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Showing posts from March, 2015

Fort Calhoun Nuclear Plant Freed of Enhanced NRC Oversight

Here’s a bit of good news , more than a bit for Nebraskans: In a letter Monday , the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission informed the Omaha Public Power District that Fort Calhoun can return to routine oversight as of Wednesday, joining the 98 other U.S. plants that operate under a normal inspection regimen. Fort Calhoun was impacted by a flood in 2011. That was also the year of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, so, although Fort Calhoun was never in any danger, the flood around it received a lot of media attention (great video footage of the flooding helped) and a visit from then-NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko to reassure everyone. Still, OPPD had already been under increased NRC scrutiny and that just accelerated: After a switchgear fire and the discovery of numerous safety violations, the NRC brought together an oversight committee and presented OPPD with hundreds of corrective items to work through. It was an expensive, lengthy process, and the district floundered a

Thinking and Rethinking Nuclear Energy in Utah

In St. George Utah : City staff recommended that the City Council hold off on committing to a project by NuScale Power. Based out of Oregon, NuScale proposes to build compact nuclear reactors that would be housed in a power plant built near Idaho Falls, Idaho. The compact reactors are designed to produce 40-50 megawatts of power. St. George nestles in the southern part of the state and is one of its fastest growing areas. The town has about 75,000 people, but it is that “fastest growing” aspect that might have motivated interest in small reactors. Let’s not call the decision to slow walk the commitment an excess of caution, at least initially, just caution. Though St. George is one of UAMPS biggest utilities, city staff have recommended against committing to any binding agreements, saying they want the city to maintain flexibility over where it gets its power. The cost of being involved could run into the millions of dollars, said Laurie Mangum, the city’s energy ser

Illinois and the Nuclear Low Carbon Portfolio

Washington state, as we’ve seen, is moving full speed ahead with legislation to explore the possibility of nuclear energy in that state, especially the revenue-raising, job-creating possibility of manufacturing small reactors there. This is heartening, of course, not to mention a good move by the state. Generally, nuclear energy measures in the states have come and gone and often come around again. State legislatures have shorter sessions (in general) than their federal brethren, so a lot of promising sounding bills hit the wall of sometimes very short meeting schedules – this is true of everything that is not directly budget-related. Some bills, such as repealing the moratorium on uranium exploration in Virginia*, get really close to passing, then the session ends. Of course, some bills just don’t pass muster and get voted down. It happens. But the Washington legislation points to new possibilities for nuclear energy action in the states, even if, as they say, one swallow doesn’t

What Huffington Post Gets Wrong About Nuclear Energy & Water Use

We regularly return to the issue of water use and nuclear power plants because anti-nuclear activists can't help but manipulate or obscure the facts when it comes to explaining how much water is used to cool an operating reactor. The latest example comes from the Huffington Post where Kyle Rabin of the Grace Communications Foundation writes that thermoelectric power plants account for 45% of water withdrawals in the U.S. Which is where NEI's Bill Skaff comes into the picture. Here's his comment that you can find in the string below the article (emphasis mine): The discussion of electricity generation water use contains some misleading statements that mask the truth. Power plant water use consists of consumption, when water is evaporated and thus lost, and withdrawal, where water is removed from a water body but can be returned, totally or partially . The “outdated cooling technology” mentioned is a once-through cooling system, which cools by the coldness of the with

Getting Ready for Nuclear Energy in Africa

When developing countries consider nuclear energy, it can give one pause. Not because such countries are inherently incapable of grasping and implementing the technology but because the technology could be beyond their current developmental level. If a country has barely met its electricity needs up to now, it would not seem to have the infrastructure necessary to introduce thousands of megawatts onto its grid. That’s an uncomfortable statement, but also an uncomfortable feeling, and it’s worth testing – and it is getting tested . This year, the IAEA will, for the first time, conduct Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review missions to Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco - three countries which are considering introducing nuclear power. These are review missions by international experts who help countries assess the status of their national nuclear infrastructure. They are part of the comprehensive package of assistance which the IAEA provides to help ensure that even the most chal

Nuclear Energy and the Fear-Respect Nexus

They write letters : A reader, whom I assume is opposed to nuclear generation, has recently written listing various incidents that have occurred at nuclear sites, some more than 60 years ago in experimental facilities. The writer described these incidents in highly dramatic fashion. This is a letter by James Lindsay to the Kawartha Lakes (Ontario)This Week. Most of it refutes the earlier letter, which I did not look up. But this struck me: If nuclear energy is respected, there is no need for fear. I’m going to guess, based on the letter, that Lindsay means that nuclear energy should be respected enough that people who are going to spout off against it should know something about it. That works. Facts beat fear. I’m not sure I’d adopt “Respect, don’t fear” as a motto – it has an intimidating air for what is, after all, a tool for making electricity (among many other things, of course). But the thought behind it is solid. John Grossenbacher from the Idaho National Labs mak

What Did and Did Not Happen in Fukushima

James Conca writes this in Forbes: But the real health and environmental impacts from the Fukushima reactors are nothing compared to the tsunami. Contrary to all the hype and fear, Fukushima is basically a large Superfund site. No one will die from Fukushima radiation, there will be no increased cancer rates, the food supply is not contaminated, the ocean nearby is not contaminated, most of the people can move back into their homes, and most of the other nuclear plants in Japan can start up just fine. It’s definitely true that the earthquake and tsunami, which killed 22,000 people, was a tremendous human disaster. But is Conca overstating the case on the nuclear accident? This would seem to suggest so : Unfortunately, a new monitoring system for thyroid cancer seemed to reveal an immediate and drastic effect. Hundreds of thousands of children in Fukushima prefecture underwent sensitive ultrasound scans after the accident. The results showed that 44 percent of them had t

Nuclear Bills Pass Washington Senate

No, not Washington, D.C., the one on the other coast. A couple of weeks ago, we noted that a Washington state senator named Sharon Brown had introduced a couple of bills into the legislature to promote nuclear energy. (The state hosts the Columbia Generating Station.) Sometimes, these bills drop off the news radar – they don’t get out of committee or run up against the end of a session – but these did move . By a 27-to-21 vote Friday, the Senate sent a bill to the House that would have the [state energy] department find places to build and ship small modular reactors. Also Friday, the Senate voted 44-to-5 in favor of establishing voluntary nuclear education programs in schools. These were sponsored by Republican state Senator Sharon Brown and clearly saw some bipartisan action – the Senate is split down the middle, with Republicans in control. The House has four more Ds than Rs, pretty close to even. Which doesn’t mean there was no partisan action: Sen. Bro

Nuclear Speed Dating

The idea of nuclear professionals gathering in a Starbucks and exchanging their credentials with an eye toward future happiness has a certain appeal. And perhaps as quickly as it takes an atom to split. Love at first fission. But the Department of Energy has a (slightly) different idea in mind: The future of nuclear energy needs smart, creative thinkers. That's why more than 120 experts met up last week to "speed-date" each other's ideas. To its credit, DOE did pick a beautiful location, Boise, which is near the Idaho National Labs, for one of the meeting sites. So that’s one point in DOE’s favor. The Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory led the charge. More than 120 experts gathered for simultaneous workshops in six different cities, representing National Labs, universities, nonprofits and major companies. And you’ll note the word “energetic” in the following bit. The workshops kicked off with energetic remarks by Dr. Lynn

Rejecting Germany’s Dark Nuclear Future

Europe is getting itself into a real tizzy over nuclear energy, because the strongest country in the European Union, Germany, is dead set against it and the other 27 members of the union – well, not so much . Using taxpayers' money to fund nuclear power is "absolutely out of the question", German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday, in an apparent swipe at British plans to finance new atomic generation. The French company EDF is building the new reactor at Britain’s Hinkley Point site. The EU voted state aid for the project last year and the Germans are now threatening a law suit to stop it. I’m not entirely sure who they’re suing or why exactly – and, frankly, I’m not interested enough to find out. But what is interesting – and more relevant to us over here – is the behavior of other EU countries in light of this kerfluffle.. Representing member states that support nuclear power, Romania's Energy Minister Andrei Gerea has written to E

NRC RIC is a Must Attend Event

Steven Kraft The following is a guest post by Steven Kraft, senior technical advisor at the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). For 26 years, at the close of each NRC Regulatory Information Conference (RIC), I have blocked my calendar for the following year’s RIC. The RIC (click here for this week’s agenda) has proven to be the most important and most interesting U.S. nuclear conference on the annual calendar and always worth the time invested. Participants learn from all the viewpoints presented. It is refreshing to see the deep technical commitment to safety expressed by all participants regardless of where they stand on any regulatory issue. Beginning tomorrow morning, the 27th edition of the RIC will bring to together all four NRC Commissioners and over 2,000 attendees in a professional yet convivial atmosphere to openly discuss civilian nuclear regulatory issues in both the formal sessions and informal hallway discussions. The highlight of the conference is always

The Taming of the Drones

The French have lately been plagued by drone aircraft flying over nuclear energy facilities – and a plague it is, too, for a country that has suffered a traumatic terrorist attack recently. We’ll let the French deal with the issue with their usual je ne sais quoi , as we’re sure they will. But the various stories did make me wonder about the American response – not to the French situation, but to the prospect of drones buzzing American facilities. As far as I know, this hasn’t happened – and I think we would know – but it’s fair to say that it would make people very nervous, just as it has done in France. Still, what one can do is maintain a little perspective. I was struck in this regard by comments by British engineer John Large because of its maximalist idiocy: According to Large, of consulting engineers Large & Associates, based in London, who was commissioned by Greenpeace France to evaluate and report on the spate of flyovers, the “unacceptable” risk posed by a te

Aywa in Egypt, Nein in Germany

One of the tasks nuclear energy plants could easily do is desalination. Desalination, the process of removing salt from water to make it drinkable (potable, that is), is especially important in more arid lands – say, for example, California : The massive project, in Carlsbad, teems with nearly 500 workers in yellow hard hats. When it’s done next year, it will take in more than 100 million gallons of Pacific Ocean water daily and produce 54 million gallons of fresh, drinkable water. While this adds up to just 10 percent of the county’s [San Diego]water delivery needs, it will, crucially, be reliable and drought-proof—a hedge against potentially worse times ahead. In this case, the Carlsbad facility is co-located with the Encina natural gas plant, which will supply it with power. There are some 16,000 desalination facilities around the world, many of them co-located with gas and coal plants. The Technology Review article linked above provides a lot of useful data on the subje