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Showing posts from September, 2011

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site: Three Fukushima Reactors Below Boiling Point September 30, 2011 Plant Status Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced this week that the three damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi now are below 100 Celsius at the bottom of the reactor vessels. Reactor 2 is the last reactor to drop below boiling point, after TEPCO in recent weeks began augmenting cooling by spraying water from above the fuel. Temperatures at reactors 1 and 3 have been below 100 Celsius since August. TEPCO said it would declare the reactors to be in a “cold shutdown” condition once the temperatures at the bottom of the vessels drop below 90 Celsius and other conditions are met to achieve stable cooling. The company expects to attain this goal by the end of the year. Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues The Japanese government today lifted evacuation advisories for five towns located between the 12-mile to 19-mile advisory ring around the Fukushima Daiichi facility. Residents in

What Is An "Unusual Event?"

While keeping my ear to the ground on Twitter today, I came across this message from the editor at West Chester Patch. For those of you unfamiliar with safety procedures at American nuclear plants, the term "unusual event" is an official definition that the plant is required to use. As the folks at Nuclear Tourist helpfully remind us ... The Notification of Unusual Event (NOUE) is the lowest NRC emergency action level and requires that the utility notify the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the state emergency agency. The NUE indicates there is a degradation of safety systems, although not serious enough to warrant special activation of the utility emergency organization. I hope that clears things up.

NRC Issues Press Release Concerning North Anna Re-Start

The following press release was just issued by NRC. NRC CONFIRMS POST-EARTHQUAKE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE NORTH ANNA NUCLEAR POWER PLANT The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has informed Dominion Generation, operator of the two-reactor North Anna nuclear power plant near Louisa, Va., of actions that must be completed before the agency will authorize the restart of the plant. The plant shut down safely following the Aug. 23 earthquake near Louisa. “We’re reviewing Dominion’s information to ensure North Anna’s systems will be able to keep the public safe and the plant won’t start up again until we’re satisfied on that point,” said Eric Leeds, director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation. “We’re working diligently on coming to a technically sound decision.” The NRC has issued Dominion a Confirmatory Action Letter, which reiterates that since the Aug. 23 earthquake exceeded design parameters for North Anna, the plant will remain shut down until Dominion demonstrates “to the Comm

Readers Weigh In On CJR's Look at AP Series on Nuclear Energy

A few days back, I pointed to a piece by the Columbia Journalism Review that took a look at NEI's dispute with the Associated Press over their series on the safety of nuclear power plants. Since that piece was published on Wednesday, a number of readers have weighed in with some interesting comments. We've included a few below: I see you think the plants were designed for 40 years of use. I think rather that the plants were licensed for 40 years of use. When you get a drivers license lasting for four years, do you expect to quit driving after four years? When a steam generator is replaced in a plant is the new steam generator less reliable that the same steam generator placed in a new plant? The point here is safety is not determined by plant age. Safety is determined by measuring how safe something is. Is the plant safe when it is new? Is the plant safe 10 years later? Is the plant safe 40 years later? Is the plant safe 60 years later? Safety is not based on the age of th

The Name on the Dotted Line

This is posted on the White House’s We the People website, which allows we the people to create polls and collect signatures to show support or opposition to various things involving the federal government: This petition is a response to the "End taxpayer subsidies for new nuclear reactors" petition. Due to the manufactured controversy that is the nuclear reactor meltdown in Fukushima, Japan, perpetuated by a scientifically illiterate news media, the public is unnecessarily hostile to nuclear power as an energy source. To date nobody has died from the accident and Fukushima, and nuclear power has the lowest per Terra-watt hour death toll of any energy source known to man: The Obama administration should take better strides to educate the public regarding this important energy source. I’m not sure I agree with the much of the language here or even agree that the Obama administration

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site: Fukushima City to Decontaminate 110,000 Residences September 28, 2011 Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues Fukushima City plans to remove radioactive materials from private houses, parks and meeting venues in the city. The plan includes decontamination of all 110,000 residences in the city over two years, with emphasis on households with children. Cleaners will scrub roofs, remove concrete and decontaminate ditches. Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission is resuming its discussions on revisions to the country’s nuclear policy, which were started last year and interrupted by the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The commission has added new members with expertise in safety. The country’s policy on nuclear energy was developed in 1956 and has been revised roughly every five years since. The Makinohara City Assembly has called for the permanent shutdown of a local nuclear energy facility unless its safety can be guaranteed.

Memories of an Earthquake

How serious was the earthquake the hit the east coast last month. Consider: These fine folk are starting at the top of the Washington Monument and rappelling down to check out the structure. In the meantime, the monument is closed to the public. Here’s some detail : The team [two men and two women] plans to climb up and down the monument to check each stone for cracks, chips and other damage caused by the 5.8-magnitude quake that shook the nation's capital Aug. 23. They will take breaks as needed by making a descent that can take 12 to 15 minutes without stops, and resume work by riding the elevator back to the top. Presumably, the fourth team member is on the dark side of the monument. Happily, these aren’t just daredevils without portfolio. [Team member Erik] Sohn is part of a team from a private firm that's certified with a rare combination of climbing and engineering skills. and: Each team member is carrying several items, including a digital camer

Changing Minds in Subtle Ways

Energy Secretary Steven Chu wants you to know: “The rise of automobiles was driven by environmental pollution,” Chu said, explaining that horse manure had become a major problem in urban streets like New York City. “Carbon dioxide now is like horse manure then” — except, Chu noted, that carbon dioxide doesn’t have the same kind of odor problem that manure does. This caught my attention because it seemed to speak to a frustration that electric cars have not gained the traction that seemed likely by this time. But there may be more at work here. The change from horse to car was a key paradigm shift of the 20th century and had nothing whatever to do with clean air. Less smell and cleaner streets, yes, plus of course the technological advances that made the horseless carriage possible. Industrialization. The assembly line. Ford, etc. With such a large change comes large concerns. Here’s what Eugene Morgan, the fictional automobile pioneer in Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Amberso

CJR Critiques AP Series on Nuclear Plant Safety

Over the Summer that the Associated Press (AP) ran a four-part series on safety at America's nuclear power plants by reporter Jeff Donn. Needless to say, everyone here at NEI believed the stories had some significant holes, ones that we detailed in a formal rebuttal back in June. Earlier today, the Columbia Journalism Review published a the latest edition of its Audit Arbiter series about our dispute with the AP . Please give it a read right now. POSTSCRIPT : Click here for the formal response from NEI's media team. Click here for additional material we published here on NEI Nuclear Notes, including links to other third party sources that found the AP's work less than convincing. NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer, Tony Pietrangelo, outlined his objections to the reporting in a video report that can be found here .

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site: Japan to Lift Evacuation Advisories for 5 Municipalities Sept. 26, 2011 Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues Japan’s government will lift evacuation advisories for five municipalities between the 12-mile to 19-mile advisory zone around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility, said Tadahiro Matsushita, senior vice minister for economy, trade and industry. Residents in the advisory zone were asked either to evacuate or remain indoors. About half of the residents chose to evacuate, and they will be allowed to begin returning to their homes. The Japanese government last week provided the IAEA General Conference with its second report on progress made by TEPCO and the government to recover from the Fukushima accident. The report outlines lessons learned since the company submitted its first report in June. It also describes longer-term responses to the accident at the plant site and in the neighboring region. Prime Minister Yoshihiko No

Mandatory Meetings

Later this week, The Nuclear Energy Commission will host what it calls a mandatory meeting between the commissioners and the NRC staff on the combined license for Southern Co.’s two reactors at its Vogtle site in Georgia. This is important as it is the first time this type of meeting has been held under NRC’s more streamlined process for licensing nuclear reactors. So what is it?  The Atlanta Journal-Constitutions Kristy Swartz offers a preview : Meanwhile, Tuesday’s mandatory hearing will review, among other things, emergency planning, cybersecurity and how nuclear waste will be stored at the reactor site. The NRC will not issue a ruling until perhaps early next year; with that ruling comes the construction license for the units. Nathan Ives, a senior manager with Ernst & Young, said his initial review of documents didn’t turn up any red flags. But Ives, a consultant in the energy and nuclear industry, said regulators likely will scrutinize heavily Southern Nuclear’s p

71st Carnival of Nuclear Energy: Critical Reviews, History and Future Stuff

Today, we have the privilege of hosting the carnival for the seventh time in its young history. We have contributions from ten folks discussing a whole slew of things on nuclear. History In the latest APR Atomic Journal , Will Davis completes the story of the Elk River nuclear plant built back in the late ‘50 and ‘60s. Using original and never-before-seen material, he takes you back in time to describe one of the first reactors constructed in the world. … Brian Wang at Next Big Future noted that research on radiation from back in 1946 was uncovered that suppressed evidence related to benign low doses of radiation. … Speaking of history, Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat reported on Siemens’ exit from the nuclear energy industry. In doing so, the firm is leaving the potential for substantial revenue. Siemens will scrap its deal with Russia’s Rosatom to develop the state-owned firm's VVER pressurized water reactor (PWR) to compete with exports from Areva. Siemens said the f

NEI Responds to Markey Letter on Nuclear Power Plant Loan Guarantee Program

Earlier today, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter to Representatives Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) demanding that they hold hearings into the implementation of the nuclear power plant loan guarantee program . The following statement concerning Rep. Markey's letter is from NEI's Rapid Response Team: In a Sept. 23, 2011, letter , Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) raises questions about the nuclear energy industry’s role in the process of developing the regulations that govern the clean energy loan guarantee program authorized by the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Specifically, Mr. Markey raises questions about the issue of subordination, and the nuclear energy industry’s position on this issue. NEI has never suggested that the U.S. Department of Energy should accept a subordinate position with respect to any other lender under the DOE loan guarantee program. Mr. Markey ’s letter demonstrates convincingly that he does not understand financing or the rules gove

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site: Japan PM Says Fukushima will Achieve Cold Shutdown This Year Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told a United Nations special session on nuclear safety and security that the Fukushima Daiichi energy facility will achieve cold shutdown by the end of the year. Noda said Thursday that Japan will disclose all information related to the accident and share with the international community lessons learned from the accident. Noda said that the level of radioactive material has fallen to around one four-millionth of the level seen earlier in the year. After the session, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said, "participants affirmed that the responsibility for ensuring the application of the highest standards of nuclear safety . . . lies with each state and operating organization." At the session, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “we can make concrete improvements to nuclear safety pra

The United Nations and Fukushima

Some words from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the United Nations: The Obama Administration is committed to nuclear power as a component of our secure energy future, and we recognize that nuclear power is a vital contributor to the world’s growing energy needs. It is, therefore, not an option that we simply can take off the table. But: But it is an option that carries special risks and dangers. Therefore, we must do everything possible to ensure its safe and responsible use. We must remain vigilant against outside threats and internal weaknesses to prevent accidents from occurring. We must make continuous improvements to regulations and strengthen implementation of existing conventions so we hold ourselves, and others, to the highest standards. One might call all this self-evident, but she was speaking at a high-level meeting on nuclear safety of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, so perhaps we can allow for the self-evident. Here is Japanese Prim

Reasons to Doubt the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League

This morning's edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch has a short piece reporting that the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League is moving to block the construction of a third reactor at North Anna in Virginia in the wake of the August earthquake on the East coast. Here's what the folks at Dominion Virginia Power have to say about the action: Dominion Virginia Power, owner of two nuclear reactors at the North Anna plant, said the earthquake has no bearing on the licensing of a third unit, which would be built to a seismic standard more than four times that of the existing units. "We have worked through the seismic requirements for Unit 3," utility spokesman Rick Zuercher said Thursday night. "They're stringent and would have well withstood what happened at North Anna with the existing units." While the ground vibration from the quake exceeded design limits for the two existing reactors, the utility said the plant suffered no significant damage.

USA Today Errs on Condition of Spent Fuel Pools at Fukushima

We've seen a few recent instances of reporters incorrectly stating the fuel in the pools melted. That's incorrect, as the AP reported earlier this year . However, the misconception persists. USA Today included the following in a story published earlier today : Spent nuclear fuel pools that burned during the crisis are now under control. The spent nuclear fuel assemblies at Fukushima never burned or melted, and in fact, were always underwater. Here's a more accurate description of the accident from the consultants at Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems. You can find this description on page 9 of the report: Disablement of spent fuel pool cooling and the possibility of earthquake-induced damage to the pools were the cause of great concern, which spurred one-week-long unconventional cooling efforts with helicopters and water cannons. While it was later established that the fuel assemblies in the pools remained underwater throughout the accident , the Fukushima experience does un

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site: Japan PM Expects Shutdown Reactors to Restart by Next Summer September 21, 2011 Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who will speak at this week’s United Nations general assembly, said he expects Japan’s shutdown nuclear energy facilities to be running by next summer. Since the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, communities throughout Japan have refused to let plants restart after they shut down for routine maintenance. In Japan, local governments have the ability to block nuclear facility restarts. Only about 25 percent of Japan’s nuclear reactors are operating. There will be “continuous and significant growth in the use of nuclear power” over the next 20 years, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at the organization’s general conference, which is taking place this week. He added that he expects the growth to proceed “at a slower rate than in our previous projections.” The range o

Nostradamus at the IAEA

Platts has the story : The share of nuclear power in world electricity supply could shrink over the next 40 years to 6.2%, half what it was in 2010, according to a recent analysis by the International Atomic Energy Agency's Department of Nuclear Energy. This would be bad: Although overall installed capacity will grow, nuclear power will lose ground to other energy sources like renewables and fossil fuels, Hans Holger Rogner, head of the Vienna agency's Planning and Economic Studies Section, told journalists in Vienna today. That would mean increased carbon emissions and higher fossil fuel prices, he said. I don’t really doubt Herr Rogner nor the prognosticators at DOE’s Energy Information Administration when they put out the agency’s annual energy forecast. But forecasting is forecasting. It sets out some scenarios that may or may not happen and looks at the outcome of the scenarios – if time were to unfold as predicted. And Rogner has that right – if you ramp

Monday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site: Japan Prime Minister Noda to Address United Nations Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues • Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda this week will address the United Nations’ general assembly in New York on the continuing need for safe and reliable nuclear energy in Japan. As part of the assembly, a meeting on nuclear safety and security will be held Sept. 22, during which lessons learned from the Fukushima accident will be discussed. • Delegates to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference are expected to endorse a voluntary action plan to enhance safety and emergency preparedness as a response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The plan, adopted by the agency’s board last week, calls for IAEA inspectors to periodically review the safety of reactors worldwide at the request of their operators. Goshi Hosono, Japan’s minister for nuclear crisis management, told the conference today that the Fukushima reactors will be brought to c

Solydra and Nuclear Energy Loan Guarantees

A lot of the posts over at the National Journal’s energy blog have been about Solyndra – as one might expect – but the loan guarantee aspect of the story has a nuclear energy angle. NEI President and CEO Marv Fertel explains (about a quarter of the way down the page): Loan guarantees are one of the most effective tools available to the federal government, and are widely used by the federal government to support financing of projects that have substantial public value. The federal government manages a successful loan guarantee portfolio of approximately $1.2 trillion which, on balance, returns more to the Treasury than it costs the taxpayer. Loan guarantees cost the taxpayers money when a company defaults. That’s collateral damage from the the Solyndra collapse, because the company had received one - with a good deal of fanfare. Why offer loan guarantee at all? Well, they lower the cost of a loan, making it more plausible for a company to risk the considerable cash needed to

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan micro-site: TEPCO Improves Core Cooling for Fukushima Daiichi Reactors Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues • The United Nations has released a report, “ United Nations System-wide Study on the Implications of the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant .” The report was prepared for the U.N. high-level meeting on nuclear safety and security to be held Sept. 22 in New York. Among the report’s findings are that “the design basis accident of the Fukushima Daiichi plant had been too modest” and that accident risks relating to the environment “had been underestimated.” Plant Status • Tokyo Electric Power Co. says it has begun to increase the flow rate of cooling water into Fukushima Daiichi reactors 2 and 3 using the core spray method, which the operator says is successfully decreasing the reactor temperatures. Earlier this month, TEPCO began using the core spray system to inject cooling water from above the uranium fuel rods as well as from the sid

UCS and The Politics of Naïveté

Sometimes, when you see an attack on the nuclear energy industry, it may have some grain of truth in that a facility did not implement something perfectly or a license application is missing some data. But when you don’t like something – as in the case of anti-nuclear campaigners – then any perceived flaw proves the industry negligent. So that’s one thing. But some arguments just seem willfully naïve – about how the industry works, how NEI works, the NRC, in the hopes that information that is fairly benign is instead shocking evidence of malicious intent. That brings us to the Union of Concerned Scientists. The group says it’s nominally in favor of nuclear energy – as long as the industry passes a long litmus test devised by UCS to prove its worth. This allows UCS to nibble at the edges in the hopes that enough holes will cause the edifice of the nuclear energy industry to crumble into dust. The blatancy of the approach is actually rather amusing. Take for example a blog post