Tuesday, December 31, 2013

More of The Best Nuclear Energy News of 2013

1. The 60th anniversary of

Atoms for Peace (and NEI, too) – President Dwight Eisenhower gave the Atoms for Peace speech before the United Nations General Assembly on December 8, 1953. I’ve heard different thoughts about how to date the beginning of the domestic nuclear energy industry – the four light bulbs illuminated by Experimental Breeder Reactor I on December 20, 1951, the first successful use of nuclear energy to generate electricity, is a good candidate – but Atoms for Peace seems correct because the speech makes the moral and ethical, not just a technical, case for nuclear energy. That’s important and it makes 2013 the 60th anniversary of the industry.

Atoms for Peace came about as a response to the rising tide of the cold war and Eisenhower’s perception that the world could embrace “the hopeless finality of a belief that two atomic colossi are doomed malevolently to eye each other indefinitely across a trembling world.”

Against this nihilistic view, Eisenhower proposed a starkly humanistic counterweight:

The governments principally involved, to the extent permitted by elementary prudence, should begin now and continue to make joint contributions from their stockpiles of normal uranium and fissionable materials to an international atomic energy agency. We would expect that such an agency would be set up under the aegis of the United Nations. The ratios of contributions, the procedures and other details would properly be within the scope of the "private conversations" I referred to earlier.

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I would be prepared to submit to the Congress of the United States, and with every expectation of approval, any such plan that would, first, encourage world-wide investigation into the most effective peacetime uses of fissionable material, and with the certainty that the investigators had all the material needed for the conducting of all experiments that were appropriate; second,begin to diminish the potential destructive power of the world's atomic stockpiles; third, allow all peoples of all nations to see that, in this enlightened age, the great Powers of the earth, both of the East and of the West, are interested in human aspirations first rather than in building up the armaments of war; fourth, open up a new channel for peaceful discussion and initiative at least a new approach to the many difficult problems that must be solved in both private and public conversations if the world is to shake off the inertia imposed by fear and is to make positive progress towards peace.

And there it is, the rationale for nuclear energy simple as can be: “the great powers of the earth … are interested in human aspirations first.” (Not to mention the progenitor of Megatons to Megawatts.)

NEI notes its own founding as the Atomic Industrial Forum, also in 1953, here. If 60 is the new 40, we look forward to the maturity and grace of 80, the new 50.

2. The Waste Confidence Rule – In response to a U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decision that overturned the NRC’s 2010 update to the waste confidence rule, commission staff developed a proposed rule and draft generic environmental study. Published for comment September 13, the proposed rule concludes that used fuel can be safely stored in used fuel pools during the 60-year period following the licensed life for reactor operation and for even longer periods of time in dry containers. The rule also concludes that a repository can be available within 60 years of the end of the licensed life of any reactor to take the used fuel.

The rule answers to the court’s order that the NRC consider the potential environmental consequences of the federal government’s failure to build a permanent repository. The order also required the agency to conduct a more extensive review of the environmental impacts of potential leaks and fires in used fuel storage pools.

The NRC expects to finalize the rule by September 2014. Until then, the agency said it will hold off on issuing final licenses and relicenses for operating reactors and dry cask storage facilities.

3.

The Nuclear Waste Fund fee - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Nuclear Energy ordered the Department of Energy to ask Congress to suspend collection of fees for the Nuclear Waste Fund—which was created to pay for management of the nation’s used nuclear fuel—until the department complies with the Nuclear Waste Policy Act or Congress enacts a new waste management program. The unanimous ruling November 21 reinforces the principle that the federal government is obligated to carry out the law whether or not the responsible agency or the president agrees with the underlying policy.

Congress established the Nuclear Waste Fund expressly to support the development of a repository for used nuclear fuel. Consumers pay one-tenth of a cent per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated with nuclear energy.

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Next up – the wrap up of the wrap up. Small reactors and cumulative impact of regulation, at the least.

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