Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from July, 2012

CNN Fails to Provide Context on Heat Waves, Droughts and Power Plants

Earlier today, CNN aired a report by reporter Sandra Endo concerning how high temperatures are impacting the operations of American nuclear energy facilities. In initially reporting the story, CNN failed to contact any party that owns or operates any of the nations 104 nuclear reactors.

After we contacted CNN, NEI's Steve Kerekes was interviewed for an updated version of the story, one that we've been led to believe will air sometime between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. U.S. EDT today.

The following response to the initial CNN report was written by NEI's Thaddeus Swanek:
CNN has aired a report in which it failed to provide context on the water needs of power plants that draw cooling water from lakes, rivers and the ocean. Though all thermal power plants—coal, natural gas and nuclear—use water for cooling purposes, CNN focused solely on nuclear energy facilities.

It also did not mention the electric sector's positive track record for maintaining power production during sev…

Almost 700 Million People Without Electricity in India

It's almost impossible to get your arms around the sheer size and scope of the blackout that's struck India over the past two days. Estimates say that about 670 million people are without electricity. As the New York Times noted, that's roughly equivalent to the entire population of Europe or more than the population of North and Central America combined.

By way of comparison, the largest blackout that ever struck North America, the 2003 outage that hit the Northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada, deprived about 50 million people of electricity for about two days. As we've seen in the past, power outages in advanced economies can lead to economic disruption and loss of life -- something that should give all of us pause when considering the magnitude of this event.

I'll close with some words from NEI's Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Alex Flint:
The earth has 7 billion people on it. Today, 2 billion of those people’s principal source of energy is bu…

Japanese Contenders

The Times has the story:The race in Yamaguchi Prefecture between Tetsunari Iida, the founder of a renewable energy research institute and a leading figure in Japan's emerging antinuclear movement, and Shigetaro Yamamoto, a conservative former government official, had been seen as a test of how much the grass-roots protest movement had influenced public opinion. This is the part that could use a little more elaboration.Although Mr. Iida lost, the results were encouraging for the antinuclear camp, with a strong showing in a region considered to be a conservative stronghold. With 99 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Yamamoto had received 252,420 votes, or 47.6 percent, to Mr. Iida's 185,567 votes, or 35 percent, according to the public broadcaster NHK. I assume conservative candidates usually win in Yamaguchi with a higher proportion of the vote, but however you slice it, 35 percent is a dreadful number. To put a different spin on this – and this is about politics, so the name of…

More on Nuclear Energy Facilities, Summer Heat and Water Use

The following guest post was submitted by NEI Media Manager, Mitch Singer.

Perhaps it’s asking too much in today’s media climate (no pun intended), but it would’ve been nice if Ginger Zee refrained from making the flippant comment on America This Morning that cooling ponds near nuclear plants are “either getting too low or too warm for the plants to function safely.” Ginger’s wrong on a number of accounts.

Safety is paramount to the nuclear industry and all plants have contingency plans in place to adjust to extreme weather conditions and continue operating, albeit at a lower electrical power output. All nuclear power plants operate under their respective states’ water discharge permits and when the water’s ambient temperature reaches a certain level the plant’s power output must be lowered. Thus, they continue to “function safely.”
The Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Alabama operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) provides a great example of how in spite of extreme heat and h…

OECD and The Slowdown that Wasn’t

Nuclear energy, you may have heard, is not universally beloved and some countries would like to banish it from their shores. (Switzerland is an outlier, of course, having no shore.) It has always been disfavored in a few countries (Australia, for example, though not as strongly these days), some of which used it anyway and some of which never did. So be it – try as you might, that’s how it goes.

After the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, there were plenty of stories anticipating a wide-scale abandonment of nuclear energy or at least a dramatic slow down. From April of last year:
The future of nuclear power was bleak, even before the Fukushima disaster, said energy expert Mycle Schneider Wednesday at a press conference in Berlin, where he previewed an upcoming Worldwatch report on the outlook of nuclear power.
"The industry was arguably on life support before Fukushima. When the history of this industry is written, Fukushima is likely to introduce its final chapter," said Schne…

Uprates Stymie the Search for Scandal

The Washington Post has an interesting blog post from Brad Plumer on the nuclear energy industry’s stealthy increase of electricity output via uprates. Here’s how Plumer defines an uprate:According to a new analysis by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the operators of 98 of the country’s 104 commercial nuclear reactors have asked regulators for permission to boost capacity from their existing plants. Or, as Plumer points out, the equivalent output of six new reactors (though I would add that it is spread out among 30 or more states instead of six – a net positive. Altogether, there have been 145 instances of accepted uprate application – some reactors have been uprated more than once.)Uprates aren’t peculiar occurrences, but you knew there had to be a catch:In recent years, however, nuclear operators have started applying for much larger “extended uprates,” which can increase the output of a plant by as much as 20 percent. This process can include big changes to high-pressu…

Steve Byrne of SCE&G on Controlling New Nuclear Construction Costs

Earlier this month, the Associated Press ran a story on its national wire concerning what it described as rising construction costs at America's new nuclear plants:
America's first new nuclear plants in more than a decade are costing billions more to build and sometimes taking longer to deliver than planned, problems that could chill the industry's hopes for a jumpstart to the nation's new nuclear age. A couple of days later, I had a chance to spend a few minutes with Steve Byrne, SCE&G's President, Generation and COO, to ask him some questions about the topic. SCE&G's parent company, SCANA Corporation, is building a pair of new reactors at the VC Summer site in South Carolina (click here for the latest progress report from SCANA). I started off by asking Steve why claims that costs were spiraling out of control at VC Summer and Plant Vogtle in Georgia were incorrect:




I also had the chance to ask Steve about how "construction work in progress"…

Mo. Governor, State Leaders Signal Continued Support For Potential Small Reactor Project

Vying for federal funds to support a potential small reactor demonstration project in the state, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) joined more than 20 business leaders, utility executives and state politicians Monday to reinforce his support for the project. Speaking from the University of Missouri campus, Gov. Nixon said that the potential project by Westinghouse Electric Co. and Ameren Missouri could “spark a new global industry” and be “transformational” for the Show-Me State.PoliticMo has the highlights from the press conference:“The returns of this industry are potentially tremendous,” Nixon said, noting impact on the construction, restaurant, and transportation infrastructure in the state. “When it comes to creating jobs, transforming our economy and building our future, projects just don’t get any bigger than this.”Nixon said public sector funds — including over $450 million available from the federal government — will help get the emerging industry off the ground, and he said the st…

The U.S./South Korea Commerical Nuclear Energy Partnership

At the beginning of June, I recorded a short video with Dan Lipman, Senior Vice President with Westinghouse Electric Company, concerning the need for Congress to renew an agreement for peaceful cooperation on nuclear energy between the U.S. and South Korea.

Without these arrangements -- known as 123 agreements -- the ability of companies like Westinghouse to export nuclear technology around the world would be severely compromised.

Just a few weeks later, Dan had an opportunity to return to that same topic when he was interviewed by Alan Ahn of the Global America Business Institute. You can listen to the 28-minute interview by clicking the player below.

Podcast Powered By Podbean Alternately, you can click here to download the interview to your PC.

It was in 2009 that a Korean government consortium led by KEPCO won a contract to build four nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates. Just last week, the UAE's Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation awarded the construction licens…

Fukushima Daiichi and Cancer Studies

Yesterday, a pair of researchers from Stanford University released a study that projected 130 people, primarily in Japan, will die from cancer over the next 50 years as the result of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.Some observers have already started to weigh in on its merits.

This isn't the first study about cancer and Fukushima, and there will certainly be many others. While no one at NEI has had an opportunity to review the study released yesterday in detail, we would point interested parties to an article that was written for the Los Angeles Times by Dr. Robert Peter Gale of Imperial College, London. Dr. Gale has been closely involved in studying the aftermath of the accidents at both Chernobyl and Fukushima:
[E]xposures received by Fukushima workers and the public are quite low, including among the 20,000 or more workers decommissioning the facility and the approximately 100,000 evacuees. This doesn't mean there will be no future radiation-caused …

Germany, Electric Cars and Collapse

Germany wants to put one million electric cars on the road by 2020 but is falling a wee bit short – to date there are about 4500 such cars clogging up the autobahns. And maybe that’s a good thing, at least in the short term:But the Ministry of Economics and Technology argues that placing strict limits on vehicle charging would require electricity providers to concentrate renewable energy generation in areas with large shares of electric vehicles. This could overburden the power grid and threaten the country with blackouts, according to renewable energy experts within the ministry. Given the short time left to get 996,000 electric cars onto the road, I was poking around to see if the country was offering tax rebates, as the United States and other countries are doing to seed the marketplace. It appears not, at least not yet:Germany has not decided whether it too will offer subsidies to electric vehicle consumers. The government estimates, however, that subsidizing as much as one-third …

SEJ Honors AP Report Criticized by Columbia Journalism Review

We just got the news a few minutes ago that the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) has presented an award for in depth reporting (3rd place) to Jeff Donn of the Associated Press for his series on the safety of nuclear energy facilities. When the series first appeared in June 2011, NEI had this to say:
The coverage has factual errors, fails to cite relevant reports on safety that contradict the reporting, and raises questions about historic operating issues while ignoring more recent evidence of improved performance in areas that it examines. As it turns out, we're not the only ones who found the series wanting. Specifically, I'm referring to the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review:
[T]he AP series, while it tackles a critically important public policy issue, suffers from lapses in organization, narrative exposition, and basic material selection, what to leave in and what to leave out. Too much is left to rest on inconclusive he-said-she-said exchanges that end up mo…

Electricity as a Moral Imperative

We cannot fully endorseeverything that puts nuclear energy in a favorable light:
It isn't hard to see the one energy source that's grown lockstep with South Korea's economic ascension...
The country built its first nuclear power plant in 1977. Its rise to economic powerhouse began in 1980.
Today nuclear accounts for 30% of generation, but because of its high reliability, it accounts for 45% of the country's total electric consumption.
Since that first reactor in the late seventies, South Korea has built 22 more. The United States hasn't built any.
(The U.S. ranks 26th in Internet connectivity and has no high-speed rail. You decide if there's correlation.)
Korea plans to bring 11 more reactors online between now and 2021, bringing nuclear's share of electric generation up to 60%. It's not true that no U.S. plants went online after 1977, but the point here is that the author overloads nuclear energy with responsibility for South Korea’s phenomenal economi…

U.S. Nuclear Plants Humming Along During June 2012 Heat Wave

Yesterday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported that the month of June experienced 170 all-time high temperature records being broken or tied throughout the country. They also reported that the first half of 2012 has been the warmest first half period on record back to 1895. As such, we wanted to share that most all of the U.S. nuclear plants were humming along at full power during June, helping provide electricity to air conditioners to keep all of us cool during these hot times. Below are three charts breaking out the daily availability data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which we aggregated based on the North American Electric Reliability Council they belong to. You can find the list of plants and their region on page 4 of this report.The following chart shows a daily average of the 104 nuclear units. Overall, the U.S. fleet was running at a steady average availability of 90.5% during the last four weeks. And the last chart shows the NERC regions, ho…

Megatons to Megawatts Reaches Another Milestone

Yesterday brought some happy news from our friends at USEC:
USEC Inc. announced today that the Megatons to Megawatts(TM) program has converted 450 metric tons of weapons-grade uranium from dismantled former Soviet Union nuclear warheads into low enriched uranium fuel to generate clean, reliable electricity in commercial nuclear power plants. The program is now 90 percent complete.

[...]

Megatons to Megawatts is a 20-year, commercially financed government-industry partnership in which 500 metric tons of Russian weapons-grade uranium is being downblended to low enriched uranium for use as commercial reactor fuel. USEC, as executive agent for the U.S. government, and JSC "Techsnabexport" (TENEX), acting for the Russian government, implement the program.

The Megatons to Megawatts program is on track to downblend the equivalent of 20,000 nuclear warheads into nuclear fuel by the end of 2013. The fuel generated to date has the energy equivalent of more than 193 billion gallons of …

A Vote for Nuclear Energy in Japan (Maybe)

Despite the fact that it’s a good outcome, there is some room for doubt:But those favoring restarts took heart in the victory Sunday in Kagoshima of Gov. Yuichiro Ito, a staunchly pro-restart two-term incumbent. The nuclear debate took center stage, with Mr. Ito championing the importance of the local Sendai nuclear-power plant to the southwestern Japanese prefecture's economy, and his opponent, Yoshitaka Mukohara, a local publisher and head of a local antinuclear group, calling for its closure. Mr. Ito took 66% of the vote to Mr. Mukohara's 34%, according to final results from the prefecture.That’s the outcome.Here’s the reason for doubt. Gov. Ito’s general popularity – the story said he won 71 percent in his previous election – suggests that good political instincts played a strong part this time. Maybe an exit poll would show the extent to which restarting Sendai made a difference. In the meantime:But Gov. Ito successfully made the case that the reactors were central to the…

The States and the Blue Ribbon Commission

Expressions of support for moving used nuclear fuel from reactor sites to consolidated storage facilities continue to grow among state legislatures and governments. Arkansas and Pennsylvania are the latest states to advance resolutions urging Congress to expedite this and other recommendations for managing the nation’s used nuclear fuel from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. They join Maryland, Minnesota, Vermont and other states.The Pennsylvania resolution passed unanimously in the legislature, and the Arkansas Resolution passed in committee. The resolutions, which are virtually identical in language, link consent-based siting of consolidated fuel sites with the nuclear waste fund, suggesting the federal government offer “incentives to interested communities funded by the accumulated Nuclear Waste Fund.” Alternatively, the resolutions say, the government should refund the money in the fund to ratepayers.Marshall Cohen, NEI’s senior director for state and local g…

Critical Differences Between the U.S. and Japanese Nuclear Energy Industries

Yesterday, news broke that an independent investigation by the Japanese parliament has concluded that the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was a "man-made" failure that could be laid at the feet of both Tokyo Electric Power Company and the government. According to Tokyo University professor emeritus and Committee Chair Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the Fukushima accident "cannot be regarded as a natural disaster ... It could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response."

The report also points out that elements unique to Japanese culture and industry also played a role in Japan's response to the events at Fukushima:
“This was a disaster ‘Made in Japan, ”Kurokawa said in the report’s introduction. “Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘…

Paul Scalise on Japan's Need for Nuclear Energy

As our Mark Flanagan noted yesterday, Japan restarted one of the two reactors at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant yesterday. The plant's second reactor is due to come back online sometime later this month.


The restart is welcome news, and the why behind it was put into the proper perspective by Paul Scalise, an energy analyst with Oxford Analytica and Eurasia Group, when he was interviewed yesterday on Bloomberg News (click here to launch the video).

The Japan Fukushima Commission Report

The Japanese government has released “The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission,” a 600-page report that is notably harsh in its criticism of the, for want of a better word, Japanese-ness of the accident. You can read the 88-page English summary of the report here.Here’s a sample from the prefatory letter written by Commission Chairman Kiyoshi Kurakawa.With such a powerful mandate, nuclear power became an unstoppable force, immune to scrutiny by civil society. Its regulation was entrusted to the same government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion. At a time when Japan’s self-confidence was soaring, a tightly knit elite with enormous financial resources had diminishing regard for anything ‘not invented here.’This conceit was reinforced by the collective mindset of Japanese bureaucracy, by which the first duty of any individual bureaucrat is to defend the interests of his organization.
Carried to an extreme, this led bureaucrats to put organizational …

Ohi in the House

The first of two reactors at Japan’s Ohi facility has rejoined the grid:"We have finally taken this first step," said Hideki Toyomatsu, vice president of Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates the plant and hopes to restart another reactor there in the few weeks. "But it is just a first step."That’s good news. The second reactor is expected to join its partner at the end of the month“Theoretically, the restart of the two reactors at Ohi plant would reduce Kansai Electric’s crude-oil requirement roughly by 60,000 barrels a day,” Osamu Fujisawa, an independent oil economist in Tokyo who worked for Saudi Arabian Oil Co. and Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. (5002), said in a telephone interview yesterday. Kansai Electric used 510,000 kiloliters of crude in May, or about 103,000 barrels a day. Even better.

Whither British Nuclear Energy?

Martin Freer is a professor of nuclear physics at the U.K.’s Birmingham University. He lets us know that he wants his country to stop dithering when it comes to nuclear energy:There are very strong arguments for making nuclear power a crucial component of Britain's overall programme of low-carbon energy generation. Indeed, there is a compelling case for the country to be rebuilt as a nuclear nation if it is to tackle the threat of global warming and other colossal concerns. Although a number of hurdles must be overcome if this is to happen. And perhaps some of the problems are a least somewhat systemic.Now the R&D workforce stands at fewer than 600, while funding has fallen to less than 10 per cent of the historical level. Similarly, we are far from having an appropriate workforce in place in the event of a build programme getting under way. At this point in time there is a very real worry that the scale of training achievable will not match demand. It’s a striking difference …