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COP21 and the Nuclear Tool in the Workshop

How many times is nuclear energy mentioned in the climate change agreement signed by 219 countries this past weekend? None.

Wind, solar? None. Coal, natural gas? You guessed it.
Renewable –and sustainable - energy do get a mini shout out:
“Acknowledging the need to promote universal access to sustainable energy in developing countries, in particular in Africa, through the enhanced deployment of renewable energy…” But that’s it. You get the feeling that the directive-heavy agreement has nothing specific to direct about energy generators. Whether by plane, train or automobile (electric, if possible), its not how you get there that matters, it’s just that you get there. And this is the there:
Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change… …

Watts Bar 2 Fuel Load is a Major Milestone

The following is a guest blog post by NEI’s Chris Earls, who helped load the fuel before the startup of Watts Bar 1.

Last Friday, employees of Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Watts Bar Nuclear Plant started loading the first of 193 new fuel assemblies into its Unit 2 reactor. This action marked the first, initial core load of a commercial nuclear reactor in the U.S. in nearly two decades. When I heard this exciting news, I couldn’t help but recall some happy memories from earlier in my career when I worked on Watts Bar Unit 1.

The fuel load and startup of Watts Bar Unit 2 is a very important milestone for TVA and the nuclear industry. I was working at TVA in the late 1980’s when the startup of Watts Bar Unit 1 was one of our focus areas. In looking back, it amazes me how much work was entailed in getting the plant ready for operation. I was fortunate enough to return in the early ‘90s as a member of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) team that came on site to evaluat…

Thumbs Up for New Nuclear in Wisconsin

Still some steps left legislatively, but this is a big one:

A Wisconsin Assembly committee has given its unanimous endorsement to ending the state's 32-year-old moratorium on new nuclear power plants. Why strike it down now?
Those who favor ending the ban say it's no longer needed due to the quality of today's reactors. They also say clean nuclear power would help the state meet a proposed federal rule to lower carbon emissions. If we were being querulous, we’d say there’s nothing  particularly awful about the current crop of reactors (including Wisconsin’s Kewaunee, which shuttered over market issues), but whatever. Good news is good news.

We’ll keep an eye on this one.
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Speaking of Kewaunee, the New York Times has an article about the impact of its closing on the local community. It’s very sad.
“I thought it would be there forever,” Mr. [Kenneth] Krofta said as he stood in his yard, which is dotted with purple wildflowers and Queen Anne’s lace. “They’v…

Indian Point 3’s Operating License is Alive and Well

The following is a guest blog post by Tom Kauffman, NEI's Director of Media Relations.

As in September 2013 when Indian Point 2 entered its NRC-approved period of extended operation (PEO), Indian Point 3 will start its PEO beginning mid-December. And as they did in September 2103, nuclear opponents are claiming Indian Point 3’s operating license will expire − that claim is false.

Entergy Corp. filed timely and comprehensive license renewal applications for both Indian Point Units 2 and 3 in April 2007, more than five years ahead of IP2’s original expiration date of Sept. 28, 2013, and more than seven years ahead of IP3’s original expiration date of Dec. 12, 2015. The early applications fully satisfied the requirements of the Timely Renewal Doctrine, a well-established federal law that extends the current operating license until the license renewal process is complete.

The Timely Renewal Doctrine is law under the federal Administrative Procedures Act that is generally applicable t…

At COP21: Moniz on Small Reactors, Gates and Co. on New Technology

What has energy Secretary Ernest Moniz been doing at COP21? Plenty, we’re sure, plus this: Modular reactors being developed by Fluor Corp.’s Nuscale Power can be a “game-changer” by making nuclear power plants more affordable to build, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.“The proof will be in the pudding in terms of the economic performance, but it looks very promising and that can be a game-changer,” Moniz told reporters at a round of United Nations climate talks in Paris. “If we have a viable pathway at building nuclear power in smaller bites, the whole financing structure can change and make it much more affordable.”The problems of cost are quite real. While nuclear facilities remain good value for money, the up-front expenditure can be daunting for a relatively constrained market sector. Plant construction goes on - see Vogtle, Summer and Watts Bar for evidence – but it remains a major investment. This is where Moniz sees a role for small reactors.Moniz offered a forecast …

7 Things We Are Thankful for this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon our many blessings. At NEI, we know how fortunate our country is to have reliable, affordable and clean power from nuclear energy.

The clean aspect of nuclear is especially important as world leaders meet next week at COP21 to discuss plans to fight climate change. Nuclear energy facilities provide 63 percent of America’s zero-carbon electricity. Globally, nuclear power plants provide one-third of all zero-carbon electricity. One of nuclear’s major advantages relative to other low-carbon energy sources is its unique ability to produce large-scale electricity around-the-clock in extreme weather conditions. Now that's something to give thanks for.

Here are the top seven things we are thankful for this Thanksgiving:
On behalf of everyone at NEI, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thankful for the Light

This is the United States in the 1930s:Although nearly 90 percent of urban dwellers had electricity by the 1930s, only ten percent of rural dwellers did. Private utility companies, who supplied electric power to most of the nation's consumers, argued that it was too expensive to string electric lines to isolated rural farmsteads. Anyway, they said, most farmers, were too poor to be able to afford electricity.The Roosevelt Administration believed that if private enterprise could not supply electric power to the people, then it was the duty of the government to do so. Most of the court cases involving TVA during the 1930s concerned the government's involvement in the public utilities industry.The piece on the Rural Electric Administration goes on to explain the battles that ensued, with utilities and members of Congress concerned that the government’s plan interfered overmuch with the free market.But:By 1939 the REA had helped to establish 417 rural electric cooperatives, which…

Britain’s Bridge to a Nuclear Future

From Jolly Olde England:The UK's remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025 with their use restricted by 2023, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has proposed.A little more:Ms. Rudd wants more gas-fired stations to be built since relying on "polluting" coal is "perverse". Only if gas-fuelled power can fill the void created by closing coal-powered stations would coal plants be shut, she said.“Perverse!” Still, that doesn’t sound as promising as it could, from our perspective. But:"Gas is central to our energy-secure future," she said. "So is nuclear."She believes that plans for new nuclear power stations, including those at Wylfa in Wales, Moorside in Cumbria and Hinkley Point in Somerset, could eventually provide almost a third of the low carbon electricity the UK needs.Well, let’s see: coal and natural gas each currently generate about 30 percent of the UK’s electricity, with nuclear energy and renewables at about 19 percent each. A…

Korsnick on Nuclear Energy & Environmentalists: "Maybe they just don't know us well enough yet."

NEI's Maria Korsnick participated in a panel discussion on energy at the Republic Governors Association annual meeting in Las Vegas yesterday. NEI's Mike McGarey passed along this report:
Kansas Governor Brownback moderated a session that included Idaho Governor Otter and Wyoming Governor Mead and an audience of governors staffs. She noted that despite the challenges, new plants are being built and that with the right federal and state policies -- driven by carbon constraints -- high-performing existing plants can stay on the job far into the future.

Idaho's Butch Otter enthused about SMRs. In the most "tweetable" exchange, Governor Brownback asked, "Why don't the environmentalists love Nuclear energy's zero emissions?", to which Maria replied, "Maybe they just don't know us well enough yet."

NEI Expresses Sorrow in Wake of Paris Attacks

This week, NEI's President and CEO Marv Fertel expressed his deepest sympathies regarding the tragic attacks in Paris. Here is his letter to members:
I join my colleagues here at NEI and throughout the NEI membership in expressing our deep sadness over the senseless loss of life in last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris. We extend our sympathy to you, your countrymen and your colleagues. Truly, none of us in this industry are untouched.

We know this tragedy strikes our colleagues and friends at Electricite de France particularly hard, with the loss of Electrical Engineer Juan Alberto Gonzalez. Clearly his work, talent and spirit will be missed, both at EDF and the International Youth Congress.

We are indeed one community in the nuclear energy industry, and each of us shares this loss and stands with you. Our industry has a great legacy of achievement working with its many French colleagues. Through that, we have experienced great resilience and commitment. This will truly guide u…

Waking Up to Nuclear Energy Before COP21

Times are bracing. The first fall chill contributes, of course, but it’s bracing, too, that the spotlight has fallen so strongly upon nuclear energy. The White House Nuclear Energy summit two Fridays ago contributed mightily to this sudden attention and so has the COP21 conference in Paris next month.  
These two events seem to have spurred exceptional interest in the atom, even when the summit or the upcoming U.N. climate change conference are not explicitly mentioned.
From The Los Angeles Times:
Nuclear energy's importance in reducing emissions is beyond dispute. In January, the International Energy Agency called nuclear power “a critical element in limiting greenhouse gas emissions.” It calculated that global nuclear generation capacity must more than double by 2050 (to about 750 gigawatts) if there is any hope of limiting temperature increases to the 2 degrees that is widely agreed as acceptable.This story from Power covers the Washington summit:
Even some former nuclear opp…

One Direction and Nuclear Energy: Solving Climate Change One Boy Band at a Time

I’m giving a signal boost to One Direction’s fifth album, “Made in the A.M.,” which at the end of the day is just perfect. (Both puns intended – looking at you, Harry.) You may wonder what this band has to do with nuclear energy. Turns out since they launched the Action 1D campaign this past summer, quite a lot. 
I never went through a boy band phase as a teen, never hung the posters, bought the merchandise or cared about individual members. Sure, I listened to Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, but who didn’t? One Direction has been around since 2010, yet I only discovered Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, Niall Horan and Liam Payne earlier this year. Zayn Malik too, aka the one that got away. How I got into the fandom was probably not how most of their supporters got there. Belonging to the band’s army of devotees, fittingly dubbed Directioners, is like being in a 24/7 glass case of emotion. I have no regrets, however, and I’m happy to call myself an unabashed fan of these young men.

…

Get to Know Our Veterans

Veterans are unique members of American society. I am lucky to have served in the military. I had the opportunity to experience firsthand things most people only read about. From the threat of North Korean nuclear proliferation to tension in the South China Sea to patrols in the Strait of Hormuz, my six years in the Navy left me with skills, experiences and perspectives you cannot find anywhere else.

In exchange for six years as a Naval Officer I received a world class education at no cost. I was challenged in a leadership role at a young age and I grew as a professional. When I began working for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) last January, I was surprised by the number of veterans I found in the industry. From power plants to utility infrastructure to corporate America, I was encouraged to learn that our industry not just prioritizes but actively seeks veterans. The program Troops to Energy Jobs, for example, is an energy industry initiative that provides veterans with a roadmap …

TerraPower: At The Nexus of New Nuclear Technology and Chinese Trade

TerraPower is the nexus of several intersecting nuclear topics, including new technology and the global marketplace. The company, which is developing what it calls a traveling wave reactor, made a deal with the China National Nuclear Corp. to build a prototype traveling wave reactor and then a commercially-scaled version of it for deployment. At the same time, the U.S.-China agreement on commercial nuclear energy cooperation entered into force over this past weekend. The required congressional review period has ended, and the two governments have concluded diplomatic exchanges that set the agreement in motion. Daniel Lipman, NEI's vice president for suppliers and international programs, said this about the agreement. "Through 2040, the direct economic benefit to the United States from this renewed agreement with China is expected to be between $70 billion and $204 billion, with 20,000 to 45,000 American jobs supported annually. In addition, this commercial relationship will h…

Programming Note: The White House Summit on Nuclear Energy

This has certainly been a busy week for exploring the intersection of nuclear energy and policymaking. First, there was the NEI/Christian Science Monitor presentation on the COP21 conference (see post below for more on that) and today, the focus shifts to the home front with a White House Summit on Nuclear Energy. Not to waste your time (too much), here is the link to the live stream, which will presumably go live nearer  1:00 pm EST, when the summit kicks off.Here is NEI’s press release on the summit. If you can’t watch the video stream at work, perhaps you can follow NEI’s twitter feed – It’s also on NEI’s home page.See you there, if only virtually.

An Arc to the Future via COP21

Yesterday, NEI and the Christian Science Monitor sponsored a public meeting to offer a preview of the upcoming COP21 conference. It proved to be exceptionally edifying because the speakers cut straight through the rhetoric surrounding the conference to discuss what is most likely to be accomplished rather than what might be wished for. Let’s set the table for new comers. The COP21 conference intends to bring together as many as 195 world leaders to sign an agreement to reduce carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas emissions consistent with limiting temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius by 2100.  The Paris accord, if it is finalized and the signatory countries hold to their plans, will not accomplish this. According to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the agreement already hammered out limits temperature rise to 2.7 to 3 degrees Celsius. That sounds like a minor difference, but it is not – the impacts on world population would be sev…

I Want a Nuclear Powered iPhone

The following is a guest post by NEI's Michael Purdie. 

The Wall Street Journal's Jon Keegan recently published a very interesting infographic on how long your iPhone would keep operating depending on the ultimate power source. Keegan analyzed the energy density of certain fossil fuels, batteries, and even body fat (which was pretty cool) and analyzed how long an iPhone could run based on its theoretical battery volume.

Keegan looked at three scenarios: regular use, LTE browsing, and stand by time for an iPhone 6s. Under those conditions, Keegan estimated that the lithium ion battery in your iPhone should last 15 hours from regular use, 10 hours from LTE browsing, and 10 days on standby. The results ranged from an hour from a lead acid battery (similar to that of the one in your car) to 10 days by diesel fuel from regular use. In case you were curious, body fat would power your phone for 9 days.

Interestingly, there was one fuel source that didn't make Keegan's cut: …

A World Without Nuclear Energy? How About No Energy?

Earlier this year, we discussed the idea of a United States without nuclear energy. It’s a scary thought.But also small potatoes: let’s talk big, let’s talk about a world without any energy. Occasionally, folks who take the Whole Earth Catalog a bit too seriously posit  an energy-free world, but that’s because they do their energyless thing with energy all around them. For most people, the prospect is terrifying, an invitation to anarchy, shortened lives – horror.Sapping the world’s energy has been used many times in movies and TV programs. The show Revolution (2012-2014) used it as its inciting event and the series then tried to unravel the mystery of what happened to the electricity – think Lost with megawatts. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951/2008)(both Rennie and Reeves editions) shows the humanoid alien peacenik easily able to shut down all energy sources. And lest we forget, nuclear energy has a small role too in this context. The most recent Godzilla (2014) showed giant inse…

Spiting Your Nuclear Nose in the Bay State

Here are two views on the closing of Massachusetts’ Pilgrim Generating Station:News that it will close by 2019 has state officials scrambling to fill an expected gap in energy production while meeting ambitious goals to lower greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.Meanwhile, environmental groups are prodding federal regulators to shutter the plant even before 2019. Groups such as Environment Massachusetts view the plant’s pending closure as an opportunity to expand the use of solar and wind power in the state. They rallied at the Statehouse last week, urging state officials to act.What first struck me about this is that both groups are fretting about the same thing – reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the state – but one seems a bit more attached to, shall we call it, reality.Writer Christian Wade doesn’t miss this, either, via the area’s Congressional representative, Seth Moulton (D-Mass.):Moulton,said he finds it “ironic” that environmental groups and elected officials ar…

Ensuring Seismic Safety at America's Nuclear Power Plants

The following is a guest post by Timothy Rausch, Talen Energy’s Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer
Companies that operate America’s nuclear energy facilities today have made significant progress in their evaluations of seismic safety as part of a series of actions the industry is taking to implement lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima accident.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2012 required energy companies to reevaluate potential seismic hazards for each of America’s 99 reactors.

Nuclear energy facilities were designed and built with extra safety margin, in part to be able to withstand an earthquake even beyond the strongest ever at each site. Nonetheless, over the past decades, the industry has re-evaluated the seismic safety of its facilities. Each time new seismic information became available, plant operators have confirmed, and in many cases, enhanced the facility’s seismic protection.  The nuclear industry is in the midst of a comprehensive review based on t…