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Showing posts from March, 2011

Japan: Energy Plants All in A Row

An interesting article at the Mainichi Daily News suggests a series of problems with nuclear energy in Japan – or its management, anyway. This is the list of items: overconcentration of reactors in limited areas, dangerous stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel near reactors, and the inability to easily share electricity across eastern and western Japan. The ones that puzzled me when the Fukushima plant entered the news was the first (if the Japanese use dry cask storage, the second is no problem at all). I don’t believe Americans or French site plants the same way as the Japanese do, but this list suggests that weaknesses in the grid argued in favor of keeping reactors and power plants bunched in fairly tight formation along either side of the island. I’m not competent to know if this really represents a problem – Japan hasn’t had a significant problem in the forty or more years it’s used nuclear energy, and the blows taken by Fukushima Daiichi might relate to siting or to i

Quick Hits: At Indian Point, Three Plants, The German Psyche

CNN’s Alan Chernoff goes into a nuclear plant – New York’s Indian Point, in this case – and nothing falls over on him and he doesn’t topple into the used fuel pool (which he takes a look at). In fact, he finds a spotless, well run industrial structure. Oh, and extremely secure. Useful type of story for reporters to be doing – folks are probably pretty curious about the inside of a plant right about now. --- At a House hearing, NRC Commissioner Gragory Jaczko loosely identified three nuclear plants the commission believes need further oversight: Three U.S. nuclear power plants need increased oversight from federal regulators because of safety problems or unplanned shutdowns, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Thursday, although officials said all are operating safely. NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko said the three plants — in South Carolina (H.B Robinson), Kansas (Wolf Creek) and Nebraska (Fort Calhoun)— "are the plants we are most concerned about" among the

Appeal of Small Reactors May Grow Following Fukushima Accident

Small, scalable reactors have captured the interest of industry and government alike. Their diverse uses, ease of deployment and relatively low cost are selling points, making the clean-air benefits of nuclear energy available to more companies in more places—and the first prototypes are not as far off as some may think. Russia is set next year to be the first in the world to deploy an innovative small nuclear power plant, aboard a barge docked offshore from the Kamchatka Peninsula. The safety attributes of small reactors—less than 300 megawatts—are drawing increased attention in light of the Fukushima accident. Some designs place major components underground, out of reach of such natural phenomena as tsunamis and floods. And because these plants contain a relatively small amount of fuel, they produce less heat and radiation than large plants. Small plants also are seen as more affordable to build than their 1,000-plus megawatt counterparts. Ernest Moniz, director of MIT’s Energy In

What the Poll Shows

We’ve looked at a few polls over the last couple of weeks and will reiterate about the new poll from Harris Interactive that I made about the earlier ones: taking a survey when a story about the subject is hot in the news is not going to yield a very believable result. After the situation has stabilized and the media inflammation of the public has receded – well, that’s the time for a poll. In this case, the numbers are pretty good : Three weeks after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled four nuclear reactors in Japan, Americans are displaying only a slight shift in their opinions on nuclear power, a new Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll shows. The U.S. public is almost equally divided on whether or not more nuclear power plants should be built on American soil, with 41 percent supporting the idea and 39 percent opposed. This represents only a slight change from three years ago, when 49 percent supported nuclear plants and 32 percent opposed them, according to a new H

Afternoon Update

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake launch page UPDATE AS OF 11:30 A.M. EDT, THURSDAY, MARCH 31: A minuscule amount of radioactive iodine was detected in milk in Spokane, Wash., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported . The agency said the level detected-0.8 picocuries per liter-is more than 5,000 times lower than the level that would prompt any action by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to pull milk from grocery stores. "These types of findings are to be expected in the coming days and are far below levels of public health concern, including for infants and children," the EPA said. The EPA has increased its nationwide monitoring of milk, rain water and drinking water (see the agency's website for information on radiation air monitoring). Fukushima Daiichi Tokyo Electric Power Co. is increasing its efforts to remove radioactive water that has pooled inside concrete vaults that house pipes near the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. M

Safety Is a Process, Not a Recipe

ABC News tried a story on its Nightline program to suggest that the NRC finding a problem at a nuclear problem and the plant operator then fixing the problem represents a safety hazard. Aside from the the counterintuitive nature of that approach – that having to replace a nozzle puts all out lives at some kind of risk – the overall implication is that a nuclear plant can never ever have a problem, no matter how small. After all, so many people – which is to say, none – have been endangered by American nuclear power plants. To ABC’s credit, though, it has gone to the industry to learn a few salient facts. There are 104 U.S. nuclear power facilities, and Anthony Pietrangelo of the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry association, said, "The plants are very safe. There have been no abnormal occurrences reported by the NRC in their annual report to the federal government from 2005 to 2009." That's true, but Lochbaum and the Union of Concerned Scientists point to

Lively Debate Between George Monbiot and Helen Caldicott

Democracy Now hosted a debate between pro-nuclear convert, George Monbiot, and anti-nuclear activist, Helen Caldicott. Text can be found here . Here’s one of George’s notable quotes: When it comes to low-level radiation, unfortunately, environmentalists have been responsible for quite a similar approach by making what appear to be unjustifiable and excessive claims for the impact of that radiation. That is not in any way to minimize what is—what could well happen as a result of the events in Fukushima, but what it does say is we have to use the best possible science to work out what the likely effects are to be and not engage in what could be far more devastating to the lives of people in Japan: a wild overreaction in terms of the response in which we ask the Japanese people to engage. I’d say Mr. Monbiot did quite well holding his own, Dr. Caldicott, on the other hand, well, er, watch and decide… Update, 4/1/11 9:50 AM EDT: Rod Adams has a great recap of his debunkings of

The German Nuclear Freak-Out

Germany had an election this past weekend. How did that go ? The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has pledged to press ahead with a review of nuclear power's future in Germany after her coalition suffered a "very painful" defeat in a weekend state election dominated by Japan's nuclear crisis. Despite the embarrassment of losing a region held by her party, the Christian Democratic Union, for 58 years, Merkel played down the result's national significance, saying she had no plans to reshuffle her cabinet. That region, Baden-Wuerttemberg, is one of the most conservative in Germany, so it going to the Greens is exceptionally dramatic. It’s the first time the environmental party has won any state election (I believe). This doesn’t mean Merkel and her coalition are out of power, but  for now, this is the rhetoric: Germany could well become the first major industrial power to abandon nuclear energy entirely: likely in the next 10-15 years. But others

Quick hits: IAEA Confab, AREVA in Japan

This speaks for itself : The International Atomic Energy Agency will host a high-level conference on nuclear safety from June 20 to 24 in Vienna to discuss lessons learned from Japan's nuclear crisis, Kyodo News reported Wednesday, citing the agency's director general. Yukiya Amano said he expects conference participants to make an initial assessment of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, which was hard hit by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11. Participants will likely include representatives of various countries' foreign affairs, energy and other ministries, IAEA sources told Kyodo. --- The CEO of French nuclear reactor maker Areva says she will meet with Japanese officials to improve the situation at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Speaking to an NHK reporter on her arrival at Narita Airport, near Tokyo, on Wednesday afternoon, Anne Lauvergeon pledged full cooperation. She brough

Shelter from the Storm

When you need it, you need it : As a massive tsunami ravaged this Japanese fishing town, hundreds of residents fled for the safest place they knew: the local nuclear power plant. That would be the Onagawa plant. But now that the folks at Onagawa know what happened at Fukushima, they want to leave, right? "I'm very happy here, everyone is grateful to the power company," said Mitsuko Saito, 63, whose house was leveled in the tsunami. "It's very clean inside. We have electricity and nice toilets." … Within the nuclear plant, facilities are pristine, electricity flows directly from Japan's national grid, and evacuees can use its dedicated phone network to make calls. "The general public isn't normally allowed inside, but in this case we felt it was the right thing to do," company spokesman Yoshitake Kanda said. He’s right. It was. "It's pretty spread out. People are just kind of lying around and relaxi

President Obama: A Secure Energy Future

President Barack Obama gave a major address today at Washington’s Georgetown University on energy issues. The full transcript is here . At it, he introduced his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, which takes an all-of-the-above approach to energy, with an eye to ramping down foreign imports in favor of domestic production – of oil, particularly. So today, I’m setting a new goal: one that is reasonable, achievable, and necessary.  When I was elected to this office, America imported 11 million barrels of oil a day.  By a little more than a decade from now, we will have cut that by one-third. I set this goal knowing that imported oil will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time.  And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, we can partner with neighbors like Canada, Mexico, and Brazil, which recently discovered significant new oil reserves, and with whom we can share American technology and know-how. He continues: All of

Afternoon Report

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake launch page: UPDATE AS OF 12 P.M. EDT, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30: Operators of nuclear power stations in Japan have been urged to ensure their facilities have emergency power sources. Industry Minister Banri Kaieda Wednesday attributed the nuclear emergency in Japan to the loss of cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the Japan Atomic Industry Forum reported. He told utility companies they should have mobile generators on hand to cool their nuclear reactors as an added safety measure. Kaieda said the utilities should confirm the steps they have taken and conduct drills within a month or stop operating their nuclear facilities. According to the NHK news service , many companies are introducing emergency power generators to their facilities. Some have conducted drills for cooling operations based on a situation in which emergency generators fail. At the Fukushima Daiichi site, workers continued to inject fresh water into reacto

Rep. Markey Proposes a Bill

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) proposes a bill : Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced a new bill Tuesday that would overhaul U.S. nuclear safety and impose a moratorium on all new nuclear reactor licenses or license extensions until new safety requirements are in place that reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima reactor meltdown. A bill like this is what you’d expect after a situation like the one in Japan. Markey raises the rhetorical level a bit in introducing it: The Nuclear Power Plant Safety Act of 2011 will help ensure that the U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors is safe,” Markey said.  “We should not wait for an American meltdown to beef up American nuclear safety measures.  We must heed the lessons to be learned from the nuclear meltdown in Japan and ensure nuclear safety here in America.” The NRC is conducting a safety review now, which would seem to fulfill some of Markey’s goals. And since it would take a new plant awhile to come online, approving license ap

Editorial Round-Up

From The Macomb (Mich.) Daily: The agonizing restatement of Murphy's law at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northern Japan threatens to delay once again a promising expansion of our own nuclear power generating capacity. It should prompt a check and recheck of plans and proposals for new nuclear plants in this nation. But we question if anyone can offer well-founded objections to nuclear plants of improved designs in areas which are not seismically active. Me, either - even in seismically active areas, actually. We won’t know until much later the role the earthquake played at Fukushima, but the tsunami added a wild card that most regions of the United States don’t have to worry about. In any event: Nuclear energy, for all its opposition, has some useful life left. Solar and wind power in the long run can provide the cleanest, safest source of energy. But until they can be put to use on a larger scale, we should use whatever other clean energy is at hand. F

Evening Update

UPDATE AS OF 5:00 P.M. EDT, TUESDAY, MARCH 29: From NEI's Japan Earthquake Launch page : Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that cooling water is being added to the spent storage fuel pools at reactor 2 and 3. Reactor 2 was using a temporary motor-driven pump and reactor 3 was using a truck to pump the freshwater into the fuel storage pools. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that plans are being made to begin pumping freshwater into the fuel storage pool at reactor 4 starting today. IAEA said that 63 food samples taken March 24-29 in eight prefectures (Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Miyagi, Niigata, Tochigi and Yamagata) were below regulatory limits set by the Japanese government for iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137. New analyses of seawater about 1,000 feet from the discharge point of reactor 1 through 4 show “a significant decrease” in radiation levels from March 26, IAEA said. Readings for iodine-131 went from 2,000,000 picocuries (1 picocurie is one-trilli

Lessons Learned from Japan

Constellation Energy Nuclear Group's Chief Nuclear Officer Maria Korsnick discusses lessons learned for the industry following the recent events in Japan. Visit ‪ ‬ to learn more about industry actions. Visit the NEI Network for a lot more videos.

When You Don't Have Bad News...

... make some up. From The Guardian (U.K.), our old friend in nuclear alarmism: The radioactive core in a reactor at the crippled Fukushima  nuclear power  plant appears to have melted through the bottom of its containment vessel and on to a concrete floor, experts say, raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site. Experts? Really? Well, one, and he was an expert 40 years ago: Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have "lost the race" to save the reactor, but said there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe. If he was head of safety research then, that was 1971. So it's a reach, at best. No one is quoted to agree or disagree with Lahey, so the story is just the opinion of one fellow - a fine fellow, we're sure, but still. The only other "expert" quoted in the story is  Robert G

Concerns and Then There Are Concerns

And the Premier of New Brunswick, Canada  doesn't have any : The premier of New Brunswick says he has no concerns about resuming nuclear power generation in his province, despite the nuclear crisis in Japan. And why might this be? Premier David Alward said Monday he knows the incident in Japan has caused some concern over his province's nuclear facility. "I'm concerned about confidence that could be undermined because of that," he said. "What I can assure the people of New Brunswick is the work that's being done at Lepreau is with full regulatory process, full transparency and in a very safe way." Lepreau has been offline for awhile for refurbishment (so it can stay in operation another 30 years), and work continues to return it to service in 2012. Read the rest of the story - they're well aware of concerns, but apparently, the plant is not vulnerable to the problems experienced in Japan. --- And Simone di Silvestro, race car driver, seems we

Tuesday Afternoon Update

From NEI's Japan Earthquake launch page : UPDATE AS OF 3 PM EDT, TUESDAY, MARCH 29: Plutonium found in five soil samples at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex originated from uranium fuel at the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. has determined. The level of radiation from the plutonium is not considered dangerous to human health. The company on March 28 said that some of the plutonium—which is at a very low level—could have been the result of fallout from atomic weapons tests during the Cold War. Fresh water is being injected into reactors 1, 2 and 3 to cool fuel in the reactors. Workers have switched from diesel fire pumps to temporary electric pumps to move water into the reactors. U.S. Navy barges filled with fresh water have arrived at the site with much-needed supplies of fresh water to pump into the reactors and used nuclear fuel storage pools. TEPCO also continues to clean contaminated water from the basements of the turbine buildings at the three reac

Former NRC Commissioner - “Keep calm and carry on with nuclear energy”

Jeff Merrifield, former NRC commissioner, has a post in The Hill’s Congress Blog reflecting on the reactions of anti-nuclear folks after 9/11 to their reactions today to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident: While many are taking measured responses to the recent events in Japan, there has been one predictable exception.   Members of the anti-nuclear community and their supporters in Congress have taken to the media to demand that some or all of our nation’s 104 nuclear power plants be shut down and construction of new nuclear power plants be stopped.     As I listened to some of their arguments, I had a déjà vu moment, remembering several of these same arguments from many of the same individuals immediately after the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center. I was serving as a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at that time and remember vividly testifying before House and Senate committees on security issues. Members of Congress spok

Tuesday Morning Update

From NEI's Japan Earthquake launch page : UPDATE AS OF 11 A.M. EDT, TUESDAY, MARCH 29: Japan's nuclear regulatory agency says Tokyo Electric Power Co. needs to balance injecting cooling water into the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and preventing contaminated water from seeping out, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum reported Tuesday. On Monday, TEPCO reported radiation levels of more than 100 rem per hour on the surface of puddles in the reactor 2 turbine building and in a trench outside the building. TEPCO is using sandbags to keep the water confined to the trench, a concrete channel that does not connect to the ocean. The trenches at reactors 1 and 3 are also at risk of overflowing and measures are being taken to contain the water. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is awaiting the results of new Science Ministry tests for radioactivity beyond 20-kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi and new samples from TEPCO of the plant grounds. On Mo

Blog Recommendation for Latest Updates on Fukushima Daiichi

Will Davis, blogger at atomic power review , has been providing excellent and timely updates on the nuclear accident in Japan. For a taste, here’s a nugget he noted today on what other nuclear plants in Japan are doing to prepare for an accident: In an unrelated location, Chubu Electric Power has run a fantastic drill sequence at its Hamaoka nuclear station, and press were allowed. The company ran an SBO sequence in its control room simulator, showing what occurs and the operator responses. After this, outside, the company staged practice drills of bringing in fire trucks to supply emergency cooling water and portable diesel generator equipment for emergency power. The company said this is part of its response to knowledge of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, and it has also announced plans for a roughly 36 foot high protective wall around the Hamaoka plant. Chubu is getting it right -- respond to the accident scenario quickly and show the public that you are doing everything you c

Senate Meeting Update on the Fukushima Daiichi Plant

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee is currently holding a meeting this morning that started at 10 AM EDT and can be watched online here . NEI’s Chief Nuclear Officer, Tony Pietrangelo, is on a panel as well as Peter Lyons from the Department of Energy, Bill Borchardt from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and David Lochbaum from the Union of Concerned Scientists. Should be a good discussion.

Monday Evening Update

From NEI's Japan Earthquake launch page : UPDATE AS OF 7 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, MARCH 28: The International Atomic Energy Agency said that Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is planning a meeting with Tokyo Electric Power Co. to determine the origin of contaminated water in the turbine buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Contaminated water from the basement floor of the reactor 1 turbine building is being pumped into its main condenser. At reactor 2 that process has not begun because the steam condenser is full, IAEA said. Pumping contaminated water is being considered at reactors 3 and 4. Three workers who received radiation exposure from standing in contaminated water were released today from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences , where they had been under observation. The level of localized exposure received by two of the workers is between 200 to 300 rem, lower than the previous estimate of 200 to 600 rem, IAEA said. Radiat

Monday Afternoon Report

From NEI's Japan Earthquake launch page : UPDATE AS OF 1:30 P.M. EDT, MONDAY, MARCH 28 Tokyo Electric Power has detected isolated, low concentrations of plutonium in the soil at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The density of plutonium is equivalent to the fallout that reached Japan from nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War, the company said. TEPCO conducted analysis of plutonium contained in the soil collected on March 21 and 22 at five locations at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Plutonium 238, 239 and 240 were detected, however just two of the samples may be the direct result of the recent incident, considering the ratio of the plutonium isotopes. “The density detected in the plutonium is equivalent to the density in the soil under normal environmental conditions and therefore poses no major impact on human health,” TEPCO said. The company said it plans to strengthen environmental monitoring inside the station and surrounding areas. The International

The Design and Safe Operation of a Nuclear Reactor

Last week we highlighted NEI’s Everett Redmond in a video on spent fuel pools, today he’s explaining how a nuclear reactor works and the features that are incorporated to maintain safety.

32 Years Later, A Look Back at Three Mile Island

National Public Radio has a short bit on the lessons learned from the Three Mile Island accident that happened this day back in 1979, here’s a snippet: “The most important changes were what were called human factors,” [former NRC historian Sam] Walker says. “That was the lesson that was most obvious was one, you had to improve operator training. You had to give the operators the knowledge and the tools they needed to be able to deal with a situation like they faced on the morning of March 28, 1979.” Today every nuclear power plant is required to build a replica of its control room for training purposes. "It's real," says Ralph DeSantis, communication manager at Three Mile Island. "It's as real as it can be. Like a cockpit simulator for airline pilots, the training is very realistic." And just like TMI, the nuclear industry will continue to learn and improve upon its safety and operations from the lessons that come out of the Fukushima-Daiich

Monday Morning Report

From NEI's Japan Earthquake launch page: UPDATE AS OF 11:30 A.M. EDT, MONDAY, MARCH 28: Radiation levels in the seawater near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remained high on Monday, but dropped considerably from the levels reported on Sunday. Monday's sampling near the plant's south discharge outlet showed that radioactive iodine levels were 250 times normal, reduced significantly from 1,850 times normal. Radiation dose rates also remained elevated in the turbine buildings of reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4. Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Monday said that workers had found similarly high radiation levels in water in drainage conduits outside reactors 1 and 2. The company said that rubble at reactor 3 prevented measures from being taken there on Monday. TEPCO is pumping contaminated water from the basement of the turbine building at reactors 1 and 2 to the main condenser. The company also continued to pump fresh water into reactors 1, 2 and 3, using electrical-driv

Oxford Physicist - “We should stop running away from radiation”

Over at the BBC , Wade Allison, nuclear and medical physicist at the University of Oxford, helps put radiation in perspective: More than 10,000 people have died in the Japanese tsunami and the survivors are cold and hungry. But the media concentrate on nuclear radiation from which no-one has died - and is unlikely to. Nuclear radiation at very high levels is dangerous, but the scale of concern that it evokes is misplaced. Nuclear technology cures countless cancer patients every day - and a radiation dose given for radiotherapy in hospital is no different in principle to a similar dose received in the environment. … People worry about radiation because they cannot feel it. However, nature has a solution - in recent years it has been found that living cells replace and mend themselves in various ways to recover from a dose of radiation. These clever mechanisms kick in within hours and rarely fail, except when they are overloaded - as at Chernobyl, where most of the emer

Evening Report

From NEI's Japan Earthquake launch page UPDATE AS OF 7:30 P.M. EDT, SUNDAY MARCH 27   The International Atomic Energy Agency , Tokyo Electric Power Company and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency have reported no new developments at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

NEI’s Resources on Japan

If you haven’t visited NEI’s Japan Earthquake page , well, you really ought to. It’s grown – enormous – in the last three weeks and provides a lot of good information about issues that have swirled around events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Information about Health and Radiation Safety Emergency Planning: Protecting the Pubic and Environment – with a graphic showing the American approach to ensuring public safety A growing FAQ about the events in Japan – helping to counter myths and provide solid information A set of Fact Sheets and Graphics describing the workings of various kinds of reactors, including Fukushima Daiichi. A large collection of quotes from American politicians and other policymakers with their views on Japan and the American nuclear energy industry. And, as they say on infomercials, much much more. I think it’s fair to assert that NEI has provided more good information, data, graphics and links about Japan and Fukushima Daiichi than any other site on

Thinking About Safety in India and Nigeria

Like the United States, India wants to take a look at the relative safety of its nuclear plants. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has set up a 10-member committee to examine if our 20 nuclear plants can withstand earthquakes and other external events such as tsunamis, cyclones, floods, etc. That includes checking if the arrangements are adequate to ensure safety in case of such events, both within and beyond the design. The panel is chaired by AERB’s former chairman, S K Sharma. Its first meeting is on the coming Thursday. Naturally, the focus will be on earthquakes and tsunamis: He [an unidentified board member] said during the 2004 tsunami, nuclear plants in south India were able to withstand the effects. “Our plants are almost 2,000 km away from the tectonic boundary of Sumatra. The earthquake following the tsunami in Japan was quite unprecedented and, therefore, the committee will revisit the safety applications installed in our plants.” This is a wor

They Write Letters (or Emails)

The Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard introduces us to the NRC inspectors who oversee the two plants in that part of the world – Nine Mile and James A. FitzPatrick: “Every day, we do a control room walk-down,” [Inspector Edward] Knutson said. “We look at what’s going on, we indicate what we expect them (operators) to do.” “We talk to the control-room supervisor and get from them what has occurred in the previous shift,” [Inspector Scott] Rutenkroger said. “We see what’s in service and what’s out of service. We find out what they see as the condition of the plant.” And they keep their eyes perpetually open: Rutenkroger once noticed that the door between an emergency diesel-generator room and turbine building had a support missing. It could have hampered proper operation of the door and that could have led to trouble: Steam lines are located on the other side of the door. If the door hadn’t shut properly and one or more of the steam lines ruptured, steam could have seeped

Sunday Afternoon Report

From NEI’s Japan earthquake launch page: UPDATE AS OF 1:30 P.M. EDT, MARCH 27: U.S. Navy barges carrying 500,000 gallons of fresh water were nearing the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Sunday as workers continued to pump cooling water into reactors and spent fuel pools. Beginning Friday, workers began to switch from sea water to fresh water to cool reactors 1, 2 and 3. The arrival of the barges will maintain the fresh water supply. Engineers are concerned that continued use of sea water will cause corrosion inside the reactors and hinder the cooling process. Dose rates at the site boundary continued to range from 1 to 3 millirem per hour (10-30 microSieverts per hour).

TEPCO Begins Removing the Water

From NucNet : Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has begun work to remove contaminated water that has accumulated in the turbine building basements at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said. Workers have started to remove water from the unit 1 turbine building to its main condenser and are preparing to do the same at unit 2. Work to remove water from the turbine buildings in units 3 and 4 is being considered. The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) confirmed that Tepco had taken “immediate action” to drain off the water so recovery work is not delayed. Good news.

Thinking Out Loud

This is the kind of editorial that pops up more frequently, from the Lexington Herald-Leader (actually, an op-ed in this case): Should Kentucky reconsider nuclear power, which now provides 20 percent of this nation's electricity? Maybe so. We're in no position to ignore any source of energy. But Japan's disaster reminds us nuclear power is an imperfect, unforgiving technology that can be dangerous and costly. And Kentucky, of course, provides a fairly good case study when one is of a mixed mind: Coal provides half the nation's power and more than 90 percent of Kentucky's power. Electricity has been cheap in this state, because many of the health and environmental costs of mining and burning coal have been ignored. That is changing, because it must. We’re not completely sure about “must,” but let’s hear out the argument: We must invest in research and technology to mine, drill and burn coal and oil more cleanly and efficiently. We must incorpor