Yearly Archives: 2012

The Other Side of the Cookie: Anti-Nuclear People in Our Lives

By Meredith Angwin

The woman on the moral high ground

The woman in front of me was standing on the moral high ground; or at least, she thought she was standing there.

“I’m very disappointed in you,” she said.

Physically, we were in a hallway outside an interactive-TV room at a community college near my house. The Public Service Board meeting was in progress (November 19) and she had just finished making a statement against Vermont Yankee. I had left the room to find the ladies’ room, and she had left for the same purpose. But she found me first, and made sure to tell me that she was “disappointed” in me.

Then she added: “I suppose you might say you are disappointed in me, too.”

I answered: “Yes, the feeling is mutual.” That’s what I said, but it wasn’t really true. I wasn’t “disappointed” in her.

More about her and about me

“Disappointed” is an odd word, when you think about it.

She told me that we had met many years ago. I didn’t remember meeting her. However, I have become a bit of a public figure around here, and she remembered meeting me.

Apparently, we had met at a party, shortly after George and I moved to Vermont. We were invited to lots of gatherings in our first few months in this area. Our friends would say “I know someone who lives near Dartmouth” and arrange an introduction for us. I remember the party; it was at the home of a Dartmouth faculty member. It was a summer-time party, with the grill going. As I said, I don’t remember meeting her.

How could she be “disappointed” in someone she barely met?

Then I looked at the situation from her point of view. She had met me. I was an educated Jewish woman who had been invited to a party at the home of a Dartmouth faculty member. Therefore, she had expectations about my views on energy.

I disappointed her.

The other side of the cookie

In my blog, I often talk about the brownie gap, the need for nuclear supporters to hang out together, eat brownies, and support each other. But what do we do about all the anti-nuclear people in our lives? I have many friends who don’t like nuclear energy. I suspect that they secretly think of me as a fanatic.

In practice, these friends just avoid talking about “that.”  I have other interests, including music and gardening.  I read and write mysteries.  I try to be a good listener.  In other words, my friends and I  have many things to talk about without mentioning “that.”  (Speaking of “that”, you might like to read this guest post on How Did Nuclear Become a Four-Letter word.)

Eating brownies with pro-nuclear people is one side of the cookie. Anti-nuclear friends are the other side.

Being friends with all kinds of people

I have learned some things about friendship, ever since I became a pro-nuclear advocate:

First, I acknowledge that people who meet an older, well-educated Jewish woman have certain expectations about what her attitudes are going to be toward various subjects. When they find that they are wrong about my energy attitudes, they can be disappointed. It’s a real feeling, and there’s anger with it. “How can you say that?” Or as another woman said to me: “You are the first educated person I have ever met who is in favor of Vermont Yankee.”

Second, I try not to talk about “that” directly with friends who disagree with me about nuclear energy. Friends are more valuable to me than policy. Also, there is no person in the world with whom I agree about everything. Some people inexplicably prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate, for example. People aren’t clones of each other, and it would be pretty terrible if we were. In practice, I often attempt to change the subject.

Third, if really pressed, I stick up for nuclear energy. I say it is better than anything else that is out there. This explanation gets complicated because, of course, they are also against fossil fuels, and plan to use only renewables. So instead of talking about the evils of fossil fuels (relatively straight-forward to explain) I end up talking about energy density (that’s harder). A commentator on one of my blog posts said that I was a “grief counselor” as people begin to understand what their energy choices really are. Maybe I am.

Fourth, I hold to my own values, which include seeing the world as it is, rather than as I would like it to be, or as others would like it to be.  The Zen of Be Here Now about energy.  This isn’t something I say to people, but it is important to me, and keeps me centered.

Finally, I don’t sweat the small stuff. The lady in the hallway… heavens, I met her and we didn’t hit it off, eight years ago, energy or no energy. She seems pretty judgmental, and I probably detected that attitude at the long-ago party. Her opinion about me is “small stuff” in my life. If a closer friend makes an occasional negative remark, I try to let it slide. As another friend put it: “You don’t have to join every fight you are invited to.”

The third side of the cookie: Hope for the future

Being true to my understanding of electricity sources and nuclear power has been hard, but sometimes it has surprising rewards. I meet people who are secretly pro-nuclear. Other people are puzzled and tell me that they would like to learn more. One woman, anti-nuclear when I met her, now tries to convince her friends of the importance of nuclear energy to combat global warming. Another woman, at my synagogue, told me that many people are “very proud of me.”

I don’t want to refine too much on this. Most people won’t change.

Most of my anti-nuclear friends are going to stay exactly that: both anti-nuclear and friends. I remind myself that we all want the same thing: a better world for our children.

Some people, a few, have re-evaluated nuclear energy, perhaps because of me. That is very gratifying.  That’s the third side of the cookie: the possibility of winning supporters to nuclear.

Have Happy Holidays, a Merry Christmas, and a New Year of friendship, health, and nuclear power!



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 formerly served as a commissioner in 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.

The 136th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers

The 136th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers is up right now at Atomic Power Review.  You can click here to see this latest installment of a long running tradition.

This week’s Carnival features a wide variety of topical material, and introduces a brand new nuclear energy related blog which host Will Davis has personally selected as a “Captain’s Choice” of sorts.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, EntrepreNuke, and CoolHandNuke.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain 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.

Nuclear Matinee: Powering America – Managing Nuclear Waste

The nuclear energy industry is the only large-scale energy producer responsible for managing and storing (and paying for) all the wastes generated by the process [in contrast to, for example... dumping wastes into the atmosphere].

This short video takes viewers inside the system for handling spent nuclear fuel, and explores the option of recycling and reprocessing to aid in resolving the long term storage issue.

Thanks to The Heritage Foundation for the video. We also highly recommend the full documentary on America’s nuclear power industry at

What to read about nuclear energy online

How to avoid information overload on the Internet

By Dan Yurman

 One thing I learned in the five years that I published my nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat is that there can be too much nuclear information.  This lesson was brought home with the mind-crushing rush of information that hit the wires during the height of the Fukushima crisis.  But what about keeping up with the news on the nuclear industry in ordinary times?

If your employer can afford it, your firm subscribes to one or more of the specialty newsletters that tap in at $2,000 or more per year for a subscription.  In return, readers get detailed, expert news and analysis that would never, ever show up in the mainstream news media.  I worked for such a specialty newsletter for five years and remain grateful for subscriber support since it meant the difference, metaphorically speaking, between a having a roof over my head and sleeping under a bridge.

However, because of copyright restrictions, most of these newsletters contain web beacons or other electronic devices that are designed to stop a firm from buying one subscription and then emailing each issue to its employees.  While there is the copy machine dodge, that is so 20th century.  Plus, waiting for the inter-office mail to deliver a bootleg copy puts you one day behind your electronically wired-in colleagues.

So, what’s a nuclear pro to do to stay current without shelling out the equivalent of a new car lease down payment?  The answer is there are a number of free news services available on the Internet that can go a long way to keep your mental inbox full of interesting stuff.  Here’s a short list of free sources.

Online services

Nuclear Town Hall – This is a seven-day-a-week, and twice-a-day on weekdays, summary of links to business and political news about nuclear energy.  Based in Washington, DC, it has a global perspective and also a special section on nuclear energy OP EDs and opinion pieces.  Resolutely pro-nuclear in every respect it even cites nuclear bloggers when it sees something of interest.  You can read the updates on the website or subscribe to it by email.

World Nuclear News – This is a five-day-a-week service that publishes short news reports about the global nuclear industry.  Based on London, it is available on the website, or via email delivery by the time U.S. readers are pouring their second cup of coffee.  A searchable archive allows readers to dig into the background of breaking news.

NEI Smartbrief – Sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Institute, it picks up news clips from the mainstream media and posts a brief summary of about half a dozen of them a day with links to the original source online.  The brief is published weekdays except major holidays.

Nuclear Power Daily – Like NEI Smartbrief, this daily nuclear news summary relies on wire services and other sources.  Like NEI Smartbrief, it is an advertising supported service.

Google News – Google News allow you to search by keywords and to set up news alerts based on them.  You can set up as many alerts as you want and have the alerts delivered by email or RSS feed.  You can select instant delivery or once a day.

Nuclear Energy blogs are a great source of information often posting news in specialized developments days or weeks ahead of the mainstream news media.  A great starting place is the blog roll list of links here on ANS Nuclear Cafe.


There is another “what to read” issue, and that is how to answer questions from in-laws, friends, and the occasional non-nuclear colleagues who genuinely want to know more about nuclear energy.  Here’s a reading list that you can clip and save.  All of these books are in print and most can be found in a public library or through interlibrary loan.  The major online book selling services stock these volumes.

Three must reads – Start here

The Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy, by Gwyneth Cravens

Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Energy Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America’s Energy Odyssey, by William Tucker

Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto, by Stewart Brand

Further reading for generalists

Nuclear Energy: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Charles D. Ferguson

Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, by Ian Hore-Lacy

The Reporter’s Handbook on Nuclear Materials, Energy, and Waste Management, by Michael Greenberg


Nuclear Firsts: Milestone on the Road to Nuclear Power Development, by Gail Marcus

The Rickover Effect: How One Man Made a Difference, by Ted Rockwell

Plentiful Energy: The Story of the Integral Fast Reactor, by Charles E. Till and Yoon Il Chang

Nuclear Silk Road: The Koreanization of Nuclear Power Technology, by Byung-Koo Kim


Physics for Future Presidents, by Richard A. Muller

The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes

The Spread of Nuclear Weapons, by Scott D. Sagan and Kenneth N. Waltz

Single Issues

Radiation and Reason, by Wade Allison

Nuclear Reactions: The Politics of Opening a Radioactive Waste Disposal Site, by Chuck McCutcheon

Uranium: War, Energy and the Rock that Shaped the World, by Tom Zoellner

Sustainable Development / Climate Change

Storms of my Grandchildren, by James Hansen

The GeoPolitics of Energy: Achieving a Just and Sustainable Energy Distribution by 2040, by Judith Wright and James Conca

Sustainable Energy – Without The Hot Air, by David JC MacKay

General Reference

Nuclear Energy Encyclopedia - a single volume - by Steven B. Krivit (Editor), Thomas B. Kingery (Editor), Jay H. Lehr (Series Editor)

& & &

If you have a favorite news source, or best book on nuclear energy, please post your suggestions in the comments.


Dan Yurman published the nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat from 2007 to 2012.

December issue of ANS journal Nuclear Technology is available

The December 2012 issue of ANS’s Nuclear Technology journal is available electronically and in hard copy for American Nuclear Society member subscribers and others. Non-subscribers click here to  subscribe to NT and other ANS titles.

NT is the international research journal of ANS and is edited by Nicholas Tsoulfanidis.

The December issue contains the following peer-reviewed articles:

ANS journals are available for purchase by edition or by article. Please click here to go to the online journals page. A menu of ANS’s publications is available online by clicking here.


The 135th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers at ANS Nuclear Cafe

ANS Nuclear Cafe is proud to host the 135th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers.  The Carnival is a rotating weekly feature among nuclear blogs and presents some of the most interesting and pertinent discussions of nuclear energy news and analysis in the blogosphere.


Things Worse Than Nuclear Power:  Terror

Fear of nuclear power, radiation, and nuclear materials proliferation is a red herring for real terrorism dangers.

Atomic Insights:  Power cheaper than coal – thorium AND uranium make it possible

Bob Hargraves is a professor with a good facility for numbers, and a talent for clear explanations.  He demonstrates that there is little hope of driving down the total cost of producing energy from unreliable weather-dependent sources, because the capital investment in those sources will often be idle and not producing any revenue.  He persuasively demonstrates that well-designed and built nuclear plants whose operators successfully achieve capacity factors in the range of 85-90% are already cost competitive with coal.  He also shows how nuclear plant designers can apply well-understood techniques to achieve even better economic performance.

ANS Nuclear Cafe:  Timing and Framing: How to address nuclear and climate change

In the wake of superstorm Sandy, Suzy Hobbs Baker argues that “right now is the perfect time to provide a new framework for supporting nuclear as a solution to climate change.”

The Nuclear Diner:  US and Russia – Reactor Wars

It is fascinating that the US and Russia are now competing in the global field of nuclear reactor construction.  It is not only the reactor designers, but the politicians that are weighing in and supporting the designer from their nation.  It has the sense of being competitive and a bit like a school yard fight.  Susan Voss has been studying and analyzing the Russian nuclear program for many years and is interested in how they are growing and changing to be more competitive on the international market.  The competitive field she focuses on in this post is the Czech Republic. The Czech government put out a request for bids and three companies put in proposals: Westinghouse/Toshiba representing the US and Japan, Rosatom representing Russia, and AREVA representing France.  Interestingly enough, AREVA was tossed out of the competition for not meeting “crucial requirements.” [Reuters]

Next Big Future:  Japan likely heading for a pro-nuclear LDP win in national elections this week

In this Sunday, Dec 16th election, Japan is expected to be electing the most pro-nuclear of its major political parties, the LDP, to a return to government.

Next Big Future:  China starts new nuclear construction and makes deals with Russia

Construction of three new Chinese reactors has begun, since the country’s announcement in October that it would approve only a ‘small number’ of nuclear projects in each of the coming five years.  First concrete has now been poured for Fuqing unit 4 in Fujian province and Yangjiang unit 4 in Guangdong province – both 1080 MWe CPR-1000 units. In addition, construction of the Shandong Shidaowan HTR-PM project – a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor – has also started in Shandong province.

The Hiroshima Syndrome:  Latest Chernobyl cancer study contains numerous problems

A November 8 report claiming increased leukemia in Chernobyl clean-up workers is fraught with problems.  Several have been exposed by a recent Ukrainian expert group.  In addition, the report’s listing of supportive references with respect to its claim of a CLL/LLR relationship being “not clear” is materially incorrect.  Further, the report fails to make a comparison between typical non-irradiated leukemia statistics and those gleaned from Chernobyl worker records. It appears the report looks at Chernobyl in isolation from all necessarily-related statistics: a critical omission that can only have been intentional.

The Hiroshima Syndrome:  A phantom conflict of interest in Japan (December 10)

The international press reports that a “potential conflict of interest” was “buried” in last year’s 600-page congressional investigation into the Fukushima accident.  The ICRP members in Japan are taking umbrage with the allegation made by Dr. Hisako Sukiyama, one of the members of the Diet’s Fukushima Accident Investigative Committee.  What’s more important – a potentiality based on thin evidence, or the actual professional record of those involved?

Dr. Robert Hayes:  Nuclear fuel cycle, nuclear revival, and the Permian Basin

Dr. Hayes on a nuclear renaissance going on in the Permian Basin — in uranium enrichment and associated processes [that's in West Texas and Southeast New Mexico, folks]

Yes Vermont Yankee:  The very latest lawsuit: opponents will probably lose

To keep operating, Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant needs a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board (PSB).  In this post, Meredith Angwin describes the latest opponent tactic of bringing suit in Vermont Supreme Court to deny the certificate.  The certificate is already being judged in hearings before the PSB and under litigation in Federal Court.

Yes Vermont Yankee: Hot potato and the new request: Entergy asks for an injunction against Shumlin and PSB

The Certificate is a political hot potato for the PSB, and they seem to have encouraged the opponent to sue in another court.  Quick, throw it to another court.  Don’t get caught having to rule on it!

ANS Nuclear Cafe:  Vermont weather gets colder — Vermont Yankee politics continue hot

Howard Shaffer reports the latest news concerning the politics of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant — a Vermont Public Service Board ruling, a supreme court lawsuit, a public radio debate, a protestors’ trial, and more

The Neutron Economy:  Spent nuclear fuel disposal is not a “subsidy”

Contrary to the oft-heard canard that the disposal of spent nuclear fuel constitutes a “subsidy” to the U.S. nuclear industry, $22 billion later the nuclear industry is one of the few actually required to fully internalize the costs of waste management.  Steve Skutnik explores the details.

Thanks to all contributors – and to all of our readers, remember to spread the word about the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers via Facebook and Twitter.

Nuclear Cafe Matinee: Nuclear Recycling in 4 Minutes

The 800 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity produced by the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States each year – all while emitting no greenhouse gases — is by far America’s biggest source of green energy.  And this abundant energy source can become even greener by recycling used nuclear fuel.

Currently, only about five percent of the uranium in a nuclear fuel rod gets fissioned for energy; after that, the rods are taken out of the reactor and put into storage. There is a way, however, to use almost all of the uranium in a fuel rod. Recycling the uranium in used nuclear fuel could power the United States for a thousand years, just by using the uranium we’ve already mined, and all of this energy carbon-free.

This excellent short video from Argonne National Laboratory explains how.

And now… you too can regale your friends and others at holiday parties with pontifications about pyroprocessing!

Thanks to Argonne National Laboratory, and for more information visit Argonne Nuclear Energy.

Supply Chain and Procurement in December Nuclear News

The December issue of Nuclear News magazine is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (click ‘ANS Members’ or ‘Subscribers’ in left column).

The December issue contains the special section: “Supply Chain and Procurement” with feature articles:

  • Nuclear industry equipment supply, by Greg Keller
  • Preparing new companies to join Britain’s nuclear supply chain, by Dick Kovan
  • Jerry Schlessel: Obtaining and maintaining old equipment, interview by Michael McQueen

This issue also features a special report: “Continuing resolution passed in lieu of 2013 budget” on risks to nuclear from possible federal sequestration cuts.

Other news in this issue: Power reactors safe, productive through onslaught of “superstorm” Sandy; NRC finds Shoreline Fault no danger to Diablo Canyon; NRC denies petition to block San Onofre restart; Renaissance Watch: An update on developments that may lead to new power reactors; NRC seeks more flood response data from Exelon after Dresden walkdown; Two more amendments granted for Vogtle-3 and -4; Russia objects to renewal of Cooperative Threat Reduction program; B&W takes over security responsibility at Y-12; Hitachi to take over Horizon Nuclear, with plans to build ABWRs in the United Kingdom; E.ON to sell its share of Finland’s Fennovoima; Canada’s Point Lepreau cleared to resume power operation; Areva challenges its disqualification from bidding on new reactors at the Czech Republic’s Temelin site; Panel to monitor Tokyo Electric Power Company reforms starts work; France’s Nuclear Policy Council states intent to reduce nuclear electricity share from 75 percent now to 50 percent by 2025; United Arab Emirates issues civil nuclear liability law; China Experimental Fast Reactor found to be fully operational; NRC opens waste confidence rule process to public comments; Zion decommissioning said to be on track; NRC seeks ANS standard for fuel cycle integrated safety analysis; Queensland lifts uranium mining ban; NRC goes ahead with pilot second phase of cancer risk study; ANSI/ANS standards approved… And there is much more.

Don’t go a month without your Nuclear News!


Timing and framing: How to address nuclear and climate change

by Suzy Hobbs Baker

Technology is an amazing thing. As Hurricane Sandy approached the Northeast last month, I watched and read as friends in the area tweeted pictures and thoughts on the situation. I didn’t have to worry if they were okay, as many were able to post hourly status updates with items such as: “Still okay, still have power. Just wish we had more beer and chocolate.”

In stark contrast to the several-day silence in the wake of Katrina in 2005, New Yorkers were ready with carefully-charged mobile devices that allowed them to self-report their entire experience of Sandy—even long after the power was out. In 2005, the iPhone and Twitter did not yet exist. Seven years later, these tools were essential in New York City’s emergency response.

New York’s Governor Cuomo

In the wake of the storm I also bore witness to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s real-time “climate awakening” on twitter. Yes, I know it sounds strange, but he shared his realization that climate change is here now, 140 characters at a time over the Internet. He also made the rounds with the media, refusing to entertain a political debate about the causes of climate change, and instead focused on the immediate challenge of managing increased coastal flooding of his state in recent years. Having just witnessed the first presidential debate in my lifetime that did not focus on climate change as a central issue—I was relieved that a politician was willing to talk climate with both frankness and urgency.

Unfortunately, Cuomo also used this as an opportunity to talk about shutting down Indian Point Nuclear Station—one of the structures and sources of electricity that weathered the storm without damage. He sees the changing climate as a threat to one of New York’s primary energy suppliers, and thinks it should be shuttered.

Timing and framing

Two things about this situation struck me as important: timing and framing.

The framework that Cuomo has laid out is extremely important in that it serves to confirm what some people already believe should happen, at a time when they expect dramatic action. That confluence of events translates into a real risk of shutting down nuclear plants specifically in response to climate change, now and in the future. If the nuclear industry stays mum on climate change, this could become a dominant narrative.

The iron is hot, however, for providing another way of framing the situation that offers a better solution.

Repositioning and reframing

In my opinion, the nuclear industry has a critical opportunity at this point in history to position itself as the hero in this story. First of all, nuclear is one of the largest sources of carbon-free electricity. Anyone who is serious about addressing climate change needs to be fully aware of the many, many historical and current examples of increased greenhouse gas emissions as an unavoidable outcome of shutting nuclear plants. In addition to increased emissions, Germany and Japan are also dealing with skyrocketing energy prices and grid destabilization that is negatively impacting manufacturing.

The nuclear industry is also very experienced and knowledgeable in terms of hardening infrastructure and emergency preparedness. So, as Cuomo fights for better infrastructure and planning in the face of climate change, he has mistaken a potential ally—the nuclear industry—as a foe. The nuclear industry can help reduce impacts of climate change by building out new nuclear technologies, and also by providing an advanced understanding of adapting and preparing for extreme weather.

As small modular reactors and Generation IV designs near commercialization, we need to update the way we frame and communicate about the role of nuclear energy in society. In the 1950s, radiation gave comic heroes their superpowers Now, nuclear is often aligned with the villains in movies and comics. Luckily, we live in a time when information abounds and perspectives and cultural constructs change rapidly, and everyday people have more power than ever to influence that dialogue.

Technology and the subsequent ways that we communicate are constantly evolving.  Just a few short years ago there was no such thing as Twitter, and social media was just starting to gain traction as a serious platform for news and information. Now, social media is central to how we share information and communicate—and even to how we conduct emergency response.

Nuclear is a relatively new technology when compared to other energy sources (younger even than solar and wind), and we are still adapting and processing our feelings about this technology as a culture. The dominant narrative at this time is that people who are concerned about climate change should reject nuclear energy—but that simply does not have to be the case. Right now is the perfect time to provide a new framework for supporting nuclear as a solution to climate change.

I highly recommend starting with Governor Cuomo. If you’d like to tweet your thoughts to him, his Twitter handle is @NYGovCuomo—let him know that the nuclear industry is the hero in this story—not the villain.

Photos courtesy of Greg Molyneux


Hobbs Baker

Suzy Hobbs Baker is the executive director of PopAtomic Studios, a nonprofit organization that conducts educational outreach through the Nuclear Literacy Project. Baker is an ANS member and a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.



Vermont Weather Gets Colder – Vermont Yankee Politics Continue Hot

By Howard Shaffer

Some long-awaited events related to the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant took place toward the end of 2012, such as the trial of some members of the Shut It Down Affinity Group (known to the media as the “nuclear grannies”) who have been arrested many times for blocking Vermont Yankee’s gates.  Some unexpected events have occurred as well, such as a Public Service Board ruling and a brand new lawsuit by a long-term intervenor.

Before the Public Service Board

The Vermont Yankee plant’s US Nuclear Regulatory Commission license was renewed for twenty years in March 2012.  However, the plant also requires a Certificate of Public Good from the state of Vermont in order to operate.  The original Certificate expired on the same day as the original NRC license, but the plant continues to operate under a Federal Court injunction which would prevent the state from shutting the plant down.

Public Service Board members David Coen, Commissioner John Volz, and John Burke, court reporter at left

In the spring, Entergy applied to the Public Service Board of Vermont to change orders concerning the plant’s end dates — to update the expiration dates of Board orders on sale of the plant to Entergy, and approval of Dry Cask Storage.  These expiration dates are the same as the Certificate of Public Good, so on paper the plant is operating in violation of state law.

The Board decided to open a new docket and start over again on the Certificate of Public Good process, after the Federal Court decision and injunction.  On November 29, the Board denied Entergy’s request.  This denial was reported by some media as the Board slapping down Entergy, making it sound like a major blow to the plant.  In fact, the Board stated in its ruling that the ruling was narrow, and did not foretell how it would rule on the new process.

The Board’s ruling inspired the New England Coalition to file suit in Vermont Supreme Court asking the court to enforce the expiration dates and shut the plant down.  The suit is under review.  The suit of course generated media coverage, and must have inspired opponents, which appears to be the purpose.  However, from a citizens’ viewpoint it is ridiculous to ask the state court to act contrary to a Federal Court injunction.  We’ll see.  For those who wish to pore through the legal details, Yes Vermont Yankee has a great detailed post.

New Hampshire Public Radio

Laura Knoy, host of The Exchange

New Hampshire Public radio’s popular call-in interview program “The Exchange” explores topics of public concern, and has done many programs over the years on nuclear power, Vermont Yankee, and Seabrook plant in New Hampshire.  I was already scheduled to be on the program before the Public Service Board’s finding and the lawsuit, so my appearance on December 6 was quite timely.  I was in the studio, while Ray Shadis, technical advisor to the New England Coalition, and John Dillon, Vermont Public Radio reporter, were call-in guests.  Listen online

On the program, I placed the Vermont Yankee issue in the context of a Congressional Public Policy decision, which found that a minute local risk was worth the public good for the country as a whole, where the policy objective is replacing coal burning for power generation.  The Coalition’s new tack is that natural gas plants can be built quickly, so these should be used instead of nuclear plants, which take a longer time to bring into service. The Coalition judges that the gas plants’ release of carbon dioxide is only half that of coal plants… so they are preferable to nuclear power (which emit almost no carbon dioxide at all!).

In response to the host’s question about political support for nuclear power, the Coalition admitted that nuclear power indeed does have support from a majority of Congress.  In kind, the host asked me, why not give up on nuclear power since it seems “too difficult” in the New England region.  I replied that companies in New England have indeed given up for the time being — no new plants are proposed here, while they are under construction in other parts of the country.

On Trial at Last

The Shut It Down Affinity Group have been actively protesting against Vermont Yankee for years by blocking the plant gates and getting arrested.  Some members recently went on trial for the very first time (in the past, prosecutors have not felt it worthwhile to waste court time while providing a public protest platform).  This time, the “nuclear grannies” protest, which included chaining themselves to the gates, took place two days after hurricane Irene had devastated Vermont (the “grannies” actually hail from Massachusetts).  Local first responders were busy helping hurricane victims, but were interrupted by having to arrest the grannies again.

A jury found them guilty.  The judge fined them, even though some wanted to go to jail instead.  Some said they would not pay, and the judge warned that the order would be turned over to a collection agency, with fees added.  The local Brattleboro Reformer editorialized against the grannies.

A ‘Small’ Anniversary
On December 2, on the anniversary of the first man-made chain reaction, the calendar for the Vermont Yankee opponent coalition SAGE Alliance listed a protest at the plant gates.  Four showed up for less than an hour.

And A Positive End to the Year
Vermont Yankee’s site vice President, Chris Wamser, issued a press release thanking all the supporters who came to and spoke at the Public Service Board’s Public Input sessions.  One was face-to-face, and the other via multi-site interactive television.  The press carried the release, which is certainly a positive note.

Best wishes to all in the New Year!



Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 35 years. He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS committees, national meeting staffs, and his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow. He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults in nuclear public outreach.

He is Coordinator for the Vermont Grassroots Project. Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Carnival No. 134 at a New Host

This morning, the 134th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers is up, and is being hosted for the very first time on “Things Worse Than Nuclear Power.”  You can find the Carnival post here.

Topics this week at the Carnival include debate over Vermont Yankee, politics in Japan, an indictment of the natural gas industry, progress in Argentina, life after Yucca Mountain, possible restarts in Japan, dark matter, and a review of the whole year’s events.  There is something for everyone - of every pursuit, in every part of the world!


The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America to speak with a collective voice on the issue of the value of nuclear energy.

While we each have our own points of view, we agree that the promise of peaceful uses of the atom remains viable in our own time and for the future.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, EntrepreNuke, and CoolHandNuke.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain 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.


Nuclear Cafe Matinee: Powering America – How A Nuclear Plant Works

When you get right down to it… to many people, nuclear power can seem rather mysterious. Fortunately, this short video takes viewers inside US nuclear power plants and explains the nuts and bolts of how a nuclear plant operates—as told by the people who actually maintain and operate them.

Thanks to The Heritage Foundation for the video. We also highly recommend the full documentary on America’s nuclear power industry at

2012 ~ The year that was in nuclear energy

Plus a few pointers to what’s in store for 2013

By Dan Yurman

Former NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo

On a global scale the nuclear industry had its share of pluses and minuses in 2012. Japan’s Fukushima crisis continues to dominate any list of the top ten nuclear energy issues for the year. (See more below on Japan’s mighty mission at Fukushima.)

In the United States, while the first new nuclear reactor licenses in three decades were issued to four reactors, the regulatory agency that approved them had a management meltdown that resulted in the noisy departure of Gregory Jazcko, its presidentially appointed chairman. His erratic tenure at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cast doubt on its effectiveness and tarnished its reputation as one of the best places to work in the federal government.

Iran continues its uranium enrichment efforts

The year also started with another bang, and not the good kind, as new attacks on nuclear scientists in Iran brought death by car bombs. In July, western powers enacted new sanctions on Iran over its uranium enrichment program. Since 2011, economic sanctions have reduced Iran’s oil exports by 40 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In late November, the U.S. Senate approved a measure expanding the economic sanctions that have reduced Iran’s export earnings from oil production. Despite the renewed effort to convince Iran to stop its uranium enrichment effort, the country is pressing ahead with it. Talks between Iran and the United States and western European nations have not made any progress.

Nukes on Mars

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is a scientific and engineering triumph.

Peaceful uses of the atom were highlighted by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, which executed a flawless landing on the red planet in August with a nuclear heartbeat to power its science mission. Data sent to Earth from its travels across the red planet will help determine whether or not Mars ever had conditions that would support life.

SMRs are us

The U.S. government dangled an opportunity for funding of innovative small modular reactors, e.g., with electrical power ratings of less than 300 MW. Despite vigorous competition, only one vendor, B&W, was successful in grabbing a brass ring worth up to $452 million over five years.

The firm immediately demonstrated the economic value of the government cost-sharing partnership by placing an order for long lead time components. Lehigh Heavy Forge and B&W plan to jointly participate in the fabrication and qualification of large forgings for nuclear reactor components that are intended to be used in the manufacture of B&W mPower SMRs.

Lehigh Forge at work

The Department of Energy said that it might offer a second round funding challenge, but given the federal government’s overall dire financial condition, the agency may have problems even meeting its commitments in the first round.

As of December 1, negotiations between the White House and Congress over the so-called “fiscal cliff” were deadlocked. Congress created this mess, so one would expect that they could fix it.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if Congress doesn’t avert the fiscal cliff, the economy might slip into recession next year and boost the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with 7.9 percent now. Even record low natural gas prices and a boom in oil production won’t make much of a difference if there is no agreement by January 1, 2013.

Japan’s mighty mission at Fukushima

Japan’s major challenges are unprecedented for a democratically elected government. It must decontaminate and decommission the Fukushima site, home to six nuclear reactors, four of which suffered catastrophic internal and external damage from a giant tsunami and record shattering earthquake. The technical challenges of cleanup are daunting and the price tag, already in the range of tens of billions of dollars, keeps rising with a completion date now at least several decades in the future.

Map of radiation releases from Fukushima reported in April 2011

  • Japan is mobilizing a new nuclear regulatory agency that has the responsibility to say whether the rest of Japan’s nuclear fleet can be restarted safely. While the government appointed highly regarded technical specialists to lead the effort, about 400 staff came over from the old Nuclear Industry Safety Agency that was found to be deficient as a deeply compromised oversight body. The new agency will struggle to prove itself an independent and effective regulator of nuclear safety.
  •  Japan has restarted two reactors and approved continued construction work at several more that are partially complete. Local politics will weigh heavily on the outlook for each power station with the “pro” forces emphasizing jobs and tax base and the anti-nuclear factions encouraged by widespread public distrust of the government and of the nation’s nuclear utilities.
  • Despite calls for a phase out of all nuclear reactors in Japan, the country will continue to generate electric power from them for at least the next 30–40 years.
  • Like the United States, Japan has no deep geologic site for spent fuel. Unlike the United States, Japan has been attempting to build and operate a spent fuel reprocessing facility. Plagued by technical missteps and rising costs, Japan may consider offers from the United Kingdom and France to reprocess its spent fuel and with such a program relieve itself of the plutonium in it.

U.S. nuclear renaissance stops at six

The pretty picture of a favorable future for the nuclear fuel cycle in 2007 turned to hard reality in 2012.

In 2007, the combined value of more than two dozen license applications for new nuclear reactors weighed in with an estimated value of over $120 billion. By 2012, just six reactors were under construction. Few will follow soon in their footsteps due to record low prices of natural gas and the hard effects of one of the nation’s deepest and longest economic recessions.

The NRC approved licenses for two new reactors at Southern’s Vogtle site in Georgia and two more at Scana’s V.C. Summer Station in South Carolina. Both utilities chose the Westinghouse AP1000 design and will benefit from lessons learned by the vendor that is building four of them in China. In late November, Southern’s contractors, which are building the plants, said that both of the reactors would enter revenue service a year late. For its part, Southern said that it hasn’t agreed to a new schedule.

The Tennessee Valley Authority recalibrated its efforts to complete Watts Bar II, adding a three-year delay and over $2 billion in cost escalation. TVA’s board told the utility’s executives that construction work to complete Unit 1 at the Bellefonte site cannot begin until fuel is loaded in Watts Bar.

The huge increase in the supply of natural gas, resulting in record low prices for it in the United States, led Exelon Chairman John Rowe to state that it would be “inconceivable” for a nuclear utility in a deregulated state to build new reactors.

Four reactors in dire straights

In January, Southern California Edison (SCE) safety shut down two 1100-MW reactors at its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) due to excessive wear found in the nearly new steam generators at both reactors.

SCE submitted a restart plan to the NRC for Unit 2 in November. The review, according to the agency, could take months. SCE removed the fuel from Unit 3 last August, a signal that the restart of that reactor will be farther in the future owing to the greater extent of the damage to the tubes its steam generator.

The NRC said that a key cause of the damage to the tubes was a faulty computer program used by Mitsubishi, the steam generator vendor, in its design of the units. The rate of steam, pressure, and water content were key factors along with the design and placement of brackets to hold the tubes in place.

Flood waters surround Ft. Calhoun NPP June 2011

Elsewhere, in Nebraska the flood stricken Ft. Calhoun reactor owned and operated by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), postponed its restart to sometime in 2013.

It shut down in April 2011 for a scheduled fuel outage. Rising flood waters along the Missouri River in June damaged in the plant site though the reactor and switch yard remained dry.

The Ft. Calhoun plant must fulfill a long list of safety requirements before the NRC will let it power back up. To speed things along, OPPD hired Exelon to operate the plant. In February 2012, OPPD cancelled plans for a power uprate, also citing the multiple safety issues facing the plant.

In Florida, the newly merged Duke and Progress Energy firm wrestled with a big decision about what to do with the shutdown Crystal River reactor. Repairing the damaged containment structure could cost half again as much as an entirely new reactor. With license renewal coming up in 2016, Florida’s Public Counsel thinks that Duke will decommission the unit and replace it with a combined cycle natural gas plant. Separately, Duke Chairman Jim Rogers said that he will resign at the end of 2013.

China restarts nuclear construction

After a long reconsideration (following the Fukushima crisis) of its aggressive plans to build new nuclear reactors, China’s top level government officials agreed to allow new construction starts, but only with Gen III+ designs.

China has about two dozen Gen II reactors under construction. It will be 40–60 years before the older technology is off the grid. China also reduced its outlook for completed reactors from an estimate of 80 GWe by 2020 to about 55–60 GWe. Plans for a massive $26-billion nuclear energy IPO (initial public offering) still have not made it to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.  No reason has been made public about the delay.

India advances at Kudanlulam

India loaded fuel at Kudankulam where two Russian built 1000-MW VVER reactors are ready for revenue service. The Indian government overcame widespread political protests in its southern state of Tamil Nadu. India’s Prime Minister Singh blamed the protests on international NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

One of the key factors that helped the government overcome the political opposition is that Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited told the provincial government that it could allocate half of all the electricity generated by the plants to local rate payers. Officials in Tamil Nadu will decide who gets power. India suffered two massive electrical blackouts in 2012, the second of which stranded over 600 million people without electricity for up to a week.

Also, India said that it would proceed with construction of two 1600-MW Areva EPRs at Jaitapur on its west coast south of Mumbai and launched efforts for construction of up to 20 GWe of domestic reactors.

India’s draconian supplier liability law continues to be an effective firewall in keeping American firms out of its nuclear market.

UK has new builder at Horizon

The United Kingdom suffered a setback in its nuclear new build as two German utilities backed out of the construction of up to 6 Gwe of new reactors at two sites. Japan’s Hitachi successfully bid to take over the project. A plan for a Chinese state-owned firm to bid on the Horizon project in collaboration with Areva never materialized.

Also in the UK, General Electric pursued an encouraging dialog with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to build two of its 300-MW PRISM fast reactors to burn off surplus plutonium stocks at Sellafield. The PRISM design benefits from the technical legacy of the Integral Fast Reactor developed at Argonne West in Idaho.

You can’t make this stuff up

In July, three anti-war activitists breached multiple high-tech security barriers at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Y-12 highly enriched uranium facility in Tennessee. The elderly trio, two men on the dark side of 55 and a woman in her 80s, were equipped with ordinary wire cutters and flashlights.

Y-12 Signs state the obvious

The intruders roamed the site undetected for several hours in the darkness of the early morning and spray painted political slogans on the side of one of the buildings. They were looking for new artistic venues when a lone security guard finally stopped their travels through the plant.

The government said that the unprecedented security breach was no laughing matter, firing the guards on duty at the time and the contractor they worked for. Several civil servants “retired.” The activists, if convicted, face serious jail time.

None of the HEU stored at the site was compromised, but subsequent investigations by the Department of Energy found a lack of security awareness, broken equipment, and an unsettling version of the “it can’t happen here” attitude by the guards that initially mistook the intruders for construction workers.

The protest effort brought publicity to the activists’ cause far beyond their wildest dreams and produced the predictable uproar in Congress. The DOE’s civilian fig leaf covering the nation’s nuclear weapons program was once again in tatters.

So long Chu

Given the incident at Y-12, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who came to government from the quiet life of scientific inquiry, must have asked himself once again why he ever accepted the job in Washington in the first place.

DOE Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Chu is expected to leave Washington. That he’s lasted this long is something of a miracle since the Obama White House tried to give him the heave ho this time last year after the Solyndra loan guarantee debacle, in which charges of political influence peddling by White House aides colored a half a billion dollar default on a DOE loan by a California solar energy company.

The predictable upswing in rumors of who might be appointed to replace him oozed into energy trade press and political saloons of the nation’s capital.

Leading candidates are former members of Congress, former governors, or just  about anyone with the experience and political know how to take on the job of running one of the federal government’s biggest cabinet agencies. It’s a short list of people who really can do the job and a long list of wannabes. With shale gas and oil production on the rise, having a background in fossil fuels will likely help prospective candidates.


Dan Yurman published the nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat from 2007–2012.

ANS Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS 2013) Topical Meeting

The 2013 ANS Topical Meeting on Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space (NETS 2013) will be held February 25–28, 2013, at the Albuquerque Marriott in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

NETS serves as a major communications network and forum for professionals and students working in the area of space nuclear technology. The NETS meeting facilitates the exchange of information among research and management personnel from international government, industry, academia, and the national laboratory systems.

NETS 2013 will address topics ranging from overviews of current space programs to methods of meeting the challenges of future space endeavors, with a focus on nuclear technologies and applications.  See the NETS program page for meeting tracks and topics.

NETS 2013 is hosted by the Aerospace Nuclear Science and Technology Division (ANSTD) of the American Nuclear Society with co-sponsors Aerojet and the ANS Trinity Local Section.

Register Now

Hotel Reservations

See the Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space meeting page for much more information. We hope to see you in Albuquerque.


Looking forward to next 70 years of atomic fission

By Rod Adams

This past weekend the world quietly marked the 70th anniversary of the initial criticality of CP-1 (Critical Pile 1), the 55th anniversary of the initial criticality of the Shippingport nuclear power plant, and the decommissioning of the USS Enterprise, a 51 year-old nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Those events have put me into a reflective but incredibly optimistic mood.

Imagine how exciting it must have been to be in the nuclear field in the early years. Talented engineers and scientists moved the technological needle from a basic pile of graphite bricks with uranium lumps, to full-scale power production, in machines that lasted for many decades, over a brief span of less than two decades. They accomplished that progress during a period when calculations were made with slide rules and modest-capacity computing devices that filled entire rooms, and when drawings were created by rooms full of people using hand tools. They overcame the disadvantage of having lost almost an entire decade (1946–1954) during which only the selected few could think nuclear thoughts without risking incarceration.

By 1990, the annual electricity production in the United States from steam plants—whose furnaces were heated using the controlled fission chain reaction that Fermi and his team had proven—exceeded the entire amount of electricity produced each year by all of the power plants that were operating in the United States in 1960. That commercial milestone occurred less than 50 years after the basic physical process was proven.

Unfortunate slow down

Even by then, however, the growth in nuclear energy production around the world was slowing down as a result of many factors, including an increasingly well-organized and well-funded movement expressly aimed at halting the use of nuclear energy. Nuclear technologists bear some of the blame for the loss of support; they (we) failed to explain why we’re so darned excited about the possibilities offered by this fascinating new technology.

We also failed to notice that there were a large number of rich and powerful people who were not enthusiastic about creating a power source that could approach a goal of being so inexpensive that no one would bother measuring how much was consumed each month. As a group, we were so happy to be working with a material that stored 2 million times as much energy per unit mass as the most energy-dense hydrocarbon fuels that we overlooked the fact that many people enjoy enormous benefits from selling hydrocarbon fuels. It is a great business to be in; anyone who bought fuel yesterday is likely to buy fuel again tomorrow.

People whose livelihoods depend on moving mass quantities of material from deep underground, through capital-intensive processing plants, and into furnaces and engines around the world, were not so terribly excited about the reality that Fermi had shown us—how we could use a material that allows a man with a backpack to transport as much energy as a supertanker.

Listen to nuclear communicators

On December 2, 2012, I gathered a group of nuclear professionals who have taken on a shared avocation of communicating the wonders of atomic fission and the possibilities that its unique characteristics can provide. You can listen to that conversation at Atomic Show #191 – 70th Anniversary of CP-1, the First Controlled Fission Chain Reaction.

We spoke about the magical simplicity of Fermi’s design and about the fact that, unlike the enormously expensive and still elusive effort to harness controlled nuclear fusion, Fermi and his team could be supremely confident that their device would work on the first try. We spoke about how it would be possible for a group of high school students, given the proper materials, to build a working fission reactor that could be safely started and controlled.

We then discussed how incredible it might be if we could treat nuclear technology in a manner similar to the way that we have treated computer hardware and software technology. Kirk Sorensen, a forward–thinking nuclear technologist who is the co-founder of Flibe Energy, has given several talks to audiences in Silicon Valley, and always comes away energized by thinking about how far we could advance our energy production systems if we adopted some of the knowledge-sharing principles that pervade the Valley.

I’ve had that experience one time at a Google Tech Talk; it may be time to make that trip again, to help increase support for the truly exciting developments in small modular reactor development that are happening in a number of places in the United States.

Shippingport Atomic Power Station

Though we were all in agreement that we could be doing far more with nuclear energy than we are today, we were not the first people to recognize just how wonderful it was that people had learned how to access atomic energy. Here is a quote from President Eisenhower’s famous Atoms for Peace speech to the United Nations, given on December 8, 1953.

The United States knows that if the fearful trend of atomic military build-up can be reversed, this greatest of destructive forces can be developed into a great boon, for the benefit of all mankind. The United States knows that peaceful power from atomic energy is no dream of the future. The capability, already proved, is here today. Who can doubt that, if the entire body of the world’s scientists and engineers had adequate amounts of fissionable material with which to test and develop their ideas, this capability would rapidly be transformed into universal, efficient and economic usage?

To hasten the day when fear of the atom will begin to disappear from the minds of the people and the governments of the East and West, there are certain steps that can be taken now.

To the making of these fateful decisions, the United States pledges before you, and therefore before the world, its determination to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma—to devote its entire heart and mind to finding the way by which the miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life.

(Emphasis added.)

That is the vision that keeps me moving forward. I share it as often as I can on whatever pulpits I am offered.

Solving the trilemma

Along with the material endowment provided by nature (God, if you prefer), nuclear knowledgeable people have in their minds the capability that will help to solve what the World Energy Council describes in a recent series of reports as a “trilemma”.

.. simultaneously address energy security, universal access to affordable energy services, and environmentally-sensitive production and use of energy is one of the most formidable challenges facing governments—indeed some might argue that it is the most formidable, or even the most important. The World Energy Trilemma report, now in its fourth year, aims to help governments rise to the challenge of tackling this ‘trilemma’.



Rod Adams is a nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience. Adams is a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams has been an ANS member since 2005. He writes about nuclear technology at his own blog, Atomic Insights.