Skip to main content

Normal and Abnormal Occurrences

sea_map Vietnam has become something like a cheerleader for nuclear energy, having committed itself to a plant there. But it wants everyone to share in the fun:

Vietnam has called on South East Asian nations to build nuclear power stations to meet rising energy demands.

The proposal came at an energy policy meeting held by the Asean group of countries in Dalat, Vietnam.

“Asean” countries are those that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. You can see the list of members here.

No word on how the other countries responded, but there is this:

Some nations are looking to hydropower, building huge dams along the Mekong river. But these have angered local communities who complain that water flows and fish stocks have been affected.

It’s always something, isn’t it? It may be that there needs to be more thought given as to how to effectively integrate these energy sources to suit the people they mean to serve, but these nations are moving in the right direction. Moving forward with nuclear and hydro plants allows them to further industrialize without increasing their carbon footprint.

---

Every year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission releases a report of “abnormal occurrences” that happen at licensed facilities.

What is an abnormal occurrence?

An accident or event is considered an abnormal occurrence if it involves a major reduction in the degree of protection of public health and safety. Abnormal occurrences can include, but are not necessarily limited to, moderate exposure to or release of radioactive material licensed by the NRC or a state agency; major degradation of safety-related equipment; or major deficiencies in design, construction, use of or management controls for facilities or radioactive material licensed by the NRC.

So – a lot of territory in the abnormal sphere. Earlier this week, New York Time columnist Bob Herbert dinged the revival of nuclear energy in this country over safety concerns. Here’s a little of what he said:

We have to be concerned about the very real possibility of a worst-case scenario erupting at one of the many aging nuclear plants already operating (in some cases with safety records that would make your hair stand on end), and at any of the new ones that so many people are calling for.

Which, of course, is what the NRC busies itself doing. (And I still reject the use of “worst-case scenario” when it isn’t defined – but let’s leave that aside.) But Herbert just didn’t do his homework. If he had, he might have run across this report.

For FY 2009, there were no abnormal occurrences at the 104 NRC-licensed nuclear power reactors.

That’s pretty good.

Three of the nine abnormal occurrences in medical facilities involved NRC licensees, while the rest involved Agreement State licensees. (Thirty-seven states have entered into agreements with the NRC to regulate radioactive materials.)

This is a very small number when you consider all the diagnostic and therapeutic uses of radiation.

But nuclear power plants? it’s hard to imagine any industry matching this record. Makes your hair stand on end, doesn’t it?

You can find the whole report here.

The Asean nations. Click for bigger image.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…