Wednesday, August 31, 2011

North Anna, Paducah, Japan

Yoshihiko-Noda-REUT_641302tJust to cross a T from last week’s earthquake:

Dominion, the plant's operator, notified the NRC Friday that its analysis of ground shaking showed the quake could have exceeded its design parameters. An independent analysis by the government also had determined that was likely.

Oh?

But since nuclear power plants are built with margins of safety beyond the maximum expected shaking, the damage detected so far has been minimal.

Oh!

The NRC had already sent a seismic expert and a structural expert out to the facility, in addition to its inspector onsite.

Let’s keep on eye on this one and see how it shakes out.

---

The Paducah (Ken.) Sun looks at both North Anna and Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun (which found itself in the middle of a swollen Missouri River during much of the summer) and notes that both came through their respective bouts with mother nature unscathed. Conclusion:

With debate growing more intense over the safety of nuclear power as part of the U.S. energy picture, these two unplanned tests of nuclear reactors are instructive. Especially in light of the March 11 earthquake in Japan that provided fodder for opponents of nuclear energy.

The performance of the nuclear plants at Fort Calhoun and North Anna demonstrates that nuclear power generation can be safe, economical and reliable.

Well, safe in these situations is the one to note and the plants did do reliably what they’re supposed to do when the ground shakes or the water rises. They’re economical all the time – it’s a gimmee in this context. We’ll take it.

---

Japan's parliament has backed Yoshihiko Noda as the country's sixth prime minister in five years.

I cannot pretend to understand Japanese politics, but I think I can grasp the revolving doors at the prime minister’s residence:

An earlier agreement to raise taxes to cover welfare costs was a good start at fiscal consolidation, but the best chance for success is a stable government, Byrne added.

Japan's next leader has a mountain of challenges ahead, from battling a soaring yen and forging a post-nuclear crisis energy policy to rebuilding from the tsunami and reining in public debt, while paying for reconstruction and the bulging costs of an aging society.

The March disasters knocked the economy back into recession, and the strength of an expected rebound later this year is being clouded by weak domestic and global demand and recent gains in the yen, which threaten export competitiveness.

This story from Moodys is largely about its investor service cutting its rating on Japan’s debt. But Japanese Prime Ministers seem much more likely to throw in the towel before their terms are up than, say, American Presidents or British Prime Ministers. That leads to instability – even if the ruling party remains the same – while a new Prime Minister assembles his staff. I imagine there are a lot of people coming and going in the ministerial jobs. Although Japan does not appear to be in a political state of crisis, it makes Moodys nervous.

The BBC included this tidbit:

Unlike Mr [Naoto] Kan [the former PM], he [Noda] wants Japan's halted nuclear reactors to be restarted and has not backed his call for a nuclear-free Japan.

So there’s that. We may feel this is the best thing for Japan to do, especially as it will suffer a pretty rough winter without the reactors, but how it goes for nuclear energy in Japan will likely not be determined for some time. Kan was reacting to public opinion perhaps a little precipitously, but Noda will take account of it too – and the opinions of his ministers – and the options open to Japan in the electricity sphere.

So we can agree with Noda’s current views without necessarily expecting they will remain unchanged – or that Noda will retain his position where his predecessors did not – or without imagining that anything is settled about the future of nuclear energy in Japan.

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

TEPCO Guidelines Outline Compensation for Accident

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

• Tokyo Electric Power Co. has set guidelines to pay travel, lodging and other expenses for people displaced after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The company is offering reimbursement for medical fees for injuries and illnesses caused by the government-ordered evacuation of the area surrounding the facility. TEPCO also will cover lost income—small businesses will be paid for lost business and farmers compensated for lost crops. The company will provide compensation for mental distress caused by the accident on a per-month basis.

• Early-harvest rice from Fukushima Prefecture has cleared radiation testing, and farmers are shipping to market. This variety of rice accounts for only a small portion of the crop; other varieties will be tested later.

Plant Status

• TEPCO has found evidence of five active fault lines near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The government had ordered nuclear operators to investigate the geologic conditions around their plants following a strong aftershock on April 11 at a fault thought to be inactive. TEPCO is continuing its investigation. The company said possible earthquakes from the faults would be within the design standards of the plant. Two other utilities reported a total of nine possibly active faults near their nuclear facilities.

New Products

• NEI has posted new talking points outlining areas of operations that may result in additional industry assessments and enhancements at U.S. reactors.

Media Highlights

• Only 11 of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors will be operating in September, 20 percent of the country’s installed base, Platts reports.

• The BBC reports on yesterday’s parliamentary vote electing Yoshihiko Noda as Japan’s next prime minister. Noda wants the country’s shutdown reactors restarted as soon as they pass regulatory inspections and stress tests and has not backed the outgoing prime minister’s call for a nuclear-free Japan.

• The Fukushima accident will make the nuclear energy industry stronger, Paladin Energy, the Australian uranium mining company, said at a conference this week. Reuters reported that Paladin Managing Director and Chief Executive John Borshoff told the conference, “The uranium supply sector and nuclear industry generally is still suffering some bruising effect from this event. Yet while on the surface that appears as a negative, six months later the outlook for uranium production and sales is strong—and will remain so in the future.”

Upcoming Events

• U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff holds a public meeting today to hear comments on the recommendations of the agency’s near-term Japan task force. The staff will propose which of the task force recommendations the commission and industry should act on without “unnecessary delay.” An archived video of the meeting will be available on the NRC website.

• A public NRC meeting is scheduled for Sept. 7 to discuss a petition from the Natural Resources Defense Council asking the agency to order licensees to take action on recommendations of the agency’s near-term task force on Fukushima.

• The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards will hold a public meeting Sept. 8 to review the agency’s near-term task force report on the events at Fukushima.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

Noda Chosen to Replace Kan as Prime Minister

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

  • The ruling Democratic Party of Japan has chosen Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda to be its new party leader. The election paves the way for Noda to replace Naoto Kan as the country’s sixth prime minister in five years. The BBC reports that Noda wants Japan’s nuclear reactors restarted and has not backed Kan’s call for a nuclear-free Japan. The Japanese cabinet is expected to resign in the next few days, after which the parliament will elect the new prime minister. Last week, Kan announced his intention to resign as prime minister.
  • Nuclear accident response will be one of the important new roles of the nuclear regulatory body slated to replace Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. A nuclear training academy will be established to train staff for the new Nuclear Safety Agency, including designated “emergency specialists.” The new agency, to be part of the Ministry of Environment, also will include regulatory, oversight and environmental monitoring functions.
  • Outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan has informed the governor of Fukushima prefecture of a plan to build a central facility to temporarily store waste, including contaminated soil, from the cleanup of radioactive contamination in the prefecture.

Plant Status

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that, for the first time since monitoring began, no radioactive cesium was detected in the seawater near the water intakes for Fukushima Daiichi reactor 3. TEPCO also reported that no radioactive materials were detected from seawater samples taken from seven locations along the coast.

Media Highlights

New Products

  • On the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, NEI’s Safety First website features a new post on how Entergy’s Waterford 3 weathered the storm.

Upcoming Events

  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct a meeting on Aug. 31 to hear public comments on the recommendations of the agency’s near-term Japan task force. The staff will propose which of the task force recommendations the commission should act on in the near term. The meeting will be webcast live.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Rain Was Ending, And Light

WaterfordSo how was your weekend? I had some flickering lights but they stayed on, and I woke up Sunday without all the clocks blinking 12.

But that’s just a matter of geography. Irene was a very potent storm. The Associated Press reports that 3 million people are without electricity and that 35 people lost their lives. The first number will dwindle away, the second will stubbornly persist. Irene’s legacy.

And the nuclear energy fleet? Let’s see:

North Carolina:
Brunswick 1 and 2 – temporarily reduced power output to 65 percent of electric generating capacity.

Virginia:
Surry 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power

Maryland:
Calvert Cliffs 1 – automatically and safely shut down, as designed, when a large piece of aluminum siding struck a transformer late Saturday; the power station immediately declared an unusual event, the lowest of four emergency classifications, and exited the unusual event Sunday morning; the reactor is still off-line.
Calvert Cliffs 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power

New Jersey:
Oyster Creek – manually taken off-line approximately 5 p.m. EDT Saturday as a precaution
Salem 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Hope Creek 1 -- continued operating at 100 percent power

Pennsylvania:
Susquehanna 1 and 2 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Three Mile Island 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Peach Bottom 2 and 3 – continued operating at 100 percent power
Limerick 1 and 2 – temporarily reduced power output to 97 percent and 92 percent of generating capacity respectively

New York:
Indian Point 2 and 3 – continued operating at 100 percent power

Connecticut:
Millstone 2 and 3 – reduced power output to approximately 50 percent of generating capacity at both reactors upon request of ISO-New England for electric grid stability

Massachusetts:
Pilgrim 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power

New Hampshire:
Seabrook 1 – continued operating at 100 percent power

Vermont:
Vermont Yankee – continued operating at 100 percent power

So, aside from Calvert Cliffs taking a hit from aluminum siding – it’s a bit of a joke that Baltimoreans love their aluminum siding, though that would be a long way for it to fly – plants barely took note. As I wrote Friday, industrial structures in general are fortresses against this kind of weather.

NEI has a larger listing of various natural occurrences that nuclear energy facilities have weathered.

---

Here’s one of those occurrences:

Aug. 28, 2005
Waterford 3 (PWR), Louisiana, (Entergy)
Hurricane Katrina knocked out off-site power and damaged regional electrical infrastructure
• Plant manual shut down proceeded safely as designed.
• All emergency equipment functioned as designed.
• Emergency diesel generators were used for 4.5 days.

Note the date? Yesterday was indeed the 6th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which has the distinction of nearly destroying an American city. I must admit, the fact that the nuclear energy plant weathered what so many people did not – and New Orleans almost did not – reminds me of the dangers of honing in so single mindedly on one subject.

Six years to the day after Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters destroyed her home in the Lower 9th Ward, Diedra Taylor said she’s glad to be back home. But home is a far cry from what it used to be.

“The lots are still empty,” she said. “The grass is still high. For me, it’s still like a desert.”

Taylor, who lives on Deslonde Street in one of the homes built by actor Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, spoke about her experiences at a rally at the Hurricane Katrina Memorial on North Claiborne Ave.

But Katrina affected the entire Gulf coast, from Texas to Florida, with Mississippi in between:

What a difference six years makes. Today, the sun is beating down on Biloxi's Town Green, showcasing the beauty and the majesty of South Mississippi.  On August 29, 2005, that same area was being obliterated by raging waters from a storm we'll never forget.

Katrina killed at least 1,836 people.

So what is there to say about Waterford?

The 138 employees on-site and in the command center were moved into the reactor auxiliary building, the facility’s safest area before weather conditions deteriorated. When the hurricane cut Waterford 3 from the off-site power grid on the morning of Aug. 29, the facility’s two diesel generators maintained power for reactor cooling and other functions until the lines were reconnected on Sept. 2.

When the storm knocked out the plant’s communication system, the staff was ready, using satellite phones to stay in contact with government officials and Entergy’s corporate office. All employees remained safely inside until the storm passed and the recovery phase began.

And it did recover, returning to service a little more that two weeks later, on September 13. You sometimes forget that folks who work at facilities like Waterford must devote themselves to them completely even when every instinct is to be with family. And they do, completely.

Preventing the world from going pear-shaped in the face of disaster takes the efforts of people to keep their particular edge of society upright. That’s what happened at Waterford as it happened throughout the gulf coast, at energy facilities of all kinds. The electricity may go away for awhile, but it’ll come back – because workers ensure that it does.

So perhaps a glance at Waterford at this moment is not an exercise in nuclear navel gazing, but a nod to heroes largely unknown. Let them all take a bow.

Lawrence Binyon:

The rain was ending, and light; Lifting the leaden skies. It shone upon ceiling and floor; And dazzled a child's eyes.

Picture: Waterford

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here Comes Irene

ireneThe east coast hasn’t had an easy time of it lately, has it? While the earthquake earlier this week caused no casualties and little property damage, the same likely cannot be said of the approaching hurricane Irene – if it maintains its present course and intensity. After all, things that haven’t happened might indeed not happen.

Back in the early 80s, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson told everyone to go home around noontime one December day over fears of imminent snowfall. No snowfall that day or that season.

Jackson was made fun of back then for that decision – Chicken Little, Boy who Cried Wolf, you know, that kind of thing – but he was right. Conditions said snow, Atlanta cannot move (well, could not then move) when there is any snow, and abandoned cars clog up the thoroughfares, hampering cleanup.

So it’s more than right to prepare for Irene. Nuclear energy plants have roosted along the east coast since there have been such facilities and hurricanes have roared around them every time one gets a mind to move their way. Waterford weathered Katrina and Turkey Point Andrew. Big industrial structures of all kinds are designed to withstand hurricanes and nuclear facilities are no exception.

And, of course, there’s at least one big difference between an earthquake and a hurricane, at least in this country. You can always see the latter coming and chart its probable course. So you get to prepare.

Clearly, a storm like Hurricane Irene has the potential to interrupt service. High winds might cause trees to brush up against power lines, and lightning could strike and damage trees or pole-top equipment. There also is the potential for trees to be uprooted given the recent heavy rains.

That’s from PSE&G and that’s about infrastructure. A nuclear energy facility will shut down it it loses external power, but a more likely scenario is that you will lose external power. Prepare accordingly and no hoarding the milk.

Okay, that’s a little too glib. Take a look over here (at FEMA) to read about hurricane preparation and what to do during and after a hurricane. Lots of good links here, too, if you want to learn more about hurricanes. But really – no hoarding the milk.

---

We took a look around to see how various utilities with nuclear facilities told their customers about the upcoming storm. In sum, there’s a peek-in at the nuclear facilities here and there, but the overall message is “stay safe” – and advice on how to do so.

Here’s Constellation:

While it is too early to predict the impacts of the storm, a CENG Fleet structure team has been activated to ensure necessary support to any of our locations impacted by the storm. Our facilities at Calvert Cliffs, R.E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point have emergency safety procedures in place, which include early and extensive preparation for storms. We practice the plan routinely. We also have back-up systems in place to safely operate the facility.

That’s a good summary of what facilities do – some things as dictated by NRC regulation, with additional safety measures specific to the plants themselves.

Here’s Progress Energy:

“It’s been a while since our service area has experienced a major hurricane, so we encourage customers to take advantage of this time to prepare their own storm plans,” said Howard Fowler, Progress Energy Carolinas’ storm coordinator. “Preparation is important. Having a plan in place and knowing what to do when bad weather approaches is critical to ensuring the safety of families and property.”

Nothing specific about nuclear energy – and that’s okay. Most companies focus on things like being ready to repair downed power lines. That’s how PSE&G handled it above, too.

Same for Dominion. It’s advice for what to do after such a storm is very good.

  • Listen to your local radio station on your car or battery-powered radio for regular news and weather updates. Don't rely on your neighbors to report your outage.
  • Stay away from fallen wires, flooded areas and debris. Treat all fallen wires and anything touching them as though they are energized.
  • Follow safe operating procedures for generators. Never operate one inside your home or in an enclosed space, such as a garage.
  • Do not connect portable generators directly to the electrical system of your home. Electricity could flow backward onto  power lines and endanger lives. Either have a qualified electrician perform the work or plug appliances directly into the generator using the proper-sized extension cords.
  • Exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide and can be deadly, so run your generator outside with proper ventilation. Store the fuel for your generator safely.

In fact, the whole page is worth a visit – just swap out the Dominion references for your local utility.

For utilities, the number one job is to keep their customers safe and to reconnect them to the grid as fast as possible. All their energy facilities – coal, gas, nuclear – will chug along and just need the transmission wires to keep transmitting. So that’s the priority.

---

Just to frustrate our anti-wind friends who have seen videos of turbines blowing apart in a harsh storm:

If the turbine senses that the wind is stronger than 45 mph for more than a 10-minute period, it will feather the blades (turn them toward the wind so they do not generate lift) and shut itself off, he said.

If the power grid goes off, it will also automatically turn itself off.

“The wind turbine of course generates electricity and it pushes it onto the power grid,” he said.

If the power is out and National Grid employees are up on poles and otherwise trying to fix the outage, it would not be good to have that electricity still being pumped into the system, he said.

“Once power has been restored, we have to go and close that giant circuit breaker that connects the turbine to the grid,” he said.

So – not much use during a hurricane, but up and running pretty quickly afterward.

Here comes Irene!

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

Japanese Prime Minister Kan Resigns as Party Leader

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

  • Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has resigned as head of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, amid growing complaints about his performance. He came to office in June 2010. During his term, he had made unpopular moves, including an early pledge for a tax increase and handling a diplomatic issue with China in September. Most recently, Kan has been criticized about his response to the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant accident. His departure paves the way for Japan’s sixth leader in five years.

Plant Status

  • Work continues on construction of a cover for the damaged unit 1 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. Initial preparations began in May, and construction of the steel frame started earlier this month. Reference 2 of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s updated roadmap to recovery at the facility, released Aug. 17, includes several graphics showing progress on the installation and an image of what it will look like when completed. See pages 18 and 19.

Media Highlights

  • The Wall Street Journal reports that the Japanese government unveiled a plan to reduce radiation levels in Fukushima prefecture in two years. The central government is responsible for cleaning up areas where annual exposures could exceed 2 rem. Local authorities and community groups will play a key role in cleaning up less contaminated areas.

Upcoming Events

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct a public meeting at 1 p.m. Aug. 31 to hear comments on the recommendations of the agency’s near-term Japan task force. According to the meeting’s agenda, the staff will propose which of the task force recommendations the commission should act on without “unnecessary delay.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

Japanese Government Reduces Radiation Release Estimate

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

• The Japan Nuclear Safety Commission has cut its estimate of radioactive substances released by Fukushima Daiichi between March 12 and April 5 by 10 percent. The new estimate is based on recently released data on radiation levels at monitoring posts and the amount of radioactive material in the air.

• The Japanese government is set to decide on a decontamination plan for the Fukushima prefecture that would cut radiation levels in residential areas by nearly half over two years. Work will include cleaning drainpipes, pruning plants and weeding gardens, washing roofs, removing surface soil, and cleaning the joints in asphalt roads.

• Twelve U.S. nuclear energy facilities declared “unusual events” and one an “alert” following the Tuesday afternoon earthquake centered in Virginia. All twelve facilities have since exited unusual event status. The alert at Virginia’s North Anna facility was called when the magnitude 5.8 temblor cut outside power to the plant. The facility’s two reactors safely shut down. During the outage, diesel generators provided power for reactor cooling and other systems, as they are designed to do. Normal power for the facility has been restored and the alert has been dropped. The facility remains in an unusual event status. An unusual event is the lowest of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s four emergency classifications; an alert is the second-lowest. After earthquakes, safety inspections are conducted by the companies before reactors return to service.

Plant Status

• In an effort to improve effectiveness of reactor cooling operations at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility, Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to shift to a different process to cool reactor 3. It will reroute some of the water injection pathway from the feedwater system to the core spray system. This is being done to increase the potential for the core to directly get more coolant.

New Products

• A new interactive graphic on NEI’s Safety First website explains the nuclear fuel cycle, from mining uranium to storing spent fuel.

Media Highlights

R&D magazine’s online edition discusses a new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on lessons that can be learned from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The report is based on analysis of events at the nuclear energy facility by MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

• The International Atomic Energy Agency will conduct at least one safety inspection in every country with nuclear facilities over the next three years, Reuters reports.

Upcoming Events

• Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff will conduct a public meeting at 1 p.m. Aug. 31 to hear comments on the recommendations of the agency’s near-term Japan task force. According the meeting’s agenda, the staff will propose which of the task force recommendations the commission should act on without “unnecessary delay.”

The East Coast Earthquake Redux

ap_east_coast_earthquake_dc_wy_110823_wgFrom NEI’s Response Center (this goes to members and Capitol Hill, but I asked to be able to share it with you):

All 12 plants that declared unusual events in the wake of yesterday’s East Coast earthquake have exited emergency status. Dominion’s North Anna station declared an alert, as both reactors at the site shut down automatically upon the loss of off-site power, which the company reported late yesterday had been restored. North Anna remains in alert status. NEI will continue to provide updates as more information becomes available.

---

Here’s your headline (from The Hill, which covers Capitol Hill) - Earthquake reignites debate over safety of nuclear power – and here’s your sample paragraph:

While there were no reports of damage at the North Anna reactors [the ones nearest the epicenter] and plant operator Dominion said the cooling systems were working properly, nuclear opponents quickly pounced on the incident Tuesday.

I’m almost absolutely sure The Hill isn’t this na├»ve. The web is generally uncontrollable – as it should be – but mainstream sources have been very good not to gin up fear where it is not justified. “Nuclear opponents” are always only going to have one thing to say – it’s just their nature - so using them as a go-to source has the effect of throwing the nuclear industry into a defensive stance even when there is nothing to defend.

I get the idea of creating conflict in news stories, but sheesh! Let there be something to have a conflict about first.

---

I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the industry’s response to the quake. As we saw yesterday, news sources have been looking at their local nuclear plants for potential drama – and none have really found any. If North Anna switching to diesel power for a short stint is the drama you’ve got, you’ve got nothing.

None-the-less, reporters will look to the NRC, DOE, NEI, INPO and other sources to get some official or well-informed viewpoints.

I’ve made this point many times before, but it’s worth making again in this context. NEI and its sister organizations never lie. I’ve seen instances where associations did lie about events that aroused media curiosity about their industries and their names were mud. You lose trust, you lose everything – Congressional figures give you and your industry the fishy eye - and reporters and congressional staffs in particular have long, long memories.

So – no lies allowed.

---

Here’s Tony Pietrangelo, NEI’s senior vice president and chief nuclear officer:

“Per procedures and training, qualified personnel at affected facilities are conducting walk-downs and visually inspecting safety-related structures and components for indications of damage that might have resulted from the earthquake. We do not have any reports of such impacts at this time.

This part’s a little dated already – the bit at the top of this post brings everything up to date. But Pietrangelo brings up a subject that is exceptionally salient:

“U.S. nuclear energy facilities have been tested repeatedly by Mother Nature this summer, with tornadoes in the Southeast and record flooding in Nebraska. They have successfully met these challenges because plant personnel are fully trained and proficient in their duties within a multi-layered protective strategy that has multiple defenses to ensure safety even in the face of extreme events.”

I’d only add that the country as a whole has been “tested repeatedly by Mother Nature” - and industry in general and, well, folks have held up pretty well. Now, on to Hurricane Irene.

---

Here’s the NRC:

Nuclear power plants are built to withstand environmental hazards, including earthquakes. Even those plants that are located outside of areas with extensive seismic activity are designed for safety in the event of such a natural disaster. The NRC requires that safety-significant structures, systems, and components be designed to take into account the most severe natural phenomena historically reported for the site and surrounding area.

Plants declaring Unusual Events, which indicate a potential decrease in plant safety, include Peach Bottom, Three Mile Island, Susquehanna and Limerick in Pennsylvania; Salem,
Hope Creek and Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, Surry in Virginia, Shearon Harris in North Carolina and D.C. Cook and Palisades in Michigan. All these plants continue to operate while plant personnel examine their sites.

They caught up with some plants that I missed in my roundup yesterday, but they are the NRC.

The first paragraph is important: although the east does not suffer earthquakes frequently, it has suffered them historically and nuclear plants are built with the idea of taking account of the whole known history of an area. So no nuclear facility fell short of being prepared for yesterday’s earthquake. Not one.

---

Finally, a curious aspect of the earthquake is that it shook up nearly the entire east coast. Much larger tremblers out west don’t send shock waves up to Washington state and down to Mexico, so why was this one so widely felt?

Ars Technica provides a short explanation. We won’t steal the whole thing, but this is the gist of it:

On the East Coast, the continental crust is older, colder, and denser. The coastline hasn't been tectonically active since Pangaea split apart, back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth.

“Older, colder and denser.” We think our western friends can have quite a lot of fun with that description of the east – and I don’t mean tectonically, either. Read the rest at the site.

The last time everyone in downtown Washington, D.C. left their buildings was during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The feeling then was intense fear. Yesterday, the mood was bemusement and bafflement while everyone waited (for about 30 minutes) for the cell towers to work again so loved ones could be reassured and checked. This shot was taken on Pennsylvania Ave. fairly close to NEI.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The East Coast Earthquake of 2011

Those of us on the east coast have yet another major event to remember – a 5.8 earthquake that shook virtually the entire east coast. No one who doesn’t come from the west is used to such an event, so the level of surprise and mystified reaction was considerable. We won’t know for awhile if there was substantial damage or casualties. Let’s hope for little of the former and none of the latter. But we do know something about the nuclear facilities.

Dominion Virginia Power shut down its two North Anna reactors  as a result of the earthquake, according to the  the company.

The earthquake was felt at the North Anna Power Station and the reactor operators, following procedures, shut down the reactors," said company spokesman Jim Norvelle. "It was a manual shutdown."

The plant declared an alert, the second lowest level of emergency declaration, a commission spokesman said.

About what you’d expect. Virginia was at the epicenter of the quake.

Dominion Virginia Power's Surry Power Station is operating as normal, he said.

Also about right. Power was knocked out at North Anna – it has diesel generators to keep things running - but retained at Surrey.

How about Limerick in Pennsylvania?

“The earthquake was felt, but it didn’t jeopardize the safe operation of the plant. Both units are 100 percent and are online,” Szafran said in a phone interview just before 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“For this type of event, we have procedures in place, including a walk-down of all structures.” No evacuation was necessary, he said.

Indian Point in New York?

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plants have begun “Abnormal Operating Procedures,” according to Entergy Spokesman Jim Steets, after Tuesday afternoon's 5.9 magnitude earthquake. Abnormal Operating Procedures, or AOP, mean that the plant is being inspected for damage, although none has yet been found.

Calvert Cliffs in Maryland?

The Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in Maryland, the closest nuclear plant to Washington, D.C., remained stable at 100% of capacity, a spokesman for Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC said Tuesday.

Constellation declared an "unusual event" at the plant, said Constellation spokesman Mark Sullivan.

This story mentions two more.

Mr. Sullivan said the company's nuclear plants in Scriba, N.Y., and Ontario, N.Y., were performing similar examinations although neither plant registered abnormal seismic activity.

These would be Nine Mile Point and R.E. Ginna.

Now, of course, we understand that Fukushima Daiichi in Japan was hit by an earthquake, though it may turn out that it was the tsunami following the earthquake that was the determinative event. No American plant is vulnerable to tsunami and this wasn’t the kind of earthquake that could generate a tsunami.

Regardless of all this, it makes sense that the very fact of an earthquake set reporters to asking about the local nuclear facilities. By and large, reporters have been responsible, calling over to the plants – when the lines were open – and finding out what’s what.

And what’s what? The plant nearest the epicenter closed down – though mostly due to loss of external power - and most of the others (all of the others I found information about) are puttering right along, checking around the plants for any damage but mostly unaffected.

The earthquake just happened a couple of hours ago. There will be aftershocks, though none so far. Most folks, I reckon, are a little shook up. There’s no reason to believe the nuclear facilities should contribute to that, and they haven’t.

Let’s let Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell have the last word:

"In the wake of the earthquake, I would like to encourage all Virginians to check on neighbors and loved ones to ensure that everyone is safe and to continue cooperating with law enforcement and emergency responders working in your neighborhood,’’said McDonnell, who is holding a news conference later today. 

Let’s do that. Check on loved ones, make sure your neighbors are okay, get home safely, calm any panicky pets and turn on the TV or radio to keep up with events. It’s plenty. It’s enough.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

Some Evacuated Areas Around Fukushima Daiichi to Remain Off-Limits for Extended Period

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

• Some areas within the 12.5-mile exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility are to remain off-limits to evacuated residents for “a long time,” Japan’s government said. Officials had planned to allow residents eventually to return to their homes once the reactors are stabilized, but a government task force said that some areas likely will remain contaminated beyond that period and that exclusion orders will remain in force.

• The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the commissioners would be able to vote as early as next month on the first of two reports it requested from staff recommending actions based on the agency’s near-term task force report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The first paper, due Sept. 9, will recommend immediate actions to be taken by industry based on the task force’s recommendations. The second paper, due Oct. 9, will prioritize the task force’s recommendations and recommend “other actions” based on public and staff input.

Plant Status

• Tokyo Electric Power Co. said its continued efforts to stabilize cooling for the Fukushima Daiichi reactors are “beginning to bear fruit,” with all 19 thermometers in reactor 1 now reading below 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures for reactors 2 and 3 are still above boiling. There was no fuel in reactor 4 at the time of the accident.

Media Highlights

• The Chinese government’s State Oceanic Administration says it will “strengthen its monitoring for radioactive substances” in the ocean near the Fukushima Daiichi reactor and in the East China Sea to gauge the effect of radiation releases on the marine environment and marine food sources.

• An editorial in Yomiuri Shimbun says that Japanese people need to be better educated about radiation and its effects. For information on radiation, see NEI’s Safety First website.

Upcoming Events

• The NRC’s full Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards will hold a public meeting Sept. 8 to review the agency’s near-term task force report on the events at Fukushima.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

NRC Commissioners Direct Staff to Act Promptly on Fukushima Task Force Recommendations

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

• The five-member U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a memorandum directing the agency staff to engage with staff experts and external stakeholders to provide the commission with options for agency actions based on the NRC’s near-term task force report on insights from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The commission requested a report in three weeks noting actions from the task force report that industry should take “without unnecessary delay.” Longer-term actions required by industry would be identified in a separate report within 45 days.

• NHK World reports that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has created a detailed map showing ground radiation levels within 62 miles of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The map was developed using a detailed survey conducted in June by a JAEA team. The color-coded map uses Google Earth technology to help users pinpoint locations. JAEA says it hopes the map will help evacuees understand whether it is safe to return home and help government officials with decontamination efforts.

Plant Status

• Tokyo Electric Power Co. noted that its new water decontamination facility began operating this week. The Toshiba-built facility has 14 cesium-absorbing zeolite tanks and has been operating in test mode. The facility is meant to augment the French and U.S. system to clean and recycle cooling water. TEPCO’s efforts to control the volume of water used for cooling include gradually reducing the flow rate of water injected into the reactors.

• TEPCO published an Aug. 17 revision of its roadmap toward restoration from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. New measures in the revision include a plan to hire and train more staff to conduct radiation protection and survey work.

Media Highlights

Low levels of radioactive contamination have been detected in rice in Japan, although levels are not hazardous.

Upcoming Events

• The NRC’s full Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards will hold a public meeting Sept. 8 to review the agency’s near-term task force report on the events at Fukushima.

Bellefonte: “We're excited. It's been a long time coming.”

Bellefonte Nuclear SiteThe suspense and tension are over:

After hearing about 70 speakers support or oppose nuclear power and the completion of the half-finished Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, the TVA board voted unanimously on Thursday to restart construction.

So it wasn’t even a near thing. But that meeting sounds like it was pretty interesting. The local paper, The Scottsboro (Ala.) Daily Sentinel, sent writer Ken Bonner over to take a listen:

"We're very excited to see it," Jackson County Economic Development Authority President and CEO, Goodrich "Dus" Rogers said. "Now we move into a capitalized project rather than one just in the planning stages."

Rogers, and a group of 26 other people from northeast Alabama who attended the meeting were excited with the outcome. The contingent included 22 people from Jackson County including governmental, business and civic leaders, four from Fort Payne and Guntersville Mayor Bob Hembree.

Jackson County is home to Bellefonte and Scottsboro. Surely, Scottsboro doesn’t want it.

“I'm very happy that this project has finally come to fruition," Scottsboro Mayor Melton Potter said.

Oh.

“A 9-0 vote is a pretty bold statement by that board. It shows they are all on the same page and are unified in doing what is best for the entire service region," Potter added.

But it wasn’t  a complete love feast.

"You can say clean and safe, clean and safe and clean and safe and it's never ever going to be the truth," Anna Haislip of Nashville said through tears.

Almost every story I’ve read about this meeting references Ms. Haislip, apparently an area grandmother. My rule of thumb is to let elders talk at length and about whatever they want – while I listen without interruption or critique – but Ms. Haislip is apparently a very effective advocate for her position. Condescension unappreciated.

But Ms. Haislip has the benefit of having no agenda aside from her own, while anti-nuclear advocates are rather intractably wedded – or is that welded – in place. So the comments from area residents were far more interesting - and virtually all in favor of the plant.

"We're excited. It's been a long time coming," Rick Roden, President and CEO of the Greater Jackson County Chamber of Commerce said. "It means great days for all the people of Jackson County. We expect to see a lot of growth as a result of the vote."

Expectations are high. Industrial, retail and commercial prospects have enquired about locating locally. The anticipation is that the area will get spin off businesses to support the TVA project and will experience rapid growth similar to what occurred in Dayton, Tenn. and the surrounding area when the Unit 2 project began at Watts Bar.

I’ve read that Northern Alabama has about 13 percent unemployment, so even though Bellefonte isn’t expected to go online until about 2018 – there will be about 2800 construction jobs in the interim - ancillary business’ are ready to go. We shouldn’t underestimate what an economic bonanza such a large industrial project represents for its community – it’s not crass, it’s just the way of it in a capitalist system.

Bonner does a terrific job capturing the excitement Bellefonte brings to Scottsboro and Jackson County. Worth a read if your in the mood for a very happy nuclear energy story.

Bellefonte.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

TEPCO to Desalinate Used Fuel Pools

Plant Status

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to begin desalinating water in the used fuel storage pools at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility by the end of this week. TEPCO said it will start with the pool at the fourth unit because it contains the most used fuel. The new desalination equipment will arrive on five trucks and use special membranes and electricity. Salt was introduced into the facilities immediately after the March 11 accident, when workers used seawater to provide emergency cooling. Desalination will reduce the likelihood of salt-induced corrosion of stainless steel pipes and the pool walls.

Media Highlights

  • The Wall Street Journal reported today that the cleanup of radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant is behind schedule because of recurring problems with the decontamination equipment. TEPCO began testing a new decontamination system Tuesday. “Strengthening the capability of the water treatment is the most important task facing us,” said Goshi Hosono, the minister in charge of recovery efforts at the facility.
  • The Japanese government has approved restart of the Tomari 3 nuclear energy facility, according to a report by Reuters. It is the first commercial reactor to gain restart approval since the March 11 accident. However, the facility was operating at a low power level for testing prior to the accident, and its restart is not expected to ease Japan’s energy shortage.
An article in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal highlighted the difficulty in assessing the risk from low levels of radioactivity. “While high levels of radiation are unequivocally dangerous, the science regarding health effects of the kind of lower-level contamination that has spread far from the plant is surprisingly hazy. … The effects of slight increases [in radiation exposure] are difficult to measure,” the Journal reports.

Hokkaido, Repossession, Standardized Cars

Hokkaido_PlantThere’s talk of turning one of the furloughed plants in Japan back on:

The turning point could be the northernmost region of Hokkaido, which is on the verge of formally restarting the first nuclear plant to come back online since the March 11 disasters. Hokkaido Gov. Harumi Takahashi announced at a press conference Wednesday that she will be asking the government for final approval, effectively giving the green light from the local level to restart the nuclear plant.

Writer Cheng Hergn Shinn tries out the idea that Japanese opposition might take all nuclear facilities off-line next year, but that seems highly unlikely and is certainly the first we’ve heard of such an potential outcome. That supposition, though, is what creates this “turning point.” What seems as likely – more likely, really – is that HEPCO (correx: not TEPCO, as I originally wrote. Thanks to commenter Jose A. for the heads-up) has done a good job testing the Hokkaido plant, enough to satisfy Gov. Takahashi. And there’s also this:

Meanwhile Mr. Kanno, the Hokkaido Electric spokesman, said the utility can provide stable power for the summer without the reactor if need be, but come the region’s notoriously chilly winter, supply could fall short unless the company can get final approval to restart the nuclear reactor — officially.

Even the strongest nuclear energy advocate would not want the plant to return online for this reason alone, but if it can keep its neighbors warm – and it has received the approval of the local government – well, all systems go.

---

Here’s a benefit of small reactors that nobody has said much about: if your buyer turns out to be a deadbeat, you can repossess the plant and cart it away. Or in this case, float it away:

The world's first floating nuclear power plant, currently under construction, has been seized by the Court of Arbitration of Saint Petersburg as the shipyard building it faces bankruptcy proceedings.

To be honest, the plant is staying where it is. It could be hauled back to home base, but it looks as those its builder Rosenergoatom means to keep it where it is, just take possession of it and its barge:

Although the vessel - the Akademik Lomonosov - has already been registered in the name of Baltiysky Zavod as a ship under construction, Rosenergoatom is seeking to have it re-registered in its name as it claims it is the rightful owner. The vessel, it says, has been built using its funds.

Gizmodo tries to explain what’s happening here:

Rosenergoatom wanted the nuclear power plant in state control because United Industrial Corporation, the largest shareholder of Baltiysky Zavod, the shipyard building the plant, has given its stake in the shipyard to a bank as collateral for an unreturned loan. Basically, Rosenergoatom doesn't want another company claiming the shipyard's assets (i.e. the floating power plant) during the inevitable bankruptcy proceedings.

Which makes sense, I guess. The story would be considerably more fun if Rosenergoatom did just sneak the barge away under cover of night, but no such cloak and dagger activity so far.

We should note too that small reactors have been defined as those generating 350 megawatts or less. By that standard, these are pee-wees:

The two 35 MW KLT-40S nuclear reactors - similar to those used in Russia's nuclear-powered ice breakers - have already been assembled and delivered to the shipyard ready for installation.

And at least some small reactor vendors tout the ability to build them in a factory and ship them to the site complete. That’s also not happening here. It’s an imperfect story if you’ve got a narrative in mind – as I did when I first heard about it – but still provides a small measure of entertainment.

---

Nothing about nuclear energy here, but still, a signal move:

On June 20-21, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Electric Vehicles Standards Panel (EVSP) gathered in Detroit to lay the groundwork for a strategic roadmap that will define the standards and conformance programs needed to enable the widespread acceptance and deployment of electric vehicles and associated infrastructure in the United States.

I’d read elsewhere that ANSI called for this meeting, which I found surprising – I thought industry figures went to ANSI with standardization plans and didn’t realize that it also acts on its own. But however this came about, good. About time. If hybrid and electric cars want to move beyond niche status, the industry must agree to a standard set of principles so that the cars can be used .

Let’s hope for a successful confab.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

Japanese Government Endorses Plan for New Nuclear Regulator

Plant Status

• Levels of radioactive cesium near the seawater intake area of Fukushima Daiichi reactors 2 and 3 have fallen below the safety limit, Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported over the weekend.

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

• The Japanese cabinet has endorsed a plan to establish a new nuclear energy agency that would take over the regulatory functions of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, which is now under the industry ministry that also promotes nuclear energy. The new agency, to be set up under the environment ministry, will also carry out the advisory functions of the Nuclear Safety Commission and the radiation monitoring functions now being performed by the science ministry. The government plans to launch the agency in April 2012.

• With more than 70 percent of Japan’s 54 nuclear reactors shut down for inspections, energy companies are experiencing rising prices for conventional fuels used to produce electricity. As utility companies have compensated for the electricity shortfall by increasing the operation of their non-nuclear plants, the costs of oil, natural gas and other fuels have increased by up to 60 percent from the previous year.

Media Highlights

• The Wall Street Journal reports on the loss of public confidence in Japan’s nuclear energy sector in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

• Authorities in Hungary have determined from a post-Fukushima review that the nation’s only nuclear power plant is safe to operate.

• The Arizona Republic on Sunday published an article examining the industry’s emergency response capabilities that would protect the public in the event of an incident at the Palo Verde nuclear energy facility.

New Products

• Answers from industry technical specialists to questions from the public on emergency diesel generators and reactor containments, among other topics, are available on the Ask an Expert section of NEI’s Safety First website.

Upcoming Events

• The Fukushima subcommittee of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards will hold a public meeting Aug. 16 to review the agency’s near-term task force report on the events at Fukushima.

Suspense. Tension. Bellefonte!

house near bellefonte I’m not sure if it belittles the importance of the event to call it, well, suspenseful:

Later this month [this Friday, to be exact], the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority could take up a proposal to complete the Bellefonte nuclear power plant in northeast Alabama.

TVA administrators are conducting a campaign to gain public support for the project and nuclear energy in general despite a dangerous incident at a Japanese plant this year.

TVA had already put off making this decision once:

TVA staff says the most reliable and least costly option for future growth in electricity needs is nuclear power and completing the Bellefonte plant in Hollywood, Ala., for an estimated $4 billion to $5 billion. The board’s vote on the proposal, which had been expected this past spring, was put off after a nuclear fiasco in Japan.

“Dangerous incident,” “nuclear fiasco.” We may in for a long period of creative description-making for the accident at Fukushima. I’m not crazy about either of these,but points to reporters for mixing it up a bit.

With costs rising and more regulations anticipated for TVA’s aging coal-fired plants — the historic workhorse of electricity generation — the nation’s largest public power producer stands at a crossroads as the meeting approaches.

Oddly, the story doesn’t mention why aging coal plants might be facing rising costs and more regulation. Nuclear facilities are not exactly regulation free, after all. In any event, it’s clear that writer Anne Paine is feeling the suspense, too:

None of the board members contacted by The Tennessean last week was definite on how he or she would vote on Bellefonte.

Three members — [Barbara] Haskew; Mike Duncan of Inez, Ky.; and William Sansom of Knoxville — did not return telephone calls for comment. Those reached talked about keeping rates as low as possible for the9 million people served in parts of seven states through TVA’s distributors.

That actually speaks well to approving Bellefonte, but that’s what you do when you can’t know: you read teas leaves – parsing what people say for a hint.

There has been, as you might expect, some criticism from an environmental coalition called the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE). Some groups put up good contentions that ought to be answered carefully, but SACE just cooked up a stew of issues that aren’t really issues.

SACE released a report, saying TVA should not go forward at Bellefonte, providing what they claimed seven major factors that say TVA's attempt is extremely costly and and dangerous.

Here’s a bit from SACE’s press release:

Efforts by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to resume construction at the long-shuttered, nearly forty-year-old Bellefonte nuclear reactor Unit 1 in Jackson County, Alabama, are unlikely to be successful due to seven major problems, including water damage to the reactor site foundation, compromised radiation containment in the unfinished reactor, and a lack of records about what exactly went on when the critical systems in the unfinished plant were cannibalized while the project lay dormant.

Which makes it sound as though TVA intends to walk into the plant as-is and flip a switch.

[TVA President and CEO Tom] Kilgore said a completed Unit 1 at Bellefonte would essentially be a new unit, using the latest equipment and technology to meet the latest safety standards and regulations.

He also talks about the “water damage” – there isn’t any. Of course, if SACE cannot be sure of Bellefonte – as it presumably cannot – that provides a lot of license to promote what must be true or, to put it more specifically, what SACE feels must be true. And that’s being generous.

Unless the TVA board hangs onto its votes for awhile without revealing them – the vote itself is secret – we should know if TVA will be going ahead with Bellefonte this Friday.

Oh, the suspense.

---

If Bellefonte is approved, the plan currently is to bring it online in 2018, which means it will have taken 44 years from conception to completion. The project was officially suspended in 1988 due to falling energy costs, with reactor 1 about 88 percent complete. Reviving the project has percolated for awhile now and in 2008, TVA asked the NRC to reinstate the construction permits, which has happened. The recession depressed (recessed?) the demand for more electricity, so the original 4-reactor project is now one – well, one for now. Here are some up-to-date TVA talking points about Bellefonte.

On the road to Bellefonte – you didn’t really want another shot of a plant, did you? You can see a cooling tower over the trees on the left. It’ll be nice if they actually get to cool something.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

65th Carnival of Nuclear Energy: Turning Inspiration Into Action, Not Just Nuclear, And The Bigger Pictures

For the sixth time in the carnival’s 15-month history, we have the privilege of hosting. Each time we’ve written, the number of contributions from pro-nuke bloggers has increased. Today we have posts from 13 folks discussing all sorts of topics.

Inspiration Into Action

Suzy Hobbs at the ANS Nuclear Cafe asked:

Inspiring people to learn about energy issues is a huge step, but how do we turn that inspiration into action?

Her answer:

My best piece of advice to a newly minted nuclear supporter is to be bold and talk about it. Talk about it every chance you get. Bring it up, even at the risk of creating or escalating a conflict.

Will Davis at Atomic Power Review did just that. He recently chatted with a friend who had seen the Davis-Besse plant at a distance while on vacation. Addressing his friend’s concerns, Davis started a frank discussion about perceived risk and how big media drives and controls it.

Rod Adams hosted two gentlemen on his Atomic Podcast Show: Ben Heard of Decarbonise SA (South Australia) and Barry Brook of Brave New Climate. Ben grew up assuming that nuclear energy was dangerous, but after evaluating all available options, he changed his mind. He is now running a campaign that he calls Decarbonise SA. The other guest, Dr. Barry Brook, is a scientist who focuses on the earth’s climate. He never opposed the use of nuclear energy but now recognizes just how effective of a tool it can be.

As Ms. Hobbs suggested, inspiration can lead to action.

Not Just Nuclear

Dr. Ulrich Decher also at the ANS Nuclear Cafe published his third piece of his series on California's Renewable Energy Portfolio. The Doc continued to analyze the assumptions and predictions underlying California’s energy goals. This time he took a special focus on issues arising from the intermittency of renewable sources.

Dr. John Bickel at Evergreen Nuclear presented some enlightening numbers on the radioactive releases from natural gas production compared to nuclear. There is clearly a big difference on how the nuclear industry handles radiation compared to the gas industry (looks like they don’t).

Steve Aplin at Canadian Energy Issues called out environmentalists and the Sierra Club for their disconnect on their natural gas policies.

Environmentalists who make a big deal out of opposing the proposed expansion of the Keystone pipeline do so on the grounds of the sheer amount of carbon it represents. Keystone carries synthetic crude from the Alberta oil sands to refineries in the U.S. Natural gas is a vital ingredient in oil sands processing, and is the main source of oil sands carbon emissions. Now, if oil sands carbon is bad, and that carbon comes from natural gas, then why do the same environmentalists who oppose Keystone support the increased use of natural gas for power generation in Ontario? … In Ontario, Sierra opposes new nuclear build and favours, incredibly, natural gas.

Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee created a slide show presentation on Vermont's energy future and Vermont Yankee issues. In the slide show, she explains what "buying from the grid" in New England means (hint, it's fossil). She also covers nuclear safety issues, including concerns based on Fukushima, and a significant section on the economics of Vermont Yankee. The show provides a strong context for understanding the future of electric generation in New England.

Back to All Nuclear

Charles Barton at Nuclear Green has re-posted a blog entry by Bill Hannahan in response to an attack on the Molten Salt Reactor by DA Ryan, a British anti-nuke. From Barton:

Ryan began with questionable assumptions, failed to note well regarded information sources that simply disagreed with his controversial views, then proceeded to reason from unsupported assumptions to dogmatic conclusions about nuclear energy.

The essay rebuttal is not only a defense of the Molten Salt Reactor concept but of nuclear in general.

Brian Wang at Next Big Future has the latest on reactor construction in South Korea and new plant starts in China. He also reported on the International Energy Agency’s monthly nuclear stats worldwide and country by country. Looks like Japan’s decline in nuclear generation this year is going to make a dent in nuclear’s worldwide fuel share. New plants in India and China may be able to make up the slack though.

Bigger Pictures

Margaret Harding at 4 Factor Consulting published the fourth piece in her series that reviews strategic factors affecting the nuclear industry. Using the PESTEL analysis (acronym for Political, Economic, Social, Technical, Environmental, and Legal), Margaret’s latest piece looked at a high level economic overview of the nuclear industry.

Gail Marcus at Nuke Power Talk discussed the three types of regulatory independence that the Japanese should factor into the new regulatory organization they are developing: organizational independence, independence from the licensee, and ability of staff to assess the technical situation independently.

And Slow and Steady Progress

Last but not least, Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat has two posts to mention. Closely following the progress of the Vogtle reactors, Dan notes that the Georgia Public Service Commission will not adopt a controversial cost risk sharing plan with Southern Company. Instead, the regulatory agency and the utility have agreed to a "look back / look forward" program that reviews all costs as necessary and prudent under the state's CWIP program. The decision allows Southern to move forward with additions to the rate base to pay for the construction of twin Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Vogtle site.

Dan also reported that the NRC issued the final safety evaluation report for the combined construction and operating license for the Vogtle reactors. The NRC is on the home stretch with the safety review of the AP1000 reactor design!

That’s it for the week’s carnival. Always something going on, always something to say. Hope you enjoyed. Stay tuned for the next carnival at the ANS Nuclear Cafe. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

Cooling Restored for the Used Fuel Storage Pools at All Four Damaged Fukushima Reactors

Plant Status
• Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility achieved a major milestone this week as recirculating cooling was restored to the used fuel storage pools at the last of the four damaged reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) activated the cooling system at the reactor 1 pool on Wednesday, marking the first time since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that the pools at all four reactors have used recirculating cooling rather than water injection. Cooling systems for the pools were restored at reactor 2 on May 31; reactor 3, June 30; and reactor 4, July 31. The cooling systems for the pools at reactors 5 and 6 and the common pool were not damaged. TEPCO released an update to its roadmap to restoration of the facility on Aug. 10.

• TEPCO plans to train approximately 4,000 workers in radiation safety by the end of the year. So far, about 1,900 workers have completed the training. These radiation safety specialists will control exposure to workers at the Fukushima Daiichi facility and measure radiation levels in the 20-kilometer no-entry zone to determine whether it is safe for evacuees to return. The Japanese government said it will consider lifting evacuation orders for zones deemed to be safe.

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues
• Japan and Vietnam have agreed that Japan will continue to support nuclear energy expansion in Vietnam by building two reactors in the country. The two nations agreed last October that Japan would build two reactors by 2021. Vietnam plans to build 14 reactors by 2030 to meet the nation’s growing demand for electricity. Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai said he trusts Japan’s technology and wants Japan to keep providing help. Although Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has called for Japan to reduce its dependence on nuclear energy, the government has said it will honor contracts already in place or under negotiation.

Media Highlights
• Japanese National Policy Minister Koichiro Gemba told The Wall Street Journal he believes the nation should consider building small reactors as part of its energy mix. Prior to the accident at Fukushima, the nation’s energy strategy called for nearly doubling generation from nuclear energy to 50 percent by 2030. The government has put those plans aside and is crafting a new energy policy. In his interview with the Journal, Gemba said the future contribution of nuclear energy in Japan is likely to be below the 26 percent level reached in 2007. See the full article (WSJ subscribers only), “Japan Considers Turning to Micro Nuclear Plants.”

Southern Co. Advances; Atomists and Their Games

Rostov tennis tournament For those who have been following nuclear energy issues for the last 10-15 years, this kind of news can cause a bit of a tingle:

The utility recently cleared a couple of hurdles in the approval process for Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4. Last week, the NRC determined its new Westinghouse AP1000 design meets current federal and state safety requirements. After the Fukushima I disaster, NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko had expressed concerns that Westinghouse, a unit of Japan-based Toshiba, had failed to properly measure the impact that earthquakes, tornadoes or other disasters could have on the new design.

Officials approved the plan after Westinghouse addressed those concerns. So far, the NRC has turned a deaf ear to anti-nuclear and other environmental activists who are urging the agency to halt new plant approvals like this one, as well as re-licensing older reactors.

Because we haven’t heard news like this before. It’s all new. And it’s very exciting. (The two reactors should begin operation in 2016 and 2017.)

---

Although, the perambulations of stock prices don’t really mean that much to me, it’s interesting to see that investors don’t have a problem with Southern Co.’s nuclear ambitions:

With healthy sales growth and approval of its nuclear plants likely, there’s a lot to love about SO [the stock symbol for Southern] — for steady growth and solid income. SO just set a new 52-week high of $40.87 on July 21 and at $39.41, the utility is trading nearly 12% above its 52-week low of $35.19 last August.

Because really, why should they?

---

Hard to say Russians don’t know how to have fun:

A competition held at Rostov to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the commissioning of reactor 1 saw some 48 participants from ten of Russia's nuclear power plants. During an opening ceremony, Ludmila Tkachenko, deputy chairman of the Volgodonsk city government, said: "I admire the work of Rosenergoatom Concern on the organization of sports competitions. There has already become a good tradition for atomists to hold various sports championships, competitions and tournaments in our city."

“Atomists.” I wonder what Russian word led to that translation, but I like it regardless. Looks like a lot of fun and a lot of medals were had by all. The story makes it clear that these are very competitive nuclear facility workers.

The plant has previously hosted and won medals in the All-Russia Hand-To-Hand Combat Tournament and its workers have cycled the 800 kilometre journey home from the Zaporizhzhya plant in Ukraine.

And here we play on softball teams. This video shows you what Russian hand-to-hand combat looks like.

---

We’re a little surprised:

Ts. Damdinsuren, a senior Mongolian nuclear official, said Ulan Bator [Mongolia’s capital] has not changed its atomic plans despite the severe nuclear accident that occurred in Japan's Fukushima Daichi plant after the March earthquake and tsunami.

He said Mongolia has rich coal reserves, but using nuclear energy is favorable because fossil fuel could harm human health and the environment.

But only because the story ended up here:

A senior Japanese nuclear engineer said Japan would be glad to provide technology and safety control support for Mongolia's peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Surprised yes, pleased certainly.

The Rostov tennis team.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site:

NRC Votes Are All In on Task Force Report

Plant Status

• Tokyo Electric Power Co. has begun erecting the steel support for an airtight cover for reactor building 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The 17-story polyester fiber fabric cover is designed to shield the environment from the release of radioactive particles. TEPCO is planning similar covers for reactors 3 and 4.

• TEPCO has established a means of sampling the liquids and gases in the primary containments at Fukushima Daiichi. Samples have been taken from the containments for reactors 1 and 2.

Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues

• NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko this morning submitted his voting document on the recommendations of the agency’s post-Fukushima task force. All five commissioners have now cast their votes. The voting papers are on the NRC’s website.

• Residents and business owners evacuated from near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility may be permitted to check on their homes and businesses during brief visits next month. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry also said some people from evacuated areas soon may be able to return home permanently. Easing the restrictions would not affect the exclusion zone within 12 miles of the plant, where about 80,000 people were evacuated.

• Japan has agreed to share the lessons learned from Fukushima Daiichi in a summit-level United Nations meeting Sept. 22 in New York. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited Japan this week, including a stop in Fukushima Prefecture.

Media Highlights

• In the early days of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, Japanese government officials withheld information about radiation dispersal that could have assisted evacuees, The New York Times reports.

• Britons see a “major role” for nuclear facilities as part of the country’s energy portfolio, a survey by the Nuclear Industry Association has found. World Nuclear News reports that 68 percent of respondents support nuclear energy.