Skip to main content

2012: The Year After the Year

2013
2012 may fade away and 2013 arrive with undo chipperness, but It’s all a continuum. Last year’s narratives will continue into the new year, a few cameo players from 2012 will gain additional prominence in 2013 – I’m thinking small reactors here – and, to paraphrase the tagline of an old horror comic, always expect the unexpected.

So let’s not fill up a top ten list – that might be the expected thing to do on December 31; instead, let’s see if we can find some recent quotes that summarize (some of) the themes of the last year even if that is not exactly their purpose.
Take this, for example, from the Wall Street Journal:
But phasing out nuclear power, which helps meet nearly 75% of France's electricity needs and about 27% across the EU, could deprive the continent of a key source of energy and jobs, making it more dependent on fossil-fuel imports.
Higher fuel bills could also hurt European economies, economists warned. And closing nuclear reactors—which emit little to no greenhouse gas—could jeopardize the EU's efforts to address concerns about global warming.
We’ve written about this a lot in 2012, because the subject raises a lot of prickly questions. Countries should have a right to leave nuclear energy if they want to – no energy source is sacrosanct – but it has had and will continue to have consequences, most of them unintended. In Germany, the change is so precipitous that the transition promises to be incredibly expensive at best and truly terrible for the people at worst. And it’s an energy policy that solves no particular problem.

The Journal story is worth reading in full, though its focus on countries closing nuclear plants tells only part of the story, as we’ll see.
---
There’s a flip side to leaving nuclear energy, as indicated in this story in Commodities Today, and it also provided a theme for 2012 (I guess uranium is the commodity, but the story does not directly refer to it):
The number of nuclear new build projects, despite Fukushima, is still higher now than across the last two decades – although Asia is leading in numbers, the US has approved its first new build since 1970. France, Finland, the United Kingdom and Sweden have all reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear power. In Central and Eastern Europe, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic are also planning to push ahead with new units, following increased safety assessments.
I just saw a story about the Bulgarians holding a referendum to decide whether to build a second nuclear facility – we’ll see how that turns out. The United States has four new reactors (in Georgia and South Carolina) under construction and a fifth (in Alabama Tennessee) being revived and completed.

So nuclear energy is moving forward despite some handwringing – in the United States, in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, perhaps even Bulgaria.

Naturally, there is a reason to celebrate this continuing development. 2012 represents the year following the year of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. It’s been a period for learning lessons from the accident and moving forward.

The industry unveiled FLEX early in 2012, its response to the accident that ensures that no nuclear plant will ever be an island in a sea of adversity. FLEX directs the facilities to stage new emergency equipment at each plant and it sets up regional centers to hold larger safety items that can be used by any facility.

Still, what about Fukushima Daiichi? Let’s be clear about the accident and its impact. The earthquake and tsunami that precipitated the accident killed almost 16,000 people. The accident killed no one (there were some industrial fatalities). About 340,000 people were put out of their homes, some by the disaster and some by the accident.

The lack of fatalities and the successful planning to keep people clear of radiation doesn’t excuse the accident at all – and cannot be used as exculpatory of it - but the truth of the matter is that the earthquake and tsunami created human devastation while the accident, unwelcome though it was, did not. That point sometimes gets overlooked or elided.

But the impact of the accident has been, as it should be, enormous. There’s still more to learn from the accident, which has already been and continues to be studied by every conceivable Japanese, American and international organization with an interest. There are still lessons to be learned, but a lot has been learned and even implemented – with IAEA help around the world and NRC and industry directives here.

This post-Fukushima work has been transparent enough that people can follow what’s going on and understand the implications for themselves and their families. In this country (and others, such as Great Britain), the result has been very positive. Nuclear energy is seen as safe by a majority of respondents and most people favor further expansion. Gallup puts public approval at about 57 percent, exactly the same as before the accident.

More about 2012 on Wednesday. Maybe we’ll know the outcome of that election in Bulgaria by then, too.

Correx: Thanks to our commenter for pointing out I meant Tennessee for the fifth reactor. You say Watts Bar, I say Bellefonte. Let's call the whole thing off (kidding - let's build both Watts Bar and Bellefonte. )

Comments

Anonymous said…
"The United States has four new reactors (in Georgia and South Carolina) under construction and a fifth (in Alabama) being revived and completed."

For the fifth, I do believe you mean Watts Bar in Tennessee.

Popular posts from this blog

Knowing What You’ve Got Before It’s Gone in Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

Nuclear energy is by far the largest source of carbon prevention in the United States, but this is a rough time to be in the business of selling electricity due to cheap natural gas and a flood of subsidized renewable energy. Some nuclear plants have closed prematurely, and others likely will follow.
In recent weeks, Exelon and the Omaha Public Power District said that they might close the Clinton, Quad Cities and Fort Calhoun nuclear reactors. As Joni Mitchell’s famous song says, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”
More than 100 energy and policy experts will gather in a U.S. Senate meeting room on May 19 to talk about how to improve the viability of existing nuclear plants. The event will be webcast, and a link will be available here.
Unlike other energy sources, nuclear power plants get no specia…

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…