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Showing posts from April, 2014

What’s Hard to Grasp About Nuclear Energy

The New York Times addresses nuclear energy as part of it Retro Report video series. The story by Clyde Haberman that accompanies the video fulfills the retro side of the agenda with a look at Three Mile Island, then continues:Yet American attitudes on nuclear power, as measured by opinion polls, are far from irrevocably negative. As TMI faded in collective memory, the popularity of that energy source has waxed and waned, each rise tempered by a new cause for alarm, notably Chernobyl and Fukushima. Many power plants that had been on the drawing boards before 1979 were built. In the last few years, new ones have been proposed, encouraged by President Obama, who has described nuclear energy as necessary — along with renewable sources like wind and solar — in any plan to wean the country from fossil fuels. The need for swift action would seem greater than ever, given new warnings from a United Nations panel that time is running short for countries to adopt strategies to keep worldwide ca…

“A growing fragility in the U.S. electricity system”

In any large market, there are are trends that can be predicted and trends that cannot. For example, the loss of San Onofre (and some hydro plants) in California can be predicted to have an impact on the energy market, not least through an increase in carbon emissions. It would seem this is true, per this report from California ISO (the grid managers):The generation gap caused by having less hydro-electric and nuclear generation was filled, in large part, by natural gas. Natural gas generators supplied about 40 percent of ISO energy in 2013, up from 39 percent in 2012 and 28 percent in 2011.That’s not too bad – solar energy increased during the same period from 5 percent to 8 percent, so that helped stave off carbon emissions. This is the unpredictable part, with no nuclear mention whatever and put as sunnily as possible:While total wholesale electric costs increased by 31 percent in 2013, after controlling for the 30 percent in natural gas prices last year, costs rose by 5 percent, p…

What Else to Do with Nuclear Energy

News from Wisconsin:Phoenix Nuclear Labs (PNL), the Monona startup that has developed a particle accelerator-based neutron generator, announced a two-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department to design and build a “high current negative hydrogen ion source.”That description at the end sounds a lot like fusion.The project has applications for physics research, medical cyclotrons, semiconductor manufacturing, and—over the long term—trying to achieve “abundant, clean, nuclear fusion energy,” PNL said.So fusion is a misty dream of the future while more achievable goals come first.I have no particular brief on Phoenix or its prospects, but sometimes we forget that what we call nuclear energy has applications that have nothing whatever to do with making electricity. Of course, there are medical applications (a field Phoenix also wants to be in), but I’d say an understanding of its potential and actual use beyond electricity and medicine is, for many people, not much broader. An…

Exelon’s Nuclear Deeds of (C)Omission

This is from an Exelon press release, but it’s the kind of thing nuclear advocate want because it’s a company touting the benefits of nuclear energy:Continuing its progress toward a clean energy future, Exelon announced today that it reduced or avoided more than 18 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2013, surpassing its goal of eliminating 17.5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per year by 2020.And how did it do that?Retirement of fossil plants and company energy efficiency and process improvement efforts that resulted in a reduction of more than 9.8 million metric tons of GHG emissions; Addition of 316 megawatts (MW) of emission-free energy through uprates across the nuclear fleet; There’s more bullet points – these are the top two. More:Exelon’s industry-leading fleet of nuclear power plants plays an important role in its low-emissions profile, avoiding 82 million metric tons of GHG emissions per year. At a time when nuclear power plants fa…

The Nuclear Battle Between Semiology and Dada

The IPCC report on climate change is scrupulously neutral when it comes to energy types, no more supportive (or non-supportive) of nuclear energy than coal with carbon capture or wind. But our friend Rod Adams at the Energy Collective has found an ingenious way around this: Not only have I spent time smithing words for human consumption in intensely political environments, but I also have a fair understanding of Boolean logic. I admire what the IPCC authors have accomplished. In both human communications and computer programming, the operators ‘AND’ and ‘OR’ have important meanings. So do modifiers like ‘with’. (Fossil with CCS is a completely different animal than fossil without CCS.)This is more funny than convincing – it turns the IPCC authors into Paul De Man-style semiologists, looking for signs pointing to meanings. But here’s the thing: no coded message necessary. Just in stating facts and discussing energy types at all, the IPCC cannot avoid the truth. Let Adams tell it:Th…

The Electric Grid on Earth Day: Then and Now

Happy Earth Day 2014 to all of our readers. While there are a variety of events going on all around the world, we'd like visitors to NEI Nuclear Notes to focus on what the electric grid looked like back in 1970 when the late Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson celebrated the very first Earth Day. Take a moment to consider the graphic below:
It's pretty easy to see how nuclear has grown to account for almost 20% of the electricity generated in the U.S. since that first Earth Day. At the same time, it's impossible not to notice that the use of oil to generate electricity has virtually disappeared, clearly displaced by the incredible growth in the use of nuclear energy over the same period of time. Nuclear didn't do it alone, helped tremendously by the steady growth in the use of natural gas.

The combined impact of nuclear and natural gas has been a real winner for the environment, something that The Breakthrough Institute pointed out in a study it released last September. Acco…

Years of Living Impatiently with Showtime Series

Nuclear energy plays a minor role in a minor online kerfluffle.In the New York Times, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of The Breakthrough Institute (an environmental think tank with an interest in nuclear energy) complain that Showtime’s climate change series Years of Living Dangerously does not include solutions to climate change, only depictions of possible or real disaster. For them, it’s exactly the wrong message:Still, environmental groups have known since 2000 that efforts to link climate change to natural disasters could backfire, after researchers at the Frameworks Institute studied public attitudes for its report “How to Talk About Global Warming.” Messages focused on extreme weather events, they found, made many Americans more likely to view climate change as an act of God — something to be weathered, not prevented.Messaging is valuable, of course, but when it starts to diverge from the truth, then it becomes a hindrance to communication. Climate change has caused nat…

Why First Energy is Interested in SMRs

The following guest post was submitted by Greg Halnon, Director of Regulatory Affairs at First Energy.

The SMR market is just emerging. We see it as an essential technology for future baseload generation. Greenhouse gas reduction goals cannot be met with renewables alone. In order to achieve the goals, as well as maintain the integrity of the reliable grid we so enjoy in our country, the nuclear option is paramount. Over the next decade, the country needs to internalize the need for SMRs through regulation reform targeted at a streamlined operation that provides for and compliments the enhanced safety the SMR technology offers.

Much of the present-day thinking of potential safety issues needs a paradigm shift given that many of the theoretical accidents are simply not credible for SMRs. Additionally, applying the lessons from recent and historical events through ground-up design features assures a safe, reliable and diverse energy option. Utilities should prepare their staff’s intelle…

The Ethical Nuclear Solution and the IPCC Report

The IPCC report on mitigating climate change is now out and, it is, as you’d expect, a bone dry read considering how alarming it is.  But one section that probably won’t get much attention is on ethical considerations when considering a world response to climate change. This is something that it would be good to see in legislation in general – it might forestall at least some obnoxiously partisan bills from emerging. This part of the report, is, if nothing else, a fascinating read, and nuclear energy, which is never mentioned, seems corrected fitted to such issuesThe report says that some developed countries with heavy carbon emission output are expected to suffer relatively modest physical damage from projected climate change and some may even benefit from it. But some developing countries could experience significant physical damage from climate change while having no or little causal responsibility. How does policy develop that responds to this disparity? It’s not an easy question.…

Mangano Accused of Manipulating Data in Diablo Canyon Study

Another public health department has taken a closer look at Joe Mangano's work and determined it's fatally flawed. This time it's the Public Health Department of San Luis Obispo County, Califoria.

You'll recall that Mangano most recently released a study claiming all sorts of ailments arose around Diablo Canyon in the wake of its opening.

From the press release (our emphasis in bold):
“As the Health Officer for San Luis Obispo County, I take the health of our residents very seriously, and when a claim was made that excess cancer and infant mortality was occurring in our County, I made it an immediate priority to investigate further. However, upon examination of the report issued by the World Business Academy (WBA) of Santa Barbara, it became evident that flawed methodology and selective exclusion of populations of interest were used to achieve a result not consistent with standard scientific investigation and practice” states Dr. Penny Borenstein, Health Officer of S…

Nuclear Energy in the IPCC Climate Change Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will release the third volume of its 2014 report tomorrow. Subtitled Mitigation of Climate Change, it will present a set of scenarios to show the impact various sets of policy decisions can have on reducing carbon emissions. Naturally, this gets into energy types and the IPCC is notably non-selective. This is from the Summary for Policymakers, which is available now.At the global level, scenarios reaching 450 ppm CO2eq are also characterized by more rapid improvements of energy efficiency, a tripling to nearly a quadrupling of the share of zero ‐ and low ‐ carbon energy supply from renewables, nuclear energy and fossil energy with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), or bioenergy with CCS (BECCS) by the year 2050 (Figure SPM.4, lower panel).This is a scenario that keeps temperature rise below 2 degrees centigrade – in fact, it overreaches if we take the following as the goal.Mitigation scenarios reaching concentration levels of…

The 'Years of Living Dangerously' Team Needs to Pay Attention to Nuclear

Showtime premieres its nine-part documentary series Years of Living Dangerously tonight at 10 p.m. U.S. EDT. The series uses some of the biggest names in Hollywood to draw attention to the impacts of climate change. James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger are on the team of executive producers, while celebrities noted for their environmental advocacy appear on camera including Don Cheadle, Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Ian Somerhalder and Jessica Alba. 
What are they hoping to accomplish with this series? Executive producer David Gelber summed it up:  The goal of Years of Living Dangerously is to galvanize a national conversation on the realities of climate change and inspire people to share their own stories and empower them to get involved in solutions. I watched the first episode, available early and for free on YouTube, and understand why the reviews are extremely positive. It is a beautiful piece from a filmmaking standpoint, but then of course these folks aren’t aw…

Are Reporters Challenging Mangano's "Junk Science"?

The story in the April 2014 issue of Popular Mechanics that debunks Joe Mangano's anti-nuclear research has just been published online and has gotten some additional attention -- including a link from UT-Knoxville law professor Glenn Reynolds, better known as Instapundit.

There are plenty of great quotes in the Popular Mechanics piece, but this passage really sticks out:
The Mangano and Sherman paper is a prime example of a troubling new trend in which junk science is becoming harder to distinguish from rigorous research. It is an example of activists using the trappings of science to influence public opinion and policy. Today there are cottage industries that produce and disseminate skewed research in publications that masquerade as legitimate science journals. Celebrities and mainstream media outlets then tout the results, so that even retracted or clearly biased research can reach larger audiences than ever before. These studies cause real harm—for instance, by denouncing li…

Why Energy Northwest is Interested in SMRs

Earlier this week, we published a post by NEI's Marv Fertel on why the Department of Energy needed to support development of small modular reactors. In response to that post, Dale Atkinson, an executive at Energy Northwest, left the following comment. We thought it deserved to be seen by a wider audience.

Energy Northwest is a Washington state, not-for-profit joint operating agency that comprises 27 public power member utilities from across the state serving more than 1.5 million ratepayers. Public utilities in the Northwest and elsewhere are looking for a carbon or fossil fuel hedge. Nuclear generation provides that hedge, and SMR technologies incorporate lessons learned over several decades of operating similar sized U.S. Navy reactors as well as traditional sized commercial reactors. In fact, the American Public Power Association (APPA) recently passed a resolution calling for the federal government to accelerate SMR development and commercialization.

We know that all credible …

What Are The Threats to America's Electric Supply?

On Tuesday, Anthony J. Alexander, President and CEO of FirstEnergy Corporation, addressed a standing-room only gathering at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Part of the 2014 "CEO Luncheons" sponsored by the Chamber, Mr. Alexander spoke frankly about the enormous threats to the reliability and affordability of the nation's electricity supply.  The majority of these threats arise from government policies that distort electricity markets to force uneconomical energy sources into the mix and drive proven sources out.  He described these policies as replacing what works with what "sounds good."

The full text of Mr. Alexander's speech is available from FirstEnergy.  A video recording of Mr. Alexander's speech is available on the Chamber web site.  His remarks begin at 1:03:43 in the recording.  Introductory comments of Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) precede Mr. Alexander's remarks.  The Chamber's blog post also provides some highli…

Top 5 Reasons to Support Ex-Im Bank Reauthorization

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

For decades, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) has quietly enabled U.S. exporters to win foreign tenders and create American jobs by financing and insuring foreign purchases of U.S. goods. Ex-Im’s benefits to the U.S. economy have been tremendous. By providing financing and guarantees for about $50 billion in U.S. exports in 2012, Ex-Im supported a total of more than 250,000 jobs. In the process, Ex-Im’s fees reduced the federal deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars. In the fiscal year ended September 30, 2012, Ex-Im returned more than $803.7 million in revenue to the U.S. Treasury.

For these reasons and others, the Bank long enjoyed consensus support. Only during the Bank’s most recent reauthorization, in 2011, did ideological groups decide to make it a target for a campaign against “corporate welfare” and “socialism.” These misguided attacks ignore the reali…

Why DOE Should Back SMR Development

The following guest post was written by NEI's President and CEO, Marv Fertel.

Nuclear energy is an essential source of base-load electricity and 64 percent of the United States’ greenhouse gas-free electricity production.  Without it, the United States cannot meet either its energy requirements or the goals established in the President’s Climate Action Plan.

In the decades to come, we predict that the country’s nuclear fleet will evolve to include not only large, advanced light water reactors like those operating today and under construction in Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina, but also a complementary set of smaller, modular reactors.

Those reactors are under development today by companies like Babcock &Wilcox (B&W), NuScale and others that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to develop next-generation reactor concepts.  Those companies have innovative designs and are prepared to absorb the lion’s share of design and development costs, but the federal governm…

TEPCO Reaches Agreement with Fishermen on Groundwater Discharge

On Friday, the Tokyo Electric Power Company released the following statement:
After nearly two years of discussions, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have reached an important agreement that will allow implementation of a plan to allow clean groundwater to bypass the Fukushima Daiichi plant and flow in a controlled manner into the sea, subject to stringent safety and environmental controls.

[...]

Once in operation, the groundwater bypass system will divert the flow of naturally occurring groundwater between the hilltop and the contaminated building basements built on lower ground. This will reduce the amount flowing into the building basements by a maximum of 100 tons from the current amount of around 400 tons/day to 300 tons/day.

Diverting this groundwater will reduce the volume of water that becomes contaminated and then needs to be cleaned and stored on site. This, in turn, is expected to reduce…

From Monkeys to Nuclear Energy in Rhea County

We often talk about the economic boon that nuclear energy plants bring the counties and towns in which they are located. This is true of many types of big industrial structures, of course, which tend to locate in relatively out-of-the-way places – they are, however you cut it, big structures and need room to spread out. (well, wind farms aren’t big per se, but they certainly do spread out.) So you could say that what is true of a nuclear energy plant is also true of a coal plant or gas works. Workers like to be in their vicinity. Why?The Watts Bar Nuclear Plant has turned into one of East Tennessee's biggest employers with 5,000 TVA and contractor employees working around the clock to build a new reactor and refuel another."These workers are eating in our restaurants, shopping in our stores and staying at area hotels and campgrounds and that is putting a lot of needed money into our economy," said Rhea County Mayor George Thacker, who built the 42-room Howard Johnson…

60 Minutes Visits Fukushima

60 Minutes will air a report on Fukushima Daiichi during its broadcast this Sunday, April 6 at 7:00 p.m. U.S. EDT.

If you're watching on Sunday, we have a number of online resources you can consult for additional information about the accident, the clean up of the site and how the U.S. nuclear industry is applying lessons learned from Fukushima to improve safety at its own plant sites.

Over the past three years, we've shared much of this coverage here at NEI Nuclear Notes:
Earlier this week, NEI's Scott Peterson outlined how U.S. plants are applying the Fukushima experience to protecting nuclear plants from earthquakes; Just a few weeks ago, NEI's Senior Technical Advisor, Steven Kraft, shared his personal reflections on the 3rd anniversary of the accident; In October 2013, NEI's Tom Kauffman outlined the myriad ways that the U.S. industry differs from Japan when it comes to the way plants are operated and regulated;  Last September, a delegation of American chief …