NuScale Engineer Contributing to Nuclear’s Bright Future

As a nuclear engineer in 2015, I am privileged to be a contributor during a time of great change in the American and global nuclear industries. Energy policy and sustainability are at the forefront of our political and social landscape more than ever and are major concerns for Americans. After gaining a variety of technical skills during my eight years in the nuclear industry, my current role allows me to participate in innovative nuclear design and safety analysis that could set the standard for future designs. The realization that my work could positively affect the lives of millions and impact the nuclear industry for years to come is extremely humbling. Additionally, my work as a member of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) has facilitated the professional success of my colleagues, as well as myself, and provided us with opportunities to strive for change. It is thrilling for me to consider the fact that, as engineers, we exercise complex and hard-earned skills on a daily basis an…

A Clear Signal for COP21 Negotiators

The following is a guest post from NEI Senior Vice President of Communications Scott Peterson, reporting from the 59th General Conference of the IAEA . 

With the 21st session of Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) just 10 weeks away, one hopes that this week’s United Nations conference in Vienna is setting the stage for negotiations around meeting the 2-degree reduction by 2050.

Leaders at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), meeting today in the opening session of its general conference, echoed a resounding statement of support for nuclear energy to increase its share of electricity production globally as one way to meet the carbon reduction challenge. Nearly 440 reactors in 30 countries generate 11 percent of the world’s electricity.
“Nuclear power is one of the lowest emitters of carbon dioxide among energy sources when emissions through entire life cycles are considered,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano…

Transatomic’s Nuclear Molten Saltiness

We’ve written a bit about NuScale over the last week, primarily to spotlight its small reactor expo. The NuScale design includes a boiling water reactor, a technology that is, in its essentials, well-understood and time tested. It’s not the only such technology, but it is used in about a third of American reactors (pressurized water reactors are the others).Plenty of other technologies have been developed over the life of domestic nuclear energy. Canada primarily uses home-grown pressurized heavy water reactors; it has exported its CANDU technology to other countries, notably India. Russia has developed light water graphite-moderated reactors, which are similar to boiling water reactors. (World Nuclear Association has a roundup of reactor types here.)Another design that came to life in the 1960s is the molten salt reactor. WNA describes it thusly:In the normal or basic MSR concept, the fuel is a molten mixture of lithium and beryllium fluoride (FLiBe) salts with dissolved low-enriched…

Texas WIN Leader Develops Next Nuclear Generation

Vivian T. Wagnon is an emergency response planner for the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company (STPNOC) and has worked in the nuclear industry for 26 years. She is an active member of STPNOC’s Women in Nuclear chapter.

What is your role at STPNOC? Why do you like working where you do?

I am an Offsite Emergency Response Planner, working with the County of Matagorda, Texas and the State of Texas.

In my role with the county, I work with and provide support to our county’s Emergency Management Team. In addition, I provide offsite Emergency Responder Training to more than 200 individuals each year including local medical professionals. I am also the lead at the Joint Information Center (JIC) and I provide training to and evaluation of more than 84 ERO JIC members.

My role is the perfect platform to inform the public about our great industry; to put fables to rest and share the benefits and truth about the nuclear industry. I believe nuclear energy is the future, and I am blessed t…

Nuclear by Northwest

After our visit to the northwest a couple of days ago (or posts below) why not stay in the rainy kingdom for awhile? It’s kind of interesting up there these days.
Washington State is in a good position because nearly all of our electricity generation is clean. Most comes from hydropower or the Columbia Generating Station, our nuclear plant, or wind. There is already a plan to phase out coal generation in the state. That alone should enable Washington to achieve our target. This is Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann speaking to Bloomberg News. He is saying something that has been missing of coverage of the Clean Power Plan. It’s this: hydro and wind are very important to reduce CO2 emissions. And so, insists Reddemann, is nuclear energy.
Nuclear energy is not a martyr or a victim nor does it require special pleading. The point is that nuclear energy answers in a big way to the goals of the Clean Power Plan, a point that has often been ignored in the press.
Reddemann redresses the ba…

Why Diablo Canyon is Safe from Earthquake and Tsunami

Every once in a while NEI's media team has to call out a journalist for egregiously unbalanced coverage. Today is one such day. Jenner Deal, “reporting” for Business Insider, produced a wildly unbalanced video, replete with anti-nuclear activist views and horror-film ominous sound, in labeling the Diablo Canyon Power Plant a "Fukushima waiting to happen."

The report wasn't entirely erroneous -- Deal got Diablo's acreage, location, and surrounding population correct. But thereafter her reporting lapses badly into anti-nuclear activism. "Many fear that a single earthquake could cause a repeat of the 2011 Fukushima disaster," Deal claims in the intro to her video. Actually, very few outside of California's anti-nuclear activist community do; scores of independent geologists and seismologists who've studied the site do not. Nor does the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has the authority to shut down Diablo Canyon or any other nuclear power p…

After the Ball: NuScale and Its Small Reactor Expo

Here’s something that might have been kind of fun to attend if you were rambling around Oregon in August:NuScale Power announced today that it will host the first NuScale Exposition (also known as NuEx) on August 20 and 21, 2015 in Corvallis, Oregon. NuEx will provide the opportunity to learn more about the US leader in small module reactor (SMR) development, tour its facilities, talk with senior executives and interface with suppliers, investors and state and federal legislators. NuScale also hosted a gala dinner featuring “some of the finest wines of Oregon.” I was happy to read in NuScale’s follow-up press release that our old friend, Washington state Rep. Sharon Brown, was able to make it over the state line to try out some fine Oregon wine:“[S]mall modular reactors are not your grandpa’s nuclear. They are emerging technologies built on existing designs. New nuclear is smaller, safer, and carbon-free.” Smaller, sure. Safer? Well, when the legislature is out of session, Brown herse…

Teamwork Keeps Plant Workers Safe at Beaver Valley

Claudia Sacha works as a radiation protection services supervisor at Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, Pa.
As a supervisor in Nuclear Radiation Protection Services, Claudia leads a team of eight employees, and to her, leadership means “respecting people, earning the trust of others, finding value in each person, taking ownership of undesired outcomes, and genuinely listening.”

Claudia’s supervisory role includes dosimetry, respiratory protection and radiation protection-related technical issues. Claudia and her team also are responsible for radiation protection software, the most notable being the software that logs employees in and out of radiologically controlled areas and tracks their radiation dose.

“The most challenging part of my job is balancing the need to operate and perform plant maintenance with the principles of radiation protection. The goal is to ensure safe, reliable plant operation as well as sound radiological safety practice. We have a great team that mana…