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Showing posts from August, 2009

They Shoot Cooling Towers, Don’t They?

This appears on the MSNBC site in their 10 Years of The Week in Pictures slideshow – this is slide 17 (the pictures are much worth going through, as is the archive . Lots of really good photos.) Here’s the caption: 2002: Rainbow frames German nuclear plant Agriculture and industry meet in a surreal scene beneath a rainbow near the power plant at Grosskrotzenburg, Germany, on Nov. 25. Hmmm! Grosskrotzenburg? Nuclear plant? Who knew! So we looked it up and found this , a closer view of the plant. And, um, it’s a coal-fired plant. There was a nuclear plant in nearby Kahl but it’s been closed since 1985. We did find this tidbit about the cooling towers seen in the picture: At some modern power stations, equipped with flue gas purification like the Power Station Staudinger Grosskrotzenburg and the Power Station Rostock, the cooling tower is also used as a flue gas stack (industrial chimney). At plants without flue gas purification, this causes problems with corrosio

"Nuclear Power Plants Don't Cause Cancer"

Clean Energy Insight busts out the myth that nuclear power plants cause cancer : Regulations imposed on nuclear power plants ensure that both the surrounding population and the workers within plants are exposed to only low levels of radiation. The fact of the matter is that the biological effects due to low levels of radiation exposure are so small that they may not even be detectable. The exact effect, however, depends on the specific type and intensity of the radiation exposure. ... As mentioned earlier, countless studies have shown that populations in close proximity to a nuclear power plant receive negligible levels of radiation exposure relative to general population and are no more susceptible to cancer than the average person. ... The key to dispelling this myth is to acknowledge that, as demonstrated: Any increased risk of cancer around an operating nuclear power plant relies primarily on the adverse effects resulting from any small amount of radiation it might release.

Breathless: Nothing to Say About Nuclear Good News

Well, we always have something to say, but there’s a fair number of interesting articles that come out each day which don’t really require much comment to be fully comprehensible on their own. For example: Investing in new nuclear power plants is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for energy security. But to ensure that America's nuclear renaissance isn't derailed, members should reject the House restriction on loan guarantees for nuclear energy when the bill reaches the Senate floor. This op-ed comes from the San Antonio Express-News and we thought might be responsive to the story we’ve been following on South Texas Project. But no: it’s instead a good editorial on the efficacy of nuclear energy written by Bernard Weinstein, the associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. He knows whereof he speaks, so consider it another link to send your nuclear-deprived friends. --- George Mason University has put

What the IAEA Knows

Here’s a story that started off making us upset at the IAEA and then made us rather more upset at the international players trying strong arm tactics against it. If nothing else, it provides an object lesson in how U.S. news handles conflict between national interests and international bodies. --- The United States and some of its allies are applying pressure on the IAEA to present information it has about Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions: Iran has charged that the documents, many of which came from American, Israeli and European intelligence services, are fabrications. The [IAEA], according to current and former officials there, has studied them with care and determined that they are probably genuine. So why is IAEA keeping further information to itself? But agency officials say that Mohamed ElBaradei, the departing director general, resisted a public airing, fearing that such a presentation would make the agency appear biased toward the West in the effort to impos

Sometimes He Just – Goes – Berserk

Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977) begins with this narration: “The story takes place in our nation’s capitol, when certain isolated groups of people were beginning to ask for a freeze on the building of nuclear power plants and the stockpiling of nuclear weapons. “About six months before our story begins, Congress had appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Senator Sam Foley [E.G. Marshall], to investigate the allegations of these groups, that through campaign contributions and lucrative construction contracts, the nuclear industry had virtually gained control over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the governmental agencies that were supposed to police it. “As our picture opens, Sen. Foley, after months of closed sessions, without warning abruptly cancels the hearing, and in an unusual move, mysteriously seals all the information uncovered during the investigation, as classified top secret, and then quietly gives the green light for the continued development of n

Where in the World To Put Nuclear Energy

David Crane, president and chief executive of NRG Energy, has an op-ed up at the Washington Post in which he leaves aside current energy politics and proposes a closer look not only at technologies that are viable now but also where they are most viable geographically. This last bit strikes us as original if perhaps a touch too definite – after all, he’s right that solar panels and turbines work best in certain parts of the country, but nuclear energy and electric cars aren’t  bound by geography. Here are his bullet points : The West gets the sun. The Midwest gets the wind. The South gets nuclear. The Northeast gets the electric car. Pursue "clean coal" as a national priority. This method gets a lot of good information on the page in an organized way – we have to conclude Crane really likes organization – his sock drawer must be a marvel - so we’ll take it. Here’s his paragraph on nuclear: Democratic policymakers have focused like lasers on win

Round Two on Debating Craig Severance’s New Nuclear Cost Analysis

More than a month ago, Mr. Craig Severance wrote about his lively debate on new nuclear costs with NEI’s Leslie Kass and in response, we posted this . The following week, Mr. Severance responded timely to us and now it’s our turn again. We’re on our second round of posts and the debate has gotten into the weeds. The statements on nuclear from Mr. Severance have become more glaring, in my opinion, so that simply letting just a few of the statements go would be a mistake. Besides the needless analogies and repeating literally half of his rebuttal with previous literature, there are some major interpretation issues Mr. Severance assumes in his latest rebuttal that need airing. (Disclaimer: you're about to read a really long post with no pictures and visuals, hope you enjoy and make it through it!) “Black Box” From Mr. Severance's latest post: The NEI fight-back response is welcome in that we are blowing open the "Black Box" of hidden assumptions about the costs of ne

The Greenest and the Blackest

Monday morning, Let’s see which stories will help us digest our breakfast better and which will make us do a coffee spit take. Two Liberal climate hardliners have strongly opposed putting up amendments to the Government's emissions trading scheme, as internal Opposition battlelines sharpen following the Nationals' intransigence. Backbenchers Dennis Jensen and Cory Bernardi also backed Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce's argument that the Opposition should push the issue of nuclear energy. Those are Austalians talking . Liberals are the conservatives while Laborites are the liberals. A third party, The Nationals, are also conservative (more rural-based than the Liberals) and usually add to coalitions with the Liberals. Got it? Us either. In any event, Labor has the governing majority, so this is a intra-oppo-coalition squabble that will lead up to the next election. Australians politicians talking about nuclear energy? The world has gone upside down under

Thinkers Thinking Thoughts About Nuclear Energy

We get a lot of email with suggestions on what we might want to spotlight on the blog. A fair amount of it comes from think tanks, those bubbling cauldrons of policy wonks, who often go at issues with a partisan zeal that leaves us breathless. (Some think tanks are non-partisan, at least nominally, but it doesn’t take too long to sort out what’s what.) So let’s put on our thinking caps and visit with the tankers. First, here’s something utterly plausible from the Lexington Institute’s Rebecca Grant: Yes, a politician running for office would be thrilled with the numbers routinely posted by Americans polled on whether they support nuclear power. Gallup pollsters started asking the question back in 1994. Since then, nuclear power never dipped below a 50% approval rating except for one slip to 46% in 2001. This year’s Gallup poll finds 59% of Americans favor use of nuclear power as a domestic energy source. … The numbers on nuclear power generation also show only 52% of

Playing Nuclear Games in Ecuador

We were happy to hear but also trepidatious about this news : Russia will help Ecuador develop a nuclear energy program for peaceful purposes, according to a new energy cooperation agreement between the countries, Ecuador’s government said Thursday. Nuclear, good, but why “peaceful purposes?” We mean, the phrase, not the intention, as we don’t generally consider Ecuador a bad actor on the international stage. Might it be that Russia has gotten a little tarred by its association with Iran? Well, the Times’ little story doesn’t say. This one does: Ecuador is building two hydroelectric stations in an attempt to end its dependence on neighbouring Colombia for power. The two countries broke diplomatic ties in March 2008 after Colombian soldiers raided a leftist Colombian guerrilla jungle camp in Ecuadoran territory. All right, so Ecuador has a beef with Colombia and wants to divest itself of its electricity dependence on it. Sounds like energy security – not a bad thi

Scaling Up by Scaling Down in Washington

Energy Northwest has a taker . [T]he Grays Harbor Public Utility District is considering pitching in $25,000 to get in on the ground floor of a new statewide effort to build five to eight small-scale nuclear power plants, according to The Daily World of Aberdeen.  The push is being spearheaded by Energy Northwest, a group of 22 public utility districts and five municipalities. We first talked about Energy Northwest’s movement toward nuclear, and its interest in small units, on June 3. At that time, this was the news: In a May 27 letter obtained by The Associated Press, the [Energy Northwest] consortium asked each of its 25 member public utilities and municipalities to pitch in $25,000 for further research into building one or more small reactors. Those who pay would have first rights to any power produced if a plant is built. So now, The Gray Harbor Public Utility District is in. Good. 26 more to go. (We looked around to see if any other district has thrown in – or re

Nuclear Energy on the Wild River

The Tennessee Valley Authority is on the build : Completion of a second reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant — partially built for $1.7 billion, then abandoned in 1988 for lack of need — is under way. TVA also has been studying the possibility of completing two reactors once under construction at its Bellefonte site in northern Alabama. And TVA has applied for a license that would allow two reactors of a new design — called an AP 1000 by Westinghouse — to be built and operated there. The bulk of the piece is a q&a with TVA’s Ashok Bhatnagar. TVA had the coal ash spill in Kingston, Tenn. last year, so they’ve got a reasonably skittish customer base. Thus, we were interested to see how Bhatnagar dealt with the inevitable used fuel questions.  Here’s how: We have a very good method right now for managing wastes. It's very safe, and we've done that for almost 30 to 40 years. We've stored them in our pools, and then we've found a way to store them out

Running a Nuclear Plant on a Commodore 64?

Well, all right, not really – but welcome retro-computing fans, anyway – but we have been interested in how the nuclear energy utilizes computer systems. We know the basics of security – don’t point crucial systems at the internet is a big one – but on a day-to-day basis, how does the industry interact with computers? What does it do with them that’s unique? Here’s part of the answer: The new agreement, which adds to the original contract signed in April 2008, covers additional work necessary for Accenture to support business processes, including configuration management of detailed design data and management of data associated with required inspections; testing, and analyses; and use of acceptance criteria involved with the construction of nuclear energy facilities. The agreement is between UniStar and Accenture, and it gets a little complicated after that. UniStar is jointly owned by Constellation and EDF, tasked with developing, as its home page says, “the safest, most

Some Weekend Reading

Always learning, always growing, right? The Whitaker Group provides the argument that nuclear energy can buy African countries energy security and more : Supporters see nuclear energy as a way for the continent to demonstrate technical progress and achieve energy sustainability. The move toward nuclear energy is also helping regional integration, as African countries cooperate to achieve the economies of scale required for nuclear power. This involves interconnected grids, joint education and training programs, and sharing technological expertise on safety measures. These are good things, though we hesitate to recommend building plant to “demonstrate technical progress.” To whom and why? We expect African nuclear projects to bring in a good amount of expertise from European, American and Asian partners. And why not? Whitaker can also be a touch condescending: Of course, African countries should not pursue nuclear energy unless they have the capacity to maintain the hi

The Perils of Polling

Rasmussen and Zogby both have polls out that aim to figure out how Americans feel about the climate change legislation travelling through Congress. If Rasmussen happened to call you, you were in a bad mood : In late June, Rasmussen Reports surveyed 1000 adults. The poll showed that only 12% of respondents were strongly in favor, while 25% were strongly opposed. And 42% said that the measure would hurt the economy, while only 19% said it would help. And you were much happier when Zogby caught up with you: Now comes a competing poll from Zogby, which presents a far different picture. In this poll, a stunning 45% of the 1005 respondents were strongly in favor of the climate bill. Only 19% strongly opposed it. What does this mean? Well, Business Week’s John Carey thinks that Zogby put the most positive spin possible on their questions while Rasmussen aimed at “objectivity” – good luck on that one! Carey concludes that “the public really doesn’t yet know what to think.

Show Me the Loan Guarantees

August isn’t the most exciting news month of the year, largely because our Congress people are checking out the beaches back home and braving an evening with the constituents and because everyone else can barely think in the heat much less make news. So we could forgive the readers of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch if their eyes droop a bit when they confront an editorial about loan guarantees. Right at the moment, the climate change bill has (somewhat ironically) lost heat while health care sucks up all the news resources. But it’s still in progress and still important. Stanford Levin, Emeritus Professor of Economics at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville , has the elements about right : Because nuclear power plants are expensive to build — but with relatively low operating costs — loan guarantees are important and may be crucial to their construction. Therefore, it makes little sense that the legislation as now drafted limits any energy source to no more than 30 percent o

From the Land of Unappetizing Energy

Gills Onions is using onion juice from its processing plant to power a 600 kilowatt fuel cell electricity generation unit that will slice $700,000 in energy costs from the bottom line. Why not? After all, they have the onions. The story even answers the question that first popped into our head: if you use onions to run your onion factory, mightn’t you run out of onions to send around to customers? One of Gill’s best-selling products is a line of sliced and diced fresh-cut onions. Because about 40 percent of each onion is unused in the process, the company generates some 150 tons of waste a day. Okay, so they have the onions (though that seems like a lot of unused onion). Then what? The system takes methane from fermented onion juice and converts it to energy that is burned in two fuel cells on-site. Read the rest . It’s pretty neat, although a bit queasy making. Also only really works when you have a lot of onion waste hanging around the plant. Producing bi

Doubling Down on Nuclear with the EIA

The Washington Times, which acts in DC as a counterweight to the more liberal (and far more influential) Washington Post, writes today about a report (the full report in PDF) from the Energy Information Administration on the Waxman Markey climate change bill. For the nuclear industry, its conclusions are pretty spectacular, especially since EIA’s reports are heavily referenced in Congress and help set energy policy. We’ve been reading through it – it’s pretty deep dish – but the bottom line is that nuclear energy – well, let’s let the Times tell you : To satisfy House Democrats' low-cost solution to global warming, Americans would have to double their reliance on nuclear energy by 2030 - a target the nuclear industry says is unlikely and that many environmentalists and Democrats dislike. Now, you might say, Hey, that second part isn’t so good. If we leave out environmentalists for the moment – so predictable, so useful to reporters - the point here is really that a bran

The Inner Limits of Debate: STP and Its Critics

Environmentalist groups do a lot of good work, so we’re happy to help them raise money, if being against nuclear energy helps them do that, but we would suggest that such groups freshen up their messages a bit. Or maybe take the financial hit and allow that maybe nuclear energy isn’t all that ghastly. But one or the other, please. --- So here’s the deal. CPS Energy wants to add units to the South Texas Project , which it co-owns with NRG Energy and Austin Energy: The recommendation to the CPS Energy Board of Trustees comes after three years of detailed study of various energy options.  It also aligns with the Strategic Energy Plan, CPS Energy’s four-objective roadmap for satisfying future energy requirements. In CPS’s view, electricity demand will outstrip supply in its area of Texas (including San Antonio) soon enough, and CPS has already invested heavily in solar, wind and hydro power. So now, it’s time for more nuclear energy. We like the idea (big surprise), but t

Misinformation 101, India and Viet-Nam

From a section at called Info 101 comes this bit from Michele Mello aiming to determine if nuclear energy is “clean”: Some people consider nuclear power to be a clean energy resource and claim it has no GHG emissions. However nuclear energy is the costliest energy resource of all. The cost to mine, transport, refine, and build infrastructure to create nuclear power is astronomical, as will be elaborated later. Much like fossil fuels, uranium is not a renewable resource and once it runs out there isn’t anymore. Here’s a contest: spot the errors in this one paragraph and then hope this doesn’t really represent info 101. At the least, Ms. Mello could have bypassed the journalistic “Some people claim” construction. Some people claim I’m a god in my own time, but everyone else would be right to wonder who those morons people are. To her credit, Mello is attempting to engage the issue – she also looks at hydro and hydrogen. We think her facts are off, but not her si

USEC Gets a Reprieve

Or even wins. Note the two posts about USEC below – it’s all about the company’s American Centrifuge project and DOE’s rejection of its loan guarantee application to move it to the next stage – and USEC’s almost ferocious response to that rejection. And now, DOE issues a press release : The Department of Energy and USEC Inc. today announced an agreement to delay a final review on the company’s loan guarantee application for the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, OH. There’s a good deal of give on both sides of the issue. From USEC: As it has indicated, the Department sees promise in the ACP technology, but USEC’s application does not meet all the statutory and regulatory standards that would permit the agency to grant a loan guarantee at this time.  Both DOE and USEC recognize that meeting these criteria will likely take six months or more. Okay, so USEC accepts that the application needs more work. From DOE: The Department plans to defer review of the applic

From the Annals of Bad Arguments

Anyone can make a bad argument at any time. But when you take some of the most negative elements of your case and try to spin them into a positive, the results can be – er, more negative. So, here’s Joe Lucas of Americans for Clean Coal Electricity : "I can take you to places in eastern Kentucky where community services were hampered because of a lack of flat space — to build factories, to build hospitals, even to build schools. In many places, mountain-top mining, if done responsibly, allows for land to be developed for community space." Love to go on that tour, Mr. Lucas. h/t ThinkProgress Cleared mountaintops in Kentucky. We’ll let the coal people take care of themselves, but the article in The Guardian containing the quote is quite interesting – do go over there for the whole thing. There was chatter a couple of years ago to plant windmills on cleared mountaintops in West Virginia, be we think NIMBY issues killed that one.