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Showing posts from July, 2011

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:TEPCO Initiates Gas Sampling for Reactors 1, 2Plant Status• Workers at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility in Japan will begin sampling gases inside containment at reactors 1 and 2 to obtain more accurate data on the types and amount of radioactive substances being released. TEPCO hopes that analysis of the samples will help determine the extent to which nuclear fuel from the reactors is leaking into containment. The gases will be extracted through pipes and analyzed on the first floor of the reactor buildings. Radiation measurements thus far have been based on readings taken on the facility premises. Sampling is scheduled to begin today at reactor 1 and in early August at reactor 2. TEPCO has not yet made plans for sampling at reactor 3, where radiation levels remain high. This is because TEPCO only began injecting nitrogen into reactor 3 on July 15 to minimize the risk of a hydrogen explosion. Nitrogen injection in…

The Blue Ribbon Commission

The Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future was charged by President Barack Obama with recommending ways to move forward with used nuclear fuel in light of the closing of the Yucca Mountain used fuel repository project. Let’s leave aside the wisdom of closing Yucca Mountain – considering alternatives was what the commission was asked to do. The Commission is being co-chaired by former Congressman Lee Hamilton and former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft. They are both now elderly gentlemen – performing further public service – because they were asked to chair this committee. Would that we, at whatever age, were so devoted to the public good.Note that the commission was not asked to find a site nor was it given guidance as to a preferred approach to processing used nuclear fuel – a permanent or interim repository, recycling, burying in salt – everything was one the table – except Yucca Mountain (which, after all, is a site. But the commission was rather pointedly di…

The Latte Fallacy: German Nuclear Shut Down Proving Expensive

One of the big arguments against nuclear is that it simply costs too much. Well, if the latest reports from Germany are anything to go by, consumers are going to have to pay more without it. As reported here earlier, Germany has decided to phase out nuclear power and is hoping to shut down all of its plants by 2022. What has been the result? Rising electricity prices.Since the first nuclear power plant was shut down, the price of electricity on the European Energy Exchange in Leipzig has increased by about 12 percent.Not only that, Germany has lost  some energy independence too:Germany has gone from being a net exporter to a net importer of electricity. According to the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSOE) in Brussels, Germany now imports several million kilowatt hours of electricity from abroad every day.This wasn’t the way things were supposed to go. "According to our calculations, the cost of a kilowatt hour of electricity will go up by on…

Rowe; TVA; Debating; Dark and Stormy Nights

Exelon chief John Rowe isn’t very worried about new regulations on the company’s nuclear energy facilities:"We're not in any panic at all," John Rowe, chairman and CEO of Chicago-based Exelon Corp. told investors on an earnings call.Well, why not?Rowe said the company's "worst fears" -- changes to the nuclear licensing process; mandates that would increase security personnel; or standards that would lower the amount of time spent nuclear fuel can be stored in cooling pools -- (all potential big ticket items for Exelon) so far haven't surfaced."We don't at the moment see anything that has a major impact on the economics of these plants," he said.He’s referring to the findings and recommendations of the NRC’s 90-day review report of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. It’s still early in the process of learning all the lessons that the accident will teach, and Rowe doesn’t mention that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack motivated a strong …

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-siteTEPCO to Install Second Water Decontamination SystemJuly 27, 2011Plant Status• Tokyo Electric Power Co. continues its attempts to decontaminate radioactive water that has collected in the basements of buildings and in drains at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. With its current decontamination system operating at only 53 percent of capacity, TEPCO is planning to receive new water treatment equipment this week. TEPCO will use the new system alongside the existing one.Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues• The government of Japan will buy beef containing radioactive cesium that has reached the country’s distribution chain. NHK news service reports that more than 2,800 cattle that may have been fed radioactive rice straw have been shipped to 46 of 47 prefectures. The government will inspect the beef and buy any that contains higher-than-permissible levels of cesium.Media Highlights• NEI briefed financial analysts in New York July 26 on the U.S. nucl…

EPRI Cost Analysis on Energy Technologies

The Electric Power Research Institute has a report out that compares the costs of fossil fuels, nuclear and renewables. The Integrated Generation Technology Options report provides an executive-level overview of near-term (5 – 10 years) as well as longer term (2025) electricity generation technology costs and performance. The purpose of this document is to provide a public domain reference for industry executives, policy makers, and other stakeholders. This report is based on 2010 EPRI research results and updates the Integrated Generation Technology Options report  published in November 2009.The key numbers can be found in the two tables pasted below which are on pages 1-11 and 1-12. The first table shows the estimated costs of each technology in 2015, the second table shows the estimated costs in 2025. All dollars are inflated to the year 2010. The important numbers to look at are the LCOE in the right column which stands for Levelized Cost of Electricity. The LCOE includes the cost…

NEI and the Analysts; California Nuclear Dreaming

In case you hadn’t heard – and you really should’ve since it was in our spiffy Twitter feed – but NEI held a meeting for Wall Street’s financial analysts this morning to review with them issues related to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi and the NRC’s subsequent 90-day review of the accident. The NRC meant to glean the lessons that can be derived from Fukushima to benefit the American industry – well, really, any country’s nuclear industry. It’s not a secret report, after all, and you can read it here.The head of the nuclear power industry's trade group on Tuesday said U.S. plants should move within five years to implement safety measures as a result of lessons learned from Japan's nuclear crisis. Marvin Fertel, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said the five-year timeline put forward last week by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko was "reasonable." That’s from Marketwatch, but it really doesn’t capture the feeling of the me…

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:NISA Says Stress Tests to Restart Reactors Will Take MonthsJuly 25, 2011Plant Status• After a 6.2 magnitude earthquake struck offshore from Fukushima in the early hours of July 25, Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported there were no problems with any of the systems used to stabilize the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and no injuries. TEPCO checked the systems for water and nitrogen injection into reactors 1, 2 and 3, the water treatment facility, and the used fuel pool cooling systems for reactors 2 and 3. • The Japan Atomic Industry Forum said temperatures at the bottom of Fukushima Daiichi reactor 1 have remained below 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) for six consecutive days through July 24. TEPCO says it achieved the lowered temperature by raising the amount of water injected into the reactor. The company has begun implementing step 2 of its recovery plan for the reactors, which includes maintaining temperatures at the bottom of reactors 1, 2 and 3 below…

Nuclear Energy and Heat, Solar Energy and Japan

CBS News finds a new hook for their look at nuclear energy:Temperatures began going down Sunday in the eastern half of the country, dropping from last week's record triple-digits and easing a heat wave blamed for at least 34 deaths.Boy, it didn’t feel that way from here, but okay. In any event, the question of where to get more electricity as everyone switches on their air conditioners becomes crystal clear.Demand was said to be ten percent higher than the average for July, and with demand only growing, going nuclear is getting another look.The story doesn’t really get into why this should be so and tries to be even handed, not always to its benefit, but it makes a strong point: that if demand for more electricity increases – and it will – then nuclear energy is an excellent way to feed that demand. ---The Wall Street Journal talks to Sharp Corp. President Mikio Katayama:WSJ: Is it necessary for Japan to gradually move away from nuclear power?Mr. Katayama: It would be too simplis…

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:TEPCO Assessment: First Step in Stabilizing Fukushima Reactors CompleteJuly 22, 2011Plant Status• Japanese media are reporting on a joint assessment by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the government that the company has met the first step in its effort to stabilize the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site. Among the targets met in the first step include re-establishing stable cooling capacity for reactors 1-3 and the used fuel storage pools for reactors 1-4. The company says it did this by putting recirculating cooling water systems into operation. A key indicator of success, TEPCO says, is that temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels have decreased and are now stable. TEPCO also says it has reduced the level of radioactive releases from the plant to one-2 millionth of the peak release recorded just after the March accident.• Typhoon Ma-on has caused water levels to rise in the basements of the reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi. On Th…

Terror and the Nuclear Energy Industry

The US electric reliability watchdog and the power sector said Thursday that they are working with federal authorities and within the industry to shore up security in the face of a recent federal bulletin about potential threats to private sector utilities.The Department of Homeland Security issued the bulletin on Tuesday.That’s scary. Not that the utility sector is on a heightened alert and doing something about it but that the need is there to do so. The watchdog in this case is the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), which oversees the reliability and adequacy of bulk power transmission in North America (meaning the the U.S., Canada and a bit of Mexico). Interestingly, NERC and the Department of Energy released a report last month on just this subject.The report examines three high-impact, low-frequency risks in detail: coordinated cyber, physical, or blended attacks; pandemic illness; and Geomagnetic Disturbances (GMD) and Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) events. T…

Not Speeding But Not Stopping

The analysts at the Commonwealth of Australia Bank want you to know:"But it is a case of one step backward, two steps forward," they said in a review of the sector. "Nuclear growth plans remain intact in China, India, Russia, South Korea, the U.S. and U.K. among others, and dominate the medium- term uranium industry outlook."The Australians maintain an interest as a large exporter of uranium, but the salient point is that the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi has not dimmed interest in nuclear energy in many countries. One can see that in any number of stories, but it’s interesting to see it aggregated where its abandonment would cause financial pain – as it would in Australia – even if it has no nuclear facilities of its own. But uranium? it has a lot of that. You can read more about uranium mining in Australia here.Obviously, not speeding ahead is good policy. But so is not stopping.--- Speaking of which:Developers of major energy projects in the U.K. such a…

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan Micro-site:TEPCO Confirms Recovery PlansPlant StatusTokyo Electric Power Co. plans to achieve an improved and stabilized shutdown condition for reactors 1-3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility within six months, the utility said. TEPCO said it will continue to use the circulating cooling system that decontaminates radioactive water and pumps it back into the reactors. TEPCO estimated it will take about three years to remove the fuel rods from the spent fuel storage pools and build a full-scale water treatment plant at the site. Industry/Regulatory/Political IssuesA public briefing by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s post-Fukushima task force was presented to the commissioners July 19. The task force’s slides for the briefing are online. A public NRC meeting to discuss the agency’s task force recommendations is scheduled for July 28. The government of Japan has suspended beef cattle shipments from Fukushima prefecture due to concern over radioactiv…

Secretary Clinton in India

Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is visiting India. There are a skein of issues to discuss, but one with special resonance to us:US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed Tuesday for easier access to the Indian market for US nuclear energy firms, who are trailing their French and Russian competitors.Here’s what she had to say about that:"With regard to our civil nuclear agreement... we need to resolve those issues that still remain so we can reap the rewards of a robust energy partnership," Clinton said in opening remarks during her trip to India.Creating or expanding a market for goods of any stripe is a job creator, so well worth pursuing. Nuclear trade between India and the U.S. is still relatively new – the treaty opening it was one of President George W. Bush’s last major accomplishments – so effort is still needed to resolve lingering issues. The most serious such issue involves liability:The United States wants India to "tighten up" legislation to prot…

Tuesday Update

Government Recommends New Regulatory Oversight Agency for Japan ReactorsPlant StatusTEPCO is scheduled today to install a metal cover over the turbine building of reactor 3 before Typhoon Ma-on moves toward the Japanese coast on Tuesday. The 15-foot-by-50-foot structure is meant to cover a hole in the building. TEPCO reported that the nitrogen injection into reactor 3 is not holding pressure. TEPCO is checking for leaks from the primary containment vessel. TEPCO said that it has injected more than 200 cubic meters of nitrogen into the containment vessel to stabilize the reactor, but there has been little increase in pressure within the secondary containment structure at reactor 3. Industry/Regulatory/Political IssuesGoshi Hosono, Japan’s minister for nuclear crisis management, said he is drawing up plans for a new nuclear regulatory agency that is independent of the Economy and Industry Ministry. The new agency will incorporate some of the monitoring functions now being performed by t…

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan Micro-site:TEPCO Expects To Meet First Recovery DeadlineJuly 15, 2011Plant Status• Tokyo Electric Power Co. expects to meet its self-imposed July 19 deadline to stabilize reactor cooling and mitigate radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. That work includes injecting inert nitrogen gas into the reactor 3 containment vessel, which started today. The nitrogen is intended to help prevent a potential explosion of built-up hydrogen. TEPCO has been injecting nitrogen into reactors 1 and 2 since April 7 and June 28 respectively. The next major milestone in the plan for Fukushima recovery includes cold shutdowns for reactors 1-3, which are expected to take place in the next three to six months.• TEPCO continues to have difficulties with water decontamination equipment at the Fukushima Daiichi site. The system that is used to decontaminate and recycle cooling water is performing 20 percent below its target level. Toshiba this week unveiled a new decontamin…

Bad Directions: Energy Blog Post Directs Readers to Shoddy AP Series

Around the time of the July 4 holiday, we responded to a four-part series published by The Associated Press that was larded with inaccuracies about the nuclear energy industry. It’s one thing for a single newspaper to get something wrong in a single print file; quite another when a global news wire service devotes more than a year and notable resources to an “investigative” series characterized by shoddy reporting throughout. What could have been a notable public service by the AP instead turned out to be a grievously misguided series that lacked vital context. NEI’s Chief Nuclear Officer Tony Pietrangelo pulled no punches in assessing the merits of the AP series in a video posted to our YouTube channel. Most recently, this Boingboing.net post – AP: US nuclear power plant safety isn’t being tightly regulated – directs readers to the AP articles. While the Boingboing.net post contains some perspective that highlights how nuclear energy can be beneficial in the economic and environmenta…

Thursday Update

From NEI’s Japan Micro-site:Plant Status• Tokyo Electric Power Co. has measured high levels of radioactivity inside reactor building 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The company believes the source of the radioactivity is steam from the reactor. TEPCO has been using robotic measuring devices to conduct radiation surveys inside three reactor buildings and in areas surrounding the buildings since early this month.• New water cooling systems are planned for the spent fuel storage pools at reactors 1 and 4 at Fukushima Daiichi. The fuel storage pools at reactors 2 and 3 already have new cooling systems and water temperatures are in the normal range.• Structures supporting the used fuel storage pool of reactor 3 at Fukushima Daiichi are seismically sound, TEPCO reported. The analysis was ordered by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues• Officials in Fukushima prefecture will inspect cattle after cesium was detected in cattle s…

NRC’s 90 Day Report from the Fukushima Task Force

Today, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission published its Fukushima task force’s Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century (pdf). This is a significant report because it sets the stage for what’s to come over the next few years to enhance nuclear safety. Here are a few nuggets from our press release on the report:The task force report confirms the safety of U.S. nuclear energy facilities and recommends actions to enhance U.S. nuclear plant readiness to safely manage severe events.…The task force report does not cite significant data from the Fukushima accident to support many of its recommendations. Given the mammoth challenge it faced in gathering and evaluating the still-incomplete information from Japan, the agency should seek broader engagement with stakeholders on the task force report to ensure that its decisions are informed by the best information possible.…The industry reiterates our commitment to make nuclear plant safety our top priority. Even as the NR…