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Showing posts from April, 2013

Right Side Up Down Under

Something we always like to hear:
Nuclear energy has received the thumbs up from a former anti-nuclear environmentalist who co-authored an independent report pitting the advantages of nuclear energy against renewable energy for electricity generation.
Ben Heard told a uranium conference in Adelaide today that nuclear power presented lower start-up costs, lower cost electricity, much smaller land use, no use of fresh water, more reliable generation capacity and other advantages compared to renewable energy. Lower startup costs? He’s got numbers.
Key takeaways include nuclear power requiring a capital cost of between $3.5 billion and $4.8 billion for a 690* megawatt equivalent plant compared to $8.1 billion for a 1,460MWe equivalent combined renewable energy plant as well as requiring 2 square kilometers of exclusive land compared to 18.1 square kilometers for the renewable option. I’d like to see those num – oh, wait, I can?
Heard’s comprehensive, self-funded report (Zero Carbon Optio…

The Traction of Small Reactors

The New York Times’ Matt Wald provides a nicely reported history and the state-of-play in the small reactor world. Just as the first domestic nuclear reactors were scaled up versions of small reactors, current versions of the tiny titans are scaled down versions of full-scale reactors (actually, some of them are – some are based on new ideas entirely).“They offer the potential for a new paradigm in how we think about construction of nuclear power plants,” Peter B. Lyons, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy, said of the so-called small modular reactors, also known as S.M.R.’s. He is supervising a program under which the government will pay up to half of the development cost of two different models. One manufacturer already has a contract to develop a plan for two small reactors in Tennessee. That manufacturer would be Babcock&Wilcox, teamed with Bechtel and the Tennessee Valley Authority (interesting B&W video on this page).Wald also provides some in…

This Navy Gridiron Great Has a Pretty Bright Future

Our service academies aren't really much known for developing NFL talent, but Navy linebacker Keegan Wetzel could hear his name called during the NFL Draft, which starts tonight and concludes on Saturday. Wetzel is profiled today in the Annapolis, Md., Capital Gazette, and his inspiring story deserves broad commendation.

Navy competes admirably and successfully in the top division of NCAA college football, and after a standout senior season, Wetzel has had contact with a handful of NFL teams this spring. His football stats are tremendous, but pro football teams likely have additional cause for their interest in the linebacker. The Gazette notes that Wetzel is one serious scholar athlete:

Wetzel, who earned the Tony Rubino Silver Helmet Award as Navy's Most Outstanding Player from the Touchdown Club of Annapolis, is thought to be the first Football Subdivision player to score a perfect 1,600 on the Scholastic Assessment Test. He boasts a 3.91 grade point average as a systems e…

Swinging the Axe at MOX

One of the most vexing aspects of President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget request (as regards topic of blog, naturally) is the deep cut made to MOX facility construction in South Carolina. This is being built at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site and is about 60 percent complete. But let’s back up. What is the MOX facility? For that matter, what’s MOX? (link to NEI’s member site – you can see the whole thing if you’re a member – but this is the key part)Shaw AREVA MOX Services is the prime contractor for the design, construction and startup of the Energy Department’s mixed oxide fuel fabrication facility being built at DOE’s Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C. Under a program managed by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the MOX plant will help dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapons grade plutonium by blending it into fuel for commercial power reactors And here’s the thing or at least a thing: we share this obligation with Russia, who participated in the …

Search and Employ

If you’re looking for a compelling overview of the enormous potential for a career in the U.S. nuclear industry today, our Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides has authored it in the May-June issue of Search & Employ .

The potential for nuclear workforce participation is especially appealing for men and women in the United States Navy. In August 2012, McAndrew-Benavides notes, industry entered into a first-of-its-kind agreement with the Navy to establish a system affording a seamless transition for Navy personnel to enter the civilian nuclear workforce. The navy has long been a fertile source for industry recruitment, so the agreement makes perfect sense. The agreement is a two-way street and benefits the Navy as well. It expands from the civilian sector to also include recruitment by the Navy for enlisted positions through the industry’s Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program (NUCP).

Additionally, the nuclear industry has been hiring more than 5,000 people a year in the U.S. over the past th…

Nuclear Energy Grabs Top Spot on Reddit ... On Earth Day

We've been recognizing Earth Day all day long here on all of our social media platforms, but I wanted to share one image that warmed my heart today like no other. If you pop over to the home page at Reddit, the link that's currently ranked #1 is a story that originally appeared at Scientific American on James Hansen's conclusion that the use of nuclear energy has saved millions of lives all around the world.
For those of you who haven't read the paper from NASA's Godard Institute, here's the nut graph:
The authors come up with the striking figure of 1.8 million as the number of lives saved by replacing fossil fuel sources with nuclear.

They also estimate the saving of up to 7 million lives in the next four decades, along with substantial reductions in carbon emissions, were nuclear power to replace fossil fuel usage on a large scale.Impressive. It's indeed a happy Earth Day.

The Ink on the Rubber Pad Redux

Nuclear Notes friend Meredith Angwin kindly pointed us to a pdf of Robert Alvarez’s written testimony to the Vermont Senate committee considering a bill to tax the used nuclear fuel being held at Vermont Yankee. The fuller post about the Vermont hearing and who Robert Alvarez is is two below this one.I figured Alvarez was simply reinforcing what the committee wanted to do, and with no other witnesses, no opposition to his statements. Little did I know. The written testimony is just – awful – almost willfully useless as a fact set. Because, in this instance, facts don’t matter.The document is on Ms. Angwin’s site, so by all means, send some clicks her way. It’s the bottom link.Thanks to her for this. It’s an important “o” to put an umlaut over – it exposes the hearing as little more than a show trial for Vermont Yankee. If the state wants to tax used fuel, then pass a tax bill including it – that’s its right. But trying to fix a bogus motivation to the effort is very discouraging – cru…

Happy Earth Day!

The Washington Post celebrates Earth Day as it might, with an editorial about the failure to make a cap-and-trade regime work in the European Union. Let’s let that slide off the side a bit, though, and focus on this paragraph: Germany is irrationally shutting its nuclear power plants — which produce lots of steady, reliable electricity and no carbon dioxide emissions — and promising that renewables will somehow pick up the slack. Perversely, that approach has led power companies to ramp up coal burning, the dirtiest fossil fuel, in a country that has also lavished its public money on the solar industry. Spain, too, has over-invested in expensive renewables. To its credit, France hasn’t decided to shutter its nuclear plants, but it is one of many countries that refuse to open up natural gas reserves, a resource that could help wean the continent off coal.This is actually pretty rough on renewable energy, more so than one usually sees from the Post. It’s also correct, especially as …

Vermont Yankee and the Ink on the Rubber Stamp

There’s been a little swath of stories lately about a hearing in Vermont about the used fuel held at the Vermont Yankee facility. Here’s a sample from one of them:The testimony of Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, comes as some lawmakers are urging that Vermont consider a new tax on the highly radioactive nuclear waste being stored at the Vermont Yankee plant in Vernon. Alvarez said Minnesota levies such a tax.   Minnesota does indeed do this and commits the funds to renewable energy projects. You can read the details of this program here. If a consolidated storage site opens in 2021, as has been bruited, and Xcel moves its used fuel there, the state will have to find another way to, um, let’s say gather funds for this effort. Granted, that’s a lot of ifs, and I guess they would all go for Vermont as well.But what about Robert Alvarez? Here’s more of him at the hearing.The pool “contains about nine times more cesium-137 (a radioact…

Regulation, Nuclear Energy and the Cafeteria

Do the regulated always feel overregulated?One day’s delivery brings a directive stipulating that the sidewalks must be widened to permit two wheelchairs to cross paths without bumping. Another says the school cafeteria must be made accessible by elevator. Trees must be trimmed of branches six feet up their trunks, the orders go, and only government-certified technicians can change a light bulb on city property.This is from a story in the Washington Post about a small French town (pop. 600) called Albaret-Sainte-Marie and its relationship with regulators in Paris. Now, except for the light bulb changing, all these directives could have truly beneficial outcomes, making life easier for a slice of the population, notably the disabled slice, but if various agencies are all putting their stamps onto the daily life of Albaret-Sainte-Marie simultaneously, the result could drain the town’s resources and kill the town’s overall civic effort to enable a better life for its people.“We are bein…

Sharing Nostalgic Photos in Honor of NEI’s 60th

Last week, blogger Will Davis (@atomicnews) honored NEI’s 60th anniversary by sharing a handful of historical photos from the time of our founding. 
NEI was founded on April 10, 1953 as the Atomic Industrial Forum (AIF) to serve the nation in the “development of atomic energy for constructive purposes.” 
Will was gracious enough to tweet out photos of AIF artifacts from the 1950s, including a membership roster and cover of the Forum Memo magazine. Take a look at the photos below.

A Little Nuclear Diversity in the Energy Mix

France enjoyed a little controversy a few weeks ago when automaker Renault questioned whether nuclear energy alone could recharge all the electric cars that will soon be on the road. I wrote about it as an issue of energy diversity or rather, France’s lack of it due to its use of nuclear energy. If there can be a place where nuclear energy can be said to hamper energy diversity, France is it, even if it has had a largely salutary effect on the country.The principle of diversity is a good one, regardless of energy type and where it can become an issue usually doesn’t involve nuclear energy. Too much of one energy type can lead to shortages that can lead in turn to price instability; a single source for fuel can play some pretty repulsive games, as Russia did to some of its neighbors with natural gas a few years ago.Former EPA Administrator and New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman weighs in on the topic as regards the rush to natural gas in this country:The shale gas revolution h…

“A great boon for the benefit of mankind”

Whether or not NEI is involved, we’re sure to see coverage, even celebration, of the 60th anniversary of the domestic nuclear energy industry. C.T. Carley of Mississippi State University decides to be the one that gets it going with an op-ed:
Now, 60 years after President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his historic “Atoms for Peace” address to the U.N. General Assembly, history has shown that the world has benefited from nuclear energy. That’s pretty nice. More, please:
“A great boon for the benefit of mankind” is on the horizon if that energy is harnessed for peace. His [Eisenhower’s] proposal took the form of an ambitious Marshall Plan for nuclear energy, a program of international pooling of nuclear technology and fissionable materials. The editorial goes on to mention the five reactors being built here and 68 other ones being sited around the world.
Nuclear plants supply more clean energy than any of the alternative power sources. Despite billions of dollars in government subsidi…

NEI Statement on GAO Report on Radiological Incidents and Likely Public Response

Earlier today, the U.S. Government Accountability Officeissued a study that concluded that the NRC needs to do a better job understanding how the public might react in response to theoretical incidents at U.S. nuclear power plants.

In response to media inquiries concerning the study, NEI issued the following statement:
The emergency planning programs and requirements that are the focus of this report are only one element of a comprehensive, multilayered strategy that is in place to assure public health and safety. Because our facilities are operating safely – as verified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and a multitude of safety and performance indicators that are monitored and reported regularly – this report should be viewed within the larger context of protective measures that we take to prepare for the unexpected. Our defense in depth approach encompasses the robust design and construction of facilities, including the fuel cladding, the reactor coolant systems, and the contai…

Jim Asselstine's Bullish Assessment of Nuclear Energy’s Future

The following is a guest post submitted by Scott Peterson, NEI's senior vice president of communications.

SINGAPORE--Jim Asselstine has an unparalleled pedigree to assess the nuclear energy industry. He has analyzed the industry for the past 23 years at Lehman Brothers and Barclays, was a Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioner and punched his policy credential as a congressional staffer.

“My own personal view is that we should try to keep nuclear power, as the only zero-carbon, large-scale baseload generating source at about its current level of 19 or 20 percent of U.S. [electric] generation,” Asselstine said during a clear-eyed assessment of America’s nuclear energy industry. He was speaking at the World Nuclear Fuel Conference, a global symposium in Singapore sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute and World Nuclear Association.

Assuming modest electricity demand growth and with the closure of existing reactors after 60 years of production, Asselstine said meeting this…

Nuclear Energy’s Storied History and Bright Future

The following is a guest post from NEI’s President and CEO, Marv Fertel.

This year is the 60th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s famous “Atoms for Peace” speech at the United Nations. It also is the 60th anniversary of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) which began its existence on April 10, 1953 as the Atomic Industrial Forum (AIF).

Through its 26 founding members, AIF became the organization that launched the U.S. nuclear industry as it worked to bring the commercial uses of nuclear energy and nuclear materials to benefit America and the rest of the world. We can thank the visionary leaders over the early years, leaders like John Simpson of Westinghouse, Bert Wolfe from General Electric, Jim O’Connor from Commonwealth Edison and many others who guided the industry through tremendous research, technology advancement and promise. During this time, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) played a dual role as both advocate and supporter of technology development as well as the safety re…

NEI's Paul Genoa Hits 10 Markets in Radio Media Tour on Small Modular Reactors

This morning Paul Genoa, NEI’s senior director of policy development, completed a tour of 10 radio outlets – including three state networks covering Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee – discussing small reactor technology in the context of the administration’s release of the FY 14 budget tomorrow. The president has supported SMR technology in his budgets each of the past three years. Paul characterized SMRs as an “elegant evolution” relative to large light water reactor technology, one whose development over the next decade will “kickstart an entire industry.”

You'd be right in believing that today in industry there is a good deal of excitement about the frontier of SMR technology, and for good reason.
The four current SMR designs, Paul told his radio audiences, possess “an economy of scaleability,” affording them the versatility to respond to load growth, and are likely to be situated on sites of about 30 acres, or “the size of a relatively small shopping center.” They are being d…

NEI CEO Marv Fertel: America's Reactors Safe Under Jaczko Term as NRC Chair, Still Safe Today

The following statement can be attributed to Marv Fertel, NEI's President and CEO. The entire statement was provided to Matt Wald of the New York Times in response to comments made yesterday in Washington by former U.S. NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko:
“U.S. nuclear energy facilities are operating safely. That was the case prior to Greg Jaczko’s tenure as Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman. It was the case during his tenure as NRC chairman, as acknowledged by the NRC’s special Fukushima response task force and evidenced by a multitude of safety and performance indicators. It is still the case today, particularly as every U.S. nuclear energy facility adds yet another layer of safety by implementing lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

“The greatest safety improvement to protect against extreme events, regardless of their cause, comes from the FLEX response strategy that the industry began implementing last year. The heart of this effort is adding more portable, backup …

The Nuclear View from Accra

This one flew in under the radar:
Minister for Energy and Petroleum Emmanuel Kofi Buah, says Ghana is committed to considering nuclear energy as a viable option in power generation.
He said the Ministry is putting the necessary measures in place to ensure the realization of that great goal.
According to him, the increasing demand for power in the country called for accelerated measures to venture into nuclear power, adding that the time has come for critical consideration of this option. The author here seems to jumping straight from considering to implementing, which still seems a way off. Still, the reason Ghana is looking into nuclear energy is very easy to understand.
The IAEA Africa Head pledged his support for Ghana in its quest to venture into that area, saying that if the country is to achieve higher middle income status, then there is the need for cheap and clean energy to power its developing industries. That’s about right. Although I didn’t find much discussion of limiting…

Readers are Catching on to Helen Caldicott's Alarmist Rhetoric About Nuclear Energy

For a number of years now, we've been sure to follow the public pronouncements of anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott and how the public is beginning to push back against her radical agenda.

The latest example comes from the Sydney Morning Herald, where Caldicott's latest op-ed was greeted frostily in the comments section following the article.

Here's a sampler:
As someone who worked as a medical physicist, whose job it was to be on to of these sorts of issues. I must say this is alarmist, unbalanced and inaccurate and should be treated with a healthy degree of suspicion.,

Long on rhetoric, short on actual data.

[...]

I'm very surprised such a vague article could be published in the SMH. "Growing body of scientific evidence", "unprecedented increase" and "huge continuing" are the words used here to back up the basic premise. No numbers, emotive language and non-specifics - these are the hallmarks of spin, propaganda and a hidden age…

In California, Nuclear Turns Off and Prices Go Up

What would happen to electricity prices in the event of a significant nuclear power plant shutdown? If recent events in Southern California are any measure, electricity prices would go up.

In January of 2012, both reactors at San Onofre in Southern California were taken out of service. The result? Electricity prices in the north and south of the state are no longer comparable. Prices were up 12% in 2012 in “the Southland” compared to Northern California where PG&E’s Diablo Canyon keeps humming along, according to new data from the US Energy Information Administration.



Electric Light & Power magazine says that the difference is one of simple substitution. Switching off nuclear power has led to more expensive alternatives.

But don’t look to natural gas prices as the culprit.
Relative differences in natural gas prices do not seem to be driving the gap between Northern and Southern California power prices… Electricity imports (from other states) aren’t to blame either. …

The Value of Energy Diversity, Nuclear Energy Division

On the one hand, people jabber about energy diversity – simply, the practice of not betting the megawatts on one energy source – but if the price is right, there is a rush for, say, natural gas. Now, that’s still within the context, in this country, of a pretty broad energy mix. And natural gas isn’t exactly a villain, as utilities have embraced it as a means of reducing carbon emissions and shuttering coal plants.But what about France? It gets between 75 and 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy. That’s not very diverse, though it doesn’t seem to have caused a lot of problems. Yet.I ran into this little story at Autoblog Green, about Renault’s warning that the grid may not be able to handle a big influx of electric cars:The culprit is a combination of France's extensive use of nuclear power, which lacks the flexibility to cope with power-demand surges, and the widespread use of electric heaters during France's cold spells, which already strains the country's …