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Showing posts from June, 2012

Another Call for Nuclear Advocates

A few weeks back, we asked our readers to participate in an LA Times poll on the continued operation of the San Onofre nuclear power plant. Earlier today, the San Diego Union-Tribune posted their own poll on the ultimate fate of the facility:

If you support the continued operation of the plant, please take a moment to vote.

Enhancing U.S. Nuclear Trade

The Third Way’s report on the future of nuclear energy, which we excerpted yesterday, focuses a good deal on trade issues and how to  ensure that the United States retains its primacy as a exporter of nuclear technology, goods and services. Bolstering that subject, NEI’s Everett Redmond has offered a blog post to Public Interest Report that tackles some of the thorny issues involved in trading American nuclear energy technology and goods with other countries. Bilateral agreements on nuclear energy cooperation are vital to advancing global nonproliferation and safety goals as well as America’s interests in global nuclear energy trade. A 123 agreement, named after section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act, establishes an accord for cooperation as a prerequisite for nuclear energy trade between the United States and other nations. The agreement contains valuable nonproliferation controls and commitments.123 agreements are not in themselves particularly controversial; still, they are not the r…

Third Way Recommends New Strategy for the Future of U.S. Nuclear Energy Industry

Earlier today, the Washington think tank Third Way issued a major public policy paper on how government and industry can work together to support the nation's global leadership position in nuclear energy. To shed some additional light on the paper, we asked Robert Walther, a Senior Policy Advisor in Third Way's Clean Energy Program, to write a guest blog post concerning the paper and the future course it outlines.
A Strategy for the Future of Nuclear Energy in the U.S.

Today’s nuclear energy technologies offer our nation a resource that can safely provide around-the-clock energy at affordable prices while minimizing emissions. One in five American homes is powered by clean nuclear energy. But the future of this vital energy source is dependent upon an interwoven set of decisions made by the public and private sectors. On one hand, private industry must make business decisions about constructing and operating nuclear facilities which involve expensive up-front investments, des…

The Latitude that Fervency Allows

One thing about advocacy groups that can be admirable is their fervency about their causes. As long as it doesn’t tip into fanaticism or destructive behavior – and it usually doesn’t – then the passion expressed can be a highly effective recruiting tool. But how much latitude does fervency allow? How useful is it in directing policy?Some, if truth also informs your passion. I was reading a press release the other day about a group that wants to motivate its members take action to push renewable energy to the policy forefront. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but the release had a lot of fervent writing that led it astray. For example:More than eight out of 10 Americans (83 percent) – including 69 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of Independents, and 95 percent of Democrats -- agree with the following statement: “The time is now for a new, grassroots-driven politics to realize a renewable energy future. Congress is debating large public investments in energy and we need to take ac…

EIA Estimates Positive Growth for Nuclear Energy In Latest Annual Energy Outlook

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that electricity generated by nuclear energy in the United States is projected to increase 10 percent by 2035 over 2010 totals if current laws and regulations remain unchanged. This scenario, deemed the “reference case,” is one of the EIA’s 30 scenarios released this week in its Annual Energy Outlook 2012 that project varying levels of change in the energy sector due to market and policy influences.Richard Myers, NEI’s vice president for policy development, said:“The Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook is an important tool for policymakers—not because it describes a single future, but because it illuminates the range of futures that might develop given certain business and policy conditions. It’s worth remembering that the Annual Energy Outlook’s reference case in the mid-1990s forecast the premature shutdown of approximately one-half of U.S. nuclear generating capacity, in the belief that many nuclear po…

Trust and Turning On the Nuclear Facilities

We haven’t looked at editorial punditry lately, but there have been some thoughtful entries lately. The Washington Post  weighed in on the restart of two of the reactors at Japan’s Ohi site over the weekend. The Post editorial is largely about trust and how the nuclear energy here and abroad depends on the trust of the people:Japan has begun to address the mistrust [after the government’s handling of the Fukushima Daiichi accident] with legislation to overhaul the nuclear regulatory agencies and with revised safety standards. In recent days, [Prime Minister Yoshihiko] Noda has decided to restart two of the 50 commercial Japanese reactors taken offline for inspection after Fukushima, but he faces great skepticism. The Three Mile Island meltdown and Chernobyl disaster showed that, once lost, public trust is extremely hard to regain. A little more:Nuclear power evokes suspicions that run deeper than other technology hazards, social researchers say. In today’s globalized digital universe,…

The Road to Visaginas

Consider this: when Lithuania closed its nuclear plant in 2009, it lost access to a whopping 70 percent of its total electricity generation – enough to allow it to be a net exporter of electricity, especially to its Baltic neighbors, Estonia and Latvia. The reason one nuclear plant could so dominate the energy conversation is that Lithuania has an exceptionally small population – 3.5 million people.And though the three Baltic states point their destinies westward, so to speak, there are enduring – or at least well-understood - ties to Russia. Consequently, Russian natural gas now fills in for Lithuania’s lost nuclear energy – reversing the previous arrangement and making the country a net energy importer - a situation the country is very eager to change.But how to do that?"I am happy a very important historic decision allowing the further development of nuclear energy in Lithuania ... has been made," {Prime Minister Andrius] Kubilius told reporters at parliament, which backe…

Plant Security Foils Attempt to Smuggle Explosives Inside Swedish Nuclear Plant

When I first got into the office this morning, the headline that jumped out at me immediately was the news the security team at the Ringhals nuclear plant in Sweden had foiled an attempt to smuggle explosives into the facility.

The bottom line here: plant security functioned exactly as it should have. As NucNet reported: "The explosive did not enter the facility and there was no risk of an explosion because there was no detonation device." According to Vattenfall, the operator of the plant, the amount of explosives that were found were too small to cause any meaningful damage. Nevertheless, alert levels at Sweden's two other nuclear plants, Forsmark and Oskarshamn, have been raised, and Swedish police are currently investigating the whereabouts of the fork lift before it arrived at the plant.

America's nuclear plants have always been secure, and are among the best protected pieces of industrial infrastructure in this country -- and that's all the more the case s…

The U.S. Energy Department Should Consider Washington State for Small Reactors, Lawmakers Say

Nine U.S. congressional leaders from Washington state penned a letter to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu this week to urge the federal agency to consider the state as a possible location for small nuclear reactors. The letter, signed by both of the state’s U.S. senators and seven U.S. representatives, comes only weeks after Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) submitted a similar letter to the energy secretary, further signaling that the state’s lawmakers are serious about wanting a stake in the upcoming public-private partnership to develop up to two small reactors in this country.
The lawmakers said in the letter that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford site, a facility used mainly during World War II to create plutonium for America’s defense program, could make a perfect location to develop a small reactor since it could boost the environmental cleanup efforts at the site and create jobs. The Tri-City Herald quotes from the letter:
A small modular reactor in the Tri-Cities could…

Germany and the Cost of Moving Fast

We promise not to beat the horse until it starts beating us – and we’re probably close to that point – but say, how is that shift to renewable energy going in Germany?The country’s third-largest aluminum producer, Voerde Aluminium GmbH, filed for bankruptcy amidst trade groups advocating affordable power. Ulrich Grillo, president of Germany’s non-ferrous metals association, views Voerde Aluminium’s insolvency as proof that the metal manufacturing industry in Germany is endangered by high electricity costs, which are no longer competitive on the international level. By point of comparison:Electricity prices for industrial use are 41.7 percent lower in France than in Germany. If similar inefficiencies begin to surface in steel and other critical manufacturing industries, the impact on the German economy will be significant. Let’s be fair: Germany generated (in 2010) about the same amount of electricity via nuclear energy – about 22 percent – as the United States does and half the nuclea…

Local, State and International Leaders Turn Their Attention to New Reactors, Both Big and Small

South Carolinian and Missourian leaders came forward this week to tout the economic benefits of new nuclear reactors, a sign of their growing support for further developing new plants in their states. The positive statements come at a time when the bidding continues to heat up for investment funds from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to participate in the first public-private partnership to develop and deploy small nuclear reactors (SMRs).Today, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley held a joint press conference with representatives from Holtec International, SCE&G and AREVA on how small reactor technology could bring additional jobs and manufacturing to the Southern state. The Aiken Standard reports:Deployment of SMRs at SRS [Savannah River Site] would "offer South Carolina a unique opportunity to become a leader in the next generation of nuclear reactor manufacturing," according to a press release from the governor's office.Savannah River Nuclear Solutions’ spokesperson Barbar…

Public Poll: Nuclear Advocates Needed

There is an unofficial poll being conducted by The Los Angeles Times regarding the future of San Onofre Nuclear Generation Station. If you support the continued operation of San Onofre nuclear plant, please click here, scroll down to the bottom of the page, and vote to: "Reopen them and seek a new license to keep them running until 2042."Here’s a look at the poll:Though the poll is unofficial, these polls can still influence readers, so your participation is greatly appreciated.

Please note that polls can be taken down at the newspaper's discretion so please vote today, and feel free to share this link with family and friends that support San Onofre.

Thank you for taking the time to show your support for nuclear power.

The Price Point in Japan

Outside Japan, it seemed inevitable:Japan has given final approval for the restart of two nuclear reactors, a move that will end a total shutdown of the atomic power sector caused by safety fears raised by last year’s crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.Inevitable because the Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda worked hard to get the approval of the prefecture (state) officials because all signs were that Japan would suffer brownouts and blackouts without the Oi (I’ve also seen it as Ohi) reactors in Fukui Prefecture. In any event, though the announcement is notable, it will still take awhile to get the reactors back online.Kansai Electric said that further tests and checks were required for the two Oi reactors, but it expected to be able to start generating electricity with the No 3 unit in early July, with No 4 following later in the month. It would take each reactor a few days after being restarted to reach full output, the company said.Which sounds like good timing. The Japanese, much…

Winning Nuclear Joke Is Announced

NEI held a friendly Facebook contest last week to see who could tell the best nuclear energy-related joke. With more than a dozen people submitting entries and many others voting on their favorite jokes, NEI revealed late Friday afternoon that the winning entry came from Mark Reed, a research and teaching assistant from MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.His joke:What do you call a group of nuclear engineers doing sit-ups and crunches? The core development team.Congratulations to Mark Reed who has won a nuclear energy water bottle! Also, thank you to everyone else who participated in the contest. We are always happy to see the hidden talent that lies within the nuclear energy industry.To read all of the other joke entries and to stay up-to-date on the latest nuclear energy news, visit NEI’s Facebook page.Image credits: Felix the cat from SodaHead.com.

James Lovelock on Germany's Nuclear Phaseout

James Lovelock, the originator of the Gaia Theory and a prominent pro-nuclear environmentalist was interviewed by the Guardian today. He was as provocative as always, and had this to say about Germany's planned phase-out of nuclear energy:
"It looks to me as if the green ideas they have picked up now could be just as damaging. They are burning lignite now to try to make up for switching off nuclear. They call themselves green, but to me this is utter madness."How mad is it? Click here for a piece from Brad Plumer of the Washington Post.

Will Friends of the Earth Drop Their Opposition to Nuclear Energy?

I got a surprise this morning as I opened my email: the news that the U.K. affiliate of Friends of the Earth (FOE), one of the world's leading environmental organizations, may drop its long-time opposition to the use of nuclear energy.

The word comes from author, journalist and climate activist Mark Lynas, who recently had a phone conversation with Mike Childs, the head of climate change with the organization. Apparently, the organization is about to do an extensive scientific review of the positions for and against nuclear energy. Here's Childs from the interview:
[S]o we’ve commissioned the Tyndall Centre in Manchester to lead the review. They’ll go through a process of pulling together the arguments for and against nuclear power, both new nuclear power stations, extending existing stations, and some of the fast breeder ideas on the table. They’ll synthesise that and do a peer-review with proponents both for and against, to see whether they’ve got those arguments properly syn…

Productively Discussing Used Nuclear Fuel

An interesting comment by NRC Chairman-designate Allison Macfarlane at her confirmation hearing yesterday – which was very uncontentious, by the way – was the comment that only the United States has a deep geologic repository for nuclear materials – The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M., which stores transuranic waste from defense sources. WIPP figured prominently in the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission, because it was a working example of the consent-based approach for siting a used fuel repository – meaning that its community wanted it there, clearing the way for an uncontroversial opening and operation of the facility. Consent-based siting of consolidated storage facilities is a feature of the commission’s report that has gotten attention in Congress. That’s partly why Senators wanted to talk about it with Macfarlane, who served on the Blue Ribbon Commission,  even though the NRC’s role beyond licensing interim storage facilities would  be limited. (You can wat…

Who Can Tell the Best Nuclear Energy Joke?

Since I came to the nuclear industry five years ago, I have heard my fair share of nuclear energy-related jokes (I used to keep a running tally to see how many I’d hear in a day!). Inspired by a joke we saw by NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki, posted in today’s Environment & Energy Daily, we decided we’d launch a friendly Facebook contest to see who could tell the best joke.Here are the contest’s terms:To enter and/or vote on the submissions, please visit NEI’s Facebook page. While there, don’t forget to ‘like’ us.We know there is a lot of great hidden talent out there (as proven in our haiku contest from April), so we are eager to see what people submit this time!And, since I know you are waiting on the edge of your seat to hear Commissioner Svinicki’s joke, here’s the passage from the article that made us chuckle:"A neutron walks into a bar, and the bartender says, 'What'll you have?'" the 45-year-old Nuclear Regulatory Commission member said, her small f…

Ask the Dust (at Calvert Cliffs)

This is called overselling your story:Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Facility in Lusby, Maryland recently began a lengthy roof replacement process, due to take over a year. During such renovations, it is common for dust and debris to become a menace, quickly covering all the surfaces in the building below. While such a mess is often a nuisance, in the case of a nuclear facility such as Calvert Cliffs, it can become a serious safety hazard. The tiniest wood splinters, or the smallest nails, could fall into the turbine’s mechanical openings and cause a nuclear accident. For this reason, the services provided by ShieldWorks are absolutely invaluable.Well, no, it could likely not even cause a turbine accident. What’s supposed to happen? – all the nuclear electricity backs up from the broken turbine, overloads the reactors and causes untold grief? It’s like a nuclear Rube Goldberg machine.A bit of a shame, really, because the story about ShieldWorks is pretty interesting. Nuclear facilities are re…

You're welcome, Mr. Lochbaum

One of the blogs we regularly monitor is All Things Nuclear, the blog on commercial nuclear energy sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

It was impossible to miss this passage in a post published there yesterday by David Lochbaum. He wrote the following after participating in a panel discussion on industry safety at the 2012 Nuclear Energy Assembly:
Before closing, I wish to express my appreciation to Marv Fertel, Tony Pietrangelo and NEI for including me on this panel. They knew beforehand that my views would not align with theirs and could have easily and justifiably not invited me to the panel. I applaud Marv and Tony for soliciting a broader spectrum of viewpoints. You're welcome, Mr. Lochbaum.

Roger Bezdek Returns to Energy Subsidies

Over the years, Dr. Roger H. Bezdek has become the leading authority on the issue of federal energy subsidies. In the most recent issue of Public Utilities Fortnightly, Dr. Bezdek has returned to the subject and provides an important reminder that the conventional wisdom isn't all it's cracked up to be:
[T]he refrain is often heard, "The fossil industries are being given huge federal financial incentives, while renewable energy is being starved."

The data show that this conventional wisdom is wrong. In fact, there's a huge imbalance in recent federal energy incentives; however, the imbalance is strongly is strongly in favor of renewable energy (RE) especially when the contribution to energy supply of the different energy technologies is considered. While the report is for subscribers only, our archive of content on Dr. Bezdek's work remains free.

NEI's Marv Fertel on Where the Industry Stands on Used Nuclear Fuel

Today at the National Journal's Energy Experts Blog, the magazine is taking a closer look at how the nation will have to confront the issue of long-term storage of used nuclear fuel:
What safety, environmental, and economic factors should Washington consider as it debates the future of its nuclear-waste policy? Should Yucca Mountain be revived, or should Congress stop debating that repository site once and for all? How does the uncertain future over spent fuel affect the nation's dependence on nuclear power, which provides the nation with 20 percent of its electricity? Marv Fertel, NEI's President and Chief Executive Office, has posted a response. Here's an excerpt:
The nuclear energy industry agrees with many of the common-sense recommendations in the Blue Ribbon Commission’s final report, which was developed after nearly two years of fact-finding, public interaction and intense study. In particular, three proposals should be given high priority:
prompt efforts to de…

Fun Fusion For Friday

Our fusion fan friends will need to let us know how consequential this is:UT [University of Tennessee] researchers have successfully developed a key technology in developing an experimental reactor that can demonstrate the feasibility of fusion energy for the power grid. Nuclear fusion promises to supply more energy than the nuclear fission used today but with far fewer risks.It’s not (just) that I’m automatically dubious about fusion projects – if it’s fusion it’s just around the corner - but this one seems very early:UT researchers completed a critical step this week for the project by successfully testing their technology this week that will insulate and stabilize the central solenoid—the reactor's backbone. That feels like step two of a process with many, many steps. Read the rest of the story and decide – break out the champagne or let it get – a little more – aged?---China Daily offers a little fusion doings:Russian academic Evgeny Velikhov was in Hefei, East China's Anh…

On Nuclear Energy and Public Opinion

Earlier this week, Michael Mariotte of NIRS posted a critique of public opinion polling on nuclear energy over at The Daily Kos.While I found some of his conclusions to be interesting, I thought it might be a good idea to share his piece with Ann Bisconti of Bisconti Research. After passing Mariotte's piece to Ann, she shared the following response with me:
A recent discussion about public opinion on nuclear energy by Michael Mariotte, a representative of the antinuclear advocacy group, NIRS, makes some valid points but reaches the wrong conclusion.  I would like to offer a different perspective from Bisconti Research. 

Our studies of public opinion on nuclear energy include nearly 100 national surveys conducted over a 29-year period.  Each survey asks 20 to 30 questions about various aspects of public opinion on nuclear energy. Some of these questions are open-ended to let us hear from the public in their own words. The result is a unique resource for examining long-term trends …

Amir Adnani and the Future of Uranium – And Nuclear Energy

Oakshire Financial talks to Amir Adnani, chief executive of Uranium Energy Corp. Most of the chat, as the name of the site implies, is about the price of uranium. I’ll let you discover (most of) that part for yourself – whenever I read something like this, I imagine a movie tycoon yelling into the telephone, “Buy Chilean copper!! Sell Nigerian manganese!! What do you mean I’ve lost everything?!!!” But Adnani also keeps an eye on nuclear energy – that’s his marketplace, after all – and he has some interesting insights.The growth in the nuclear industry is going to come from exactly where it was going to come from pre-Fukushima. The countries and the economies that are expanding most rapidly are the ones that really need more power. The growth isn’t going to come from the West. In fact, only 3% of the reactors that are under construction right now—there are about 65 reactors under construction—are in G7 countries. The top four markets are China, Russia, India and South Korea. Saudi Arab…

Revisiting Nuclear Energy and Cooling Water

Earlier this week, the journal Nature Climate Change published a study concerning how warmer weather and reduced river flows might impact electricity generation at nuclear and coal-fired power plants. Here's how Reuters reported the findings:
In a study published on Monday, a team of European and U.S. scientists focused on projections of rising temperatures and lower river levels in summer and how these impacts would affect power plants dependent on river water for cooling.

The authors predict that coal and nuclear power generating capacity between 2031 and 2060 will decrease by between 4 and 16 percent in the United States and a 6 to 19 percent decline in Europe due to lack of cooling water. The nuclear energy industry isn't unfamiliar with the topic. Here at NEI Nuclear Notes, we first dealt with the issue during the Summer of 2006 when a heat wave struck Europe and forced a number of nuclear plants to reduce power.

Back then, our points were pretty clear: the industry wa…

Turkey Wants Reactors – But How Many?

We have nothing to say about Germany today, but we know what it could do with its nuclear plants if it really wants to close them down:Turkey is determined to have its own nuclear power plants and aims to build "at least 23 nuclear units by the year 2023,” the Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Taner Yildiz said on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum held in Istanbul. The minister said the ambitious plan involved establishing nuclear power plants in three regions of Turkey.“We are a country without a nuclear power plant. However, we are determined to have nuclear power plants,'' Yildiz said.I’ve cleaned this up a bit from the story in Nigeria’s Business Day, but that’s what it says – 23 reactors. When you read something you don’t believe, then don’t believe it. Find out the truth. So let’s see if anyone in Turkey would like to confirm this data. We think we can reasonably say that Turkey really does want to build some nuclear plants.The constitutional court…