Monthly Archives: January 2011

ANS President-elect Eric Loewen promotes new nuclear energy

Eric Loewen, the American Nuclear Society’s vice president/president-elect, appeared on the Fox News Charlotte (North Carolina) television show on January 28 to promote new nuclear energy as part of the push in the United States for clean energy technologies.

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Space, the final nuclear frontier: NETS-2011

By Paul Bowersox

From high in orbit above planet Earth… to the dusty surface of the moon… to the stunning cloud tops and moons of Jupiter… to the dazzling rings of Saturn… even to the darkness at the edge of interstellar space—nuclear technology has made possible incredible journeys to extraordinary destinations in our Solar System, and opened doors to some of the most profound discoveries of all time. Yet, the future of nuclear technology for space exploration promises even more remarkable journeys and more amazing discoveries.

The Mars Science Laboratory is powered by nuclear technology and scheduled for Mars landing in August 2012.

The 2011 Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space conference (NETS-2011), to be held at the Albuquerque Marriott Hotel in New Mexico on February 7–10, 2011, will bring together top engineers, scientists, and administrators in nuclear and aerospace technologies to share their latest discoveries and advances in their fields, and to help build the future of space exploration. NETS-2011 is the foremost conference for advanced power and propulsion for human and robotic space exploration, lunar and planetary surface exploration, and space environment protection.

NETS-2011 is sponsored and organized by the Aerospace Nuclear Science & Technology Division (ANSTD) of the American Nuclear Society (ANS), sponsored by the ANS Trinity Section, and cosponsored by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

A unique venue for information exchange and collaboration

Bragg-Sitton

Nuclear and aerospace are related, but often disparate fields. “ANS tends to attract nuclear engineers to its meetings, and AIAA tends to attract aerospace engineers to theirs,” said Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Ph.D., general chair of NETS-2011. “What is unique about the NETS-2011 venue is that papers are presented not only by engineers designing space power and propulsion systems, but also those completing mission planning and analysis for proposed space missions, and sometimes scientists who are designing payloads for those missions.”

Benefits flow both ways among nuclear professionals and mission designers. “The NETS-2011 venue allows nuclear professionals to hear about missions that require high-power or advanced propulsion systems—and conversely, it allows mission designers to learn more about what advanced power and propulsion systems, such as nuclear systems, are available, or that could be developed, to meet the needs of those missions,” said Bragg-Sitton. “Establishing these lines of communication—and then working to keep them open through collaborative work—will more rapidly advance technology development, as it will be developed to specifically meet the needs of the user community.”

The Cassini Equinox Mission is powered by nuclear technology and is currently studying Saturn, its moon Titan, and other satellites.

To that end, the promise of nuclear and emerging technologies for upcoming NASA space science, missions, and architectures will be the subject of many technical sessions at NETS-2011, and addressed by opening plenary keynote speakers Honorary Chair John Casani, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Jim Adams, deputy director, Planetary Science Division, NASA Headquarters. An opening day plenary panel on space science missions enabled by nuclear power and propulsion will be led by chair Steve Howe, director of the Center for Space Nuclear Research.

Bragg-Sitton notes: “At standard professional society meetings, telling other nuclear professionals about the benefits of nuclear technology does not solve the problem of “getting the word out” to potential users of the technology—NETS-2011 does just that.”

Radioisotope power

The New Horizons Mission spacecraft, powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator battery, will encounter Pluto and its three moons in July 2015.

Radioisotope power generators, which convert heat from a radioactive substance into electricity, have powered (and kept warm) dozens of historic space exploration missions, as well as current missions focusing on more distant planets and their moons, and the upcoming surface exploration of Mars. Radioisotope power will continue to be the mainstay power source for space exploration in harsh, cold, and dark environments—however, future goals will require new technologies, using new materials, more efficient and lighter systems, at reasonable cost. Robert Lange, deputy assistant secretary for Business and Technical Support, U.S. Department of Energy, in the opening plenary will discuss the status and future of radioisotope power for space.

This critical technology will also be the subject of many technical sessions at NETS-2011, as well as a panel session on the critical issue of the dwindling supply and production of plutonium-238—the historically unanimous isotope choice for nuclear spacecraft power.

Fission power, fission propulsion

Nuclear fission provides some enormous advantages over chemical and traditional systems for spacecraft power, surface exploration, and spacecraft propulsion. Nuclear fission for space is not a new field, as the United States launched the SNAP-10a fission reactor into orbit in 1965, and the Soviet Union deployed more than two dozen nuclear reactors in orbit on naval monitoring satellites during the Cold War.

A KIWI design prime nuclear thermal rocket engine was built and tested in the 1960s.

While those fission systems were used for spacecraft power, many nuclear thermal fission reactors for space propulsion were also successfully built and ground tested, and by the 1970s development had progressed essentially to the point of flight prototypes. NETS-2011 Honorary Chair Harry Finger, retired, Atomic Energy Commission and NASA (as well as key positions in other agencies), is featured in the opening plenary session to discuss why these early space fission programs were so successful—and will offer some suggestions as to how we might recapture that success and move forward more quickly in current programs.

A proposed lunar surface fission reactor would use lunar soil for secondary reactor shielding.

Research, development, and testing of fission reactors for spacecraft and surface power, and spacecraft propulsion, continues to the present day. These nuclear technologies, which can bring the advantages of fission directly into space, will be the subject of an invited panel session and numerous technical sessions at NETS-2011.

Advanced concepts

Advanced technologies, including fusion and other very high energy sources of power and propulsion, may someday prove essential to meet, or set, challenging space exploration goals. Technical sessions at NETS-2011 will explore some of these impressive possibilities.

Navigating the worlds of politics and policy

A special session on nontechnical challenges for nuclear and emerging technologies for space, chaired by former NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, features numerous top policy makers and administrators, and promises to be a highlight of NETS-2011. “I am particularly excited about the special session, as it will present a different perspective than typical technical sessions,” said Bragg-Sitton. “There have been a number of programs to develop radioisotope and fission systems in the past, some of which have led to flight systems. However, space nuclear systems development often suffers greatly from fluctuating funds and political cycles.”

The goal of this special session will be to assist implementation of space nuclear systems and other technologies to completion, by identifying nontechnical challenges to space nuclear systems, their causes, possible solutions, and possible implementation strategies.

Bragg-Sitton notes: “Long-range planning and sustainable funding will go far in developing advanced power and propulsion systems. These long-term issues are often political in nature, which is why we have planned a nontechnical special session on the challenges facing the continued development of nuclear technologies for space.”

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Distinguished presenters to address conference

Conference participants will enjoy two highly distinguished dinner key speakers: Glen Schmidt, retired, former test engineer for the SNAP-10a space fission program, and Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut and former U.S. senator.

Registration and other information can be found in the NETS-2011 meeting program. About 200 participants are expected, and 89 technical papers are scheduled for presentation.

Exhibitors at NETS-2011: Center for Space Nuclear Research, Hamilton Sundstrand, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lockheed Martin, NASA Glenn Research Center, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, Sandia National Laboratories, University of Leicester.

Contact: Shannon Bragg-Sitton, general chair NETS-2011, chair of ANSTD at ANS.

 

 

Paul Bowersox is a space exploration enthusiast and freelance writer who holds a master’s degree in public policy. He is a freelance writer living in Ohio.

He is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

37th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 37th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is now up at Idaho Samizdat.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

Past editions have been hosted at NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Canadian Energy Issues, Yes Vermont Yankee, and several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog, and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brian Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

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Thoughts on President Obama’s Clean Energy Standard proposal

By Jim Hopf

In his State of the Union speech on January 25, President Barack Obama advocated a Clean Energy Standard that includes natural gas as well as renewables, nuclear and “clean coal.” In my previous post on Clean Energy Standards, I said that if the standard were expanded to include natural gas generation, then the required clean energy percentage would have to be increased substantially in order for the policy to remain meaningful, particularly if gas is given “full credit” (i.e., is treated no differently than non-emitting generation).

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Well, I must say that Obama’s stated goal of 80 percent “clean” energy generation by 2035 exceeds even the target I suggested in my last post (of 80 percent by 2050). This is an encouraging sign. Some questions remain, however:

1) What does a “goal” of 80 percent clean generation mean? Is any actual mechanism for causing this clean generation to be built being proposed? Is the president proposing a legally binding standard, such as the one that was in the Waxman-Markey bill? Will there be financial incentives (that, hopefully, apply equally to all non-emitting sources)? In other words, will this have any teeth (at all)? If not, the “policy” is essentially useless.

The fact that many in Congress are resisting even this more inclusive policy, since it may raise electricity costs (even a little bit), is very disconcerting.  If there was no cost associated with using clean (vs. old, dirty) energy, there would be no need for any type of policy in the first place, as utilities would do it on their own.  Some legislators seem to place zero value on clean air, or reducing CO2 emissions; a view that does not help nuclear at all.

2) What is meant by “clean coal”? One would hope that this means coal with CO2 sequestration. At a minimum, one would think it at least means gasified coal (IGCC, integrated gasification combined cycle) as well as CO2 capture projects. If the definition is any looser than that (i.e., if it basically calls modern, state-of-the-art, conventional coal plants “clean”), then the policy would be largely useless.

Given the high percentage (80 percent), and the fact that it applies to all (not just new) generation, I suppose that even if the loose definition were applied, it would at least result in the closure of most of the old, ultra-dirty coal plants, since it would require the level of “non-clean” coal generation to decrease. Such a policy would not help nuclear, however, since it would still be in competition with gas and conventional coal for new generation. It would also do little to reduce CO2 emissions, although it would reduce air pollution.

3) How will natural gas generation be treated in the standard? Will gas be simply included in the standard, and treated no differently than non-emitting sources , or will it somehow receive only “partial credit,” due to the fact that it still emits about 50 percent as much CO2 as coal?*

Even if gas is given “full credit,” the policy will still have an impact. The Energy Information Administration projects that with no change in policy, the percentage of electricity generation from conventional coal will drop only to 43 percent in 2035, from 45 percent today. This policy would require that percentage to drop to 20 percent instead. Thus, conventional coal will be replaced, but with respect to what it is replaced with, nuclear and renewables would be given no advantage at all versus gas.

If gas were to be given “half credit,” I suppose only half of total gas generation in the United States in 2035 would count towards the 80 percent goal. Such a policy would be more justified (given that gas is not emissions-free) and it would give nuclear and renewables an advantage over gas since they would provide twice as much progress towards the goal (per kW-hr of new generation). It would also outright require that a significant fraction of electricity comes from non-emitting sources such as nuclear or renewables. Even if there were no conventional coal generation at all, one would have to have at least 60 percent non-emitting sources and no more than 40 percent gas to meet the requirements of the standard (60 + 40/2 = 80).

If this proposed policy has real teeth, has a strict definition of what “clean coal” is, and gives gas only partial credit toward the 80 percent clean energy goal, it will be enormously beneficial to nuclear. If the answers to the above questions go the other way, however, the benefits for nuclear will be much smaller.

*A document that gives more details on the proposal was subsequently released by the White House. This document states that the proposal’s intention is for gas to be given some kind of “partial credit” toward the clean energy goal. Whether gas will get partial credit in any final legislation that passes remains an open question.

Hopf

Jim Hopf is a senior nuclear engineer at EnergySolutions, with 20 years’ experience in shielding and criticality analysis and design for spent fuel dry storage and transportation systems. He has been involved in nuclear advocacy for 10 years, and is a member of the ANS Public Information Committee. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

The economics of wind power

By Ulrich Decher, Ph.D.

It is often stated that since no one can charge money for the wind, wind-generated electricity is free. This is not true. A modern wind turbine, which can generate 2 megawatts of electricity (MWe) when the wind is blowing, costs about $3.5 million installed. Five hundred of these turbines installed at a wind farm, to be able to generate 1000 MWe, would cost $1.75 billion. Add in other costs, such as for operation and maintenance (O&M) and transmission lines, and the total sum could match the approximate $4 billion required to build a nuclear plant.

All of these costs need to be recovered from customers or taxpayers. So, the cost of wind-generated electricity is not free.

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

A typical wind farm would generate electricity about 30 percent of the time, and not necessarily at times when electricity is needed. There is a very big difference between intermittent sources of electricity, such as wind farms, and baseload sources, such as nuclear power. The argument that nuclear power also has down times is true, but these refueling and maintenance outages are largely planned during times of low electricity demand (during spring and fall).

As I mentioned in Fitting Wind onto the Electricity Grid, my recent ANS Nuclear Cafe post, wind turbines by themselves do not add electrical capacity to a grid. They must be paired with other generators of equivalent power to compensate for wind variations and for the stability of the  electricity grid.

This pairing—wind and backup—has limits because of the huge rapid variability of wind that must be compensated for by the backup power source. It is estimated that this pairing can account for only 20 percent of the capacity of the grid. This means that wind can be only 6 percent of the generation (.20 x .3). This limit has already been reached in Europe by countries such as Germany and Denmark.

Wind power fuel tradeoff with natural gas

Since wind power is a fuel saver, one of the questions that might be asked is exactly how much fuel is saved, or put another way: What is the economic tradeoff between wind farms and the fuel saved, such as in a natural gas power plant?

A simplified comparison shows that the worth of the natural gas saved is less than the cost of building and operating a wind farm. The details of the cost tradeoff are shown at the end of this article.

There are some additional costs that make the comparison even worse:

  • Transmission losses. Since the transmission lines from a remote wind farm are likely to be longer, a wind farm may need to be larger to provide the same amount of power as the backup. For example, if we assume a 10-percent electricity loss per 100 miles, a wind farm 500 miles away needs to be double in size.
  • Transmission line cost. A remote wind farm will need expensive transmission lines to deliver the electricity. For example, a proposed new 12 000-MW high voltage transmission line connecting wind sources in New England would cost $19 billion–$25 billion[1]. Transmission line cost may not be directly born by the power provider, so these costs may be hidden from any direct cost comparisons, but ultimately they are still paid for by the consumer or taxpayer.

Pickens

An illustration of how the pairing of wind and natural gas has failed recently due to economics was provided by T. Boone Pickens, when he tried to send wind-generated electricity from Texas, which he called the “Saudi Arabia of wind”, to California. His attempt at promoting natural gas by pairing it with wind seemed like a good idea and got much television advertisement (his emphasis was on the wind portion of the pairing, as it seemed a more popular idea). His strategy, however, depended on gas prices at $9 per million BTU. The price has since dropped to $4 per million BTU.

There appears to be no economic justification for windmills when paired with natural gas. If the price of natural gas is low, then the worth of the saved fuel does not compensate for the cost of the wind farms. If the price is high, then the use of natural gas is not competitive with other forms of power generation. Although natural gas prices without windmills may be competitive today, there have been price fluctuations by as much as a factor of two as recently as a few years ago.

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Wind power fuel tradeoff with oil-generated electricity

Wind farm on Maui

Another question that might be asked is how does this tradeoff compare when the electricity is generated with oil? In Hawaii, oil is the major fuel for electricity generation. Another favorable factor in Hawaii may also be that the wind generation capacity factor may be higher on these islands. A simplified cost tradeoff shows that there is indeed a cost advantage to backing up oil generation with windmills. Oil is such an expensive fuel that anything that reduces fuel consumption is well worth the cost.

The fact that oil is so expensive is the reason that it is seldom used in the continental United States for electricity generation. In Hawaii, however, there appear to be few other choices. This may change if small nuclear plants become available as a low-cost alternative.

Hydro backup

It should be noted that if hydro power is used to compensate for wind power, there is no compensating cost saving for the saved fuel. The saved fuel is the extra water that goes over the spillway and is wasted. It is cheaper to have no wind farms in this pairing and let hydro do the entire job of supplying the needed electricity. Here are some factors that limit wind generation on a hydro grid:

  1. Too much wind on the grid may violate the Endangered Species Act. Placing too much wind on the grid is actually a

    Salmon pool

    concern in California, as that state is negotiating with the neighboring Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) grid for renewable energy credits to meet its self-imposed Renewable Energy Standard. In order for the BPA to help meet California’s demand for wind-generated energy, it might need to decrease the hydro generation to the point that the excess water flow over the dams causes harmful effects to migrating salmon during the spawning season due to excess dissolved nitrogen [2].

  2. Too much wind on the grid may violate agreements to provide downstream irrigation needs. During drought situations, it may not be possible to turn down the hydro generation to let wind onto the grid and still meet irrigation needs.

Hydro plant

If there is no cost advantage or environmental advantage to placing wind on a grid with ample hydro, one may well ask why we are doing that. The answer is that we have passed laws in many states (Washington and California, for example) that do not count existing hydro into the legal definition of renewable energy. This may be surprising to many readers, as existing hydro certainly fits the definition of being naturally replenished. Existing hydro is certainly replenished as well as new hydro would be.

The BPA grid currently has 3000 MW of potential wind energy (when the wind is blowing). Assuming the above-mentioned price of a windmill, this means that consumers at the BPA have already spent at least $5 billion for wind-energy production without any obvious benefit. This potential wind capacity is expected to double by 2012, so BPA consumers are expected to spend another $5 billion without an obvious benefit.

The bottom line is that we have allowed laws to be passed that are harmful both to our pocketbooks and to the environment. Without the benefit of these laws, wind developers would have lost their legally mandated status and there would be no windmills on grids with ample hydro.

There is no free lunch

Wind-generated electricity is not free. The cost of fuel for any power plant is just part of the cost that a consumer needs to pay. Because the fuel cost is zero does not mean that the cost of the generated electricity is zero.

This is similar to the electricity generated by hydro. The cost of the water is zero, but the hydro-generated electricity is not zero. It includes O&M costs and the cost of building the hydroelectric dam.

For a nuclear plant, the fuel cost is not zero, but it is a relatively small portion of the generation cost. It is certainly smaller than the fuel cost in a natural gas plant, where the fuel cost is about 80 percent of the generation cost.

For power providers that use oil as fuel, it appears that wind generation is worth the fuel-cost savings.  Oil is not used extensively, however, because it is so expensive.

In conclusion, there appears to be no economic justification for building windmills except when low-cost alternatives are not available. This is especially true when windmills are placed on a grid with ample hydro, as there are no compensating fuel savings in that situation.

There is no free lunch.

Cost tradeoff of wind versus fuel  saved

Inputs:

  1. A 2-MW wind turbine costs approximately $3.5 million installed.
  2. The O&M cost of a wind farm is approximately 20-25 percent.
  3. The  maximum life expectancy of wind turbines is 20 years.
  4. The price of gas is about $4 per thousand cubic feet.
  5. The price of a barrel of oil is $80.
  6. It takes about 7.7 cubic feet of natural gas to generate 1 kWh of electricity (dividing the generation in Table 7.2a by the fuel consumption in Table 7.3a in these tables published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration ).
  7. It takes 0.00175 barrels of oil to generate 1 kWh of electricity (using the same tables as above).

Assumptions:

  1. The capacity factor of a wind farm is about 30 percent (land based).
  2. The a higher capacity factor of 45 percent is assumed for Hawaii.
  3. The average life of a wind turbine is 15 years.
  4. Interest costs for the wind farm are neglected.
  5. The cost of transmission lines are neglected.

Analysis

 

Cost of wind farms:

 

  1. A 1000-MW wind farm costs $1,750 million to install all the turbines (500 turbines  x $3.5M per turbine).
  2. For a lifetime of 15 years, the costs is $116 million per year (1,750/15).
  3. When including O&M, this increases to $145 million/year (116 x 1.25).

Electricity generated:

  1. The amount of electricity that a 1000-MW wind farm is expected to produce in a year is 2,630,000 MW-hrs for a 30-percent capacity factor (1000 MW x 365d x 24 h/d x .3).

Cost of natural gas saved:

 

  1. The value of the fuel saving in the backup 1000-MW natural gas plant is $81 million/year. (2.63 x 106 MW-hrs x 7.7 cubic feet/kWh x $4/1000 cubic feet x 103 kW/MW).

Cost of oil saved in Hawaii:

 

  1. The value of the fuel saving in the backup 1000-MW oil-fired plant is $552 million/year. (2.63 x 106 MW-hrs x [.45/.3] x 0.00175 barrels/kWh x $80/barrel x 103 kW/MW).

 

Conclusion:

  • The yearly natural gas fuel-saving cost benefit for operating a wind farm is less than the yearly cost to install and operate wind farms.  There is, therefore. no economic incentive to pair a natural gas plant with a wind farm, unless the price for natural gas goes up.
  • For a pairing of wind farms with oil-fired generation, there appears to be a significant savings. This is primarily due to the much higher price of oil versus natural gas for the same energy content. This is the reason oil-fired generation is not much used anywhere, except Hawaii, where there is not much other choice. At today’s prices, oil is 4.5 times more expensive than natural gas for the same extracted electrical energy (.00175 barrels/kWh x $80/barrel)/(7.7 cft/kWh x $0.004/cft)=4.5

References:

  1. Peter Wong, manager Resource Adequacy, ISO New England Inc. “An Overview of ISO New England and Operation of the New England Electric Power Grid,” given at Western New England College, Western Massachusetts Sustainability Symposium, October 24, 2009.
  2. Bonneville Power Administration Testimony before the Public Utilities Commission of the State of California, May 12, 2010 (See Page 8, second paragraph)

 

Ulrich Decher holds a PhD in nuclear engineering. He is a member of the ANS Public Information Committee and a contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

The U.S. and the world in the nuclear power race

Excelsior College on Wednesday, January 26, is hosting a webinar, Can the U.S. Catch the World in the Nuclear Power Race? which will bring together scholars and nuclear technology practitioners from across the United States for a panel discussion on the subject matter. The event is being held in conjunction with National Nuclear Science Week.

The webinar, sponsored by Excelsior College’s School of Business & Technology, will take place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. EST and is available online here. Please take time to send an RSVP e-mail to Excelsior College’s Tina Perfetti.

Excelsior College, in Albany, N.Y., is one of 41 schools nationwide that has a student chapter of the American Nuclear Society, and is the only distance learning institution with an ANS student chapter.

U.S. engagement in nuclear energy production

The webinar will open with a look at recent claims by China of a major breakthrough in nuclear fuel reprocessing, as a starting point for discussion on America’s international engagement in nuclear energy—the technology that was pioneered in the United States—and the consequences of falling further behind France, Russia, Japan, and other nations that continue to expand their investments in nuclear power generation.

The panel will include:

  • Gilbert Brown, professor, Nuclear Engineering Program, University of Massachusetts-Lowell, Faculty Committee member, Excelsior College, Fellow, American Nuclear Society
  • Byron Thinger, senior nuclear engineer, Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, Faculty Committee member, Excelsior College
  • Jay James, nuclear engineer (retired), Faculty Committee member, Excelsior College
  • Anthony DeAngelo, health physicist, Instructional Faculty, Excelsior College, president-elect of the Northeastern New York Chapter of the Health Physics Society
  • Patrick Berry, director, Training and Development, Entergy Nuclear, Industry Advisory Council, Excelsior College
  • Peggy Caserto, Instructional Faculty, Excelsior College
  • Randy Fromm, senior consultant, The Westwind Group, Inc., Instructional Faculty, Interim Program director, Excelsior College

To follow along on Twitter, search the term #NukeWeb.

This post appeared on the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

National Nuclear Science Week in Minnesota

National Nuclear Science Week, January 24–28, is underway across the United States and is being promoted in Minnesota with activities that include tours of PaR Nuclear’s facility, a student essay competition, and trivia contests.

PaR Nuclear's facility

PaR Nuclear provides fuel-handling equipment, outage-critical cranes, and services equipment for commercial nuclear power plants  around the world. The company’s facility, in Shoreview, Minn., contains the outage equipment and tools, along with heavy lift cranes. The facility consists of 60 000 square feet of floor space and includes three high bays.

On hand to lead the tours are experienced and knowledgeable engineers, field technicians, and business professionals from PaR Nuclear, who provide students and others who tour the facility with information about career opportunities in the nuclear power industry. Dozens of students from the local Dunwoody Technical College have attended the event, among others.

The activities are supported by the American Nuclear Society, Women in Nuclear, Westinghouse Electric, and PaR Nuclear.

Minnesota’s state legislature is considering legislation that would lift the moratorium on new nuclear energy facilities. Minnesota is home to two existing nuclear power plants:  Monticello and Prairie Island-1 and -2.

This year’s theme for National Nuclear Science Week is “Get to Know Nuclear.”

National Nuclear Science Week is a national, broadly observed seven-day celebration to focus local, regional, and national interest on all aspects of nuclear science. Each day will provide opportunities throughout the country for learning about the contributions, innovations, and opportunities that can be found by exploring nuclear science.

This post appeared on ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Gwyneth Cravens talks about nuclear energy in Vermont

View from Vermont

by Meredith Angwin

Gwyneth Cravens came to Vermont last week for a full plate of speaking engagements and media interviews. Howard Shaffer, myself, and John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute had planned for weeks her visit to Vermont. I was tired of seeing the constant parade of anti-nuclear people like Helen Caldicott, Paul Gunther of Beyond Nuclear, and others come up to Vermont.

It was about time we dispelled some of the gloom of ignorance with a solid pro-nuclear talk!

The action

Craven’s media appearances started before her trip started, with two radio interviews while she was still in California. One was on WDEV, the Mark Johnson show, and you can hear it here:

Part 1
Part 2

Her other interview was on Vermont Public Radio’s morning edition, but I have been unable to find a link. VPR may not yet have archived Cravens’ appearance.

On Thursday in Vermont, Cravens

  • had breakfast with supporters at the Burlington Sheraton
  • gave a rushed talk to legislators in the State House in Montpelier
  • spoke to students and faculty at the University of Vermont in the afternoon (sponsored by the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics)
  • addressed the Ethan Allen Institute’s Sheraton Economic Series at the Burlington Sheraton in the evening (click here for video of her presentation).

The next day, she gave a long interview with True North Reports, a start-up Web magazine. Then she flew home.

Cravens

By the end of the day on Thursday, Cravens had given three one-hour talks in three separate venues in two cities. An immense and successful effort! The talks were recorded by cable companies and a documentary film maker. All the seats were filled in the State House Committee room and the Sheraton Economic Series. At  the University of Vermont, we still had seats available, but the faculty sponsor looked at the 30 students and said that this was a “good crowd” for the type of event we were holding.

The results

What worked? What didn’t?

Mostly, everything worked. The talk to the legislators was rushed because we basically had the committee room for only 45 minutes during the lunch hour, and there was time only for one question. We were handing out free copies of her book, Power to Save the World, and 20 legislators took copies. As a courtesy, John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute also brought a copy of the book to the offices of Vermont Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and Gov. Peter Shumlin.

Sometimes, victories are smiles and sometimes they are scowls. I saw some scowls on the faces of a few plant opponents in the State House hallways. I always love it when one particular senator scowls at me. He is an ardent plant opponent, and when he gives me a dirty look, it means I have done something right!

University of Vermont

Because we had more time, the UVM talk went more smoothly. At the university, as in her book, Cravens talked about her journey from someone who was automatically anti-nuclear to someone who became a nuclear proponent. This story of increased knowledge and changed views definitely resonated with the students. Most of the student questions were thoughtful, and the question period ended on an unexpected high note. The last question was a statement by one grad student, who had become convinced that nuclear was the future. I talked with the student afterward. He is an engineering student and working on wind turbines. He has become quite certain that wind turbines will have limited utility, and so he has been looking at other methods of making power. Of course, he likes nuclear.

The crowd at the Ethan Allen Institute talk in the evening was older and more conservative than the students at University of Vermont. The good news was that they were already mostly nuclear supporters. The bad news was that several of them objected to Cravens’ description of global warming. Cravens handled their questions very well, and one person told me that she thought the question period had been the best part of the presentation. I consider that a true compliment to Cravens.

Exit sign containing tritium

Another great part of the evening talk was Howard Shaffer’s show-and-tell. Shaffer bought (on Amazon.com) a tritium-containing exit sign with seven curies of tritium. Pointing out that he held, in his hand, about seven times the entire amount of tritium that had leaked from Vermont Yankee definitely had an impact.

The bottom line

We supported our friends in the legislature, who left the meeting with big smiles. We at least partially discomfited the plant opponents there. Students were receptive to Cravens’ talk, and conservatives were also won over by her knowledge during the question period.

This event was unique in the recent history of Vermont, which has had several visits from Helen Caldicott, but no visits (before this one) from out-of-state nuclear experts. We had some media coverage, but I wish there were more. I also wish that we had more legislators in the room, and maybe even a few Democrats in attendance. (Knowledgeable people said that all the legislators present were Republicans.)

The bottom line is that it was a start. It was a beginning. We were a presence. One swallow does not make a summer, and one set of appearances does not make a victory. But they help.

Angwin

Meredith Angwin is the founder of Carnot Communications, which helps firms to communicate technical matters. She specialized in mineral chemistry as a graduate student at the University of Chicago. Later, she became a project manager in the geothermal group at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Then she moved to nuclear energy, becoming a project manager in the EPRI nuclear division. She is an inventor on several patents. Angwin serves as a commissioner in the Hartford Energy Commission, Hartford, Vt.

Angwin is a long-time member of the American Nuclear Society and coordinator of the Energy Education Project. She is a frequent contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Nuclear science on Capitol Hill on Thursday

Leading figures from Congress, the commercial nuclear industry, and academia will convene on January 27 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.,  to detail the contributions of nuclear technology and the possibilities associated with education in nuclear science. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.) will be the featured speaker at a discussion of the contributions, innovations, and opportunities that can be found by exploring nuclear science.

The event is one of many planned across the United States as part of National Nuclear Science Week, which began on January 24. Sponsored by the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, in Albuquerque, N.M., National Nuclear Science Week recognizes the contributions of the nuclear technology and science sector and the people who work in it every day. Each day of the week will promote a different aspect of nuclear science:

  • Monday: Get to know nuclear technology
  • Tuesday: Careers in the nuclear fields
  • Wednesday: Nuclear energy
  • Thursday: Nuclear safety
  • Friday: Nuclear medicine

The Capitol Hill event will start at 10:30 a.m. on January 27 in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Room (366 Dirksen). The scheduled speakers are:

  • Sen. Jeff Bingaman, chairman, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee
  • Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer, Nuclear Energy Institute (Topics: Industry performance in 2010; policy priorities in 2011; highlights of utility-sponsored activity during Nuclear Science Week)
  • Audeen Fentiman, associate dean of Engineering, Purdue University (Topics: Trends in nuclear engineering enrollment; promise of jobs and work force initiatives; need for federal research and grant support)
  • Giuseppe Esposito, associate professor of Radiology, and chief, Nuclear Medicine, Georgetown University (Topics: Current innovative treatments; radioisotope availability)
  • Jim Walther, director, National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, panel moderator

For more information, contact the Nuclear Energy Institute’s John Keeley by e-mail or call him at 202/739-8020.

ANS to sponsor teacher workshop in Phoenix, Arizona

The American Nuclear Society’s Public Education Program will be sponsoring a one-day teacher workshop on Sunday, February 27, at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Ariz. The workshop—Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World—is intended for science educators (including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, physical science, life science, environmental, and general science) at the high school and middle school levels. WM Symposia, Inc., is cosponsoring the workshop, which will be held prior to WM2011, the international waste management conference that is held in Phoenix.

The full-day workshop will prepare attendees to teach the basics about radiation, how we detect radiation, and the uses of nuclear science and technology in society. Teachers who complete the workshop will receive a wealth of materials—background information, hands-on activities, and supplementary resources—and a Geiger counter. Career opportunities in nuclear science and technology will be highlighted during the sessions.

“We’re excited to be offering this overview of radiation and nuclear science to teachers in the Phoenix area,” said Chuck Vincent, ANS Outreach administrator. “Workshop participants are always eager to receive their free Geiger counters and learn about hands-on demonstrations that they can use in their classrooms.”

Hands-on activity at a 2010 ANS teacher workshop

The teacher workshop provides information and training to help teachers address National Science Education Standards, as developed under the aegis of the National  Research Council, for grades 5–8 and 9–12. Specific content will help teachers address physical science content standards at grades 5–8 (transfer of energy) and 9–12 (structure of atoms and interactions of energy and matter). The workshop and materials will provide information useful in addressing topics in the history and nature of science, as outlined by the standards, for both grade levels. Teachers will receive information that helps them assist students in grades 9–12 as they develop scientific models, an activity that is part of the inquiry standards.

Currently, scheduled presenters include:

  • Mansel Nelson, program coordinator, Environmental Education Outreach Program, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Northern Arizona University
  • Terry Price, mechanical engineer, Palo Verde Generation Station of Arizona Public Service Company
  • Walter Thomas, chemistry teacher–district science coordinator, Wickenburg Unified School District
  • Dr. Debra Thrall, executive director, Albert I. Pierce Foundation, Albuquerque, N.M.

There is a $60 nonrefundable registration fee for teachers to reserve a place at the workshop. The registration deadline is 12:00 noon (Central Time), Tuesday, February 15, 2011. Please visit the ANS website for more information, including an announcement and online registration form. The workshop will be limited in size to optimize interaction with presenters. Registration is on a first-come first-served basis.

This post first appeared on the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Chicago ANS Local Section kicks off National Nuclear Science Week with student workshop

On Saturday, January 22, the Chicago ANS Local Section launched the activities for National Nuclear Science week a day early by presenting a student nuclear science workshop, hosted by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (MSI).  Chicago MSI—the largest science museum in the western hemisphere—included the workshop as part of the Scientist at Work series, in which high school science achievers learn about different science disciplines and career paths.

A full report on the workshop will be posted later this week. The following video report featuring David Pointer, Chicago Local Section member and ANS Public Information Committee vice chair, aired during the opening segment of ABC-7 News in Chicago at 5:00 p.m. on January 22:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmWEcOFQMaQ&w=380&h=232]

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36th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs

The voice of the nuclear renaissance is found in a weekly wrap up

TVA's Bellefonte nuclear power station - graphic by PopAtomic Studios

This is the 36th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs. The carnival features blog posts from the leading U.S. nuclear bloggers and is a roundup of featured content from them.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the carnival is where to find it.

Past editions have been hosted at Canadian Energy Issues, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Yes Vermont Yankee, Idaho Samizdat, and several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

Pop Atomic Studios

Google's electric car

Suzy Hobbs of PopAtomic Studios examines the marketing of ‘zero-emission’ electric cars.  The idea is that you can charge the vehicle’s electric battery at home or at designated charging stations and have absolutely no carbon emissions, or at least that is what the advertising might lead one to believe. Sounds pretty great…but there is one major problem that the media and public don’t seem to notice.

Electricity is not intrinsically carbon-free. In fact electricity production is the single largest emitter of CO2 in the United States according to the EPA’s report on Climate Change.  This new generation of electric vehicles could be a great thing, but it depends on a large scale shift to a clean energy source: nuclear energy.

ANS Nuclear Cafe

Mike Blake of Nuclear News talks about the growing support for nuclear energy in the United States. He ties this support to dramatic changes in nuclear power management and regulation over the past 30 years and discusses the Top 5 improvements in the U.S. nuclear energy industry.

Nuke Power Talk

Many people in the nuclear industry are looking to the new Congress and hoping for action in some key areas to help jump-start the nuclear industry. Having lived and worked inside the Beltway for more years than I care to admit to any more, I’d like to caution everyone that the Washington scene is extraordinarily complicated.

NuclearGreen

Alvin Weinberg - photo Oak Ridge National Laboratory

In “Rediscovering Weinberg’s Vision,” Charles Barton recounts how Alvin Weinberg’s death lead him to recover Weinberg’s vision of the role of energy in society. Charles notes his own childhood relationship with the Weinberg family, and his year as “a glorified Intern” with the ORNL-NSF Environmental Studies program.  In contrast to Amory Lovins whose predictions were almost never correct, many of Alvin Weinberg’s predictions about energy have proven correct.

In his post, “Alvin Weinberg and the Molten Salt Reactor,” Charles Barton recounts how his rediscovery of Alvin Weinberg’s vision lead him to look anew at the Molten Salt Reactor. Charles found a number of Weinberg’s papers on Molten Salt Reactors on Kirk Sorensen’s Blog, Energy from Thorium. An account of Weinberg’s management style is included as well as an extensive quote from a Weinberg essay on the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor.

Canadian Energy Issues

With the breakdown of talks over the privatization of Atomic Energy Canada Limited, the Canadian and Ontario governments are, finally, feeling public pressure to get down to real negotiations over Canada’s first new domestic power reactor project in 16 years. The essential issue is risk; more precisely, how much it will cost to manage it. At stake: thousands of high paid jobs, and Canada’s role in the international nuclear industry

Atomic Insights

For Sale – Nuclear Power Plant for less than $1,500 per kilowatt that can be running in about 5 years.

Based on a number of private conversations, I have learned that Exelon would be willing to sell the Zion Nuclear Station if a qualified buyer made a reasonable offer. For about $3 billion and a few years of challenging work, the buyer would have a refurbished, 2100 MWe nuclear plant with a fresh, 20 year operating license. A reasonable estimate is that the plant could be producing revenue by 2016.

Idaho Samizdat

On Jan 11 that the Chinese State Council Research Office published a policypaper in its Outlook Weekly that the country must avoid building too many new nuclear reactors too quickly.

This blog predicted in December 2010 that there would be a slowdown in China in terms of the pace of its new nuclear build. I wrote  . . .

China determined to address challenges to its ambitious nuclear new build

“The mandarins in Beijing will discover they’re outrunning their ability to build out their plans for 80 GWe of new reactors in ten years. There are limits to how much concrete, steel, and nuclear engineering talent can be put into play in that short a period of time.”

It appears this is what’s happening as documented in an extraordinary paper released by a government ministry.

This blog post takes the reader through the issues facing China’s new nuclear build including training a new generation of nuclear engineers, getting quality embedded in the manufacturing process with reliable delivery of whole systems, cost control, and organization of nuclear safety institutions.

Yes Vermont Yankee

Meredith Angwin, who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee, is also director of the Ethan Allen Institute Energy Education Project. After years of seeing nuclear opponents sendanti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott to the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier, we are proud to have planned a visit by Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power To Save the World. Gwyneth will speak in Montpelier and Burlington.

Next Big Future

Uranium is an abundant element

A biased report claimed that uranium from seawater would not have goodenergy return and could not have a good location with a reasonable ocean current.

The report looked at the Straits of Gibraltar but ignores the Black Current off of Japan which is 42 times stronger. Japanese researchers are leading the development of uranium from seawater and all of their plans talk about this current.

Japan is looking at offshore processing, which would save the fuel costs of bringing the absorbent from the ocean to a land based facility. This is an improvement over using ships to move the materials from the ocean for processing on land and then bringing them back to the ocean

The biased report also ignored deep burn reactors and reprocessing. This can be 60 times more efficient.

Japan has proposed various scaling up plans for uranium from seawater Japan is also looking at genetically engineering seaweed to be the absorbent which will produce biofuel and extract uranium and vanadium by having high levels of tannin. By using organic materials absorbent there would not be the issue of using oil to create the capture material. By using genetically altered seaweed, there would be the energy gain from the biofuel and the uranium.

Nuclear Fissionary – the video

I’ve decided paraphrase every conversation I’ve ever had with an antinuclear activist. No Rainbow Bears were harmed during the making of this video.

This videos is the perfect vehicle for sending this message and it is all because of monotone. The monotone, unwavering and robotic delivery of the animations inserts and fresh breathe of calmness and seeming neutrality to this heated debate.

Not only does this video purport a sound and viable message, it does so in away that removes irrational inflection from the argument. It’s truly as if both sides can hear one another speak and in doing so register what one another is saying.

If there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this it is that while must uphold our passion we must remember to remain calm, focus and steadfast in our conversations and encounters with those who have not yet come to fully grasp the facts.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBFpm9UHX-0]

ANS Vice President/President-elect Eric Loewen talks about nuclear energy

Eric Loewen, the American Nuclear Society’s vice president/president-elect, appeared on the Good Day Columbia (South Carolina) television show on the morning of January 21 to discuss nuclear energy technologies and nuclear-related activities in South Carolina.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUkDfrDPMh4&w=640&h=390]

Chernobyl and nuclear knowledge transfer

By Peter Caracappa

At a session on educational programs during a recent ANS meeting, a fairly new graduate student in nuclear engineering described a nuclear survey course that he had taken at his university. The graduate student had not studied nuclear engineering as an undergrad, and when he said, “I had never really heard of Chernobyl before I took this course,” you could almost hear an audible gasp among the more, well, mature members of the audience.

Chernobyl-4 reactor after the accident (center), its turbine building (lower left), and Chenobyl-3 (center right).

This year—2011—marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl accident, which occurred on April 26, 1986, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine  (then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union). While I am certain that there will be plenty of coverage of the event a few months from now, the anniversary serves as a reminder of just how long ago it was, and how many of the younger members of the nuclear industry were not alive or were not aware of the accident and simply have no real knowledge of it.

In full disclosure, I myself was not quite 10 years old at the time, but like the Challenger space shuttle accident that same year, Chernobyl and its aftermath were an impacting memory.

When a generation shares a major event, it can be easy to never realize that later generations have limited knowledge of the event, if any knowledge at all. It is not the technical lessons of the accident that we have to worry about losing. These lessons become part of the fabric of our educational programs, and they are built into the training, policies, and procedures throughout the industry. What we can’t replicate, however, is the emotional impact of the event. Young engineers may be able to give 20 reasons why an accident like happened at Chernobyl can never occur in the United States, but does that mean that they can frame the answers in a way that addresses the fears of their audience?

When we talk about knowledge transfer from one generation to another, we are usually talking about the technical knowledge. Even absent a strong program in that area, technical history does become part of our education, formally or informally. We learn about how regulations have changed over time, or we redo some calculations based upon a new set of standards, or we absorb some of the “war stories” from more experienced people around us. We don’t want to miss the important details, which is why knowledge management programs are so important. Whichever side of the conversation we find ourselves on, we should not forget to talk about those things—such as the emotional impact—that engineers sometimes have a more difficult time putting into words.

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Caracappa

Peter Caracappa is a clinical assistant professor and radiation safety officer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in New York State. He was a founding executive committee member of the Young Members Group and currently serves as its chair. He is a contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Japan puts India in a pressure cooker

No deals for reactor components without
nonproliferation commitments

By Dan Yurman

India’s refusal to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty may delay, or even stop, delivery of massive reactor pressure vessels from Japan Steel Works (JSW). India has plans to build 20 GWe of new nuclear reactors in the next 10 years. Two, and perhaps six, of those reactors will come from Areva, which wants to order parts for them from Japan. These parts aren’t just pumps and pipes. The components that are at the core of a potentially deal-breaking dispute are 400- to 600-ton reactor pressure vessels. A civil nuclear agreement between the two countries is the key to success for India’s ambitions to build $150 billion of new nuclear powered generation capacity.

Before Japan will let JSW supply reactor components to India, it is demanding that India provide a guarantee that it will not conduct a nuclear test nor use its civilian nuclear reactors for military purposes. For its part, the Indian government sees having the option to test its nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to military threats from Pakistan, its arch enemy and neighbor, and to remind China, its massive neighbor to the north, to take India seriously in border disputes and Asian security matters.

Japan has made it clear that it wants India to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Japanese diplomats have emphasized that an Indian nuclear weapon test would not only end the supply of new reactor components, it might also trigger a recall of any parts and fuel that have already been shipped for use in new reactors.

India does not have the ability to make its own pressure vessels and is at least five to 10 years away from being able to reliably manufacture them. A nuclear test would trigger draconian commercial consequences. Most significantly, India would lose access to global nuclear fuel markets that it only just restored in 2008 after a 30-year lockout.

Japan’s other problem is that while it has domestic political reasons for pursuing a diplomatic initiative with India, it also has competition for India’s nuclear business from South Korea. The government in Seoul is ready to sell reactor components to India regardless of whether it holds open the option to test a nuclear device.

Two Areva reactors to start, four more to come

The most immediate need by India for Japanese reactor pressure vessels comes from deal for two Areva 1600-MW reactors to be built in Jaitapur. In early January, Luc Oursel, a top Areva executive, told the Times of India that Japan’s demand for India to sign the test ban treaty is throwing a monkey wrench into the deal.

Oursel called for a “bilateral agreement” between India and Japan on the issue. He added that until that happens, the Jaitapur project is not a done deal. Whether India actually signs the treaty, which is unlikely, or provides some other guarantee, which is more likely, doesn’t matter to Areva as long as the issues goes away. Weighing in the balance is an agreement to build four more Areva EPRs, each worth about $4 billion.

A secondary issue is that like the Russians and American reactor vendors, Areva is unhappy about India’s domestic supplier liability law. Oursel told the Times of India that he wants to see adherence to international standards, a reference to an International Atomic Energy Agency convention on nuclear liability that has been signed by India, but not yet ratified by its fractious multi-party parliament.

Japan’s short-term competitive edge

Japan’s leading global role in the manufacture of reactor pressure vessels is temporary at best, despite a four-year backlog of orders. South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries is ramping up to manufacture these types of reactor components to supply them as part of a contract to build four 1400-MW reactors in the United Arab Emirates.

The Russians have long been capable of producing reactor pressure vessels. They will supply them for the 18 reactors they are planning to build for India. The first 12 will be 1000-MW VVER designs and the next six will be uprated to 1200 MW.

In the United Kingdom, Sheffield Forgemasters may get a government loan in 2011 that will support construction of a factory to make reactor pressure vessels for Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. Westinghouse is a potential investor in the new factory if the government provides the loan. In the future, Westinghouse could conceivably get the pressure vessels it needs for Indian plants from the U.K.

Among the major commercial nuclear powers, only the United States lacks the capability and/or plans to forge components for large pressure vessels. Paradoxically, U.S. firms may develop expertise in forging pressure vessels for small modular reactors, e.g., less than 300 MW, before they rebuild the capability to forge large ones, e.g., 1000 MW.

India’s forge far in the future

India’s efforts to have its own large forge began last year as part of a joint development project between G.E.-Hitachi, Larsen-Toubro (L&T), and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. They are building a reactor pressure vessel manufacturing facility in Gujarat that also will be the site of at least two GE-Hitachi ESBWR reactors if the liability law can be revised to meet American needs. L&T said in a statement in February 2010 that the plant will be able to produce ingots up to 600 tonnes, which would make it the largest in the world.

Building one of these types of factories takes time. It takes yet more time to become a reliable producer of more than one unit per year. It could take India the better part of a decade to attain that outcome.

Pressure on Japan’s home front

Some of these developments are somewhat circular since the Japanese half of GE-Hitachi would be affected by any diplomatic agreement with India—or the lack of one. The United States has been pushing Japan since last June to sign a nuclear trade agreement with India because of G.E.’s involvement with Hitachi. Also, Japanese manufacturing giants Toshiba (which owns Westinghouse) and Mitsubishi want a deal with India because they feel that they will lose market share to South Korea if the diplomats drag their feet in coming to an agreement.

Japan has leverage for now with its grip on the global market for the giant reactor parts. Japan also has an edge when it comes to providing steam generators and other crucial components for India’s planned new reactors.

Realists want to build nuclear plants

Japan may turn to the United States and France, asking them to help enforce a non-treaty agreement with India to forego any nuclear tests. It would most likely be based on a threat of revoking India’s permission to buy nuclear fuel on global markets. India knows that a nuclear weapons test, for any reason, would undo the agreement it got in 2008 from the Nuclear Suppliers Group allowing it to buy fuel for its reactors for the first time in three decades.

It comes down to a race in Japan to seal a diplomatic deal with India in time to open markets for its heavy manufacturing–capable firms before South Korea takes advantage of the gap. Otherwise, the diplomats may win a round, but at the cost of tens of thousands of Japanese jobs and billions in export earnings.

Realism may prevail in the end. Japan may find that accepting a promise, with teeth regarding India’s supply chain, will be as good as a signature on an international treaty. India may find that accepting an agreement with Japan to uphold a unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests, without signing the test ban treaty, may get it the reactors, fuel, and components it wants from Japan, France, and the United States.

Update: 01/20/11: Defying non-proliferation hawks, a Japanese envoy indicated that negotiations for concluding a civil nuclear deal with India are on track and can be wrapped sooner rather than later. Sify News, India

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Yurman

Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog on nuclear energy. He is a contributing reporter for Fuel Cycle Week and a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.