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Showing posts from January, 2015

The Perils of an Energy Panacea in New England

Nuclear engineer Howard Shaffer may be an interested party, but he points out in an op-ed in the Concord (N.H.) Monitor that New England really needs to diversify its energy supply more. Why? Because cold New England winters are exposing fault lines in the energy supply.At one point last winter, during the polar vortex, 75 percent of New England’s natural-gas generating capacity was not operating due to lack of supply or high prices. Public Service of New Hampshire resorted to burning costly jet fuel to meet the demand for electricity, while the price of oil rose to more than $400 per barrel.Jet fuel! If that doesn’t speak to desperation, nothing does. Shaffer plumps for nuclear energy, as would be his wont:Nuclear plants are a dependable source of electricity, because they produce “base-load” power about 90 percent of the time, underpinning the stability of the electricity grid. But currently, New England’s deregulated electricity market does not recognize nuclear power’s environment…

Nuclear Matters to Carol Browner in Chicago

Uh-oh:Not too long ago Carol Browner would have sided with the activists clad in white hazmat suits protesting nuclear power outside the City Club's lunch Tuesday in downtown Chicago.Or maybe not so uh-oh:"I can't believe what I believe about climate change, about the dangers of carbon pollution and take off the table a carbon-free form of power," said Browner...That’s an evolution that a lot of environmentalists have experienced in the last decade, as shown in the movie Pandora’s Promise. Browner speaks with great authority, as she is the former EPA administrator under President Clinton and director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under President Obama. The Chicago Tribune turns over a lot of the article to anti-nuclear activists, so Browner does not get her full say.So is there a fuller way to hear Browner’s views on nuclear energy? Happily, local radio station WBEZ interviewed her and, as expected, she is bullish on nuclear but still …

A Northwest Passage to Nuclear Energy

Interesting doings in Washington state:The bills by Republican Sen. Sharon Brown go to a public hearing before the Senate Environment, Energy & Telecommunications Committee on Tuesday. Four committee members also belong to a House-Senate task force studying whether nuclear power should be expanded in Washington.Not only are there four members of the committee but three bills under consideration.One of Brown's bills calls for providing a sales tax exemption for small modular reactors that some Tri-Cities interests hope to eventually build and ship elsewhere. Another of Brown's bills would add nuclear power to the list of alternative power sources that certain utilities are required to use to meet state targets for having "green" energy sources as part of their electrical-generation mix. Brown's third bill would create a nuclear energy education program that would include classroom sessions and science teachers' workshops on teaching nuclear science to eigh…

Cold Winds May Howl, Nuclear Energy Abides

The uptick in public interest in the weather would seem to focus attention on the potential impacts of climate change – if you think outlandishly big storms are a symptom of it, that is – but what remains of primary importance is that people keep the heat and lights on. Obviously, the big Nor’easter now bearing down on New York, Boston and all the way to Philadelphia is the news of the day, so we thought we’d check in on the 24 reactors that cover the region. The news is good – 23 are operating at 100 percent capacity and the 24th is at 88 percent. Let’s let the coal and natural gas folks tout their own capacity factor, but I’ll wager this tops them by a margin. Bragging rights doesn’t trump the need for people to keep safe, of course, but a reliable system of power generators enhances that effort considerably.We’ll check in tomorrow and see how things are going as
(and if) the storm really wallops the region.---Tropical storms and hurricanes are named by the World Meteorological O…

The State of the Union: What Nuclear Wonks Will Be Looking For

The following post was submitted by Alex Flint, NEI's Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs.

It’s an age-old parlor game in Washington, hoping for a shout-out in the State of the Union and then acting all nonchalant if you get one, or like the State of the Union doesn't matter if you don’t.

President Obama has devoted some nice lines to nuclear energy in previous States of the Union. The best line (from my point of view, of course) was in 2010 when he said:
But to create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. I’m delighted to report that five nuclear reactors are under construction today. Peak employment at each of those during construction will be about 3,500 people and, when they are completed (the first one is scheduled to come on line later this year), each will provide 400-700 permanent jobs.

Of course, it would be won…

Join Us For a Twitter Chat on Blackhat and Nuclear Energy January 16 at 3:15 P.M.

Last week we first took note of the television ad blitz around Blackhat, the new cyber crime thriller directed starring Chris Hemsworth that premieres tomorrow all around the USA.

Obviously, the timing for the movie could hardly be better, coming off the recent hacking of the Twitter feed for U.S. Central Command and word that cyber security will be front and center in next Tuesday's State of the Union.

Why are we interested? As we mentioned last week, there's an early plot point that involves the hacking of control systems at a nuclear power plant - an eventuality that the industry has taken safeguards against.

Thanks to bad timing, we weren't able to get a seat to a press screening on Tuesday night (props to NBC Universal for making a good faith effort to get us inside, we appreciate it), but we'll be paying for a ticket and seeing the film tomorrow afternoon at a theater in Washington a few blocks from the White House. Bill Gross, NEI's cyber security expert, w…

Blue Crabs, Exelon, and the Chesapeake Bay

From the department of unintentional irony:Chestertown resident Hope Clark said Exelon has a history of being against clean energy generation and policies. She cited the company’s use of nuclear power as an example.This is from a Bay Times (Maryland) story about a public meeting concerning the proposed merger of Exelon and Maryland’s Pepco electric utility, specifically in this gathering Pepco’s Delmarva subsidiary. (Exelon’s Calvert Cliffs facility roosts on the western shore of the Chesapeake and might be what Ms. Clark is concerned about locally.)As you may know, everything in Maryland has always been (and will always be) about the Chesapeake Bay if the bay is in any way involved in an issue. Partisan politics has no role here and is non-functional – the bay must be kept as pristine as possible by any human being that interacts with it. There is no higher purpose than that. It would be cynical to call this absolutism a blue crab thing, but even if it were, so what? The outcome is …

More of The Nuclear Year 2014

Industries are dynamic entities that are always in process. That means they don’t lend themselves to top 10 lists, which work better for finished objects such as movies and books. We may say that Godzilla was the best 2014 movie to feature Yucca Mountain (built not for used fuel but to imprison a malevolent insect), but that’s a different kind of judgment. Some of the items we’ll include here started earlier than 2014 or started in 2014 but will not reach a milestone until 2015 or beyond. That’s how it goes.With that in mind, let’s look at 2014:From a financial  viewpoint, two items stand out: the President’s  request to revive the Decommissioning and Decontamination tax on nuclear plants was turned back in the appropriations bill that passed for 2015. The industry has no problem paying that tax – in fact, it’s paid the full amount two times over. It just was not eager for a third go-round – and Congress agreed. Similarly, the court-ordered end of the Nuclear Waste Fee, which was inte…

Blackhat, Nuclear Energy and Cyber Security

While many of us were home for the holidays we couldn't escape the movie trailer for Blackhat, a cyber crime thriller directed by Michael Mann starring Chris Hemsworth. Set to premiere in the U.S. on January 16, the trailer includes a cyber attack on a nuclear power plant in China.



We've dealt with the issue of cyber security with some frequency here at NEI Nuclear Notes. I'd refer our readers back to a post written by NEI's Bill Gross almost two years ago that outlined industry actions in this area to mitigate against the possibility of a cyber attack (emphasis mine).
By December 31, 2012, each U.S. nuclear power plant has:
Isolated key control systems using either air-gaps or robust hardware based isolation devices. As a result, the key safety, security, and power generation equipment at the plants are protected from any network based cyber attacks originating outside the plant.Enhanced and implemented robust controls over the use of portable media and equipment. Whe…