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Showing posts from August, 2015

Recognizing Clean Nuclear Plants in the Clean Power Plan

The Clean Power Plan will be with us for a long time and will be discussed pro and con for months and years. One aspect of the plan that stands out is its rather bizarre notion that all currently running nuclear plants will keep running, thus continuing to contribute emission-free electricity.
The EPA is likewise not finalizing the proposal to include a component representing preserved existing nuclear generation in the BSER [best system of emission reduction]. On further consideration, we believe it is inappropriate to base the BSER on elements that will not reduce CO2 missions from affected EGUs [electric utility generating units] below current levels. Existing nuclear generation helps make existing CO2 emissions lower than they would otherwise be, but will not further lower CO2 emissions below current levels. EPA also says it cannot know which nuclear facilities might close due to economic issues and thus cannot credit them. “[W]e believe that it is inappropriate to base the …

Nuclear Powers On in the Texas Heat While Wind Wilts

The following is a guest post by NEI's Michael Purdie.

Major cities in Texas were subject to numerous 100 degree-plus days this month. Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin all had record setting electricity demand. If you have ever been to these cities during one of these days, it’s hot and there is very little breeze to cool you down.

The most extreme day for the grid was August 13, when power prices peaked above $1,000/MWh. When this occurs, the grid operator (in this case, ERCOT) takes action. ERCOT called for conservation measures because electricity reserves were below 2,500 MWs during the peak.

Why did this occur? Simple. The wind generating units in Texas produced less than 20% of what they’re capable of providing. By operating at less than a 20% capacity factor, wind units provided 633 MWs of power less than what ERCOT predicted during the daily peak demand. The chart below depicts the planned and actual wind generation during hours of the day. The power price …

Nuclear Energy for This Generation, and Beyond

Tiffany Williams is a security operations supervisor at Entergy’s Waterford 3 nuclear facility and has worked in the nuclear industry for more than 18 years. She started her career as a fire watch contractor and held other positions increasing in responsibility including nuclear security officer and alarm station operator.

I owe my love of nuclear power to my father. As a child, I remember him coming home from work and sharing stories of what he did that day. We were fascinated because it was like nothing else we heard before. He was actually making history by helping build Waterford 3 – Louisiana’s first nuclear power plant.

Throughout the construction period, my father would explain the importance of what he was building. The Waterford 3 Steam Electric Station would provide safe, clean and reliable electricity for Louisianans. It would also provide great paying jobs and local community support. To fully understand the importance of Waterford 3, he made sure I visited the Entergy Edu…

Radiation All Around Us All the Time

The dreadful recent news about former President Jimmy Carter brought back happier memories. Some years ago, my wife and I stood next to and chatted with the then-Governor of Georgia and  First Lady while waiting to get into a concert at Atlanta’s Omni complex. I wouldn’t call it the most memorable moment in my life, but it doesn’t have to be to be fondly recalled.Carter was dipping into a bag of boiled peanuts – a southern specialty I then considered foul – and we compared notes on various music halls and local bands. The Carters were likely more familiar with Macon than Atlanta at the time, but they had clearly canvassed the local music scene – and knew more about it than we did – and we were the college students. ---President Carter’s treatment at Emory University has already begun and radiation therapy will be part of it.Thursday afternoon, Carter was to undergo radiation treatment. On Wednesday, the hospital fitted him with a mask that will hold his head perfectly still to make su…

NRC Vote Eliminates Need for External Containment Filters

Earlier this week, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission decided in a 3-1 vote not to pursue a rulemaking with regard to reactor containment protection and release reduction for boiling water reactors with Mark I and Mark II containments. As readers of the blog will recall, NEI COO Maria Korsnick explained in a post back in June why external containment vents were unnecessary in the wake of a new innovation that was developed by the industry in conjunction with the Electric Power Research Institute:

While this order clearly improved safety, we believed we could obtain additional safety benefit if we could ensure water could be added to the reactor to cool the damaged core and also prevent containment failure.

Working with my counterparts in the industry and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), we remedied this problem by including water addition under these conditions. This was included in the industry’s guidance for implementing the vent order and endorsed by NRC.


Refreshed Safety Messaging at Diablo Canyon

The cornerstone of safety in the nuclear industry is safety culture. It's identified as the core values and behaviors resulting from a collective commitment by leaders and individuals to emphasize safety over competing goals, to ensure protection of people and the environment.

The nuclear industry is proactive in ensuring nuclear energy facilities have a strong nuclear safety culture. NRC is responsible for providing effective oversight. And the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) promotes high levels of safety and reliability in U.S. nuclear plants by setting performance objectives, criteria, and guidelines industry-wide for nuclear plant operations, and by conducting regular evaluations of nuclear plants.

Safety -- and safety culture -- isn't static. Earlier today our friends at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant shared with us this image of a fresh coat of paint adorning a hallway leading to a site turbine building, reminding plant staff of the unwavering safety comm…

The Mystery of the Missing Atoms

Let’s see if you can see what I see. It’s kind of a mystery.
This is from the New York Times
But with the shrinking of the industry, coal interests “are losing their clout, and they’re not going to get it back,” Mr. Goodell said. “It’s becoming clear where the future is going. The politically smart thing is to jump on the renewables bandwagon.” Goodell is Jeff Goodell, author of the 2006 book “Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future.”
Let’s try another one. Same thing as above, this time from the Hill.
We’re thrilled about any opportunity to replace coal directly with renewable energy, because the whole idea of natural gas as a bridge fuel has become debunked as we get more and more understanding of how bad natural gas is, and how ready to go renewable energy is,” said Julian Boggs, the global warming outreach director for Environment America. “Deploying as much renewable energy as possible is essential to solving global warming. Natural gas can’t solve global warmin…

Fuel Manufacturing Innovations at AREVA Provide Reliable Global Electricity

Manuel Seubert is a process engineer in ceramics manufacturing for AREVA. He has been in the nuclear industry for 7 years. He also serves as treasurer of the NAYGN AREVA Richland chapter.

Why are you a nuclear engineer? Why do you like working where you do?

I’m a process engineer in AREVA’s uranium dioxide fuel pellet manufacturing facility in Richland, Wash. I worked in a similar position at our AREVA facility in Germany before relocating to Richland. The opportunities and variety of challenges presented in my job is what I enjoy most. I am responsible for solving technical problems, investigating the source of process disconnects, as well as improving the performance of the new and existing manufacturing processes. I enjoy working in manufacturing in a technical engineering support role because it offers a wide range of exposure and it always presents interesting challenges.

Why do you think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future?

Nuclear energy is important not only f…

Sendai Nuclear Happy Times

We’ve reported a few times in the pastabout Japan’s efforts to restart its nuclear energy industry. This seemed inevitable because the country was not officially closing its plants, because it was rebuilding its regulatory regime to mirror that of the United States (that is, not linked to efforts to promote nuclear technology and focused exclusively on public safety) and, not least, because resource-light Japan has very few options in the energy sphere if it wants baseload carbon dioxide emission-free electricity. If it had completely abandoned nuclear energy, that would be unfortunate but comprehensible. But it made no moves to do so.

So that’s where we’ve been for the last five years. Here’s where we are now:
Kyushu Electric Power began to restart its Sendai No. 1 reactor on Tuesday, the company said, the first attempt to reboot Japan's nuclear industry in nearly two years after the sector was shut down in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
The utility, which supplies ele…

The PJM Capacity Auction and Nuclear Energy

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI.

There’s an important change in the electricity system that starts with an auction taking place this week. The organization holding the auction is big in the electricity world but you may never have heard of it, and the thing being auctioned is obscure, too, so let me explain.

The organization is called PJM, which once upon a time stood for Pennsylvania-Jersey-Maryland, but now it covers those states plus parts of 10 others. It runs the electric system stretching all the way from Delaware to Chicago. Some of the transactions it manages are second to second, some are in intervals of a few minutes. This one is year by year.

The thing being auctioned is not energy, but capacity. When you measure energy, you spin the little wheels on an old-fashioned electric meter. But capacity means the ability to generate. If you are a utility and you’ve got customers to serve in the PJM mar…

Global Nexus Initiative to Explore Links between Climate Change, Nuclear Energy and Global Security

The following is a guest post by Mary Pietryzk, Manager of Policy Development at NEI.

What if a thoughtful group of accomplished professionals decided to explore the issues and linkages around climate change, nuclear power and global security? The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) have teamed up for a two year project to explore those linkages. Today marks the launch of the Global Nexus Initiative (GNI): Where Climate, Nuclear, and Security Meet. You can follow the work of the Initiative on Twitter using the #globalnexusinitiative hash tag.

Putting their heads (and contact lists) together, PGS and NEI have created a working group of 17 highly accomplished, multidisciplinary policy professionals from the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. This is a team of energy, nuclear, climate change, and security experts that boast impressive resumes and well-earned reputations for finding creative solutions to challenging global problems.

Nuclear Industry Skeptic Turns into Believer

My name is Jennifer Correa, and I am a mechanical engineer with Structural Integrity Associates. I have been in the nuclear industry for about 13 years. At Structural Integrity, I co-manage the Fatigue Management Product, which deals with the fatigue of metal components due to changes in pressure and temperature in nuclear power plants. If the conditions that lead to metal fatigue are managed well, the components can operate safely for many years, well beyond the original licensing period.
Before I came to Structural Integrity, I didn’t know much about nuclear power. I understood it at a basic level, but only so far as the introduction that I received as part of my general mechanical engineering coursework. It was kind of mysterious and I had a vague idea that it was dangerous and risky. I’m a Californian and the opposition to nuclear power is strong in parts of this state. When I came to work for Structural Integrity, I was skeptical of nuclear power. Yet, over time, as I learned mor…

Nuclear, The Clean Power Plan and the Press

How has the Clean Power Plan gone over in the press? In general, pretty well, though the response tends to scan with a paper’s view of other subjects, such as their views on coal-fired energy and climate change.The New York Times, not always the best friend of the atom, rather grudgingly finds a place for nuclear energy.It [the plan] will shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants and give fresh momentum to carbon-free energy sources like wind and solar power, and possibly next-generation nuclear plants.You know what? This-generation nuclear plants fill the bill. But we’ll take it – possibly.---The only paper we saw that went a bit further on nuclear was the Virginia Beach Pilot, which includes a quote from Dominion’s CEO.“The compliance targets for Virginia have moved in a positive direction that fairly recognizes the role of natural gas generation in reducing emissions,” said Thomas F. Farrell the utility’s chief executive. “The administration missed an opportunity, however, to p…

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: Nuclear Wins and Discontents

The Environmental Protection Agency released its final rule for limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. You can view the rule here, watch President Barack Obama’s announcement here, and, not least, read NEI’s initial reaction here.
“In the days ahead, the Nuclear Energy Institute will more closely evaluate the final Clean Power Plan rule to determine how EPA has treated nuclear energy facilities as part of its plan to transition to a lower carbon electric sector. Based on our preliminary review, the final rule appears to require larger carbon reductions than the proposed rule, and places a greater emphasis on mass-based compliance approaches. Those two factors alone should drive increased recognition of the value of existing nuclear power plants. Existing carbon-free generation is, of course, automatically valued under a mass-based approach. The press release goes into more detail – there are pluses and minuses in the plan that we’ll get to here – but we thought we would …

Why SMRs Should Have Smaller Emergency Planning Zones

The following is a guest post by Marcus Nichol and David Young of NEI.

In a recent decision, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission directed the agency staff initiate a rulemaking to revise emergency preparedness (EP) regulations and guidance for Small Modular Reactor (SMR) facilities. Small, scalable nuclear energy facilities are anticipated to become an important addition to the nation's electric power grids. However, in order for SMRs to fulfill this promise, it is important that an EP framework for these facilities recognize their advanced design characteristics and safety features.

Nuclear power plants must have plans in place to cope with any possible emergency. For the current fleet of large light water reactors (LWRs), these plans include two Emergency Planning Zones (EPZs) around each nuclear power plant facility – one of about 10 miles for actions to protect from a possible radioactive plume (a plume exposure pathway EPZ) and the other of about 50 miles for monitoring poten…

Nuclear Safety and Innovation: Alive and Well in Georgia

Jennifer Harrelson and Wesley Williams both work for Southern Nuclear at the Plant Vogtle and Hatch nuclear facilities respectively. Each brings their personal touch to the industry, helping their company develop its enterprise of sustainable, clean energy. Both took questions about their commitment to best practices in the industry, how they cultivate innovation and offer views for America’s energy future. From family bonds, to new safety valves, here are their stories.

Jennifer Harrelson has worked in the nuclear industry for four years. Prior to 2011, she worked in the Engineering and Construction Services organization of Southern Nuclear’s parent company, Southern Company. In her current role, Harrelson is the Engineering Supervisor at Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle 3 and 4 project, one of the major new nuclear construction projects now underway in the United States.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?

HARRELSON: I currently lead a team of ambitious engineers as the Digital …

Why the Electric Grid Needs Diversity

NEI's Matt Wald sat down for an enlightening Q&A with the EPRI Journal on how we ought to be managing the nation's electric grid. Here's an excerpt:
EJ: Wind and solar are growing by leaps and bounds because of tax subsidies, state mandates, and improving technology. Where is this leading the grid?

Wald: There is a limit to how much is desirable. Consider this analogy. In February in Washington, the National Symphony Orchestra performed the Eroica Symphony. Just as Beethoven specified, there were two oboes, two flutes, two bassoons, three horns, and timpani. If the price of oboes dropped, would the symphony use more of them? Of course not, because the conductor isn’t hiring on price. And as it turns out, the price of oboes is pretty stable, at least in relationship to flutes, bassoons, horns, and timpani.

Unlike the Eroica Symphony, the power grid has an oboe problem. Generation works largely on price in most of the country, and the grid is going through rapid price cha…