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Showing posts from March, 2012

The Summer Breeze: V.C. Summer 2 and 3 Approved

South Carolina Gas and Electric received its combined construction and operating license (COL) from the NRC for two new reactors at its V.C. Summer facility. Let’s let them tell you about it:South Carolina Electric & Gas Company, principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation , and Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, have received approval for combined construction and operating licenses (COLs) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for two new nuclear units at V. C. Summer Station in Jenkinsville, S.C.“Receiving approval of our licenses to construct and operate units 2 and 3 at V.C. Summer is a significant event for our company and marks the culmination of an intense review by the NRC,” said Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of SCANA. “We look forward to building these two new nuclear units to enhance our ability to meet the energy needs of our customers.” Lonnie Carter, president and CEO of Santee Cooper, said, “These new nuclear units are a crit…

NEI Questions Associated Press Reporting on Gundersen Radiation Claims

By now I'm sure most of you have seen the AP story that ran earlier this week that quoted Arnie Gundersen saying that soil samples he took in Tokyo would be classified as low level radioactive waste in the U.S. Yesterday, I published a short blog post on the subject after speaking with NEI's Chief Health Physicist, Ralph Andersen.

After discussing the situation further with our media relations staff, we decided to take our case directly to the AP. The following note was sent to AP Editors Karen Testa and Evan Berland in Philadelphia this afternoon. We'll provide updates once we hear back from them.
Dear Ms. Testa: I am writing to you in reference to an unbylined Associated Press story that appeared in a number of newspapers earlier this week with the headline, "Vt. consultant Gundersen: Tokyo soil is N-waste." The claim made in this article by Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Associates that soil collected in Japan could be classified as radioactive waste does …

Why Arnie Gundersen’s Claims on Low Level Radioactive Waste Are Baffling

Over the past few days, plenty of folks have been asking questions about a claim anti-nuclear activist Arnie Gundersen made concerning some soil samples he took during a recent trip to Japan. Gundersen made his claims in a video he posted online last week, and the charge was repeated in an AP story that hit the national wire yesterday with a dateline out of Vermont (more on that later).

Gundersen says that the soil samples he took in Japan were so irradiated, that they would be classified as low level radioactive waste in the U.S. Like a lot of folks, the claim struck me as rather odd given reported radiation levels in Japan, so I dialed up Ralph Andersen, NEI's resident health physicist for his take on Gundersen's claim. Here's what Andersen told me.

In order to classify anything as radioactive waste, it takes more than simply triggering a Geiger counter. When it comes to NRC licensees who need to dispose of items that have become irradiated -- in the case of nuclear power …

Moving the Needle with Coal and the EPA

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a proposed rule that indicates, absent more progress (effective, scalable, reasonably economical progress) on carbon capture and sequestration, the days of coal are, perhaps, numbered:The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt. And nuclear energy? No carbon emissions at all. Natural gas will be the chief beneficiary here – you could say that the rule was crafted with that in mind - at least as long as gas prices stay low and fracking doesn’t shake up the landscape. Renewable energy sources should benefit, too. All these point the way forward, with the coal industry now under pressure…

Nuclear Energy: Where the Green Jobs Are

I wanted to share a note I received yesterday from my colleague David Bradish:
Last week for the first time ever, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published a news release estimating the number of green jobs that existed in the country in 2010 – 3.1 million. Below is the golden nugget on nuclear from the release:

Utilities

In private industry, the utilities industry accounted for 65,700 GGS [Green Goods and Services] jobs, or 11.9 percent of total private utilities employment. Among the industries involved in private sector electric power generation, nuclear power had the highest GGS employment with 35,800 jobs in 2010. Hydroelectric power generation had 3,700 total private GGS jobs in 2010.

The other electric power generation industry, which includes electricity generated from biomass, sunlight, wind, and other renewable sources, had 4,700 GGS private sector jobs. Within this industry, electricity generated from wind had the highest employment with 2,200 jobs, followed by biomass with 1,10…

Summer Imminent; Nuclear Gallups Forward

Mark your calendars:The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is poised to award Scana Corp. (SCG) a license to build two reactors in South Carolina, the second such action after a three-decade drought. The NRC will vote March 30 on the Cayce, South Carolina- based company’s proposal to build two units at its existing Virgil C. Summer plant, about 26 miles (42 kilometers) northwest of Columbia, the agency said today on its website. This seemed likely to happen after the approval for two reactors at Vogtle in Georgia last month, but that didn’t happen. And even in this instance, the NRC calendar marks this event as tentative. So we’ll see.These affirmation hearings take place after all issues have been advanced. This one is scheduled for 1:25 pm and will probably be done by 1:30. It’s basically a quick okay.Bloomberg adds this detail:The reactors may be among the last built in the U.S. this decade, as a glut of cheap natural gas has discouraged companies from investing in nuclear energy a…

Concentric Circles of Irony

Almost too awful:If a crisis over Iran curbs the supply of liquefied natural gas while Japan's nuclear fleet is shut, it could cause an economic impact greater than that from the March 2011 earthquake, the former executive director of the International Energy Agency said Thursday.With 20% of its gas and 80% of its oil coming through the Strait of Hormuz, Japan would face a "disastrous impact" from a crisis in the Middle East, said Nobuo Tanaka, now a global associate at Japan's Institute of Energy Economics. He spoke at an event in Washington sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.Obviously, this is highly speculative. It’s worth pointing out, too, that all those nuclear facilities sitting around over there don’t depend on the Strait of Hormuz to get up and running. But Tanaka is right to make the warning – it isn’t only Japan that would face an energy crunch and some of those countries have fewer options than Japan.---Over in California:In a…

Better Sources on Fukushima than Helen Caldicott

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine passed some news onto me that Dr. Helen Caldicott is hitting the lecture circuit again, this time to talk about the health implications of the incident at Fukushima Daiichi. Her next event will take place tonight in Santa Barbara and will be sponsored by the Nuclear Peace Age Foundation.

Obviously, this blog has a long history debunking Dr. Caldicott's claims about commercial nuclear energy -- one that extends all the way back to 2005 when we disputed her claims about a USEC uranium enrichment facility in Kentucky.

We don't know what Dr. Caldicott will say tonight. However, when it comes to good science about the health effects of radiation, you'd probably be better off watching some video that was shot earlier this month by the Health Physics Society when they hosted a forum on Fukushima. Click here to watch those videos on our SafetyFirst microsite.

One of the individuals you'll see in the videos is Dr. Robert Peter Gale of Imperia…

Out of Zion; Into Small Reactors

Nuclear Energy Insider has an interesting article up on the decommissioning of Illinois’ Zion facility outside Chicago. There are some details that suggest how this kind of work might be done relatively quickly:
The Zion decommissioning project will take considerably less time than originally planned because the cleanup will bypass one of the most laborious and time-consuming steps of taking down a nuclear plant. According to the New York Times, the project will bypass separating radioactive materials --  which must go to a licensed dump -- from nonradioactive materials, which can be deposited onto ordinary industrial landfills.
The NYT report says that the new strategy eliminates separating the two. Instead, anything that could include radioactive contamination will be treated as radioactive waste. The article describes it as a 10-year project, which I assume includes moves like this one. There are 12 other shuttered plants in the United States that have not yet set decommissioning d…

Nuclear Debate at the Daily Show

Yesterday, Bloomberg News wrote a story on NEI’s ad campaign and highlighted one TV spot that will air on, among other programs, Comedy Central’s ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.’ The Daily Show draws a younger, more liberal crowd, some of whom are skeptical of nuclear energy. Since the Bloomberg article appeared, there’s been a surge in commentary from all sides of the nuclear debate at the Daily Show’s Facebook page. If you haven’t been over to the page yet, stop by and add your two cents. The readers over there could use a different perspective on nuclear than from the usual crowd.

Good News from Iowa and India

Out of Iowa:
A bill allowing MidAmerican Energy to seek permission from regulators to move forward with a nuclear power plant passed a Senate committee Tuesday night.
The panel approved the measure 8 to 7. It would allow MidAmerican to ask the Iowa Utilities Board for a rate increase from the company’s customers to fund the cost of permitting, licensing, and building a plant. Costs for such a project have been estimated at $2 billion. This is good news, a move that, if it continues apace through the legislative process, will solve some notable problems with the Iowa energy mix.
He [state Sen. Matt McCoy(D)], said Iowa could lose as much as 40 percent of its electricity generation from coal plants in the coming years and the only other option would be to build natural gas plants, which he said would not offer stable future prices. It’s a reasonable environmental choice. I’d be surprised, though, if MidAmerican isn’t looking at natural gas to spell some of those coal plants. That’s be…

NEI Unveils New Television Spot

Beginning tomorrow, NEI will be launching a new branding campaign centered around this 60-second television spot.



We'll be sharing additional elements of the campaign here over the coming days. Please check back for more.

MIT Study on Managing Intermittent Renewables

On Monday, MIT released a study titled “Managing Large-Scale Penetration of Intermittent Renewables.” It’s 36 megabytes and 240 pages. Last April, MIT gathered more than 70 experts at a symposium to discuss how to manage the growth of wind and solar. The first 50 pages of the document is a summary of the studies and discussions that took place during the symposium. The following 190 pages are seven white papers that were presented. After going through the document, the report would be a sobering read if I were in the renewables industry. The wind industry took part in the discussions but several of the conclusions contradicted the claims from the wind industry for its projected savings on costs and emissions from wind. There are five main areas of concern with wind and solar that emerged from the symposium (pasted below): Emissions: While renewables can generate emissions-free electricity, the limited ability to store electricity, forecast renewable generation, and control the availab…

UCS Channels Goldilocks In Response to Fukushima

NEI's Senior Vice President of Communications, Scott Peterson, passed along the following note concerning last week's report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, "U.S. Nuclear Power Safety One Year After Fukushima."
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has weighed in on the U.S. response to Fukushima and their conclusion is clear: We’re moving too slowly….No, wait, we’re moving too fast!...Check that, too slow!

Taking a page from Goldilocks, who couldn’t seem to find the right size chair, UCS can’t seem to find the right speed for applying lessons learned in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan a year ago.

After first praising the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for reacting quickly to the events in Japan, a new UCS report prods the agency to move faster. Then report declares that “speed is not always a virtue.” In the most remarkable twist of logic, UCS criticizes the nuclear energy industry for “acting too hastily by launching a volu…

The Number 22

Nuclear energy generation supplies 20 percent of the electricity in the United States. It’s been that way for years, as reported by the Energy Information Administration, the statistical arm of the Department of Energy. But a number of factors, according to the EIA, has pushed the relative percentages of several energy sources up because one went down rather dramatically, both statistically and practically. That would be coal, which dropped from 46 percent in December 2010 to 39 percent in December 2011. The EIA says that the main driver of this decrease is the increased use of natural gas, which increased its share from 22 percent to 26 percent. Electricity use itself declined 7 percent, so that in itself makes percentage increases and decreases a little chimerical – that is, nuclear generated roughly the same amount of electricity as last December but in a smaller marketplace – as did hydro, which advanced from 6 to 7 percent. But the decline of coal in favor of natural gas is quite…

One Year Later

Yesterday was the anniversary of an earthquake of unimaginable intensity rapidly followed by an inexorable tsunami – in Japan – near a nuclear facility. That’s the context of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi.Two people died in industrial accidents at Fukushima Daiichi during or directly after the catastrophe. Japan’s National Police Agency currently counts 15,848 people dead and 3,305 people missing as a result of the twin disasters. That’s 19,153, a number that has risen and fallen during the last year. We’ve talked about the accident at Fukushima Daiichi and its consequences often at this site and will continue to talk about it. But not today.On the occasion of this anniversary, we should memorialize what the Japanese people will not forget. Nothing can replace loved ones, but surely the country will insist on a continuity of purpose and resolve. The Japanese people will reconstruct what was wrecked materially and we may hope that it will help salve what was damaged spiritually. Th…

A Good Time to Speed Up – Vietnam, Iowa, FOE

Not getting respect:“We also have a good chance in Vietnam,” the minister added. “The United States, France, Canada, Russia, Japan and Korea can build nuclear power plants, but the U.S. lags behind in technology as it hasn’t built one for 20 to 30 years. This is a good time for us to speed up (atomic power plant construction).”Ouch! That stung a little.This is South Korea’s Knowledge Economy Minister Hong Suk-woo. He’s not exactly right – falling behind in construction and in technological advance are two different things and the U.S. has not fallen behind – at all – in technology. But Hong is selling Korean capacity in both, so fine. Still – ouch!---Land of corn and plenty:Dueling videos debuted Wednesday on possible nuclear power expansion in Iowa.A group that opposes nuclear power launched a television ad on the eve of today’s Senate committee hearing on a proposed compromise that advocates hope will push the bill ahead.And minutes later, MidAmerican Energy released its own Web vid…

“You had better adopt nuclear energy”

Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) wants you (or, really, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whom he was addressing at a hearing) to know:“Fifty percent of our electricity is produced by coal, 20 percent by nuclear power. Yet, when I look at your budget, I look at huge increases in renewable energy funding, which makes up only a small portion of our energy portfolio and cuts in the other area that’s producing most the electricity and frankly I’m disappointed,” Simpson said. “Seems to me like there is an agenda of trying to push green technology, when I think nuclear energy is green technology … you’re really going to address global climate change, you had better adopt nuclear energy and it doesn’t seem like we’re doing that in this budget. This is the first time I’ve seen a retrenchment in this administration in advancing nuclear energy. The talk is all there, but the budget doesn’t reflect that.”Like Rep. Simpson, the industry was disappointed with the 2013 budget request for nuclear energy. Even…

A Must See: New Film by Heritage Foundation on Nuclear Energy in America

D.C.-based think tank The Heritage Foundation will release starting this Sunday, March 11, a new 38-minute documentary on the benefits of nuclear energy in America. The film, “Powering America,” is told by plant employees and residents in close proximity to existing U.S. nuclear energy facilities who discuss a variety of issues, including: nuclear plant safety, economics, fuel cycle and radiation protection. The documentary also explains how the industry has improved plant safety measures based on lessons learned from the accidents at Three Mile Island and Fukushima Daiichi.The film will be broadcast on the Documentary Channel over the next few weeks. Check the foundation’s website for show times. In addition, The Heritage Foundation will be hosting a special, private screening for the film this Thursday, March 8, at 6 p.m. at its offices in Washington D.C. If you are interested in attending, contact Pamela Hughes (Pamela.Hughes@heritage.org) to see if there is space available.Below i…

The Small Reactors at Savannah River

The Department of Energy proposed a couple of years ago spurring the development of small nuclear reactors by entering public-private partnerships with several vendors to foster the building of prototypes and, eventually, generate NRC license applications for the designs.
Now, the first fruit of this program has budded:
Hyperion Power Generation Inc., the Department of Energy – Savannah River, and Savannah River National Laboratory have announced their commitment to deploy a privately-funded first-of-a-kind Hyperion reactor at the DOE Savannah River Site. Hyperion doesn’t need a license to pursue its work, as it could sell its reactor technology overseas if it chose and go through whatever processes are established in other countries. But it recognizes the value of the NRC’s license procedure as a kind of gold standard:
“It is important that we achieve NRC licensing to provide worldwide confidence in the technology and design of our advanced Generation 4 reactor,” said Dave Carlson,…

94th Carnival of Nuclear Energy – Old Battles, New Technologies and One Scandal

Last week was another busy week in social media. Today we’re hosting the 94th carnival and highlighting 21 posts from 14 blogs.To start, Gail Marcus at Nuke Power Talk discusses her concerns about the zeroing of funds for nuclear engineering education programs in the 2013 budget request. It’s been an annual battle to maintain the nuclear education programs at the NRC and DOE and this year was no different. From Gail:It seems to me that in general, it is penny-wise and pound-foolish for a nation to skimp on education. I know the budget is tight and I know there are many other important programs, but we really can't stop looking ahead.The case for nuclear engineering education is particularly important. The current workforce of nuclear engineers is rapidly retiring. … One hopes that some of the supporters of nuclear energy on the Hill will notice this cut and restore the funding. I would encourage those who share my concern to contact your members of Congress and ask for their help …