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Showing posts from May, 2013

Taking a Closer Look at South Korea, Section 123 and the "Gold Standard" When it Comes to Nonproliferation

The following is a guest post by Ted Jones, Director of International Supplier Relations for NEI.

Global Security Newswire recently published an article that quotes Tom Moore, a well-regarded nonproliferation expert at CSIS, that South Korea is a “gold standard state.” Mr. Moore has graciously posted my response to this assessment of South Korea in a blog post at Arms Control Wonk. In my comment, I explain that while it may be correct that South Korea’s domestic development of enrichment or reprocessing technologies is inconsistent with the 1992 Joint Declaration on Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the pact between the Koreas is distinct from the “gold standard.” I argue that conflating the two commitments obscures a critical lesson that the case of South Korea can offer to U.S. policymakers about the “gold standard” as a universal policy:
The important lesson of U.S.-ROK nuclear cooperation is that a Section 123 agreement without the “gold standard” can nonetheless be an es…

“In coming years, reaching [climate] goals can't be done without nuclear power.”

We never forget that nuclear energy has a lot to offer in climate change mitigation, a fact that can get lost in the enthusiasm for natural gas. So it never hurts to be reminded of it, especially when the one doing the reminding has some heat. European Commissioner for Energy, Gunther Oettinger, Thursday said the European Union's goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change can only be reached with an energy mix including nuclear power. "Without a doubt nuclear energy belongs to the [mix]," Mr. Oettinger said. "In coming years reaching [climate] goals can't be done without nuclear power." Oettinger, by the way, is German. His comments have a special tang that must cause heartburn in Berlin, even as closing the nuclear plants there causes unnecessary distress. But he has some solid reasons for taking this tack beyond emissions control.Mr. Oettinger's comments come as Europe faces serious economic headwinds partly due to fast-ris…

Reversing the Nuclear Reversal of Fortune

Staggering, how fortune can reverse: The change in nuclear's fortunes is staggering, given that the U.S. is the world's largest producer of nuclear power, according to the World Nuclear Association. The country's 104 reactors account for more than 30 percent of nuclear electricity generation worldwide. Which to me reads as, “it’s amazing nuclear energy is so successful given what a rank failure it is.” Downright staggering, in fact.The reversal of fortune, which has reared up is one article or another at least once a month since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, has always been about 80 percent rhetorical, essentially a way to render nuclear energy irrelevant even as it refuses to actually be irrelevant. It can take a lot of forms, but variations on this one are frequent enough to note:Decreased consumption, increased energy efficiency, wind and solar, with back up from geothermal, hydropower, and biomass will get us to zero coal, zero nuclear, minimal carbon dioxide. Whi…

Nuclear Ingots from Canada, Pakistan, UAE

From Canada, the least unexpected news of the day:The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed a ground-breaking study on populations living near Ontario's three nuclear power plants (NPPs). The most important finding of this study is no evidence of childhood leukemia clusters in the communities within 25 km of the Pickering, Darlington and Bruce NPPs.Fine for the kids. What about the rest of us?Overall, the study found that all cancers are well within the natural variation of the disease and there is no consistent pattern across the three facilities studied. When looking at all age groups, some cancers were higher than expected and some cancers were lower than expected. The most likely causes of cancer in the communities are a number of known health risk factors.There have been a fair number of these studies and the result has invariably been the same. We should wave these in front of the Cape Codders (in the post below) and do some unseemly crowing. A Canadian wo…

Snakes in a Nuclear Plant

We can settle issues of risk, but we cannot settle fear – at least, not without a great deal of effort. If you are afraid of snakes, you’re afraid of snakes – your snake loving friends won’t understand, but there it is. If you don’t live in a snaky area, the fear will never show itself, but if you do, it may cripple you socially. But in general, people recognize their fears without letting them guide their destiny. And don’t live in towns called Snakeville.There’s a basis for the fear in reality – snakes bite and can be poisonous - but the risk of being bitten by a poisonous snake is exceedingly small.----But there are other fears and though you could choose not to live in Nuclearville, why should you?:The results are in and Cape Cod residents have spoken. Last night Falmouth, Yarmouth, Brewster, Orleans and Harwich voters passed a public advisory question to call on Governor Patrick to request the Nuclear Regulatory Commission uphold their mandate to close the Pilgrim Nuclear Power …

Without Nuclear, A Rube Goldberg Energy Policy

Larry Beahan is conservation chairman of the Sierra Club Niagara Group, so he likely has some tart things to say about nuclear energy. But that’s not his direct goal in his op-ed in the Buffalo News. His purpose is to synopsize and endorse a plan by Cornell Professor Robert Howarth to completely move New York state from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to renewable energy. Professor Howarth’s paper, published in the journal Energy Policy, is clearly a serious work. It has practical guidance as to how New York might proceed with his ideas, but is largely intended, I think, as an explication of its efficacy.I was amused by a table he created of “plants or devices” needed to achieve his goal – about 16,000 windmills and almost 5 million residential PV systems all told. That’s a lot of windmills that all have moving parts to keep in order. And a lot of buy-in will be required to induce people too install PV systems on their roofs. But I imagine it could be done.The real fun comes in how t…

Why Building Too Much Natural Gas Capacity to Generate Electricity Could Come Back to Haunt Florida

About a week ago, the Tampa Bay Times published an analysis by Ivan Penn claiming that ratepayers in Florida would be better served if Duke Energy built a natural gas plant in place of a proposed nuclear energy facility in Levy County. Over the weekend, that same paper published a letter to the editor by NEI's Richard Myers taking issue with that conclusion:
Nuclear plants offer benefits

The May 12 article "Levy nuclear plant more costly than a natural gas facility" fails to account for the economic and environmental benefits the two nuclear plants would bring to Florida. Progress Energy Florida, now Duke Energy Florida, determined in 2008 that the Levy nuclear plants would benefit the state by providing fuel diversity and price stability for consumers while avoiding air emissions.

In 2012, Florida generated 68 percent of its electricity from natural gas, a significant increase from 47 percent in 2008. Floridians may recall that in 2008 and 2009, the state endured its hi…

A Boy and His Nuclear Reactor

Taylor Wilson built a fusion reactor at age 14 and remains interested in nuclear technology. So, at 19, he has presented his idea for a small reactor concept that uses molten salt to make the smaller reactor both more powerful and more efficient than their cousins.Wilson's fission reactor operates at 600 to 700 degrees Celsius. And because the laws of thermodynamics say that high temperatures lead to high efficiencies, this reactor is 45 to 50 percent efficient. Traditional steam turbine systems are only 30 to 35 percent efficient because their reactors run at low temperatures of about 200 to 300 degrees Celsius. And Wilson's reactor isn't just hot, it's also powerful. Despite its small size, the reactor generates between 50 and 100 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 homes, according to Wilson.Okay, that’s the hot and powerful part. And unlike traditional nuclear power plants, Wilson's miniature power plants would be…

Guest Post: College Champions Debate Nuclear Energy

The following guest post comes from Bob Bishop, nuclear guru and former general counsel at NEI:
Each year, hundreds of university students from around the country participate in local, regional and national debate tournaments. In addition to their regular studies, they spend countless hours researching the topic and how best they can argue their position. The topic for this past year concerned U.S. energy policy with regard to domestic energy production. The precise wording was as follows: “Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially reduce restrictions on and/or substantially increase financial incentives for energy production in the United States of one or more of the following: coal, crude oil, natural gas, nuclear power, solar power, wind power.”
At each debate, the two-person team arguing in the affirmative chooses where to focus the argument based on the year’s topic. Under debate rules, the team arguing in the affirmative makes its case, the team arguing…

Can You Make an Ethical Case for Nuclear Energy?

Over the course of the history of NEI Nuclear Notes, I've assiduously avoided sharing coverage from the financial press for a variety of reasons, foremost of which is the fact that we shouldn't be in the business of providing investment advice.

But this morning I'm compelled to share a clip from a U.K. publication called Financial Reporter after I read the following passage in a story by James Howard titled, "Ten reasons to go with ethical investments."
1. They can avoid the negatives. Ethical investment ensures their money isn’t supporting companies which engage in activities they might disapprove of, such as animal testing, deforestation, arms manufacture, or nuclear energy. Now, I don't want to tell folks who have a beef with nuclear energy how to invest their own money, but I do have a real problem with anyone who tries to make the case that investing -- and by extension working in the nuclear energy industry -- isn't an ethical endeavor. In fact, it&…

Low Carbon Emissions? Look to Nuclear, Hydro

Ceres has produced a new report called Benchmarking Air Emissions, which shows that the electric generating business has done a significant job in reducing a variety of greenhouse gases, notably nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Nuclear energy does not weigh heavily into the report because new nuclear power is still a few years away, so only uprates can have contributed to the report’s profile. Still:Among the top 100 power producers, Exelon had the eighth lowest CO2 emissions rate in 2011, largely due to its large nuclear and renewable energy fleet, as well as its investments in nuclear uprates.  Even with a low level of emissions, Exelon reduced its total CO2 emissions by 32 percent and its CO2 emission rate by 40 percent between 2000 and 2011.It’s the “even with a low level of emissions” bit I want to focus on here, because it recognizes that nuclear energy has made a significant contribution.Southern Companyreduced total SO2 emissions by 63 percent while increasi…

Leveling the Board for Nuclear Trade

A letter in the Baltimore Sun suggests the paper  had featured an interesting op-ed recently. First, the letter:Dan Ervin's commentary on lifting restrictions on U.S. companies supplying nuclear power equipment abroad is completely misleading ("A nuclear opportunity," May 6).Nuclear energy is not, as Mr. Ervin says, pollutant free or carbon free. Government regulations allow nuclear power plants to deliberately' and routinely emit hundreds of thousands of curies of radioactive gases and other radioactive elements into the environment every day. Radiation cannot be seen, felt or tasted, so I'm wondering if this is why Mr. Ervin feels he can credibly say that nuclear power is pollution free.Hundreds of thousands – every day? Radiation as pollution? Well, they write letters, don’t they?But what about Ervin’s editorial?Companies supplying components for the nuclear power industry are located throughout the United States, including a number in Maryland. These manufac…

Experts Weigh In: Joseph Mangano Study Hopelessly Flawed

For the nuclear industry, safety is the top priority, and it goes to great lengths to minimize radiation exposure to the public and employees. So exhaustive are these measures that nuclear power plants only account for .1% of the annual radiation that a typical American is exposed to. Nearly half come from medical exposures.

Yet Joseph Manganoseems intent on repeatedly and falsely stating otherwise. Most recently, Mangano published a study that suggests a correlation exists between the closing of Rancho Seco and the decline in cancer rates in the surrounding area. We responded by reminding the media to consider Mangano's lack of credibility when it comes to "scientific findings" before distributing the study to their readers. This week, local Pennsylvania experts came to the same conclusion about his bogus work. An especially compelling statement comes from the state's director of the Bureau of Radiation Protection:
David J. Allard, director of the Pennsylvania Dept. …

The State-of-Play of Nuclear Safety After Fukushima

If anything set the table for the American nuclear industry’s response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, it was the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. After that event, the security of all essential infrastructure was rethought. For all kinds of power plants, an important issue was keeping them functional after a devastating attack. What happened at Fukushima was a devastating attack, albeit one without human agency. Because of the 2001 terrorist attack, the American industry was in many ways much better prepared for such an episode than the Japanese industry; still, Fukushima presented new lessons to be learned and new ways to enhance safety. The first lesson: never let a disaster go to waste. It has a lot to teach you.The industry and the NRC are in broad agreement on the high-priority actions that should be taken at America's reactors. The industry's Fukushima response priority has been to identify those activities that provide maximum tangible safety benefits in the…

“So many mothers against nuclear energy!”–And For It, Too.

A photographer named Nonoko Kameyama decided to take pictures of mothers (with their children) who are against reopening the nuclear facilities in Japan.Kameyama is unquestionably moved to use her craft to support her views. In 2006 I took a break and travelled to Nepal.  That was a turning point for me - my passion came back right away. I was taking pictures - capturing the joy on the faces of the people in Nepal; it was extraordinary.But at the same time I was confronted by the poverty of people and the problems that they were facing, so I started to wonder what I could do. When I came back to Japan I joined two groups, one that tries to rescue children, Stop Child Trafficking, and the other group which promotes fair trade between Japan, Nepal, and Bangladesh. They asked me to help them make a catalogue to sell Fair Trade goods.  This is the first time I got connected with a social cause.  I wonder if she also took pictures of the poverty in Nepal to support her social effort – I’m…

Sensible Nuclear Outcomes in Florida and India

The processes may have been a little sloppy, but if the outcomes are good, so be it. First, in Florida:The Florida Supreme Court rejected on Thursday the challenge to a controversial law that allows electric utilities to collect money from their customers for nuclear-power plants that won't be built for years — if ever. The unanimous ruling, in a challenge filed by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, found that the 2006 law did not violate the Florida Constitution by shifting too much decision-making power to the state Public Service Commission. Also, it upheld PSC decisions that allowed Florida Power & Light and what was then known as Progress Energy Florida to collect $282 million in nuclear-project charges from their customers in 2012 alone.Reporter Jim Saunders sounds a little unhappy with the court ruling himself, doesn’t he? But so what if He gets the facts right. This is another case where anti-nuclear types took a grain of possibility (that the state breached the c…

Guest Post: Mom Responds To Nuclear Emergency

The following guest post comes from Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, senior manager of workforce policy and programs at NEI:
Anne Shatara is a single, working mother who in addition to her regular job at a nuclear energy facility has an intriguing third job. She is part of the facility’s emergency response organization (ERO).

"I hold the position of dose assessor," said Anne. "In the event of an emergency, this position is responsible for gathering data and determining if radiation is leaking from the facility."

Many wonder who is eligible to serve on an emergency response team.  The answer is almost any nuclear power plant employee.  Once eligible, employees receive specialized qualification training; they participate in numerous drills and annual re-qualify for their assigned position.

Anne's position requires her to report to her assigned emergency response facility within 60 minutes of a declared emergency. She said she held an emergency response position before…

Nazis, Soviets and Chatham House

Generally, you know you’ve lost an argument, especially one with a political dimension,  when you bring in Nazism to bolster your point. What Nazism means is up to the ears of the listener as long as it boils down to “really bad.”It’s an effective argument killer, but unfortunately, if you bring up Hitler, you lose, because your arguments have gone bankrupt and you’re spewing nonsense.The use of Nazism in debates is largely an American thing. We didn’t suffer under Nazi rule, so it can be trotted out to mean any abstract thing we want, as long as it’s, well, really bad and we don’t mind losing debates.But Europeans did experience it directly, so they have had an experience of it and don’t treat it lightly. The difference between two opposing views doesn’t portend murderous racist dictatorship. Now, “Soviet,” on the other hand:A prominent clean energy campaigner has been banned from the European Energy Forum after tweeting remarks made by the EU's energy commissioner describing th…

Fair and Unfair Nuclear Editorials

Two recent editorials grapple with nuclear energy issues relevant to their states. The York (Penn.) Record becomes disturbed about some corrosion discovered on used fuel containers.A Nuclear Regulatory Commission report said that some of those casks could leak. It cited water-damaged containers that held spent fuel from both of our local nuke plants - TMI and Peach Bottom.It's nothing to be too alarmed about right now.No radiological material leaked.The terse style is unusual – feels like someone on the board has internalized Hemingway. Anyway, its recommendation:Leaving this radioactive material lying around at hundreds of sites across the country is just not an acceptable disposal solution.Do we have leaders capable of making the tough political decisions to resolve this issue? Well, it’s not exactly lying around and, of course, the problem with the containers was found and fixed without further incident. But, it’s true. Whether by following the recommendations of the Blue Ribb…