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Showing posts from February, 2015

The Value of Energy, Nuclear and Non-, in Illinois

They write letters:Clinton Mayor Carolyn Peters joined the mayors of Morris, Oregon, East Moline, Braceville and Marseilles in letters sent to Gov. Bruce Rauner and top legislators like House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, stressing the importance of the plants to their cities and towns.So this would be – the Northwest? (Oregon) France? (Marseilles). No , it’s the apparently broadly settled section of Illinois that hosts nuclear power plants, notably the Clinton station. And Clinton’s mayor isn’t mincing words:“Illinois nuclear facilities provide thousands of good jobs; the kind of jobs you can support a family on...,” the mayors say in a letter dated Feb. 4. “Part of the upcoming debate in Springfield should focus on what these plants mean to their host communities. From our firsthand perspective, we can tell you that Illinois' nuclear facilities are essential to helping our communities thrive.”Exelon, which runs all 12 Illinois reactors at 6 sites, has been quite frank that…

Rep. Shimkus: Stop Kowtowing to Sen. Reid on Yucca Mountain

In an editorial in today's edition of the Lacrosse Tribune, Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), renewed his call for the federal government to fulfill its commitments under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and open a permanent geologic depository at Yucca Mountain:
It’s not just coal that suffers under the Clean Power Plan though. Energy consumers in states such as Illinois will get no credit toward meeting the EPA’s standards from existing carbon-free nuclear power.

For those fixated on reducing carbon dioxide emissions, but honest enough to admit the threat drastic cuts pose to baseload capacity, nuclear is a no-brainer. Here again, however, the president’s energy policies are at odds with the majority of America’s elected representatives. By kowtowing to Sen. Harry Reid’s, D-Nev., fear-mongering opposition to a permanent geologic repository for nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, the administration denies nuclear power suppliers the certainty they need to continue producing emission-free, ba…

Thorium, The Betamax of Nuclear Technologies

Worthly has up a review of different technologies that are “world-changing” and “just over the horizon.” Some seem pretty close by: self-driving cars, for example. Others are new to me, others I’ve heard of, still, the real worth of such round ups is that they allow us to dream of the future as a utopia. That’s why it’s a dream not a nightmare, which could sum up a fair number of people’s view of the present. Once the future becomes the present, the first two self-driving cars in Ohio will crash into each other and all will be normal again.

But one of the featured technologies caught our eye:
Nuclear power can easily solve all of our energy problems, and liquid fluoride thorium reactors could be one of the most promising energy sources that mankind has ever created. These reactors use thorium which is safer, more abundant, and more efficient than current nuclear fuel options. You can fit a lifetimes supply of thorium fuel in your hand, that’s how efficient these reacto…

What FERC Does–and What It Can Do For Nuclear Energy

We haven’t written much about FERC, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, because, though it is important to energy markets and electricity transmission, it’s work, by and large, is not specific to any specific source. What it does impacts all energy generators – well, perhaps not equally, as we’ll see, but let’s say so for convenience. Let’s say it’s generator-neutral, at least when it comes to transmission.

Here’s the commission’s description of itself:
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. FERC also reviews proposals to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals and interstate natural gas pipelines as well as licensing hydropower projects. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gave FERC additional responsibilities as outlined and updated Strategic Plan.  There’s a lot more at the link – FERC’s mandate is pretty broad - and I guess you could say it has a sp…

Cold, Sure, but Nuclear a Reliable Tonic

You’ve probably heard enough from us about last year’s polar vortex (brutal) and the nuclear performance during it (great), so we’ll keep this brief – or at least let others do do the talking. Here’s TVA:
The Tennessee Valley Authority broke an all-time February power demand record Thursday morning with an estimated 32,109 megawatts at 7 a.m. EST, when the average temperature across the region hovered at 7 degrees.
In its 82-year history, this is TVA’s highest ever demand for the month of February. The previous record was 31,045 megawatts set on Feb. 5, 2009, when the Valley-wide temperature was 15 degrees. TVA’s all-time power demand record is 33,482 megawatts on Aug. 16, 2007. All of TVA’s reactors operated at 100 percent over the last couple of days. The current situation doesn’t have the same quality of the polar vortex – that was fast and cruel while what the country has experienced over the last couple of weeks has been weather writ large – not slow and kind, to be…

Why Nuclear Energy's Loss is Warren Buffet's Gain

Over the 10 years that NEI Nuclear Notes has been in business, we've seen a lot of bloggers come and go, but today, I'd like to note the departure of one of our earliest contributors, NEI's David Bradish.

It's impossible to overestimate the impact that Dave has had on our blog and NEI's digital properties over the 11 years he's worked here. The son of a nuclear plant employee, Dave came to NEI out of Graceland University in Iowa (Dave is generally acknowledged to be the school's most famous graduate next to former Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner - wink) to work as an economist in our Policy Division. If Dave had done nothing more than simply do his job, he would have been seen as an important contributor. Whenever you read an NEI economic benefits study or study some the industry performance statistics we publish, you're enjoying Dave's handiwork. He's been responsible for the care and feeding of a significant portion of the content on NEI.org…

The Nuclear World of San Luis Obispo

Oh, those kooky Californians.
For the first time in the 40-plus-year history of San Luis Obispo County's only nuclear power plant, individuals gathered Monday to support Diablo Canyon's continued operation rather than oppose it.
"It's always been the adversaries," Ellie Ripley, of Arroyo Grande, said about the several decades worth of protests and public outcry aimed at closing Diablo Canyon Power Plant. "Not all nuclear plants have adversaries." I like that construction – “San Luis Obispo County’s only nuclear power plant” – it’s actually California’s only nuclear power plant after the closing of San Onofre, but this is in a local newspaper. It’s not just politics that’s local to a local paper – it’s everything.
How did Ripley get involved with a pro-nuclear group? And why?
A voice for those such as Ripley, who led tours at Diablo Canyon for 23 years, was often silenced by the voices against nuclear energy, which is why Orcutt resident…

Into the Fire(storm) with the Nuclear Man

So, in an issue of Superman/Wonder Woman (they’re dating), the heroes are weakened and dumped into an inactive nuclear plant’s containment chamber by the story’s villain. Despite their inability to get out of the chamber, they determine that if Superman can use his microscopic vision to identify an excited atom and Wonder Woman then splits that atom with her extremely sharp sword, then the chamber will explode and the heroes freed. It works, defying credibility.In Worlds Finest Comics, Seabrook nuclear plant is completely drained of energy, causing a gigantic blackout. Power Girl fears she may have done this via some experiments she’s conducting. This proves to be true, so she flies over to Seabrook and becomes its energy source, spinning the turbines while plant staff replace the depleted fuel rods. Power Girl helps out with that, too.As you can see, these recent stories have nothing in particular to say about nuclear energy – nuclear facilities, even a real one like Seabrook, are u…

Oyster Creek and NRC Inspection Findings

The following guest post is by Jim Slider, NEI's Senior Project Manager, Safety-Focused Regulation.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently announced disposition of several regulatory issues from Oyster Creek Generating Station’s fourth quarter inspection report. Without context, one might be alarmed by multiple violations in one reporting period, however a thorough understanding of the NRC’s Reactor Oversight Process provides the right amount of perspective.

In the United States, the safety of commercial nuclear power plants is assured by several layers of protection. Beginning with robust designs and stringent procedures, plant owners like Exelon enforce high standards on the hundreds of professionals who contribute to the design, maintenance and operation of their plants. Those standards demand compliance with federal safety requirements and more. Constant scrutiny and continuous learning are important parts of those high, self-imposed expectations. When minor lapses in…

What to Say and Who to Say It: A Lesson for Nuclear Advocates in Ohio

If you want to see where nuclear advocacy can get you, check out this editorial in the Akron (Ohio) Beacon-Journal:Nuclear power accounts for 14 percent of the electricity used in the state. Lose, say, Davis-Besse, and the task of curbing carbon emissions becomes much harder. The situation differs little for the country, with carbon-free nuclear supplying 20 percent of electricity.Ideally, the country would be adding further to its nuclear capacity, something that would become more financially feasible under a carbon tax. Yet even if nuclear is relatively expensive its use promises to be less costly than accelerating climate change. A carbon tax would enhance the competitiveness of wind, solar and other alternative energy sources, too. What distinguishes nuclear power is its capacity, running all day and night. It proved key when the polar vortex arrived last winter and other power sources faltered.Less costly, polar vortex, carbon-free – why, did I write this editorial?Well, no, but…

Waste Control Specialists to Host Used Nuclear Fuel

Yesterday, we teased that NEI and Waste Control Specialists were having a press conference at the National Press Club. So what’s the deal there?Valhi, Inc. subsidiary Waste Control Specialists LLC ("WCS"), announced today that on the close of business February 6, 2015, it sent a notification to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("NRC") expressing its intent to apply for a license for the interim storage of used nuclear fuel at its facility in Andrews County, Texas.  The need for such a facility arises as a result of the ongoing decades long search for a disposal solution for the nation's used nuclear fuel.  In 2012 the presidential-appointed Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future issued a report recommending that at least one interim storage facility be sited in the U.S., while a permanent disposal site is being developed. We mentioned the Blue Ribbon Commission yesterday, but I thought a little better of it afterward. What the BRC did was gath…

Back to and Away from Yucca Mountain

Generally speaking, any viable solution for used nuclear fuel deserves attention. The Blue Ribbon Commission went for interim storage units and a permanent repository, aiming to avoid the kerfluffle over Yucca Mountain by suggesting that these sites be consent-based – that is, the federal government and/or interested operators get the site approved by local communities and states. This process wasn’t used in choosing Yucca Mountain back in the 80s and look where that got us. Opposing the repository became as much an article of political faith in Nevada as protecting the Chesapeake Bay is in Maryland, with no particular partisan difference. But that’s not the end of the storyThe release of the final two volumes of the Safety Evaluation Report for the Yucca Mountain project, which was court-ordered, found Yucca Mountain a sound choice for a repository. Hands in the air for Yucca Mountain! But actually using the site, although dictated by the Nuclear Waste Act, is still up to the federal…

“Nuclear will have such a significant role…”

From Scientific America:
The International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency suggest in a report released Thursday that nuclear will have such a significant role to play in climate strategy that nuclear power generation capacity will have to double by 2050 in order for the world to meet the international 2°C (3.6°F) warming goal. You’d expect that from NEA, but the IEA? That’s something. The SciAm story gives a good rundown of the report, but obviously, nothing beats the report itself. After noting the slowdown following the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the report notes, as we have done, that global progress continues apace:
However, in the medium to long term, prospects for nuclear energy remain positive. A total of 72 reactors were under construction at the beginning of 2014, the highest number in 25 years. According to the 2D scenario, China would account for the largest increase in nuclear capacity additions from 17 GW in 2014 to 250GW in 2050 and, by 2050, would represe…

Mr. Alexander Goes to NEI

Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) speech at NEI outlined the reasons he thinks nuclear energy needs to be bolstered in the United States. He started with climate change, and interestingly, he imagined a United States without nuclear energy by looking at two countries that have foresworn it and one that has embraced it.The three-term senator, who also served as Governor of Tennessee through most of the Reagan years, compared the German situation with that of the UAE, which included a number of factoids I hadn’t seen put together quite this way:In just 12 years after notifying the International Atomic Energy Agency of its intent to install nuclear power, the Emirates will have completed four reactors, which will provide nearly 25 percent of its annual electricity by 2020. This is a nearly three-and-a-half times faster increase in emission-free green power than Germany has accomplished with wind and solar.It is true that four reactors at one site will change UAE’s emissions profile from i…

Sen. Lamar Alexander at NEI Thursday (BUMPED)

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was originally published on February 4, 2015. Senator Alexander's remarks have been appended to the bottom of the article.

From 2010:

And nuclear plants occupy a fraction of the land required for wind or solar. For example, 20 percent of U.S. electricity comes from 104 nuclear reactors on about 100 square miles. Producing the same amount of power from wind would require covering an area the size of West Virginia with 183,000 50-story turbines as well as building 19,000 miles of new transmission lines through scenic areas and suburban backyards.
Nuclear fuel is available in the United States and is virtually unlimited. We don’t have to drill for it. We don’t have to mine it nearly as much as we do for coal. And thanks to technology, we can safely recycle “nuclear waste” and turn most of it into more fuel. After recycling, the French are able to store all of their final waste—from producing 80 percent of their electricity for 30 years—in one room in La Ha…

An Arizona Highway to Thorium and Recycling

So, what’s up in Arizona?The Senate Committee on Water and Energy narrowly passed SB 1134, a bill that classifies "nuclear energy from sources fueled by uranium fuel rods that include 80 percent or more of recycled nuclear fuel and natural thorium reactor resources under development" to be a renewable-energy source.That’s pretty specific, since Arizona’s nuclear plant Palo Verde uses neither recycled nuclear fuel or thorium – in fact, no American nuclear plant does. And about labeling nuclear renewable: while it does some of the same things that hydro, solar and wind do, it’s not renewable. Rather, it’s sustainable, meaning that uranium is not depleting at a rate that’s worth worrying about, but it’s not (essentially) infinite, either. It makes sense to consider nuclear energy as part of a “renewable” energy plan, because they are focused on an energy source’s emissions profile, but the semantics can get a little knotty if you let them. Anyway, the specifics of the bill sug…

DTE, ESBWR, NRC, COL – Your Monday Acronyms and How They Fit Together

On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a hearing on the combined construction and operating license (COL) for DTE Energy’s proposed Fermi 3 reactor.This is notable for at least two reasons. It is the first license application that uses GE Hitachi’s ESBWR reactor design as its basis(the ones under construction at Vogtle and Summer are Westinghouse AP1000s.). This design was itself approved last September. And since there was a patiently waiting queue of COL applicants using this same design, it is now moving. ESBWR stands for Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor.Assuming all goes well on Wednesday, does this guarantee a new reactor in Michigan? Well, guarantee might be a bit strong. To be judicious, let’s say for now that it opens the door to a new reactor – or should we say reactors. DTE Energy will be followed in the queue by Dominion (for Virginia’s North Anna), NextEra (Florida’s Turkey Point) and South Texas Project. Any or all of these companies may decide…