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Showing posts from August, 2014

Nuclear Energy Sets Forth in Ghana

An energy professional with the great name of Jude Nuru writes on Ghanaweb:It is worth mentioning that the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission has over the years successfully operated a nuclear plant on a small scale which has been of significant benefit to Ghanaians health wise. Now is the time to rally support for the Commission as it prepares to build Ghana’s first nuclear power plant which has immense potential not only to halt the recurrent power outages, but also bring additional revenue to mother Ghana through the exportation of excess power to neighboring countries.Mr. Nuru is mostly interested in dispelling nuclear myths, at which he does a fine job. He even tackles the tough-to-simplify idea of the risk benefit ratio – nuclear is low risk and huge benefit, but that can be a hard proposition to hear over a din of fearmongering. But he does it.The question is: is Ghana moving forward with a nuclear facility?A bill is being prepared to establish an independent regulatory authority t…

Coffee in the Morning, Biogas in the Evening

The Huffington Post has a story about the waste generated by items you use in the morning, though it stretches things a bit by including your cell phone and clothing. The interesting one is coffee:
[O]ne of the major sources of river pollution in Central America is coffee processing plants since large volumes of wastewater are generated from the separation of the coffee bean from the cherry. The story recommends you buy “shade-grown” or naturally grown coffee, though I imagine it is processing coffee that creates the problem not growing it. Still, I wondered whether coffee processors, whether on their own or by government regulation, might have a means to do something about the wastewater.
Why, yes, at least some do:
The Energy from Coffee Wastewater project by UTZ Certified has proven that is possible to generate energy, tackle climate change and protect water resources by treating discharges from coffee mills. How does it generate energy? Through the production of biogas that is us…

Westinghouse Engineer Dedicated to Nuclear Safety Culture

The following post was sent to us by Westinghouse Electric Company’s Laura Goossen for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them.

Laura is the Nuclear Safety Culture program manager at Westinghouse Electric Company in Cranberry Township, Pa.  She’s worked in the nuclear industry for seven years, after earning a Systems Engineering degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point and then holding positions of increasing responsibility within the U.S. military before joining Westinghouse. 

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels.
What I do matters 
A focus on safety is an overriding priority at Westinghouse and for each of our employees. This includes maintain…

In California, Earthquake Damages Wineries but not Nuclear Plant

The Associated Press yesterday ran a sensationalized account of an internal Nuclear Regulatory Commission dispute over the seismic safety of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant. It actually wasn't much of a dispute insomuch as one NRC voice advocated to have Diablo Canyon shut down until additional seismic testing of the site could be conducted, while the larger regulatory body over many years has exhaustively analyzed seismic threats at Diablo Canyon, always concluding that the site is safe.   
Federal regulations require that nuclear plants be able to withstand extreme natural events that may occur in the region where they are located, and the NRC most recently required that nuclear utilities have seismic experts re-evaluate the potential earthquake impact at their sites using the latest available data and methodologies. But earlier this year the NRC reminded the public that nuclear plants’ substantial safety margins above their designs ensure they are safe for continued opera…

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz in Idaho

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has never hidden his support for nuclear energy. In 2011, before he took up his current post, he wrote an article for Foreign Affairs surveying the nuclear landscape, finding some sump holes and crevices (as well as gold-infused hillocks and verdant valleys), and concluded:As greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere, finding ways to generate power cleanly, affordably, and reliably is becoming an even more pressing imperative. Nuclear power is not a silver bullet, but it is a partial solution that has proved workable on a large scale. … The government's role should be to help provide the private sector with a well-understood set of options, including nuclear power -- not to prescribe a desired market share for any specific technology.And:The United States must take a number of decisions to maintain and advance the option of nuclear energy.As energy secretary, he has embraced President Barack Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy – it features i…

Small Nuclear Reactors? Why Not Mini?

More from the world of venture capital :Less than a couple hours ago, we were highlighted in a TechCrunch article disclosing that UPower is a Y Combinator company.  This article is currently trending at story number 1 in HackerNews.Almost all of that is way too millenial for me, but it does raise the question: what is UPower? and Y Combinator, for that matter?Let’s start with the second part first:When Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham passed the keys of his uber-successful seed accelerator program to Sam Altman in February, he did so with an eye on the future.Graham’s interest was largely in internet startups, but Altman seems to have a taste for nuclear energy and biotech:“I’ve always loved it when we can fund companies that, if we don’t fund them, they won’t exist,” Altman said in an interview with Re/code on Tuesday. “No one is funding energy, and I think it’s a good business and really important for the world.“Really important for the world.” It has kind of an adolescent twang …

In a Puff of Solar Smoke

One could use a story like this to slag solar energy, but that’s not the point: According to the Associated Press, up to 28,000 birds per year might be meeting an early death after burning up in the focused beams of sunlight, with birds dying at a rate of one bird every two minutes. The burned-up birds are being dubbed "streamers," after the poof of smoke produced by the igniting birds.Assuming plant workers came up with “streamers,” well, that’s pretty tasteless. It gets (potentially) worse.A quasi-food chain is being established around the solar plant, with predators eating birds and bats that burn up in the plant's solar rays chasing after insects which are attracted to the bright light from the sun's reflected rays. That prompted wildlife officials to refer to Ivanpah [the solar farm’s name] as a "mega-trap" for wildlife.It turns out this is the consequence of what sounds like an interesting design. (You can view a very fancy Google Streets-style to…

What the Energiewende is Costing Germany

Some interesting thoughts about Germany's Energiewende from John Hulsman in The Telegraph (emphasis mine):
Third, wholly botched energy reforms, wherein Germany abruptly turned away from nuclear power without putting anything economically sustainable in its place (instead touting that some day, somehow wind and solar will make economic sense) has left the country at a permanent, seemingly long-term economic disadvantage that simply cannot be overcome. German energy prices are fully three times as high industrially as those of their American competitors. As I say to my somewhat nervous German colleagues, "You are all talented, but you are not three times more talented than the Americans." As I've said before, we've seen other marriages of German engineering and American muscle that seem to have worked out just fine. Why not come to South Carolina, Georgia or Tennessee, where new nuclear plants are being built right now and the electricity is reasonably priced?

New to the Nuclear Industry, Advocating for the Future

The following post was provided by Christina Baworowsky for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear energy industry in the voices of the people working within it. 

Christina is NEI’s federal programs coordinator. Though she is new to NEI, Christina has a long history of involvement with nuclear energy, from learning about it from her uncle as a child to writing her senior thesis on it.

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels. 

When people ask me how I wound up working in governmental affairs at a nuclear energy trade association at the age of 22, they are usually surprised when I say it is because I wrote my thesis on nuclear power. When I was a senior in college, I decided that I wanted to answer a lot of questions I ha…

Nuclear Technology’s Trail Out of the Valley of Death

When Bill Gates became Chairman of the Board of TerraPower a few years ago, the potential role of angels and venture capital to push energy technology forward became more apparent. Gates became involved with TerraPower because -  of his belief that nuclear energy will play a key role in addressing the imperative to move to low-carbon or zero-carbon energy. Because energy is a critical element in global development, he has personally supported numerous businesses working to develop safe, affordable and environmentally-friendly sources of electricity. He is an advocate for dramatic increases in government spending on energy research and is a founding member of the American Energy Innovation Council.Another Microsoft veteran, Nathan Myrhvold, is TerraPower’s Vice Chairman of the Board, so perhaps collegiality and friendship also play a part. In any event, they have helped TerraPower move forward. Gates would be classified as an angel, an individual who materially contributes to startup …

Fictional Dystopia and Nuclear Optimism

Michael Solana has an article in Wired that tackles the trend in fiction, especially science fiction, toward dystopia. He contrasts the hopeful, forward-looking science fiction of an earlier day to the current interest in zombies and hellscapes. This is his view of the earlier period:Simon Lake—American mechanical engineer, naval architect, and perhaps the most important mind behind the development of the submarine—said of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, “Jules Verne was in a sense the director-general of my life.” He offers Arthur C. Clarke, Gene Roddenberry and even Jonathan Swift as examples of forward looking authors. Of course, H.G. Wells was pretty good at creating man- or alien-created heaps of rubble – see the Shape of Things to Come or War of the Worlds – and one of Swift’s most famous pieces involves cannibalism. Let’s not even get into the Morlocks and Eloi.The author does allow that dystopia has always been an element in science fiction. His point is that it has now…

Why Nuclear Design is the Most Rewarding Career I’ve Had

The following post was sent to us by Bechtel’s Angela McAlpin for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them. 

Angela is a civil engineer and has worked in the nuclear industry for 13 years. She recently supported a one-of-a-kind nuclear pipe replacement project and is currently working on the Generation mPower small modular reactor project.

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels. 

Sometimes, I feel like a forensics investigator—the ones you see on TV who pore over files and mull over case details until the pieces of the puzzle come together to reveal a picture. The dedication and attention to detail needed to solve crimes appeal to me as they are the exact characteris…

U.S. Nuclear Technology Exports and Africa

The following is a guest post by Ted Jones, Director of International Supplier Relations for NEI.

From August 4-6, heads of state from Africa came to Washington for the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit hosted by President Obama. Yesterday, NEI hosted a delegation of African leaders from Niger, Namibia and South Africa to discuss nuclear energy development in their countries. As Africa strives to develop new sources of abundant, clean electricity, nuclear energy holds great promise.
Africa’s Power Gap

According to the World Bank. The 48 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, with a combined population of 800 million, generate roughly the same amount of power as Spain, with a population of only 45 million. Per capita power consumption – just a tenth of what is common elsewhere in the developing world – is actually falling due to lagging development and population growth.

Africa cannot close its power gap with fossil generation without inflicting great harm to the health of its people and en…

The Nuclear Vision Takes the Prize

Of course, it’s always been really easy for the nuclear energy industry to assert that a climate change plan must include nuclear – aside from hydro energy, no other source can produce baseload energy. Even if that changed – let’s say through a major breakthrough in battery technology – nuclear energy still has a leg up because it can produce so much electricity economically. It doesn’t just scale, it scales big.But the industry is also, shall we say, self-interested. That doesn’t mean that it’s willing to lie – you always get caught despite maximal sneakiness and the result is a severe loss of credibility – but it is always on the lookout for disinterested parties that study issues where nuclear energy could play a role. A lot of astroturfing depends on independent seeming polls and studies funded by self-interested parties – politics depends on it so much that the roots of the grassroots invariably show. Always sniff out the money when reviewing studies and surveys. Frankly, though…

In a Pit in Nuclear-Free Vermont

Up in Vermont, a good deal of its electricity was generated by Vermont Yankee, a nuclear facility state legislators worked like demons to close. They basically lost that fight, but Entergy will close it early anyway. Fine – so it goes – and Vermont got what it wanted.[N]ew Englanders, more than the residents of many areas of the country, are reluctant to give ground on quality-of-life issues in order to site new facilities or means of transmission. That means we say no to wind farms on the ocean or atop the mountains, for fear of affecting our views. We say no to pipelines and fossil-fuel-based plants for fear of air, water or ground pollution through emissions or spills. We say close nuclear plants for fear of catastrophic accidents and long-term radiation pollution.This editorial, from the Keene (Vt.) Sentinel, is more about the spikes in energy prices that occurred during the polar vortex. We’ve made a lot of hay over the vortex, because nuclear energy proved so reliable during it…

Energiewende Damages German Industry

We've been following the unintended consequences of Germany's "Energiewende" for some time now. Ever since that nation made the hasty decision to phase out its nuclear power plants in favor of renewables in 2011, the news has been nothing but bad.

Electricity prices are rising along with coal use and carbon emissions. Now comes word that German industry, the heart of its export-led economy, is beginning to suffer thanks to the inevitable grid instability wrought by the "Energiewende."

Here's the latest from Spiegel Online:
It was 3 a.m. on a Wednesday when the machines suddenly ground to a halt at Hydro Aluminium in Hamburg. The rolling mill's highly sensitive monitor stopped production so abruptly that the aluminum belts snagged. They hit the machines and destroyed a piece of the mill. The reason: The voltage off the electricity grid weakened for just a millisecond.

Workers had to free half-finished aluminum rolls from the machines, and several h…

Transatomic Snags $2 Million Investment from FF Science for New Reactor Design

We generally don't pay much attention to news from the venture capital community here at NEI Nuclear Notes, but for one day we're happy to make an exception for this announcement from Transatomic Power:
Transatomic Power, developers of a breakthrough in nuclear reactor design, announced today that FF Science, an investment vehicle of Founders Fund, has invested $2 million to assist the company with its seed stage development. The funds will be used for bench-top laboratory testing and refinement of the company’s designs and computer models.

"We believe there are massive opportunities for innovation across all parts of the energy sector, ranging from technologies to improve production and transmission to new methods of baseload generation, like the Transatomic Power reactor. Transatomic has the potential to make nuclear energy clean, safe, and affordable, providing a low-cost source of carbon-free power and consuming the waste of older reactors currently in operation,” sa…

Why Becoming An Operations Shift Foreman Was Tough…But Worth It

The following post was sent to us by Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) Meagan Wilson for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year. This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them. 

Meagan is an Operations Shift Foreman for Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant and has worked in the nuclear industry for ten years. Meagan is also the Region IV President for U.S. Women in Nuclear (U.S. WIN). Check out some of the highlights from this year’s U.S. WIN Conference.

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels. 

Nestled just south of America’s Happiest City is the Diablo Canyon Power Plant. This powerhouse is the largest private employer in San Luis Obispo County with over 1,500 employees. On some da…

IHS Explores Energy Diversity

Energy Diversity has always been a tough topic. Renewable energy advocates would prefer to see diversity end with their preferred gusty, sunny choices while the energy industry is wary of putting too many eggs in an intermittent omelet. Conversely, the polar vortex showed that natural gas and coal can be sidelined by physical limitations (coal freezing in piles) and operational considerations (natural gas diverted to home heating). But noting these things anecdotally is much easier than trying to quantify them. This is what IHS, a data and software company in Colorado, has tried to do in a report called The Value of U.S. Power Supply Diversity. It’s a worthwhile report because IHS is not in the tank (or reactor core) for any particular industry – it might like to service any and all of them, which one should consider in reviewing this report – and comes across as exceptionally even handed.That doesn’t mean the company has nothing to say about itself:IHS Energy employed its proprietary…