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Showing posts from September, 2013

The Simpsons and The Reality of Nuclear Power Plant Security

It looks like the folks at Fox are pulling out all of the stops when it comes to Sunday night's season premiere of The Simpsons . Look for guest voice appearances from Kristen Wiig of Saturday Night Live and Mad Men 's Elizabeth Moss in the 25th season premiere entitled, "Homerland," a spoof of the hit cable drama, Homeland . In Sunday night's episode, terrorists brainwash Homer in an attempt to, you guessed it, blow up the Springfield nuclear power plant: With the laughs out of the way (and when it comes to The Simpsons , believe us, we do laugh ) I'd like to take advantage of this teachable moment and remind everyone that America's nuclear power plants are among the most secure and best defended industrial facilities in the world . So after you've spent 30 minutes laughing with Homer and company, why not just spare 6 minutes to watch this video that outlines the realities of nuclear plant security. For more on nuclear power plant securi

The Love of 1000 Razors: UCS on Small Reactors

Our friends over at the Union of Concerned Scientists have always had an interesting approach to nuclear energy. It claims to support it - if reactors could be, you  know, safer, less expensive and more secure. You could call it the love of 1000 razors, each cut inflicting another wound, but all for the benefit of nuclear energy. So knowing that UCS has a new report on small reactors leads one to suspect that the conclusion will be that that these sub-350 megawatt reactors will not be safer, less expensive than their full size counterparts or more secure. And so it is. Now, let’s allow that no small reactor has been deployed or even licensed, though interest runs high. The Department of Energy is working with Babcock & Wilcox on prototyping and licensing the B&W design, with other vendors to follow . The Tennessee Valley Authority has expressed interesting in using them at its Clinch River site. Still, early days. A lot could happen. It also means that anything I coul

I Don’t Know How–Edison’s Craver on Nuclear Energy and Carbon Goals

Edison International   CEO Ted Craver and Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good lately appeared at separate forums. They talked about the decisions to close the San Onofre (Edison) and Crystal River (Duke/Progress) facilities, describing them as economic in nature. We already understood that. Here’s the real takeaway: Despite having taken a financial hit on capital-intensive nuclear power, both agreed that nuclear energy has a place in a low-carbon economy. “I don’t know ultimately how you get to your goals on carbon without nuclear being a part of it,” Craver said. Me, either. Neither company is what one would call a nuclear pure play. They have a decided interest in renewable energy, too, and Edison in particular is looking at distributed generation . Craver said electric utilities would be mistaken to dismiss distributed generation as merely a “fringe” business in the future. The Edison chief said his company initially started in the field by supplying big solar arrays for “

Former NNSA Deputy Administrator Blasts UT-Austin Nuclear Power Plant Security Study

Jerry Paul Earlier this week, Jerry Paul , a former deputy administrator at the National Nuclear Security Administration , took aim at a study that came out of UT-Austin in August concerning nuclear power plant security . The following passage comes from an op-ed that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram . These are dangerous times. Nuclear security is a serious topic. It calls for assessment by serious people willing to do the hard work of real research. There is nothing wrong with an academician or anyone else, including political activists, raising questions about public topics including security and even nuclear security. But it should be done in a responsible way and should be based on facts. If conclusions are to be marketed as university “research,” they should be backed by credible data, authoritative sources’ expertise and peer reviews by unbiased experts. Merely using the word “nuclear” in a title should not qualify written work for a lower standard of acade

The Win Place Show of Nuclear Energy

The Guardian’s latest story on nuclear energy is heavy on the industry’s perceived travails. A lot of its points depend on nuclear critics to make those travails palpable – which is a few strikes against it. Regardless, the story has a number of striking features that tilt it toward balance even if it doesn’t quite get there. For example, NEI gets to add some useful context to the thesis that plant closures spell doom: Officials at the Nuclear Energy Institute , an industry lobbying group, remain hopeful. "It's certainly true that a handful of older, smaller nuclear power plants—like older, smaller coal-fired plants—are vulnerable to weak market conditions," NEI Vice President Richard Myers told a London audience earlier this month. "How many additional nuclear plants shut down, if any, will depend on a number of factors, all difficult to forecast with any confidence." But Myers stressed that the U.S. industry has weathered tough times before. A

No, Indian Point Unit 2's License Has Not Expired

Allow us a moment to clarify. Over the past few weeks we've seen a lot of chatter over Indian Point Unit 2 as it enters an NRC-approved period of extended operation (PEO) beginning on September 28 . On Twitter, we're seeing a lot of statements like this one from Elizabeth Douglas of Inside Climate News . The tweet inspired NEI media manager Tom Kauffman to send Douglas the following email: Dear Ms. Douglass, Indian Point Unit 2’s license has not expired. Because Entergy Corp. filed timely and comprehensive license renewal applications for both Indian Point Units 2 and 3 in April 2007, more than five years ahead of IP2’s original expiration date of Sept. 28, 2013, and more than seven years ahead of IP3’s original expiration date of Dec. 12, 2015. The early applications satisfy the requirements of the Timely Renewal Doctrine, a well-established federal law that extends the current operating license until the license renewal process is complete. The Timely Renewal

Mothers in Nuclear: A Spoonful of Nuclear

The following guest post was submitted by Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, NEI's Senior Manager, Workforce Policy and Programs. Shannon Rafferty-Czincila is neither a doctor nor nurse. But she is a mother of three, a nuclear energy professional and a local leader who is supporting advanced health care in her community. Shannon Rafferty-Czincila Shannon works as the license renewal lead at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania and is the Chair of NEI’s License Renewal Implementation Working Group. Her job is to document how her company's nuclear power plants will continue to meet federal safety requirements if they are approved for continued operation beyond their original 40 year licenses. “Right now I believe that running our current plants is a good option to help support our growing need for energy,” said Rafferty-Czincila. “By obtaining a new license for a nuclear power plant we are ensuring that we will have clean, safe and reliable power for many more years.” Ra

Will NASA Run Out of Plutonium-238?

Here at NEI, we like to keep an ear to the ground when it comes to what's being discussed on Twitter and make sure to respond if/when folks direct reasonable questions our way. Earlier this afternoon, Baltimore resident Dan Ewald posed the following question to us via Twitter: "Y'all doing anything to help with the impending Plutonium-238 problem for @NASA? Dan very helpfully included a link to a story from Wired describing the problem . To get an answer, I turned to Leslie Barbour of NEI: We have long supported the DOE program for space exploration in appropriations, especially Cassini. The funding has always been provided by the Office of Nuclear Energy until this year when DOE and NASA agreed that space reactor funding be included in NASA budget. We can look at this again if needed. For more information on how NASA spacecraft utilize radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) for the power they need, see our website .

5.3 Earthquake Hits Fukushima; TEPCO Reports No Problems

For about the past hour we've been monitoring news that a 5.3 magnitude earthquake has struck Japan . According to an Associated Press report, the U.S. Geological Service has reported that the earthquake originated 13 miles beneath Fukushima Prefecture about 110 miles Northeast of Tokyo. The critical information now is the following: The Japanese news agency Kyodo News reported that the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., observed no abnormality in radiation or equipment after the quake. It's a little after 4:00 a.m. in Japan on Friday morning, so we can expect to see additional details being reported over the next few hours. If and when there are other details to report, we'll pass them along. FRIDAY UPDATE : No new concerns at nation's nuclear facilities according to House of Japan : A magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck Fukushima in the northeast early Friday morning, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, but no abnormalities were observed at the reg

CNO Summit Diary: Peter Sena of First Energy Reflects on Lessons of Fukushima After Attending US-Japan CNO Summit

While the U.S.-Japan CNO Summit has ended and the American delegation has returned home, we're still seeing reports come in from their time in Japan. The latest is this video diary from Peter Sena, President and Chief Nuclear Officer of First Energy . In this video vignette, Sena reflect on the lessons he learned after visiting Fukushima Daiichi and meeting face to face with TEPCO employees who are working to clean up the site: As always, please keep up to date with the latest content by following #CNOSummit on Twitter.

The Unofficial Guide to Pandora's Promise, a Documentary Film About Nuclear Energy by Robert Stone (Bumped)

Updated Editor's Note: The next big date on the Pandora's Promise calendar is November 7 at 9:00 p.m. U.S. EST. That's when the film will make it's cable television debut on CNN . A crew from the cable network visited NEI a few weeks ago, and we anticipate that you'll see a number of features about the future of the nuclear energy industry air over the next several weeks. Be sure to watch on November 7, and join us on Twitter as we participate in a real-time chat about the film using the #PandorasPromise hash tag. Editor's Note: Here at NEI, we're keeping a close eye on  Pandora's Promise , a documentary film by Academy Award-nominated director Robert Stone about how many prominent environmentalists have changed their minds about nuclear energy because of concerns about climate change.  The film was produced independently from the nuclear industry. Among the financial backers of Pandora's Promise are Richard Branson and Microsoft co-founder Paul A

CNO Summit Diary: Why FLEX Is The Right Response to Fukushima

Maria Korsnick Constellation Energy Chief Nuclear Officer Maria Korsnick was in Japan last week touring the country’s nuclear facilities with a prominent group of U.S. chief nuclear officers.  This is the second in a series of travel logs that Maria recorded. You can read an earlier diary entry from Maria, here . Additional coverage of the CNO Summit is on Twitter at #CNOSummit . Earlier this week I toured Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini. The stations are only 7.5 miles apart but the contrast is remarkable. When approaching Daiichi, we were stopped at a village 12 miles from the station. The area was previously used as a training facility for Japan's soccer team, but today it serves as temporary housing for site workers and a plant access checkpoint. Each of us received a whole body count before boarding a bus to Daiichi. The view from the bus window will stay with me forever. It looked like a war zone. The earthquake and the force of the tsunami were evident ever

CNO Summit Diary: PG&E's Ed Halpin on the Lessons From Fukushima

Ed Halpin, SVP & CNO of PG&E Ed Halpin, Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer at PG&E , was in Japan this week with virtually all of his American colleagues as part of the U.S.-Japan CNO Summit. He shared this diary entry with us after reflecting on what he saw at Fukushima Daiichi earlier this week. Be sure to follow all the updates from Japan on Twitter using the #CNOSummit hash tag. As nuclear operators, we have earned a special trust from the communities we serve. My time here reaffirms my belief that the U.S. nuclear industry must always maintain its strong focus on safe operations, intensive training programs, effective peer-review processes, and the continued sharing of lessons-learned across the nation and throughout the world. The U.S. industry has always relied on redundant layers of safety in operating its facilities and is making exceptional gains in implementing a program known as " FLEX " to further enhance safety in the face of ex

CNO Summit Diary: Indelibile Impressions From a Historic Week

Editor's Note: For the past week, NEI's John Keeley has been accompanying a delegation of American chief nuclear officers on a tour of Japan. This is his last blog entry he'll make before returning home to the U.S.  To find all of the content related to this week's trip from NEI Nuclear Notes, click here . And for all of the chatter about the trip on Twitter, check out the #CNOSummit hash tag. Thanks to John for a job well done.  (Tokyo, September 13) I won't miss jet-lag-induced risings at 3 a.m.each and every day -- and apparently I was joined in those by each and every American chief nuclear officer and communicator -- but just about everything else on this trip created a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. So I thought I'd share those moments that stood out most to me:  At every formal engagement between U.S. and Japanese nuclear officers this week our hosts started the proceedings with a formal apology "for the concern and difficulty and conf

Milestone Alert: 10,000 Young Professionals in Nuclear and Counting

Major news, nukes! In less than 15 years of existence, NAYGN has registered 10,000 members. That means thousands of young, energized and influential nuclear professionals dedicated to shaping our industry's future. Exciting stuff, I know. Take a look at the press release below: The North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) is celebrating a milestone achievement –the organization has registered over 10,000 unique members since its inception. “We have now become the premier leadership development activity for the nuclear energy industry. With so many opportunities at the local, regional and continental level, we provide some of the first opportunities for young professionals to practice their leadership skills,” says Past President Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides . NAYGN started with seven members who were passionate about nuclear science and technology, and it continues now with 10,000 members who share their same passion. The organization remains a strong pro-nuclea

CNO Summit Diary: Dressing Out to be Witnesses to History

At one point Wednesday, while within a few hundred yards of the three melted down reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, I was outfitted in three layers of gloves (two rubber, one cotton), plastic covers over my shoes, a very hot and very insulating Tyvek jumpsuit, and a respirator mask. The interior of our tour bus was fantastically shielded in plastic, and when, while maneuvering on a road between the ocean that sent the monstrous March 2011 tsunami and Daiichi's turbine buildings, our driver dramatically increased our speed as we arrived in front of unit 3, where the dose rate was highest on the site, to limit our exposure. Storefront in an abandoned village. All week the chief nuclear officers on this trip have regularly referenced their collective need to experience, first-hand, conditions in Japan that all but only a few have only read about. Our bus' movements, and our in-person engagements with shift managers and control room operators on duty the afternoon of March 11,

CNO Summit Diary: Entergy Nuclear CNO Calls Visiting Fukushima Daiichi 'Life-Altering'

The past two days in Japan, U.S. chief nuclear officers have toured Fukushima Daini and Daiichi, and with respect to the latter, left the experience appreciably changed. We've made a point each day of inviting the CNOs to the very back of our tour bus and asking them to share their experiences on camera with us. It's true that every CNO we spoke with identified the Daiichi visit as life-altering, but no reaction seemed better representative of the CNOs than that of Jeff Forbes , Executive Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer for Entergy Nuclear . Just watch. Please remember to follow our updates on Twitter using the #CNOSummit hash tag.

CNO Summit Diary: Maria Korsnick's Reflections from Japan

Maria Korsnick Maria Korsnick is Chief Nuclear Offiicer (CNO) of Constellation Energy . In the aftermath of Fukushima, Maria appeared in a series of videos for NEI explaining exactly what changes the industry was effecting in the wake of Fukushima .  She's in Japan this week as part of a delegation of American CNOs touring the country’s nuclear facilities as part of the U.S.-Japan CNO Summit. This is the first in a series of travel logs that Maria recorded to share her experiences. Please remember to follow our updates on Twitter using the #CNOSummit hash tag. As I boarded the plane for Japan, I wondered what it was going to be like to experience our business in a completely different culture. Once I arrived, it didn’t take long to generate some first impressions. My hosts were welcoming and polite, surroundings were neat and orderly and properties were well-cared for. It’s abundantly clear that the Japanese people take pride in their surroundings. Japan has only one-thi

America’s STEM Crisis Is No Conspiracy Theory

I can attest that the STEM crisis is real and is causing challenges for the nuclear energy industry. My experiences contradict the conclusions of the newly published IEEE article by Robert N. Charette that declared “ The Stem Crisis Is a Myth . ” According to Charette, industry and government are conspiring to help depress salaries for STEM workers. “Clearly powerful forces must be at work to perpetuate this cycle.” Unfortunately for industries like ours, the STEM crisis isn’t a crackpot conspiracy theory. In fact, it’s all too real. In the nuclear energy business, we have an aging workforce that is rapidly approaching retirement age. We’re facing a significant demographic challenge with 38 percent of our workforce eligible to retire by 2016. Here are some disturbing trends I’ve identified over the last five years that have helped lead me and other workforce professionals to conclude we are facing a real -- and not a manufactured -- crisis: ·          Students entering o