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Diversity is Strength in Electricity

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

It’s time, says the expert, to step back and take a look at the role of natural gas.

Electricity demand shifts up or down in a heartbeat, or considerably faster. The hardware that supplies power generally changes slowly, because power plants and transmission lines take years to plan and build. Those two considerations are balanced by an expert organization called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. NERC looks ahead a decade and projects whether the system will have enough “reserve margin.” That is, will it be able to produce as much power as consumers will demand.

But this year NERC, as it is known, shifted gears. Yes, it raised questions about the adequacy of generating capacity in some regions in the next decade, but it also took notice of a different problem: a huge fraction of that generating capacity uses a single …

Why Quality Assurance Programs Verify Safety of Components at U.S. Nuclear Power Plants

The following is a guest post by Pam Cowan, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs at the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal published a story concerning manufacturing records and forgings at AREVA’s Le Creusot forge in France. A very limited number of U.S. facilities are using components forged at Le Creusot.

After an investigation by AREVA in coordination with the affected plants, it was determined that the components were safe and met required quality standards. Additionally, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to date has not identified any safety significance at U.S. plants, stating, “examination of the evidence, to this point, fails to raise a safety concern.”

Here's more from AREVA:
Significant progress has been made on both investigations, including the identification of components that may have been affected in the United States, and the review and verification of the quality and safety of those components.

AREVA contacted the U.S. utilitie…

What the Trump Administration Could Do to Help the Nuclear Energy Industry

The Nuclear Energy Institute’s chief operating officer, Maria Korsnick, made the following statement in response to a Bloomberg News report today that President-elect Donald Trump’s advisers “are looking at ways in which the U.S. government could help nuclear power generators being forced out of the electricity market.”

“Americans will benefit immensely from the incoming administration’s focus on existing nuclear generating plants as part of maintaining and improving our nation’s critical infrastructure. Federal and state leaders must act urgently to preserve at-risk nuclear energy facilities, just like lawmakers and agency officials in Illinois and New York have done, to help achieve a stronger economy, cleaner air and enhanced energy diversity and security. Thanks to the actions taken recently in Illinois and New York, thousands of jobs have been saved and consumers will be spared the cost of replacing the carbon-free electricity generation reliably provided by nuclear power plants …

NEI CEO Marv Fertel on the Closing of Palisades Power Plant

The following statement is from NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel concerning the closing of Palisades Power Plant.

"Palisades has been churning out emissions-free electricity since the end of 1971. It provides 600 people with well-paid, year-round jobs, and it is the largest taxpayer in Van Buren County, in southwestern Michigan. It helps stabilize the grid, and provides a vital hedge against severe weather (like most of the U.S. is experiencing now) or other events with a potential to interrupt fuel supplies."

"But the market does not value the plant for providing any of those benefits. Nuclear plants are operated by corporations, with an eye on the bottom line. What is not paid for does not endure. Governor Rick Snyder called it 'a major employer and economic engine for the region.' We hope that some other source of employment will follow on that spot, on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan, and that it will be as quiet, safe and clean."

Gov. Bruce Rauner Signs Future Energy Jobs Bill at Quad Cities Ceremony

It's a great day in Illinois, as Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed the Future Energy Jobs bill at a ceremony at Quad Cities nuclear plant. With his signature, Gov. Rauner has helped save over 4,200 jobs at the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear power plants. Watch the video below.

Next, the governor is headed to the Clinton nuclear power plant for a second rally. For more on how support for the bill came together, read this blog post from our Matt Wald.



How the U.S. Nuclear Industry Is Countering Cyber-Threats

Today in Vienna, the Nuclear Threat Initiative released a report on cyber security at nuclear energy facilities.
While we've yet to have the chance to review the research in depth, it's important to note that efforts to address cyber security at nuclear facilities got underway in earnest shortly after the 9-11 attacks in September 2001, when an industry task force to address the issue was formed that exists to this day. As of the end of 2012, working at the behest of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, every U.S. nuclear plant had implemented a raft of programs to address a wide variety of cyber-threats.

So how do those programs measure up? In October 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security published an unclassified version of a report that analyzed cyber security in the broader U.S. nuclear sector, including radioactive materials and waste facilities. The report concluded that the sector's programs, “combined with the industry’s exacting standards and culture of bac…

A Clean Energy Consensus: Tough But Worth It

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

Building consensus is hard work, especially in energy policy. But when local governments, organized labor, environmental organizations and energy providers all come together, they can create a positive future for everyone. That’s what happened this week in the Illinois legislature in Springfield.

The legislature, in a special session, approved the Future Energy Jobs Bill, with strong bipartisan support. Governor Rauner pointed out in a statement that the bill will save thousands of jobs, and will protect ratepayers from large increases for years to come. With this law, Illinois follows New York in recognizing that like wind and sun, nuclear is a zero-carbon energy source and should be valued as such.

The bill went through many twists and turns over two years. Negotiations over its shape were long and hard partly because of the diverse …

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Why Nuclear Energy is Common Ground in Clean Energy Policy

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

Taking action to slow climate change was a contentious idea before the election, and if the voting on November 8 created a consensus on any issue, it wasn’t this one. President-elect Trump has called for withdrawing from the COP-21 agreement made a year ago in Paris, but as COP-22 got underway Marrakesh, Morocco, more than 300 American companies sent a letter to Mr. Trump affirming their “deep commitment” to adhering to the climate accord.

But there is more common ground here than meets the eye. There are reasons why the march toward cleaner energy will continue, advancing some of the goals in Mr. Trump’s campaign platform, including energy independence, an electric system that helps a strong economy, creation or maintenance of good jobs, a sound national infrastructure, and improvement of America’s export potential. And clean air is a…

Why Saving New York's Nuclear Reactors is Good for Consumers & The Environment

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.
Saving the reactors is good for consumers and good for the environment.

Independent analyses show that the modest payments needed to keep nuclear reactors in the state’s supply mix will mean sharply lower electricity prices, and are the cheapest way to hold down carbon emissions.
The Brattle Group, a consulting firm that specializes in energy, found that electricity in New York would cost $1.7 billion a year extra if the reactors closed. The reason is that the reactors’ output would be replaced by more expensive power.
This is inherent in the method that New York uses to set prices: a computer totals up all the available resources, ranked by price, and the level of demand. The computer, which belongs to the New York State Independent System Operator, determines which generators are needed to satisfy demand, and whatever price is asked …

To Give Developing Nations Clean Air, Give Them Nuclear Energy

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

On Halloween, millions of American kids carried little orange UNICEF boxes from door to door, collecting coins to help provide poor children with food and medicine. But children in the developing world need more. A UNICEF report issued Oct. 31 shows that in addition to the money, the clean air in the boxes would have helped, too. Bad air now rivals malaria and unsafe water as a cause of premature deaths.
The problem cries out for nuclear energy.

The authors of the report estimate that 300 million children live in areas with outdoor air pollution at least six times higher than United Nations standards. That research is based on satellite imagery of outdoor air; millions more live in households where the indoor air is heavy with smoke from cookstoves.

Diseases that are caused by air pollution or made worse by it kill nearly 600,000 childre…

Why There Is No Silver Bullet in Energy Policy

At 4:00 p.m. US EDT, Matt Wald, senior director of policy analysis and strategic planning at NEI, will deliver a speech in Kennewick, Washington at Energy Northwest’s 2016 Public Power Forum. 

The speech will be streamed live on the company's Facebook page. We're sharing an excerpt below. As always, please follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

The energy business is sometimes prone to the silver bullet syndrome, the belief that there’s a single solution in hand if only we’d embrace it. Back when Spencer Abraham was secretary of energy, in the beginning of the Bush administration, he called it the “flavor of the month” club. He said that at various times, methanol, low temperature fuel cells, high temperature fuel cells, superconductors, thin film pv, ethanol from non-food sources, etc, etc, were going to save us.

Today we’ve got new silver bullets, new flavors of the month. Well, I’d like to be unfashionable here. (Actually my wife assures me that I don’t have to try very hard,…

As Hurricane Matthew Approaches Florida, Nuclear Plants Prepare (Bumped with Update)

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

When hurricanes approach, experts tell people to stock up on drinking water and on food that doesn’t require refrigeration, top off their car gas tanks and batten down the hatches. Nuclear reactors also make preparations, with a more formal procedure. With Hurricane Matthew approaching Florida's coast, those procedures are already well advanced.

Plant operators make sure their fuel tanks are topped off too. In this case, it’s diesel fuel, for the emergency generators that would start up and provide electricity for on-site needs if the high-voltage grid went down. The diesels are tested at regular intervals, in foul weather or fair, to assure a reliable back-up supply of electricity.

Plant workers secure anything that could blow away.

The plants are prepared to house and feed a full complement of workers, who would stay at the sites…

Innovation Fuels the Nuclear Legacy: Southern Nuclear Employees Share Their Stories

Blake Bolt and Sharimar Colon are excited about nuclear energy. Each works at Southern Nuclear Co. and sees firsthand how their ingenuity powers the nation’s largest supply of clean energy. For Powered by Our People, they shared their stories of advocacy, innovation in the workplace and efforts to promote efficiency. Their passion for nuclear energy casts a bright future for the industry.

Blake Bolt has worked in the nuclear industry for six years and is currently the work week manager at Hatch Nuclear Plant in Georgia. He takes pride in an industry he might one day pass on to his children.

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?
As a Work Week Manager at Plant Hatch, my primary responsibility is to ensure nuclear safety and manage the risk associated with work by planning, scheduling, preparing and executing work to maximize the availability and reliability of station equipment and systems. I love my job because it enables me to work directly with every department on the plant…

NRC and Palo Verde Focus on Making Nuclear Outages Safer with FLEX

The following is a guest post by Bob Bement, Executive Vice President at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (PVNGS).

Learnings from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March of 2011 are actually impacting U.S. nuclear industry operations today, making a safe fleet even safer.

One of the most significant post-Fukushima initiatives was the implementation of Diverse and Flexible Coping Strategies (FLEX), which utilizes reliable portable equipment to provide operators with a powerful tool box for responding to the most extreme situations. The industry has made great strides in improving safety using the portable equipment to protect against events similar to the one at Fukushima, however there is still significant potential for increasing safety in other areas with this equipment. We’re doing just that at Palo Verde today and, with the support of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), it will be done industry-wide.

Palo Verde achieved a green risk level for the full d…

On Eve of Presidential Debate, Nuclear Energy is One Area of Agreement

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

We’ve said it often: nuclear power is a foundation of a reliable power grid, holds down carbon emissions and is a staple of local economies. But it’s nice to hear it from others as well, and earlier this month, all those points were made by the Washington State Democratic Central Committee.

The committee passed a resolution calling for continued operation of the Columbia Generating Station, a publicly-owned reactor that since 1984 has been churning out 1,190 megawatts of power, enough to meet the needs of about a million households, and about 8.2 percent of the electricity generated in the state in 2014.

The reactor’s output is “continuously available regardless of weather conditions,” the resolution pointed out, and can help back up the rising levels of intermittent solar and wind power. Shutting it would mean the loss of 1,500 jobs di…

What the Colonial Pipeline Teaches Us About Fuel Diversity

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

Six southern governors have declared states of emergency in the last few days, because a gasoline pipeline sprung a leak near Birmingham, Alabama. The pipeline, which runs from East Texas to New Jersey, normally carries 50 million gallons a day, after the leak was discovered on September 9, some gas stations have run dry and others have long lines. Gas prices have surged, and it’s not clear when the pipeline will re-open.

So what is the lesson for those six states (Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia) and the rest of us?

It’s that hand-to-mouth energy systems will intermittently face disruption.

Pipeline ruptures are not unusual. They can be caused by corrosion, or because floods washed away the soil under them, or because something was wrong with the steel before it was installed. Sometimes the pipe was hit by excav…

Innovating to Deliver the Nuclear Promise

The following was written by Maya Chandrashekhar, project manager for Nuclear Steam Supply Systems Engineering at AREVA Inc, for the Powered by Our People promotion. She has been with AREVA and the nuclear industry since 2007.

What you do and why you enjoy doing it?

As a project manager, my main goal is to help our customers solve their engineering problems expeditiously, economically and in the safest manner. I work with AREVA’s engineering, procurement and operations teams, customers’ engineering teams, our suppliers and partners. The synergies and teamwork evolving on these projects are always unique and it is wonderful to see different parties from different companies and different countries work in unison towards fulfilling the nuclear promise. I enjoy the partnerships, collaboration, the unpredictable day to day challenges and anecdotal stories each of these projects bring with them.

What is your vision for the future of nuclear in America? 
The demand for energy in the United Sta…

How Nuclear Energy Can Help Count the Cost of Carbon

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

A Federal appeals court recently ruled against companies that make commercial refrigerators in a case involving energy efficiency standards. What does this have to do with nuclear power? Potentially, a lot.

The Federal government’s goal is to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, which the Intergovernmental Climate on Climate Change and the Environmental Protection Agency have found are destabilizing the climate. But the United States does not have a tax on carbon, or even an overall limit on emissions. This gap in regulations is one reason that nuclear power plants usually do not get credit for the fact that their production is carbon-free.

But the government does have an emerging tool, called the "Social Cost of Carbon." That cost, determined jointly by several federal agencies, puts a dollar number on the damage caused by …

Giving Back to the Community With Nuclear Energy

I started my career at Entergy’s Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Southwest Michigan 11 years ago as a security officer. After seven years, I moved on to become a supervisor of Document Control and Records Management. Now, I’m a senior emergency planner, thanks to the encouragement of my nuclear mentor, Otto Gustafson.

In emergency planning, I’m proud to be on the front lines to ensure the safety of my plant and community. I help organize and facilitate our emergency response organization. I enjoy my job because it allows me to help Palisades be prepared for emergency situations. I know that my coworkers have the knowledge and procedures to secure the plant and keep the community safe, in the case of an emergency. My position challenges me in ways I never dreamed of prior to joining emergency planning and I learn new things every day.

My vision for the future of nuclear is continuing to provide clean energy to my community and state. Nuclear offers great benefits to my community, not…

A Nuclear Family Ensuring Our Clean Energy Future

When Marian Kellett first moved to Tri-Cities, Wash. while in her 20s, she wasn’t too sure about nuclear energy.

“I was so negatively biased toward nuclear power growing up. Our landlord, a Ph.D. at Battelle Northwest, was a good guy who was clearly smart,” Kellett said. “The fact that he chose to raise a family here challenged every (negative) preconception I had about nuclear energy.”

She came to realize that people who were a lot more knowledgeable than she was on the subject were quite comfortable with nuclear energy.
“It was a clarifying moment, and I started to learn more about nuclear instead of just giving in to what I knew from movies and the press.”

Good thing for Marian. That change in perspective led to a nearly 26 year career at Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station, located 10 miles north of Richland, Wash. She started as a temporary clerk seeking a stable working environment and an opportunity to advance if she worked hard. She certainly did that and now is as…