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Showing posts from July, 2009

USEC Takes It to the Streets

We generally think protests and protesting are good things. They are ways of getting a message out and trying to bring attention to issues. We don’t even mind when a nuclear power plant is protested – after all, it’s a great opportunity to educate the protesters and even try a counter-protest. Seems so American, so small-d democratic. Even when it threatens to go small-a anarchic, we would still tilt in favor of an unruly public gathering. This came to mind while we were reading and thinking about a story in Politico this morning that talked about the increased rowdiness at political town hall meetings. It was Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) whose encounter with a disgruntled constituent brought the issue to the fore. But now, some pols are cancelling the meetings, others are ensuring there is a police presence if they do have one and getting escorted to their cars. It’s as if they’d never heard of a old fashioned free-for-all. But at least two politicians get it. “Town halls are

NEI's 2009 Top Industry Practice Awards on Video - Number Four: "Robotic Inspectors"

Below is the last video of four videos NEI has released over the past month highlighting top industry practices. Hope everyone has found these videos as informative and intriguing as I have. This video, “Robotic Inspectors,” highlights new inspection devices developed at the Vermont Yankee nuclear energy station to closely analyze the facility’s steam dryer. Entergy Nuclear employees at Vermont Yankee are recipients of the Maintenance Process Award for developing innovative tooling for the inspection of a boiling water reactor steam dryer. The steam dryer is located in the top of the reactor. Entergy Nuclear partnered with AREVA NP Inc. to develop two remotely operated inspection systems, one to inspect the outer diameter of the dryer and the other to inspect the inner diameter. The outer diameter innovation uses a rail-and-trolley system with a telescoping mast and camera to inspect all 213 welds and components. The inner diameter method uses an underwater crawler with a telescopin

Environmentalists Among the Ruffians

Senate's Clean Energy Deployment Plan: A Nuclear Slush Fund in the Making? That’s the title of an article on Solve It makes the somewhat juvenile mistake of imagining that something that works against their narrow band of interests is malignant, in this case further metastasized by evil lobbyists. Here’s a bit: U.S. lawmakers are considering legislation that would create a new independent federal agency to promote government investment in clean energy. But watchdogs are raising questions about the way the proposed agency is structured, and whether it would be unfair to taxpayers and bad for the environment. Among their concerns are its bias toward nuclear power — a critical issue for the South, which is at the center of the nuclear industry's planned revival. They’re talking about the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA) and of course nuclear energy is there – it is a clean energy. Not renewable, but that’s not CEDA’s brief – carbon emissi

Snafu: Situation Normal at DOE…

…but all fouled up at USEC, the company that enriches a lot of the uranium in the United States. The Department of Energy has turned down USEC’s loan guarantee application, making it difficult-to-impossible, says USEC, for it to acquire funding to finish its American Centrifuge project. This has led to a pair of dueling press releases that are fascinatingly disjunctive. Let’s look at USEC first: “We are shocked and disappointed by DOE’s decision. The American Centrifuge met the original intent of the loan guarantee program in that it would have used an innovative, but proven, technology, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and created thousands of  immediate jobs across the United States. The American Centrifuge is not a new idea. It was first ideated by the Department of Energy in the 1970s as a next generation enrichment facility and abandoned after a successful test in the 80s. USEC, which spun out of DOE as a private company, reactivated the project and, in its words, impr

A Critique of Craig Severance's New Nuclear Cost Paper

A couple of weeks ago the Foundation for Nuclear Studies hosted a debate on the Hill between NEI’s Leslie Kass and Colorado’s Craig Severance (author of a recent controversial study on new nuclear plant economics ). Mr. Severance summed up the event nicely in a post he published last week : It was a very cordial discussion and afterward we all shook hands and posed for pictures. Yet, the differences were sharp. Yes they were. I was at the debate and right off the bat Mr. Severance was hitting zingers to the nuclear industry on costs. No doubt the industry had a large learning curve to overcome in the past. Yet look where we’re at today: 104 nuclear reactors generating 20% of the US’ electricity representing only 10% of the US’ total installed capacity while operating more than 90% of the time. No other source of energy does that. Assumptions Matter The main point of Mr. Severance’s presentation was, of course, to show the estimated enormous expense to build a new nuclear plant. Est

Vroom! It’s the The Nuclear Car!!

Today was picture perfect for Newman Wachs Racing at the Harrah’s Autobahn Grand Prix Presented by Mazda. Atlantic Championship drivers John Edwards and Jonathan Summerton finished 1-2 for the first of two races this weekend at the Autobahn Country Club, which is just a short distance from the team’s headquarters in Mundelein. In front of the team’s friends, family members, and nearly 60 employees of team owner Eddie Wachs’ other companies, both drivers performed brilliantly and brought home the team’s first ever one-two result. And while this is good news for Edwards and Summerton (and Newman Wachs), why mention it here? Because both men were driving the Nuclear Clean Air Energy car, albeit minus a flux capacitor . Here is co-sponsor Entergy on the car: Entergy Nuclear is in its second year of the “Nuclear Clean Air Energy” campaign, having reached nearly two million people on the Atlantic Championship Series and across U.S. college campuses during that time. Our goal

The Bird the Cat Dragged In

Some Monday nuclear tastiness: Well, we don’t know : The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is willing to support Kenya in exploiting nuclear power as a source of energy. IAEA Director General, Dr. Mohammed El Baradei, said Friday that in order for Kenya to achieve rapid industrialization there was the need to add nuclear energy in its current energy mix. "Kenya might have other sources of energy but in order to industrialize faster, there is need for nuclear energy," Dr. Baradei said. What we can’t tell from the story is whether Kenya wants nuclear energy or if Dr. El Baradei is making some stray comments – other stories on this seem to root from this one. We think he’s saying that the IAEA is offering Kenya help in developing a domestic industry. Then we came to this: Dr. Baradei was speaking when he met President Mwai Kibaki at his Harambee House office here late Thursday. Quite a chatty guy, our Dr. El Baradei. These are members of the

The Windmill Goes Round and Round

Here’s Greenpeace’s Executive Director John Sauven on the British energy plant: "If this plan becomes a reality, it will create hundreds of thousands of green jobs and make Britain a safer and more prosperous country. This will be good for the British economy and, in the long-run, save householders money as we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and gas. This is likely part of what pleases Sauven: Up to £180m would be made available to promote wind and tidal power – this includes setting up a low-carbon economic area in the south-west to promote marine technologies and money for up to 3,000 wind turbines off the UK's shores by 2020. And why not? As Britain reworks its energy regime, renewables are extremely valuable – both in themselves and for gaining enough traction and resources to work on issues of scale and reliability. By 2020, those 3000 turbines might be fewer or might be capable of generating more electricity than currently anticipated. A big order

The British Present An Energy Plan

Great Britain released last week its analogue of the Obama administration’s energy bill, called the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan. It’s goal is to cut carbon emissions 34% by 2020, using 1990 levels as a baseline. That’s more ambitious than the American plan, but starts from a different place economically and industrially. To put it another way, it’s easier for the Brits to contemplate such a steep decline in such a short time – and it still qualifies as very optimistic. Here’s what the report say about nuclear energy : The Government is streamlining he planning and regulatory approvals processes for new nuclear power stations. It is currently assessing sites where developers would like to bring new nuclear power stations into operation by 2025, and this assessment will be included in a draft National Policy Statement for nuclear power, which the Government will consult on later in 2009. So it’s in the mix. How much in the mix? We think the balance of nuclear and renewables

NEI's 2009 Top Industry Practice Awards on Video - Number Three: "The Secret Is Plastic"

Over the last two weeks NEI has released two videos out of four highlighting the top industry practice awards that were given out at our annual nuclear conference back in May. Here's our third video installment of the series : “The Secret Is Plastic,” highlights new applications of plastic piping at two nuclear plants that enhance their operation and decrease the cost of maintaining plant water systems. Duke Energy employees at the Catawba nuclear station in South Carolina and AmerenUE employees at the Callaway nuclear plant in Missouri shared the Materials and Services Process Top Industry Practice Award for the use of high-density polyethylene piping for plant water systems. Enjoy!

Nuclear Energy in Australia? Someday – Maybe

Bloomberg reports on the growing realization in Australia that its ambitious carbon emission reduction goals may be hard to achieve without nuclear energy. Well, those with a horse in the race definitely think so : “As more and more Australians get involved in the whole climate change debate, as they learn about what’s happening around the world where the uptake of nuclear power is increasing quite strongly, they’ll accept the attraction of nuclear power and over time embrace it,” That comes from Ziggy Switkowski , head of the nation’s main nuclear research institute , and you really wouldn’t expect him to say different, would you? So what does the government think? “We have a very clear view that Australia is blessed with conventional energy resources, as well as renewable energy resources and our focus as a nation should be on developing those technologies in renewable energy,” Wong told reporters in Canberra. “That’s why we have got our renewable energy target, to dr

A Little More Nuclear, Please

And we really mean a little more, as a new set of flowcharts from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory suggest that folks used more renewable energy and a little more nuclear energy in 2008 than 2007. Science Daily reports : Nuclear energy also saw a slight increase from 8.41 quads [quadrillion BTUs] in 2007 up to 8.45 quads in 2008. While no new nuclear power plants came online in 2008, the existing plants had less down time. Over the last 20 years, the downtime for maintenance and refueling at nuclear power plants had been decreasing. "There's an incentive to operate as much as possible," [A.J.] Simon [, an LLNL energy systems analyst,] said. "It's a smart thing to do. You can't earn revenue by selling electricity when you're down." Gulp! I’m sure if Mr. Simon talked to any nuclear energy supplier, he’d learn that less downtime for maintenance has everything to do with the growing capabilities of the work force and the developme

It’s Friday and the Mood Is Miscellaneous

Or maybe pusillanimous. --- Gizmodo takes a quick look at 1979: the Year We Wussed Out of Nuclear: The timing of the movie coming out tying in with Three Mile Island may have been lucky for the producers, who suddenly had a huge blockbuster hit on their hands, but it was less lucky for boosters of safe nuclear energy. Since that meltdown, the production of nuclear power plants has gone down significantly despite the fact that there were no deaths or even recorded cases of cancer caused by Three Mile Island—the amount of radiation that the people near the plant were exposed to is said to be similar to that of getting an X-ray. Too short to really make an argument, the post seems to want to blame The China Syndrome and Three Mile Island equally for the hibernation in building new nuclear plants. We’d likely stress the movie less – movie alarmism usually has a brief half-life – and Chernobyl and the No Nukes movement (that also spawned a movie, in 1980) that arose from TMI.

An Update on Two Competing Models of Radiation: Linear No-Threshold vs Hormesis

The author of one of my favorite nuclear blogs, Rod Adams , found a new and compelling document explaining the beneficial health effects of low doses of radiation . The document has generated quite the number of comments at his site and I could see why. Here are some good quotes and background info from the paper (pdf): In the early stages of nuclear development, more than 60 years ago, the world regulatory agencies (e.g. ICRP) had little understanding of the mechanisms by which nuclear radiation interacts with living things. They observed an excess incidence of cancer death following high dose exposures and measured a linear relationship between dose and cancer mortality in the high dose range. They were unable to observe excess cancers in the low dose range, so they assumed that excess cancer is proportional to dose in that range, all the way down to zero dose. That is, they made a linear extrapolation from evidence in the high range down through the low range, where there is no ev

Setting the Watts Bar Too High

The Sierra Club, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the Tennessee Environmental Council, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and We the People Inc. on Wednesday asked the NRC for permission to intervene against TVA's bid for an operating license at the Rhea County site [a.k.a. the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant]. The groups contend the Unit 2 reactor could harm water resources, including the Tennessee River, and risk public health and safety because of fundamental weaknesses in the reactor's four-decade-old design. This comes from . Apparently, a gathering of environmental groups on one issue is a bit unusual: [Sara] Barczak [of the the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy] believes it is "pretty unique for Tennessee" for several environmental groups to come together on an issue like Watts Bar, but is glad for the support. "We are very pleased to get some of our longtime allies to join in the fight." Sometimes we wonder if

The Story Told by Failed Amendments

As we’re sure you know from Schoolhouse Rock, when a bill goes through committee, members can propose amendments to enhance this aspect or that of the given legislation. In the House, amendments are sent to the Rules Committee and accepted or rejected there, not in committee or on the floor. The Senate does it in committee and again in the full chamber, where it can become a bit of a free-for-all. (The amendment process is where a lot of pork can get into a bill, but also a lot of good refinements.) In the process surrounding the 2010 Appropriations bill in the House, this is an opportunity for Republicans to get their priorities into mostly Democratic-written legislation (and also Democrats not on the Appropriations committee) – it was, of course, the other way around before 2006 – and hope the amendments are not then voted down by the Rules committee. We’re not Congressional historians, but we suspect the element of show is important here, and most amendments from the opposition

NEI's 2009 Top Industry Practice Awards on Video - Number Two

Last week, NEI released the first of four videos highlighting the top industry practice awards that were given out at our annual nuclear conference back in May. This week we have a new video to show : The second video, “Global Ties Boost Nuclear Plant Performance,” recognizes Exelon Nuclear employees who established a very successful international technical exchange program. Enjoy!

As Said by Boxer to Alexander

To give a sense of the impact of Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.)insistence on nuclear energy, as noted below, consider the response of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in our Twitter feed to your right. Here’s the whole quote – it ran longer than 140 characters: You are suggesting a command and control: We order you to build 100 nuclear power plants. $700 billion cost to the ratepayers. No tax credits for them whatsoever. And you come up with other ideas, some of which I support, but costly to taxpayers. All I’m saying is, it is our belief that, if we do this right, we’re going to have those plants built – more plants than you want – and believe me, I’m not the biggest fan of nuclear energy. I believe it has to be part of the solution. Boxer offers enough pushback to establish bona fides, but she yields to reality in the end. Boxer also seems to have picked up on Sen. Tom Udall’s (D-N.M.) comment last week: You put a price on carbon, what you end up doing is sending a ver

Britain: Renewables No, Nuclear Yes

"The CBI's report is a very good piece of work," said Steve Holliday, the National Grid chief executive. "There is no difference in the cost of implementing its model, but its carbon reduction is greater and there's a better energy mix." That comes from the Telegraph , reporting on a report issued by the Confederation of British Industries (CBI), which looks to us like that country’s version of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. (And what would that energy mix be? The study calls for the Government to change the energy mix within the next 12-15 months. Its suggestions include raising nuclear spend by £15bn and carbon capture by £7bn, while cutting investment in expensive gas projects by £11bn and wind by £12bn. And what would those savings be? The business lobby group argues that this alternative path will lead to an 83pc reduction in carbon emissions compared with a projected drop under the Government's plans of just 64pc by 2030. We’l

Lamar Alexander’s Nuclear Blueprint

Yesterday, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced at the National Press Club a document he entitled Blueprint for 100 New Nuclear Power Plants in 20 Years. It’s as full an explication of Alexander’s ideas as you could want to see. Here’s the gist of it : Republican United States Senators offer a different solution, a low-cost plan for clean energy based upon these four steps: building 100 nuclear power plants within 20 years; electric cars for conservation; offshore exploration for natural gas and oil; doubling energy research and development to make renewable energy cost competitive The House plan will raise prices and send jobs overseas looking for cheap energy. Nuclear energy and electric/hybrid cars make a great combination and answers to worries about the need for electricity for a mammoth new (if still potential) market. Although we’re not sure one would have to fight for offshore drilling if cars found another energy source, it show

James Inhofe Squares the Warming Circle

Politico is running a package of energy related articles in their current print edition and also on its Web site. While the articles as a group are a bit lumpy – there are chats with Barbra Streisand and Carole King, two singers whose, um, records we respect – there are also a fair number of policymakers weighing in. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has a run at nuclear energy: Listen carefully in Washington, and almost everyone agrees that nuclear energy must be a part of our future domestic energy mix, and for good reason: Nuclear energy is the world’s largest source of carbon-free energy, generating over 70 percent of our emission-free electricity here in the U.S. Mmm, honey. More please: Not only will nuclear energy give a boost to our economy, it will also produce new jobs. Mark Ayers, president of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department, has stated: “We will work closely with the nuclear energy industry to help pursue the adoption of a diverse American

What do thorium reactors and girls who can cite the periodic table from memory have in common?

Answer: Kirk Sorensen. Kirk just got back from England where he gave a successful and compelling presentation on liquid fluoride thorium reactors at the Manchester Town Hall . I should have known right from the moment I walked in the building that this was going to go well. Right inside the main door are two large statues; one of James Prescott Joule , the famous physicist and thermodynamicist, and the other of John Dalton , chemist and pioneer of atomic theory. As I walked by, Joule whispered that I better tell them a bit about thermodynamics, and Dalton reminded me that chemists could build the best reactor of all. ... I went through the process of converting thorium to energy and showed how a LFTR uses liquid fluoride fuel to carry the uranium and thorium in a two-fluid arrangement designed to follow the natural processes of thorium's conversion to protactinium, uranium, and then to energy. I described the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment and how it demonstrated that this was a

Life’s Little Ironies

A British wind utility, Ecotricity , and French nuclear company EDF are fighting for the rights to a “green” union jack to use at the 2012 London Olympics – EDF is the “sustainability partner” for the Olympics, so that’s pretty green all the way around. (EDF is the majority stakeholder in British Energy, hence their interest in this.) On the Wind Energy Planning Web site, the news story about the squabble concludes : EDF have submitted a trademark application for their green union jack - however Ecotricity is retaliating by taking the company to the high court. EDF energy are 85% owned by the French State. They are the worlds third largest producer of nuclear waste. It’s all a matter of perspective, we guess. We reckon we would support EDF if we had much feeling for the set-to, but let’s be generous – and disinterested – and wish it and Ecotricity equal luck. Either way, we’ll see a lot of green Union Jacks. --- We, of course, have no beef with anyone who believes the Ear