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Showing posts from January, 2011

Ready for Anything

Georgia Power opened what it calls a joint information center near but not at its Plant Vogtle site:The two-building complex adjacent to Georgia Power Co.'s offices in Waynesboro would serve as a media and information center if a serious accident or emergency were to occur at the power plant, situated 20 miles away on the banks of the Savannah River.Planning for a problem and having a problem are two different things and Georgia Power has set things up so that any problem that might develop can be communicated quickly and efficiently. Joint information centers are well understood in the emergency planning field. Here’s a good description from the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico:In the unlikely event of an emergency, the WIPP Joint Information Center (JIC) serves as a central control point to coordinate multi-agency efforts to issue timely and accurate information to the public, news media and project employees.What’s interesting about Georgia Power’s effort is that it i…

The State of the Union Address

Did President Barack Obama mention nuclear energy during last night's State of the Union Address? Why yes, yes he did.This is our generation's Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven't seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We'll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology - an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.Here’s the first mention of nuclear energy.Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they're selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: by 2035, 80% of America's electricity will come from clean energy sources. Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clea…

It’s National Nuclear Science Week!

Did you know it’s National Nuclear Science Week? Just the same time as last year. National Nuclear Science Week is a national, broadly observed week-long celebration to focus local, regional and national interest on all aspects of nuclear science. Each day will provide for learning about the contributions, innovations and opportunities that can be found by exploring nuclear science.That means more than reactors:Nuclear science plays a vital role in the lives of Americans…and the world. Consider these facts:• 18 million nuclear medicine procedures are performed per year among 305 million people in the United States • 104 operating nuclear reactors in the US employ an average of 700 people to operate them in the 31 states that have nuclear power generating plants • 20 percent of our nation’s electricity is generated by nuclear power • 436 nuclear power plants are operating in 30 countries, supplying 14 percent of the world’s electricity. Fifty-three new nuclear plants are under constru…

Nixon and Franken on Nuclear Energy

Hard not to be pleased by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon’s decision to support a new unit at the state’s Callaway nuclear plant, announced a couple of months ago. But at his state of the state address, he went much, much further:Every business in Missouri needs reliable, affordable energy to grow and prosper. And every Missouri family needs reliable, affordable energy to heat and cool their homes. In November, I announced a historic agreement that will transform the economy of our state - creating thousands of jobs and benefitting millions of Missouri consumers of electric power. That agreement put the wheels in motion for the construction of a second, state-of-the-art nuclear power plant in Callaway County. Missouri has some of the lowest electric rates in the nation. That's attractive to businesses and families. But as our energy needs grow, we need to be looking now for new sources of clean, abundant and affordable power. Building a second nuclear plant will create thousands of g…

A Visit from China

The state visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to these shores last week proved to be quite consequential in the nuclear sphere:The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) today announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China that paves the way for the establishment of a radiation detection training center in Qinhuangdao, China. The NNSA linked this to its Megaports initiative, which aims to mitigate proliferation concerns by squelching any smuggling of nuclear materials – and that means detecting radiation at ports. Megaports is currently focussed on Shanghai, but you can see a long list of port cities at the link where it has installed detection equipment. Qinhuangdao, where the training center will be, is also a port city, facing the Yellow Sea.But wait – there’s more:The Center of Excellence, to be jointly financed [by the U.S. and China], will be a place where technical information can be shared, training courses can be offe…

Ghana Considers Nuclear, AEHI Responds to SEC

Ghana’s turn:The Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC), Prof Yaw Serfor-Armah, has given the assurance that Ghana will continue to promote the peaceful applications of nuclear techniques and biotechnology for the sustainable development of the country in particular and Africa in general.That’s always good to hear, though it seems unlikely anyone doubted Ghana’s intentions. This was said at a summit hosted by GAEC and the IAEA in Accra, as the country gears up to build its first plant, scheduled to open in 2018.Ghana? Although the government has implemented a plan to move its economy to a point that it can sustain a middle class by 2015, right now it is quite poor, with a per capita annual salary of about $700. But if Ghana succeeds in creating a middle class – and even if it doesn’t - it will certainly need more electricity.The high dependency on rain-fed hydro power, which accounts for 65% of installed capacity has led short falls in electricity supply…

Nuclear Matters in America

Michigan Live talks to for EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. We already know Whitman because she is the co-chair of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, which is a grassroots organization supporting nuclear energy.But what about Granholm?For Granholm, the energy portfolio of the future would include wind, solar, lithium ion battery, biofuel, nuclear and some measure of fossil fuel generation.She’s especially enthusiastic about solar energy and battery technology, likely due in part to the car industry centered in her state, but, like Whitman, her broad based energy interests avoids putting too much weight on one technology.The writer, Kirk Heinz, a local radio personality, decides that Whitman’s focus on nuclear energy suits him better.I share Granholm’s enthusiasm for other green energy technologies, especially solar and battery, but I have come to the conclusion that we need to invest more resources in the rapid expansion of nu…

35th Carnival of Nuclear Energy – Bullish Views, Big Perspectives and Burgeoning Economies

This week is the 35th week the nuclear carnival has been going on and our fourth time hosting. Always staying up with the latest technology disruptions, Brian Wang at Next Big Future reported on an important research breakthrough on fusion. From the press release: The [UK] researchers used large scale computer simulations to confirm a longstanding prediction by US researchers that high energy alpha particles born in fusion reactions will be key to generating fusion power in the next planned generation of tokamaks.  In the same post, NBF also highlighted that all 58 of France's nuclear power reactors were currently connected to the grid at the same time for the first time in six years. And last from Brian is how he sees the world reducing CO2 in comparison to Joe Romm’s latest “revelations.” While Romm says nuclear will contribute about one wedge of CO2 reduction (an increase of 700 GW of nuclear worldwide by 2050), Brian is much more bullish and thinks the world could have 1,800-2…

BP Spill Commission Recommends Self-Regulator for Oil Industry Based on Nuclear Model

The National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling has released its final report. For those of you with enough time and the inclination to delve into reports, there’s an interesting nuclear angle to this story.  Borrowing an idea from the nuclear power industry, the oil-spill commission backs the creation of an industry-run organization modeled on the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations that was created after the Three-Mile Island disaster. That organization helps establish best practices and technology for reactors.Well, I have to admit, my first reaction when I hear the words “self-regulating industry body” are not always warm and fuzzy. But with INPO, the nuclear industry has shown how it can work as a supplement to existing government regulation. As the report notes:Nor is there anything casual about an INPO inspection. It is thorough and careful, extending for five to six weeks: two weeks of preparation and analysis of pre-delivered data from th…

A Wedge of Nuclear Pie

It’s a start:A move to undo Minnesota's 17-year-old ban on new nuclear power plants easily cleared its first committee Tuesday as Republicans who run the Legislature make the proposal a priority.Now, it’s worth noting that overturning the ban does nothing but allow Minnesota to consider nuclear energy among its options going forward. While the Bloomberg story chooses to focus on this as a Republican issue, it isn’t really so. Appearing to give testimony before the committee were both union and business representatives, which covers a fairly large swath of a given electorate.“Currently, the Department of Energy has more than twenty applications for construction of nuclear power plants throughout the United States. These plants would supply carbon–free, low–cost base load power for the energy grid as well as creating good paying jobs both during construction and in the operation of the plants,” said Harry Melander, President of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades. And a …

Duke Energy to Merge With Progress Energy

That’s the news. Here are some details:Duke's offer was a 6.4 percent premium over the last 20 trading days, the company said, and the deal would be accretive to Duke's earnings in the first year.The transaction would create an industry giant with approximately 7.1 million electricity customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, and 57,000 megawatts of generating capacity.And here’s what the proposed merged company wants to do:The two North Carolina companies will serve more than 7 million electricity customers, and will use the opportunity to eliminate redundancies in their service areas to focus on beefing up their nuclear power offerings. Duke and Progress have long been expanding their nuclear ambitions, and say the new combined company will have the largest regulated nuclear fleet in the U.S.Here are comments from Duke Energy’s Jim Rogers (from Duke’s press release):“Our industry is entering a building phase where we must invest in an…

Texas Opens Waste Disposal Facility to 36 States

Here’s the news:A Texas commission Tuesday set in motion the importation of low-level radioactive-waste from 36 other states, a move long sought by the nuclear-energy industry and long opposed by environmentalists.The disposal site near Andrews, Texas, is managed by Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and is licensed to process, store and dispose of low-level and mixed low-level radioactive waste (LLRW). Waste Control Specialists became the first American company in 30 years permitted to dispose of Class A, B and C LLRW when the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality granted it a license in 2009. (Others are Barnwell in South Carolina and Energy Solutions in Utah, which each provide similar services for groups, or compacts, of states).See here for the NRC’s definition of what is represented by the different classes of waste.Since its inception, the site has been used to dispose of waste from Texas and Vermont (and Maine, too, for awhile), and Vermont still retains exclusive control of…

A Diversity of Opinion

Over in Investors Business Daily, Bernard Weinstein takes positive note of Republican gains in Congress and what he thinks is a concomitant better outlook for nuclear energy, but expands beyond politics:The case for nuclear energy remains stronger than ever because it is an efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels that doesn't emit greenhouse gases or particulates. In addition, production costs don't fluctuate as they do with fossil fuel plants.Public sentiment in favor of nuclear energy has been rising, and even some environmental groups have started to embrace nuclear because of its minimal carbon footprint. At the same time, President Obama has voiced support for a revival of America's nuclear power industry and has also proposed increasing federal loan guarantees for new plants from $18.5 billion to $54 billion.All true. Weinstein also notes the rise in interest internationally:South Korea, currently generating 40% of its electricity from nuc…

Sense and Senselessness

Let’s kick off the year with news that has a, shall we say, rather odd tinge to it:Chinese scientists have mastered the technology for reprocessing nuclear fuel, potentially yielding additional power sources to keep the country's economy booming, state television has reported. The breakthrough will extend by many times the amount of power that can be generated from China's nuclear plants by allowing the recovery of fissile and fertile materials to provide new fuel, CCTV said.Well – that’s good news, I guess, though it sounds like fast reactor technology to me. It gets a little stranger: Chinese scientists have been working on the technology for more than 20 years, but the details of the process they developed are being kept secret, CCTV said.Hmmm. This story goes a little further: China is not the first country to discover this technique. However, China’s discovery of the process is likely to have a far bigger environmental impact than in the other cases.And a little further …