Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2014

California, Carbon, Kewaunee and Nuclear Energy

Thanks to NEI's Ted Jones for passing this story to us from the New York Times about how California is investing in carbon mitigation technologies around the country. See if you can identify the elephant in the room from the story's first three paragraphs:
KEWAUNEE, Wis. — Bryan T. Pagel, a dairy farmer, watched as a glistening slurry of cow manure disappeared down a culvert. If recycling the waste on his family’s farm would help to save the world, he was happy to go along.

Out back, machinery was breaking down the manure and capturing a byproduct called methane, a potent greenhouse gas. A huge Caterpillar engine roared as it burned the methane to generate electricity, keeping it out of the atmosphere.

The $3.2 million system also reduces odors at Pagel’s Ponderosa Dairy, one of the largest in Wisconsin, but it would not have been built without a surprising source of funds: a California initiative that is investing in carefully chosen projects, even ones far beyond its borders…

The White House’s All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy

The White House has released an energy plan, which it calls The All-of-the-Above Energy Strategy as a Path to Sustainable Economic Growth. In it, nuclear energy is always grouped with renewable energy sources, clean coal and energy efficiency as a means of affecting climate change. And in no uncertain terms:Nuclear energy provides zero-carbon baseload electricity, and through the Energy Department the Administration is supporting nuclear research and deployment. A high priority of the Department has been to help accelerate the timelines for the commercialization and deployment of small modular reactor (SMR) technologies through the SMR Licensing Technical Support program. Small modular reactors offer the advantage of lower initial capital investment, scalability, and siting flexibility at locations unable to accommodate more traditional larger reactors. They also have the potential for enhanced safety and security, for example through built-in passive safety systems. In December 2013,…

Wind, Nuclear and Playing with Cars

This caused  a mathematical synapse to fire:Wind energy reduced power sector emissions by more than 5 percent last year, saving the same amount of CO2 as taking 20 million cars off the road, according to a new report.Well, if you don’t mind your car sputtering to a stop when the wind stops blowing. Okay, that’s not really fair. It’s a question of how many carbon emissions were displaced by wind power and that was 126.8 million tons or the equivalent of about 20 million cars. That’s fair – but consider:Nuclear energy facilities avoided nearly 590 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013 across the U.S. This is nearly as much carbon dioxide as is released from 113 million cars, which is more than all U.S. passenger cars. The U.S. produces more than five billion metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.That 113 million car figure seems right enough, but is that (or less, actually) really the number of passengers vehicles in the car crazy U.S? Seems too few. Ace NEI statistician Davi…

"The Solar Industry Doesn't Need the Sierra Club."

The quote of the day that's getting passed around this morning at NEI comes from Suzzanne Shelton of the Shelton Group. She was in attendance last week at Fortune's Brainstorm Green 2014, and shared her top five takeaways from the conference on her blog before the start of the long holiday weekend.


Not surprisingly, this aside involved Mike Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute and his ongoing struggle to get other environmentalists to understand that constraining carbon emissions and keeping the lights on is going to mean relying on a diverse set of energy sources that includes nuclear energy:
The solar industry doesn't need the Sierra Club. There was a very interesting point/counterpoint discussion between Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, and Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute. It appears the two men are/were friends, and Shellenberger was practically doing an on-stage intervention with Brune, begging him to stop emba…

Crowdsourcing and Fusion - Perfect Together

A project on Indiegogo:Scientists at LPP Fusion, led by Chief Scientist Eric Lerner, are just one step away from this groundbreaking technology and we need your help for the final push.One step away! That’s pretty exciting, belying the fusion joke that a breakthrough is always five years away – unless of course that’s how long the step takes.Rising energy costs and resource scarcity are concerns shared by the developed and developing world alike.  We need the ultimate renewable energy technology in the form of fusion energy, the source of energy for the Sun and stars.  If we can succeed, Focus Fusion's low cost and easily distributed electricity will eliminate both global energy poverty and global air pollution once and for all.  Bold in original – and bold in concept.One thing you should not do when selling fusion is rank on fission. Bad form.Today, nuclear energy means nuclear fission, which raises issues like long-lived radioactive waste and catastrophes like that at Fukushima …

Nuclear Energy Assembly 2014

Did you know that the Nuclear Energy Assembly is this week? NEA is the annual NEI conference and provides a good overview of the previous year’s accomplishments and a preview of what’s coming up next. The conference alternates between Washington DC and other locales, attracting nuclear leaders from around the world and across many related disciplines. This year’s assembly is in Scottsdale, Ariz. which means the heat is considerably drier.The assembly is just about wrapping up now, but it doesn’t hurt to keep up. The twitter page and news wrap-up will provide you with a good sense of the state of the industry in 2014.You can follow the doings on Twitter, hashtag #nea2014 – very busy account right now- and there are some news stories to peruse:Ex-Cameco CEO Grandey Receives Nuclear Industry’s Leadership AwardGerald “Jerry” Grandey, the former chief executive of Cameco Corp., was honored with the industry’s William S. Lee Award for Leadership at NEI’s annual conference this week.While se…

316(b): Facts About Power Plant Cooling Water Use

The following post was submitted by William Skaff, NEI's director of policy analysis. Yesterday, the EPA issued a final rule implementing Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act for existing facilities. NEI is currently reviewing the rule to determine how closely it conforms to principles of sound environmental regulation. 

In this post, Skaff lays out the facts about water use at power plants in relation to 316(b). 

Cooling Towers Consume Twice as Much Water
Cooling towers consume twice as much water as once-through cooling systems. Climate change modeling predicts freshwater constraints across the country. Thus, consuming twice as much aquatic life habitat will not be protective of fish populations going forward. Clearly, the one-size-fits-all approach of a nationwide cooling-tower mandate is not environmentally responsible.

Site-Specific Approach to Fish Protection Technologies is Most Effective
There are 3,153 species of fish in the waters of the United States. All vary in suscepti…

Nothing Comes from Understating Nuclear

Here’s an odd one. Edward Luce writes in The Financial Times that the drive for natural gas is pushing other energy types out of the way, risk be damned. So far, so good, if a bit overstated. Then, this:America has likewise turned away from nuclear power. In his first term Mr. Obama announced plans to revive a sector that had essentially been frozen since the Three Mile Island leakage of 1978. Nothing has come of it. Only one new US nuclear power plant is planned and that is years away.When did he write this? The mention of Obama suggests it was more recently than 1995, but the content is bizarrely off. Five reactors are in progress and FPL is at least giving some thought to two more. That’s not nothing and it’s more than “only one new” plant.Major fail – weird for this outlet.

So How Was Godzilla?

Although Godzilla crosses paths with nuclear energy twice during his current rampage, the use of it is fairly innocuous. In the first instance, a giant insect called a MUTO causes a nuclear plant to shake apart, but it expels no radiation because the creature absorbs it all while mutating in its cocoon. In the second, and cleverest, use, the mate of the first MUTO has been captured and stowed in Yucca Mountain. Although it’s said that the Nevada repository holds used fuel, it of course doesn’t – yet. I’d prefer to believe that, in the movie’s terms, Yucca Mountain was created specifically and exclusively to contain the big bug. It would fit the secretive nature of the authorities in the film – which have already explained away nuclear test bombing in the 50s as a means of sealing giant creatures in their underwater world – so why not?As for the movie itself, well, maybe it’s that I don’t see many summer blockbusters, but the screenplay is flat out awful – which wouldn’t matter much i…

Is Godzilla Your Favorite Radioactive Monster?

In honor, sort of, of the new Godzilla film*, we thought we’d ask our readers: which is your favorite movie beast with a nuclear energy or radiation connection? We’ll do this in the form of a poll, but if you have a better candidate, leave it in the comments. No awards or prizes, just the warm glow of knowing your nuclear monster history.
The Fifty Foot Woman – From Attack of the … (1957) – Incredibly sleazy with the cheapest imaginable special effects (big things become transparent due to shabby fx), the fifty foot woman (the inimitable Allison Hayes) drinks too much, longs for her faithless husband and encounters an alien whose radiant being causes her to grow to – well, 50 feet – and go on a rampage. Remade a couple of times, but the original has the benefit of 50’s style scuzz (Director Nathan Juran sensibly used a pseudonym).
Kronos(1957) – A bit higher brow (which almost anything would be), Kronos is a cube-like spacecraft that moves across the earth absorbing radiation for who kn…

A "Student Army" on the March for Nuclear Energy in Florida

The following is a guest post from Jitesh A. Kuntawala, a student at the University of Florida. He'll be graduating in 2015 with a Masters degree in nuclear engineering.

As a graduate student in nuclear engineering I recently had the opportunity, along with 8 other nuclear engineering students from the University of Florida, to become active in the public policy side of the nuclear industry.

On May 13, 2014 Florida Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet, sitting in their capacity as the Florida Power Plant Siting Board, held a final hearing for the determination of site selection for the proposed two new reactors to be known as Turkey Point units 6 & 7 at the existing Florida Power and Light (FPL) site near Miami.

We were initially contacted by Jerry Paul of the Energy Information Center (EIC) and invited to attend the hearing. We are thrilled we did. It was a wonderful, engaging, and educational glimpse into some of the decision making bodies behind the nuclear industry. The Go…

Nuclear Waste Fee to Be Suspended on May 16, 2014

Here's a date we've been trying to fix on the calendar since last November - the official suspension of the nuclear waste fee.


Granted, the date has been something of a moving target, but now it's all official. As of 12:01 a.m. EDT tomorrow, the meter will stop running. Click here for additional details.

The 600 and the Economic Benefits of Duane Arnold

One of the things that nuclear energy plants do well is what factories and plants of all kinds have always done – facilitate a middle class. It’s more complex than that, of course, and we have to deal with the history of unions, the G.I. Bill, entrepreneurship and and a lot else before we get to all the factors that have contributed to the growth and maintenance of a thriving middle class. But let’s just focus on factories, because nuclear facilities are factories of a kind and because a new report focuses on the economic benefits of just one such facility: Iowa’s Duane Arnold Energy Center. The whole report is worth a look, especially because it’s a quick, comprehensible read with a lot of tables to explore but also because it’s chalk full of good data for nuclear advocates. Duane Arnold, like any nuclear plant, is a virtual city of industry and its economic impacts are broad and comprehensive. Explore the press release and the report itself for lots of nuclear goodness. For this pos…

Bad (Nuclear) and Worse (Hydro) in Sweden

At first, it may seem ominous:Swedes are becoming increasingly skeptical of nuclear power with a new survey showing 50 percent of respondents want the controversial power source phased out.The report from the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg found support falling for nuclear power since a meltdown at Japanese power plant. With other European nations moving away from nuclear power, Swedes are also growing leery.Swedes have always been leery of nuclear energy – sometimes in favor, sometimes not. The country voted to close the facilities in 1980 and the government said it would do so by 1990. It then reversed the shutdown in 2010, since nothing had actually closed (well, three of thirteen reactors shut down, but not due to the referendum.). One could call the attitude of both public and government muddled – but realistic.So a mixed reaction by this population on this energy source isn’t that surprising. This is, though:A unique court case in northern Sweden starting on Frid…

The Return of Air Quality

Aside from China, which got quite a showcase during the Olympics, the topic of air quality has percolated quietly in the background for years. It was the environmental issue during the late 1960s and concerns about it led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (1970) and the first revisions to the 1962 Clean Air Act (in 1970 and 1977). The Clean Water Act followed in 1972 – not about air quality, of course, but part of this wave of environmental consciousness.These issues have never gone away, though they did slide into neglect as rain forests, recycling and climate change captured the public imagination. With a number of new reports focusing on the dire impacts of climate change, it would seem of a piece if heightened concern about air quality should return to the fore.But if it is going to return, it needs a spur - a book, a movie – maybe a database.Because that’s what it got. The World Health Organization has chosen this moment to update (and promote) its urban ambi…

Fukushima Radiation Report: A Tonic for Fear

The report by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation on the radiation impacts of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident came out a few weeks ago. A lot of it is a dense, heavy read, but the introduction – essentially the executive summary - is  much easier going. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the report, except that it was unlikely to be alarming or disturbing. The Japanese did a good job of keeping people out of harm’s way – more harm’s way, actually, as the earthquake and tsunami that precipitated the nuclear accident killed over 20,000 people - and the report more-or-less confirms that, if largely by implication.The best section to see this is Health Effects, starting on page 17.The doses to the general public, both those incurred during the first year and estimated for their lifetimes, are generally low or very low. No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their des…

Welcome to Vernon, Lawless Without Nuclear

In the news:Voters in the Vermont town of Vernon have once again approved getting rid of the local police force.Why?Budget cuts have been in the works since the August announcement that Entergy would shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant by the end of this year. Yankee accounts for about half of the town's municipal tax base.Now, we should note that Vernon has about 2200 people in it, so turning police services over to the county will not cause pandemonium and murder sprees. It’s not Gotham City. Still, when we say that nuclear energy facilities have an economic impact on their communities, we’re not fooling. Closing Vermont Yankee is what the state wanted – is the state going to step up and replace the lost revenue? All eyes on Montpelier.

Germany: Nuclear Back Pay and the Return of Coal

Here in the United States, the government has imposed a tax on nuclear facilities to pay for a used fuel repository. But there isn’t one and the courts have made it clear that until one is at least on the drawing boards, no more waste fee. That’s supposed to take effect in May.In Germany, the government has also run afoul of the courts:he Hamburg Financial Court has ordered authorities in Germany to refund German utilities more than EUR2.2bn (USD3bn) in nuclear fuel taxes. The refund is to be paid to five energy companies, including E.ON and RWE.---Courts in Hamburg and Munich have both opined that they believe the tax to be unconstitutional, and have requested instruction from Germany's Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice.That last part can lead us to believe that this would have happened even if the nuclear facilities continued to operate. But it does seem like garish exploitation to keep the fee, like getting hospital bills after the patient has expired. It d…