Skip to main content

Pilgrim, Blobs of Black Oil, Fusion Part 20

We always have time for some good news:

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) denied a filing by Massachusetts to stop the relicensing of Entergy's 685-megawatt Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts.

This had never seemed a good bet for Massachusetts, which had based its contention on events at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi. Since the NRC is working to apply lessons learned from Fukushima to the American fleet, the state’s contention seemed irrelevant. But – there are further steps to be taken:
The NRC said the state could appeal the ASLB ruling against its Fukushima contention to the five-member, presidentially appointed Commission that oversees the NRC.

The ASLB is is the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, which handles these issues. It was the ASLB that created a minor tempest when it ruled the Department of Energy could not withdraw its license application for Yucca Mountain from the NRC. This is smaller in scope, but an important step to (re)establishing where the state’s authority over nuclear facilities ends.

---
A little news from Durban, South Africa, where the United Nation’s climate change conference (COP17) is taking place:
Blobs of black oil have mysteriously surfaced on the beaches north of Durban, threatening to spoil them for holidaymakers ahead of the festive season.

Residents began noticing pockets of oil on the shores of Zinkwazi, Salt Rock, Zimbali and Blythedale beaches.

Not very climate changey. Anything else?
As COP17 kicked off on Monday in Durban, several people were reported dead following flooding over the weekend.

The eThekwini Municipality said 10 fatalities were reported, with five of the cases having been confirmed following flooding that resulted in damage to property and infrastructure in Umlazi on Sunday.

The worst-hit area is the central region, with 19 reports of flooding affecting shacks at Quarry road and Puntan's Hill.

Any questions?

(h/t ThinkProgress)

---

And now, for something completely different:
In the race against world governments and the wealthiest companies to commercialize a nuclear fusion reactor, a small, innovative Canadian firm is hoping to bottle and sell the sun's energy.

In a laboratory in this Pacific Coast city [Burnaby, Vancouver], General Fusion physicists and engineers in bright red smocks are busy assembling an experimental reactor.

They hope to test a prototype in 2014 and eventually become the first to commercialize the technology, offering a safe, cheap, pollution-free and virtually inexhaustible source of energy.
Ah, sweet mystery of fusion, never to die. The main problem with fusion, as the story notes, is that it takes a cup full of electricity to produce a thimble full. Forget about economy of scale – there’s no economy whatever.

But you’ve got to admire people who look at the sun and think, I can do that, and then try to do that. The only drawback is that it leads to tears – again and again.

General Fusion admits its chances of success are slim -- but backers believe in its proposal, and are pouring CAN$30 million into the project.

Good work if you can get it. Can’t help but wish General Fusion well.

One detail in the story produced a sour burp:

"The central challenge is still that fossil fuels -- getting them out of the ground and burning them -- is still so cheap to do that there is not an adequate incentive to invest in renewables or other low carbon technologies," said Matt Horne, director of the Pembina Institute.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Pembina, a Canadian think tank – it doesn’t like nuclear energy very much, but you can’t have everything - but I do think there’s plenty of incentive to invest in low carbon technologies. In any event, it’s an odd argument from a Canadian outlet – the country generates almost 60 percent of its electricity from hydro. Go figure.

Blobs of black oil - in New Zealand, in this instance.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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 …

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …