Tuesday, August 09, 2011

SCE&G, CEZ, Ice, The Sun

South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. said it expects to have a federal license by January to operate two new nuclear reactors it wants to build in Fairfield County.
The State newspaper reported SCE&G received a letter Wednesday from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission saying the utility's application is complete and a final safety report should be ready in September.
The NRC then would have four months to hold a public hearing and issue the licenses for the nearly $10 billion project.
SCE&G provides a little more detail about the two reactors planned at V.C. Summer:
In the letter, the NRC staff concluded that SCE&G’s application for a combined operating license is complete. The revised schedule supports the issuance of the Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER) in September 2011. As the NRC letter stated “The objective for completion of the mandatory hearing, including issuance of a final Commission decision, should be no later than four months from the issuance of the later of the FSER or Final Environmental Impact Statement for the COL.”
And makes it clear that this fits the schedule originally set for the project. The first new unit should be begin operation in 2016 and the second in 2019.
SCE&G also provides a pdf of the NRC letter outlining its schedule if you want to dig deeper into the details.
Panicky investors, worried about euro-zone debt, global economic gloominess and plunging stock markets, may have let recent antinuclear sentiment and the hunt for havens get the best of them.
Wouldn’t be the first time, would it?
Analysts say shares in Czech-based power company CEZ AS, central Europe's biggest producer of nuclear power, have fallen too much amid the recent German-led backlash against atomic energy. They predict the stock price will recover later this year as the furor over nuclear energy dies down and the Europe Union discusses exemptions to regulations covering carbon-dioxide emissions.
Die down or no, CEZ, of which the Czech government is a majority owner, never changed course:
"Some international investors may not pay attention to [the] Czechs still supporting nuclear power. These investors might think Germans are against nuclear, so Europe will be against it, too," said Teresa Schinwald, an analyst at Raiffeisen in Vienna who has a "buy" recommendation and target price of 1,050 Czech Koruna ($60.93) on CEZ. "It seems like a perception problem rather than a practical one."
If I were an expert on the stock market, well, I’d probably be panicking. But not about CEZ.
We know that the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March were powerful – leaving Fukushima Daiichi aside for a moment, they caused a loss of life and property that was so large it was difficult to grasp. On this side of the Pacific, some marinas were rocked by the tsunami, but no serious damage occurred.
Looking east made sense at the time, but others were looking south:
To sum up the dynamics of the event: An earthquake off the coast of Japan caused massive waves to explode out from its epicenter. Swells of water swarmed toward an ice shelf in Antarctica, 8,000 miles (13,600 kilometers) away, and about 18 hours after the earthquake occurred, those waves broke off several chunks of ice that together equaled about two times the surface area of Manhattan. According to historical records, this particular piece of ice hadn't budged in at least 46 years before the tsunami came along.
This is significant because scientists had no evidence that a tsunami could do this – snap off pieces of the ice shelf – and this instance has been extensively documented (the site has a video of the icebergs being formed, for starters). This can lead to new intelligence about ice shelf stability.
I’m not sure that this episode causes problems itself – the article doesn’t say so – but I’d guess ships in the southern hemisphere will need to know the location of a Manhattan-sized block of ice – assuming it can be carried by waves – so they can avoid it.
Here comes the sun:
Storms are brewing about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) away, and if one of them reaches Earth, it could knock out communications, scramble GPS, and leave thousands without power for weeks to months.
But go about your business in an orderly way.
This is what is happening:
The tempest is what's known as a solar storm, a flurry of charged particles that erupts from the sun. Under the right conditions, solar storms can create extra electrical currents in Earth's magnetosphere—the region around the planet controlled by our magnetic field.
The electrical power grid is particularly vulnerable to these extra currents, which can infiltrate high-voltage transmission lines, causing transformers to overheat and possibly burn out.
Now, before we prepare for months in the dark:
"Geomagnetic storms are low-probability, high-impact events," Lordan said. "When assessing the risk to the grid, one has to ask, What's the level of storm intensity that the grid system should be prepared for?
"Based on the data and the scenarios we can reasonably expect, I believe the power-delivery system can operate through a solar storm."
Well, that’s not nearly as exciting as wandering across a wasteland looking for a stray can of beans, but ledes promising a future in dystopic science fiction scenarios should always be taken with a grain of salt. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know about these kinds of events – I remember solar storms creating havoc on my short wave radio – though tamping down the dire predictions would do a world of good.
From NASA: The sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft has imaged many erupting filaments lifting off the active solar surface and blasting enormous bubbles of magnetic plasma into space. This image shows the sun in ultraviolet light, while the field of view extends over 2 million kilometers, or 1.243 million miles, from the solar surface.

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