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Showing posts from May, 2012

No Public Health Concern From Radiation Levels in Blue Fin Tuna

Over the Holiday weekend here in the U.S., the news wires were humming with reports that Blue Fin tuna caught off the coast of California had been found to contain radioactive cesium from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Before anyone thinks twice about eating tuna, there are a couple of facts that you should keep in mind. As I wrote previously at our SafetyFirst microsite : The report by the National Academy of Sciences did not conclude that there was any food safety or public health concern related to radiation from tuna of any kind. The trace amount of radiation found in the tuna is less than radiation that is found naturally in the Pacific Ocean from Potassium 40. The species of tuna mentioned in the report, Blue Fin tuna, is not used in the canned tuna sold in your local supermarket. In fact, Blue Fin is only served as sushi, and most Americans don't eat much of it at all. According to the National Fisheries Institute , per capita, Americans only

A Princely Endorsement

Who said it? “It’s a great pleasure to be back here again and a real pleasure to open something that’s going to have serious and important consequences in the years to come. “Something is going to have to be done to supply the huge increase in the amount of energy we need. There has to be some part of the energy sector delivering nuclear. It’s not just about the UK. Nuclear will be used globally.” Okay, we know he’s British and he gets invited to open things – in this case the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre. Give up ? The Duke of York said that it would make a significant difference to Britain in the future if it didn’t build up its own civil nuclear manufacturing capabilities. “We must deliver at least some part of the supply chain. The ability to harness the knowledge, skills and innovation of the UK in a facility like this is hugely important,” he said. Prince Andrew is currently fourth in line to the throne of England and is probably better

Nuclear Energy, The Wheat and The Green

The British Green Party tried something interesting this weekend: About 200 anti-GM activists have protested outside an agricultural research centre where a genetically modified wheat crop is being grown . Scientists at Rothamsted Research in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, had been concerned that members of campaigning group Take The Flour Back would attempt to destroy GM wheat crops. GM in this case means genetically-modified. The wheat in Harpenden has been modified with a gene from the peppermint plant in the hope that the wheat can better resist aphids. The test crop is intended to test that idea. The Guardian provides some of the questions the scientists want to answer : Does a crop that produces a steady waft of aphid alarm pheromone repel the pests? Or are the insects indifferent if the chemical is not released in bursts, as happens in nature? Does the pheromone attract aphid predators to the crops, as suspected? Can the wheat be grown with less pesticide? What are

Photos From NEA 2012

As promised, we've got additional content from NEA 2012 that I wanted to share with you before we started the Holiday weekend. NEI's Anna Gomez was our go to person behind the lens for the entire show, and we're in the midst of compiling photos and writing cutlines for our NEA 2012 Flickr Album even as I type this entry. Please feel free to visit to take a look at the album, filled with images of conference participants, especially the many award winners who were able to join us this week in Charlotte. One of my favorite moments was getting to see Dr. Aris Candris, formerly of Westinghouse, receive the Henry DeWolf Smyth Nuclear Statesman Award . Here's a shot of Dr. Candris as he addresses the conference just moments after receiving the award. More soon.

Looking Back at NEA 2012

After a whirlwind three days in Charlotte at NEA 2012, I'm back in Washington. And while I'm done unpacking my suitcase at home, we're not done unpacking all of the content we created during the conference. One of the highlights of the conference had to be a roundtable discussion on industry safety and Fukushima that was moderated by NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer Tony Pietrangelo. Joining Tony were Chip Pardee of Exelon , David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Bill Borchardt of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission . Luckily, we captured the entire discussion on video, and will be sharing it with you as soon as we're able to get the clip processed and uploaded to our YouTube Channel . In addition, we'll also be combing the questions that were submitted for the session that our panelists weren't able to answer due to time constraints. Among my favorite moments from the conference had to be getting to see the pride and joy on the faces o

Penn. Polls High on Nuclear Energy

We don’t see a lot of polls on nuclear energy taken in individual states. Support nationally is usually above 50 and sometimes 60 percent in most big polls taken about it ( this Gallup poll from March has it at 57 percent). But the states? Well, The Pennsylvania Energy Alliance has tried a poll and found that nearly 90 percent “believe the use of nuclear power is an important part of meeting the United States' electricity needs.” That’s as close to a consensus as you can get . "It's quite apparent that people recognize the benefits of nuclear power as a clean, safe and reliable source of energy," said PA Energy Alliance Executive Director Melissa Grimm. "The state needs to have a reliable source of electricity, especially now with summer approaching and our energy demands increasing."  I’m not enough of a poll wonk to know how to determine the value of a poll taken by an interested party – but I am enough of one to know what to look for. The polls

Your Chance to Ask Questions of Industry Executives at NEA 2012

This morning at around 10:00 a.m. U.S. EDT, NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer, Tony Pietrangelo, will chair a panel session at the 2012 Nuclear Energy Assembly entitled, "Ensuring Operational Safety While Implementing Lessons Learned from Fukushima." Panelists for the session include: Charles G. Pardee, Chief Operating Officer, Exelon Generation Company, LLC  R. William Borchardt, Executive Director for Operations, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission  David Lochbaum, Director, Nuclear Safety Project, Union of Concerned Scientists  As part of our effort to better leverage social media, we'll be taking questions for panel members from online audiences. You can submit your question either by sending an email to or simply tweeting the question with the conference hashtag, #NEA2012. Here's hoping our readers can participate.

Nuclear Industry’s Emergency Preparedness Programs Fully and Adequately Test Response Capabilities

The Associated Press published a misleading article in newspapers across the country last week in which it largely calls into question some of the nuclear energy industry’s emergency preparedness programs . The article suggests that new changes to federal regulations were passed behind closed doors and fail to adequately test evacuation procedures. This mischaracterization in reporting, not a far cry from its faulty four-part series that was critiqued by the Columbia Journalism Review last year, could not be further from the truth as it blatantly disregards the latest scientific evidence on how accident scenarios could potentially unfold at nuclear energy facilities and the rigorous drill cycles conducted annually at the nation’s nuclear plants. At issue here are changes that were approved last August by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to enhance the nuclear industry’s emergency preparedness regulations. Sue Perkins-Grew, NEI’s director of emergency preparedness, provide

The British Energy Plan: Nuclear and Renewables

The U.K. government Tuesday published its long-awaited draft energy bill, which contains mechanisms and incentives designed to encourage around GBP110 billion investment in low-carbon energy such as offshore wind farms and new nuclear power stations. That sounds good. The Nasdaq story shows that the government really wants to sell it: "If we don't secure investment in our energy infrastructure, we could see the lights going out, consumers hit by spiraling energy prices and dangerous climate change," said U.K. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey. The story doesn’t really make a case for nuclear – except that it is absolutely necessary if the country wants to achieve its emission reduction goals: The government needs to ramp up low-carbon power from offshore wind farms, nuclear power stations and gas and coal plants fitted with carbon capture technology to meet legally binding targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 34% by 2020 from 1990 leve

Welcome to Charlotte for NEA 2012

Greetings from Charlotte, North Carolina, where I've decamped to attend the 2012 Nuclear Energy Assembly at The Westin Charlotte Hotel. Though the conference won't officially begin until tomorrow, participants have already started to arrive in town ahead of tomorrow's opening session. Working with my colleague, John Keeley, I'll be doing my level best to give you some insight into what's happening here via NEI Nuclear Notes as well as our Twitter feeds ( @N_E_I and @NEI_Media ) and our Facebook page . We've also set up a dedicated page on our website , When you follow us on Twitter, please be on the lookout for our hashtag, #NEA2012. That'll be especially important on Wednesday morning when we'll be covering a panel discussion chaired by NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer Tony Pietrangelo on lessons learned from Fukushima. If you'd like to ask a question of the panelists, send us an email at or simply tweet them with

NEI Gears Up for Nuclear Energy Assembly 2012

NEI will be hosting its annual nuclear industry conference and supplier expo, Nuclear Energy Assembly (NEA), May 21-23 in Charlotte, N.C. This year the conference focuses on “Setting the Agenda” and boasts an interesting lineup of speakers who will be discussing topics from workforce development to new plants to industry actions post-Fukushima. The coveted Top Industry Practice (TIP) awards, which recognize innovation to improve safety, efficiency, and plant performance, will also be awarded during this time. As a sneak preview, I just sat down for two minutes with NEI’s Lisa Steward, senior director of member relations and corporate services, and asked her what we can expect to see next week. Here’s what she had to say: In addition to the conference agenda, more than 30 utilities, suppliers and other industry organizations will be exhibiting at NEA, with booths including information on the latest work being performed in the nuclear energy industry and showcasing some of the awa

Green Party to Go Nuclear?

As you may know, most European countries have a Green Party as part of the political mix. In most countries, they may pick up a few seats, but generally the goal is to keep their views front and center. Nuclear energy usually fares poorly. Here’s the British Green Party (from last year): In elections campaigns this spring, for the Welsh Assembly and local elections in England, the Greens are the only political party opposed to nuclear power. I find that – exceptionally good news, actually. And here’s the Finnish Green League : In addition, the party's policy on nuclear energy will be in the spotlight. According to Holopainen, a large proportion of voters who back the Greens, nowadays also back the use of nuclear power. See? Fairly consistent – wait, what? I couldn’t find much more about this – the story is about the formation of the party platform and the speaker is Hanna Holopainen, a delegate. We’ll have to wait until after this weekend to see if the Green Leag

The Ex-Im Bank and Nuclear Energy

The Senate approved reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank this week. This made the first page of the Washington Post, but largely because it showed a level of comity not always seen in the Senate. As a subject, the Ex-Im bank is a little dry for many. So what does the bank do? The bank, which takes no money from taxpayers, last year provided export-financing support for about 2 percent of U.S. exports, about $32 billion in loans, loan guarantees and credit financing. Some $11 billion of that supported Boeing sales of large commercial aircrafts. Countering critics who say it is “Boeing’s bank,” the bank says that 87 percent of its transactions last year directly benefited small businesses and that its financing supported 290,000 jobs, including 85,000 in the aerospace industry. I’ll let you read about the Boeing-Delta dustup at the link – not really our brief – but the bottom line is that bank can enhance, well, the bottom line by easing the financial aspects of expor

Setting the Record Straight on the Spent Fuel Pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit #4

At the end of April, former Department of Energy official Robert Alvarez sounded the alarm about the safety of the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit #4 (click here for his piece from the Huffington Post). Here at NEI, we've long been familiar with Alvarez's position on the disposition of  used nuclear fuel , and it's safe to say that not only do we disagree with his assessment, we also believe that it is needlessly alarmist. We're not the only ones who have said that, something that's become abundantly clear in recent weeks as independent bloggers have decided to take on Alvarez on their own initiative. The first to step to the plate was Dan Yurman of Idaho Samizdat : One of his (Alvarez's) favorite rhetorical strategies is to total up the mass of material at a nuclear site and then make the assumption that all of it will blow up through some mysterious and unspecified mechanism spewing its contents far and wide. This is a great stuff for a B- movie

Ironies in Germany and Japan – and Reopening Ohi

A little irony – and a touch of tunnel vision: With audacious hypocrisy, American pro-nuclear pundits have been indulging in the familiar sport of losers – the relentless bashing of the more successful. This should pique our interest. Bashing the more successful is a regular sport over here. With nuclear energy rapidly losing favor around the globe, the industry’s boosters have taken to blaming countries that have rejected it for worsening climate change. Top of the target list? Germany, which has vowed to generate 80-100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050; and Japan, which chose this month not to restart the last of its 54 nuclear reactors. Of course, Germany still has some functioning nuclear plants. Japan does not currently. The accusation that these countries are worsening climate change is pretty rich coming from US commentators.  By any measure – whether calculating total CO 2 emissions or per capita – the US is one of the worst offen

What Gets Done with $47 Million – DOE’s Educational Grants

Here comes tomorrow : Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced, The Department of Energy will be giving more than $47 million in scholarships, fellowships, research grants and university research reactor upgrades to train and educate the next generation of leaders in America's nuclear industry. There are 143 of these awards. What’s interesting is that there are potentially 143 stories for reporters to track down. What will the money be used for? This story comes from Washington state, so: Washington State University in Pullman received a little under $2 million in funds.  Ken Nash,  a radioactive chemistry professor says he'll use the money for a project to help them find a better way to deal with nuclear waste that comes from a power plant. Illinois : At Northwestern University, researchers will receive $1.6 million for two research projects on advanced nuclear fuel and fuel cycle technologies. Researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of chalcogenide-ba

600 Acres and a Solar Project

A posting on the Nevada Wilderness Project blog about the Silver State North Solar Project: In the case of Silver State North, we dubbed this 600-acre project 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas “smart” because the developer was willing to gather environmental input early on to avoid complications during the formal review process. From where we sat at the review table, that was a good sign. Well, it is a good sign – the desert tortoise was a particular concern. But I focused more on that 600 acres – that’s a lot of acres! Surely the project is producing an impressive amount of electricity. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was in Nevada today to flip the switch on Nevada’ original “fast-tracked,” utility-scale solar power project – a 50 megawatt photovoltaic plant in the Ivanpah Valley. You have to start somewhere. 50 megawatts is the rated capacity, so actual production is less than half that amount – but solar power doesn’t require turbines or water, so arrays can be situa

What Happens During a Refueling Outage?

You may have noticed over the past few weeks that a number of nuclear plants are shut down for refueling outages or are resuming operations after just returning from one. This type of routine outage usually occurs in the spring or fall when electricity demand is low so that nuclear reactors can replace about one-third of the spent fuel rods with new fuel and conduct other routine maintenance and repairs at the plant. To get a better sense of how refueling works at a nuclear energy facility, I spoke with Marcus Nichol, NEI’s senior project manager for used fuel storage and transportation, and asked him to explain the basics. Why does a nuclear plant need to replace one-third of its fuel? Nichol: The main purpose of a refueling outage is to replace older fuel that is depleted—meaning it can no longer efficiently produce energy from nuclear fission reactions—with new fuel. This “used fuel” has typically been used in the reactor for four-and-a-half to six years before it is pe

Nuclear Energy Goes Dark in Japan

For now, anyway, Japan is doing without nuclear energy: Over the weekend, Japan's last remaining nuclear reactor shut down for regular maintenance. In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, reactors have not been allowed back on. Japan is now the first major economy to see the modern era without nuclear power. Tomari Nuclear Power Plant's reactor 3 in Hokkaido shut down Saturday evening in a much-watched move by government, industry and environmentalists, who are waged in a public battle over the future of Japan's energy policy. This is especially tough as Japan enters one of its sweltering summers, but really, that’s the least of it: The party's deputy policy chief, Yoshito Sengoku, bluntly said without nuclear energy the world's third-largest economy would suffer. "We must think ahead to the impact on Japan's economy and people's lives, if all nuclear reactors are stopped. Japan could, in some sense, be committing mass s

Simona De Silvestro Donates Signed Wing of Her Car to Children's Burn Foundation

NEI's favorite race car driver, Simona De Silvestro, has just debuted a brand new Web page. We urge you to stop by and check out . While you're there, you'll notice that Simona is urging her fans to support the Children's Burn Foundation . Recently, Simona donated an autographed wing from her car that the charity will auction at a future event -- a wing that features the NEI logo (see above).

Choisis le Nucleaire

Cute and only somewhat cringe worthy, this anthemic pro-nuclear song by a French group called ACDC (les Artistes Chanteurs de la Droite Conservatrice – Singers of the Conservative Right) may be an intervention into the Presidential election (the YouTube page says no) that will wrap up this weekend after the second round of voting or may just be a gesture at this juncture in time. Or who knows? It could be an anti-nuclear parody. The lyrics are certainly weird enough in spots. I started transcribing and translating the lyrics when I saw the YouTube page already has this. Lucky you – and me. Song lyrics, like poems and jokes are murder to get from one language to another because they contain a lot of local knowledge and metaphors; it makes translation tough. --- Sometimes, the effort to make a rhyme in the original foils interpretation: Comme un oeuf dans un micro-ondes Nous allons changer le monde... or: Like an egg in a microwave We will change the world So

Patrick Moore’s Economic Justice

Patrick Moore, ex-Greenpeace, sees in nuclear energy an interesting argument for what he terms “environmental justice,” which is true enough, and economic justice, used in the headline, works as well : African-American and Hispanic advocacy groups have historically been focused on civil rights, but they're "morphing into economic development," Moore said, and looking at energy policy for the first time. Unlike many other big industrial facilities, he noted, polls show nuclear power plants have increasing popular support the closer people live to them. Nuclear plants are "wealth creating machines," Moore said, with no pollution, better roads and schools financed by the plants' property taxes, and large payrolls. Moore is right about this. Nuclear energy facilities are also often union shops, which offers a good path to the middle class and out of economic uncertainty. A city of industry can be a world of opportunity and nuclear energy plants have the adde

Wanted: New Stunt Men for Greenpeace

The French arm of Greenpeace is probably searching for a few new recruits after two of its activists were arrested today by French authorities for paragliding onto the grounds of the Bugey nuclear energy facility and dropping a smoke bomb. The stunt is nothing more than a political ploy by the organization to expose what it calls, “gaps,” in nuclear plant security ahead of the French presidential election. However, plant owner EDF assures the public that no such security gaps exist and that the plant remained safe and secure despite today’s criminal activity: Safety at the installation was never called into question. Safety measures put in place at the end of 2011 allowed the detection and immediate arrest of the intruder. But, some people still wrongly believe that the criminal activity proves just how easily someone could intrude a nuclear plant and wreak havoc. To their false notions, I’d like to point out a few facts about nuclear plant security. First, simply landing a