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Showing posts from December, 2011

The President of Thorium

Power from thorium:This is [Bob] Greene's first time running [for President], and he's not sure if it's his last, but he certainly wants the world to know his position on thorium — a natural radioactive chemical element he hopes can change the nation's dependence on foreign oil.Why thorium?This energy source is used to create nuclear energy, much like uranium. However, he said it is safer to use and produces a waste product with a shorter radioactive life span. Like nuclear power, thorium would not create a huge carbon footprint, such as burning coal or oil, he said.The writer gets a little muddled about nuclear energy here, but Greene has his arguments for thorium down pat. But why a single issue candidacy revolving around thorium? He said he doesn't think President Barack Obama is taking advantage of the possibilities of thorium. "I see this as an issue of national security," he said. "We can stop oil wars if we do this. We can change our import ec…

Gifts for the Winter Solstice

2012 promises to be an extremely consequential year for American nuclear energy. In the grand tradition of sneak previews, the first news to hit made 2011:The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved the amended design for the Westinghouse AP1000, a reactor that several power companies intend to use for building the first new U.S. nuclear plants in decades.“The design provides enhanced safety margins through use of simplified, inherent, passive, or other innovative safety and security functions, and also has been assessed to ensure it could withstand damage from an aircraft impact without significant release of radioactive materials,” NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said in a statement.And that means this in – we hope – the early part of next year:The certification brings Southern Company subsidiary Southern Nuclear one step closer to receiving the first Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) for a U.S. nuclear plant."This is another key milestone for the Vogtle …

National Nuclear Science Week

National Nuclear Science Week is coming up January 23 and The National Museum of Nuclear Science and History (which has a great slogan: “Reactions Welcome”) is gearing up for it. The museum is in Albuquerque – where Bugs Bunny often made wrong turns – and also near one of the Manhattan Project sites at Los Alamos.Although the museum does not ignore nuclear weaponry and its role in the Cold War, the focus of National Nuclear Science Week is, as the title suggests, more scientific than historic, offering themes  for each of the weekdays. Monday is “Get to Know Nuclear Energy,” Tuesday, “Careers in the Nuclear Fields”, and then “Nuclear Energy Generation,” “Nuclear Safety,” and “Nuclear Medicine.”Some of the days don’t appear to have agendas finalized yet. The web site, though, has a lot of materials for teachers and students, some fascinating audio and video clips – the audio of Einstein talking about the lately beleaguered theory of relativity is of particular interest – and plenty of …

Dr. Robert Emery Disputes Joe Mangano's Findings on Radiation and Fukushima

Just a few minutes ago, I received the following statement from Dr. Robert Emery, Vice President for Safety, Health, Environment & Risk Management at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston concerning Dr. Joseph Mangano's recent study on fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility reaching the U.S.
“We aggressively monitored for the presence of environmental radioactivity in Houston following the Fukushima event and worked closely with local public health authorities in the event we detected any threat to public health. We never detected any elevated radiation levels. I don’t see any evidence to supports the assertion made by this report that the additional 484 deaths in Houston in 2011 could in any way be related to radioactivity from Fukushima - we never detected any.”

"Moreover the study bases its conclusion on the comparison of data from deaths in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011. Using this method you really can’t determine the specific caus…

Progressives and Nuclear Energy

The Progressive Policy Institute offers strong support for nuclear energy in the post-Fukushima era, in a paper that bats down various myths that have taken hold about nuclear and other energy sources.
The paper links support for nuclear energy to progressive views. As champions of reason and science, U.S. progressives have a responsibility to avoid panicky overreactions and instead undertake a clear-eyed assessment of the actual risks of nuclear energy.Taking a swipe at environmentalists who oppose nuclear energy -  and generally assumed to hold progressive views, though there’s plenty of conservative environmentalists - the paper says, [S]ome environmental activists have tried to pose a false choice between ‘clean’ and presumably safe renewable fuels like wind, solar and geothermal energy, and ‘dirty’ fossil fuels or allegedly ‘unsafe’ nuclear power. This dichotomy has nothing to do with science.The paper discusses the relative environmental risks of nuclear versus other forms of…

Joe Mangano's Credibility Takes Another Body Blow

This time, the sledgehammer is delivered courtesy of Barbara Feder Ostrov's Health Journalism Blog. Like plenty of other folks, she was shocked at Joe Mangano's claims -- ones that he backed off from when under questioning from MedPage Today -- so she talked to some long-time medical journalists.

Here's what Ivan Oransky of Reuters Health had to say about Mangano's research:
I do use impact factor to judge journals, while accepting that it's an imperfect measure that is used in all sorts of inappropriate ways (and, for the sake of full disclosure, is a Thomson Scientific product, as in Thomson Reuters). I find it helpful to rank journals within a particular specialty.

[...]

I looked up the journal in question, and it's actually ranked 45th out of 58 in the Health Policy and Services category (in the social sciences rankings) and 59th out of 72 in the Health Care Sciences & Services category (in the science rankings).Here's Gary Schwitzer of Health News Revi…

The 2012 Budget for Nuclear Energy

Congress voted on an omnibus appropriations bill that basically funds the entirety of the federal government for the next year. Naturally, our interest lies with the nuclear energy portion of the Department of Energy’s budget. The executive summary is that the total is more than requested by the Obama administration earlier this year; the accident in Japan has been acknowledged in the budget but how to proceed has been largely left to processes already in place – the NRC’s Near-Term task force, for example; and Yucca Mountain, dead or alive, is not funded.Here are the details:The appropriations bill provides $769 million for nuclear science and technology, higher than the president’s $754 million and a sharp increase from the $584 million approved initially by the Senate.Of particular note is the restoration of $67 million for small reactor development and licensing, which the Senate had earlier zeroed out. Under a cost-shared government-industry program, DOE will select two designs t…

Mike Moyer of Scientific American Debunks Joe Mangano Again

Mike Moyer, the writer at Scientific American who so expertly debunked Joe Mangano's "research" in June, had a chance to read the latest Mangano study that claimed 14,000 deaths in the U.S. were linked to fallout from Fukushima.

The verdict: it's just another flawed study.
No attempt is made at providing systematic error estimates, or error estimates of any kind. No attempt is made to catalog any biases that may have crept into the analysis, though a cursory look finds biases a-plenty (the authors are anti-nuclear activists unaffiliated with any research institution). The analysis assumes that the plume arrived on U.S. shores, spread everywhere, instantly, and started killing people immediately. It assumes that the “excess” deaths after March 20 are a real signal, not just a statistical aberration, and that every one of them is due to Fukushima radiation.Of course, as we pointed out yesterday, Mangano was forced to back off that last claim when pressed by a reporter fr…

Counting Yen

Japan does not have many options for electricity if it leaves behind nuclear energy and if limiting carbon emission remains a national goal. But what Japan decides to do about nuclear energy is something that is tough to gainsay. So, the groundwork to lessen dependence on nuclear is being laid, though the results are imperfect:Nuclear power generation in Japan is about 50 percent more expensive than estimated after factoring in the cost of paying for an accident like the Fukushima disaster, a government panel said.Nuclear energy costs at least 8.9 yen (11 cents) per kilowatt hour, compared with a government estimate of 5.9 yen in 2004, the panel said in a draft report today. Presumably it is still 5.9 yen if the accident is factored out, but okay: 8.9 yen it is. Why is that imperfect?Coal is estimated to cost 9.5 yen per kilowatt hour, while liquefied natural gas and oil cost 10.7 yen and 36 yen respectively.Another story put wind at 9.9 yen and solar at 33.4 yen. Those are Japan’s ch…

Joseph Mangano Contradicts His Own Press Release on Fukushima Research

Our readers will recall that on Friday afternoon that we were alerted to the impending release of a study authored by Joseph Mangano and Dr. Janette Sherman on the alleged effects of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Daiichi incident here in the U.S.

Earlier today, Mangano and company held a teleconference to announce their findings:
An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services.Sounds scary, doesn't it? Then again, only a few hours later, Mangano admitted in an interview with MedPage Today that the results of his research weren't quite as definitive as his press release would have led folks to believe:
But he (Managno) told MedPage Today that the researchers can't rule out factors other than the Fukushima radiation that might have accounted for the excess…

NRC’s Post-Fukushima Recommendations Will Be Mandatory for U.S. Nuclear Energy Facilities

Over the past few months, anti-nuclear groups have regularly attacked our industry for allegedly resisting implementing changes at our facilities in the wake of the incident at Fukushima Daiichi. While that’s simply not the case, it’s a perception that often gets reinforced in the press—and this morning’s mailbag contained yet another example.Politico Pro posted an article this morning, “NRC Won’t Make Post-Fukushima Safety Recommendations Mandatory,” that is misleading and egregiously inaccurate. At issue is how the term “mandatory” is used to show how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will both implement and mandate its post-Fukushima recommendations.The lede states:The NRC on Thursday cemented a to-do list of post-Fukushima safety recommendations for U.S. nuclear plants but won't make them mandatory.That caught the attention of Jason Zorn, NEI’s assistant general counsel, who made it clear to me in no uncertain terms that this is incorrect. I spoke with him this afternoon to ex…

Note to Reporters: Be Sure to Fact Check Joseph Mangano, Janette Sherman and Robert Alvarez

Late this afternoon, it came to our attention that Joseph Mangano, Janette Sherman and Robert Alvarez will be holding a news conference on Monday morning (December 19) concerning a new study they've done about how Americans might be affected by radiation released into the atmosphere from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility in Japan.

While we haven't seen the article as of yet and can't comment on it, our readers should know that reliable third parties have reviewed the work of all three authors in the past and found it to be fatally flawed.

Here's what the New Jersey Commission on Radiation Protection had to say about Mangano's "Tooth Fairy" project:
The Commission is of the opinion that "Radioactive Strontium-90 in Baby Teeth of New Jersey Children and the Link with Cancer: A Special Report," is a flawed report, with substantial errors in methodology and invalid statistics. As a result, any information gathered through this project would not st…

Fukushima Daiichi Achieves Cold Shutdown

A happy day:Japanese Prime Minister Yoshikhiko Noda said on Friday that the battle to stabilize the country's Fukushima nuclear plant had turned a corner, nine months after an earthquake and tsunami sent reactors into meltdowns."The reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have reached a state of cold shutdown," Noda said at a nuclear task force meeting in Tokyo. "Now that we have achieved stability in the reactors, a major concern for the nation has been resolved."The "cold shutdown" refers to a condition where the water that cools nuclear fuel rods remains below boiling point, meaning that the fuel cannot reheat.Still much to do. But a happy day.---An editorial from North Dakota features the views of Senate Candidate Duane Sand:In a wide-ranging discussion Tuesday with The Forum’s Editorial Board, Sand outlined his proposal for a nuclear plant in North Dakota and nine more across the nation. A commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, Sand s…

Need A Little Soap To Clean Off the “Dirt”

I came across an article this week penned by professor Benjamin Sovacool that purports to give readers “the dirt on nuclear power.” The article gives way to hasty generalizations and leaves readers with a false view of one of the nation’s safest industries, and I’d like to point out a few places where there are holes in his arguments.The first problem: Sovacool lumps common industry terms, “incidents” and “accidents,” into one venti-sized category of “accidents.” Why does he do this? I’m guessing to add to the Armageddon-like anxiety he wants his readers to feel.Sovacool states:Incidents are unforeseen events and technical failures that occur during normal plant operation and result in no off-site releases of radiation or severe damage to equipment. Accidents refer to either off-site releases of radiation or severe damage to plant equipment. …Under these classifications, the number of nuclear accidents, even including the meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini, is low. But…

AREVA in Funkytown: Bad Quarter or Harbinger of Industry Doom?

Today, French nuclear company AREVA said it expected to post operating losses of about 1.4 to 1.6 billion euros in its 2011 year-end financial report, including a cash flow loss, before tax, of about 1.8 billion euros. This story from AOL Energy News is rather bare on facts, substituting something very close to a bald assertion:Only last week Washington DC-based think tank Worldwatch Institute released its Vital Signs Online (VSO) report noting that the world's nuclear power portfolio was quickly shrinking. Now nuclear power companies worldwide are posting numbers that reflect the trend.Well, it’s one nuclear energy company and it wouldn’t seem to be reflecting this particular trend, if trend there be. (I haven’t looked at the VSO report – yet – and must admit I’ve never run into the Worldwatch Institute.)This story, from the rather unbalanced Business Green, at least gets the details about this right:The company announced yesterday that operating losses for this year could reach …

Weekly Japan Update

The Fukushima updates are moving to a weekly schedule beginning today and continuing each Monday. Additional updates will be issued as needed to cover developing events.Japan: Full Decontamination Efforts Will Begin in MarchDecember 12, 2011Industry/Regulatory/PoliticalTEPCO said it will receive accident insurance from a Swiss company that will replace a consortium of insurers that will not renew its policies with the utility. TEPCO will pay about $258 million for a five-year policy, about 10 times the amount it paid to the consortium. The policy will cover claims related to Fukushima Daiichi.Japan’s Environment Ministry said that a full-fledged effort to decontaminate areas with high radiation will not begin until at least March, as the ministry must receive permission from affected landowners and must acquire temporary sites at which to store contaminated soil.Concentrations of cesium-137 in the ocean near Fukushima Daiichi peaked at 50 million times above normal, a study by the Woo…

NEI Press Release: Effective Regulation of Nuclear Energy Important for Public Confidence in NRC

The following statement concerning the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is from the Nuclear Energy Institute’s president and chief executive officer, Marvin Fertel:
“Safe performance of nuclear energy facilities and the NRC’s credibility are the two most important factors for policymaker and public confidence in nuclear energy. As such, the industry is concerned with anything that threatens the credibility of either. We are confident that Congress and the White House will take the steps necessary to ensure that the NRC is an efficient, effective regulator that provides oversight of commercial nuclear technology.

“The issue that is of most concern is the question of a chilled working environment at the agency, including the possibility of staff intimidation and harassment, at a time when the senior management and staff are working on critical licensing activities and post-Fukushima safety recommendations. The industry takes safety culture issues seriously and we expect the same p…

On Politifact, President Clinton and Nuclear Costs

You may recall that in November, President Clinton made the following statement about the relative costs of nuclear, solar and wind in an appearance on The Daily Show:
"Solar energy and wind energy ... would already be competitive with coal if you had to pay the extraneous costs of coal -- the health care costs and other things. And ... wind within two years and solar within five will be competitive in price with coal. They're both cheaper than nuclear right now."In response, Lou Jacobson, a reporter with Politifact, took a closer look at Clinton's claim, and rated it half-true:
Clinton was correct about wind energy being "cheaper than nuclear right now," at least the onshore kind. But for now, nuclear beats the cheapest form of solar energy on price. So we rate his statement Half True.That claim didn't sit well with NEI's David Bradish, who pulled apart the numbers and suggested that Politifact change its rating from "half true" to "mo…

NRC’s Jaczko Responds to Rep. Markey on the Sr-90 Issue at Vermont Yankee

It’s been a few weeks since I posted about Entergy responding to Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) on the strontium-90 (Sr-90) issue at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko has since weighed in, on the NRC’s behalf, with a letter he sent to the congressman.Of note, the chairman’s letter echoes what Entergy officials and the Vermont Department of Health (VTDH) have been saying all along:Because there are multiple potential sources of Sr-90, including nuclear weapons testing by multiple countries in the middle of the last century, it is very difficult to draw conclusions about the source of any particular Sr-90 contamination that is found in the environment unless there is additional supporting evidence.Because of this fact, Jaczko believes that Entergy’s Laurence Smith, manager of communications, is fair in one of his statements that “There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Vermont Yankee is the source for the strontium-90.” He writes:The quoted licensee sta…

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Safety First web site:Contaminated Water Leaks Into Ocean Near FukushimaDecember 7, 2011Industry/Regulatory/PoliticalTokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility, said about 40 gallons of water containing radioactive strontium drained into the ocean following a leak in desalination equipment. TEPCO said it is likely to have little effect on the environment.More rice shipments have been banned from a district of Fukushima City after discovery of contamination. Inspections found radioactive cesium above the government-set safety limit in rice from the Watari district and blocked shipments from farms located there. Bans were previously imposed on another district of Fukushima City and two districts of Date City.Fukushima Prefecture will spray radiation-absorbing agents onto farmland and scrape off the topsoil in an effort to remove low levels of contamination. Workers also will remove tree bark in orchards and clean the trees with jets of…

Solyndra, Nuclear Energy and Loan Guarantees

One of the things that struck me when reading about the bankruptcy of Solyndra and its implication for the federal loan guarantee program is that it seemed so small bore – beyond the entertainment value of any “scandal-worthy” elements attached to it – because it “only” realized the risks associated with the loan guarantee program. That doesn’t impact the social value of loan guarantees as a mechanism for promoting a desirable energy policy. Now, I’m not saying risk is nothing – and Solyndra’s bankruptcy is worth an investigation – but everyone knows that no business is a sure thing.  But, of course, Solyndra didn’t make nuclear facilities, so it was interesting here only insofar as its downfall might impact upon the loan guarantee program.Still -Solyndra had a use as Exhibit A for the argument that solar energy is always a bad investment, but that’s transparently false, so there’s nowhere really to go with that line of attack.It has also been used as an argument against the loan guar…

MIT Recommends Single Agency to Manage Cyber Security Threats for Electricity Grid

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology released a report on Monday that discusses the future challenges facing the U.S. electricity grid and several recommendations for how to best manage them. The researchers found that one of the most notable challenges facing the electricity grid is the threat of cyber attack.

MIT writes in the report:
Perfect protection from cyberattacks is not possible. There will be a successful attack at some point. This is a huge threat to the grid because a cyber attack in one area has the ability to affect other areas very rapidly, which could greatly disrupt power supply all over the country. Cyber attacks are also considered by the Pentagon to be an “act of war,” said the MIT researchers at a National Press Club event this week.

To best manage this issue, MIT recommends that:
The federal government should designate a single agency to have responsibility for working with industry and to have the appropriate regulatory authority to enhance cybersecurity …