Monthly Archives: May 2012

Vogtle Units 3 & 4 — Fun Facts!

Southern Company has collected some interesting facts about its new nuclear construction project now underway at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Burke County, Georgia.

In February 2012, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the construction license for two new nuclear power reactors at the Vogtle plant, Units 3 & 4, making these the first new commercial nuclear power reactors under construction in the United States in over 30 years.

Note: ANS staff are pleased to note that their extensive contacts in the baseball sabremetrics community were able to supply and verify Fun Fact #2…

click image above for full-size, then page down… for fun facts!
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A Conversation with ANS President Eric Loewen

Here is an in-depth video interview with American Nuclear Society President Eric Loewen. Portions of this interview have been featured before in articles at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, such as ”ANS Special Committee on Fukushima focuses on communication“, “ANS to hold teacher workshop in Phoenix, AZ,” and others, as well as in other venues. Here is the complete, unabridged version of the interview.

Loewen discusses his educational background, his tenure in the U.S. nuclear navy, and his subsequent scientific and professional career thus far. Loewen lays out his vision of the roles of the office of ANS president, the ANS Special Committee on Fukushima, and the challenges and opportunities presented by the particular timing of his tenure in the wake of the Fukushima events and new nuclear power construction in the United States. Finally, Loewen discusses some of the key messages the Society and its president should communicate to policy makers, educators, and the public.

See more videos at ANS Nuclear Cafe TV.

NRC Public Meeting in Brattleboro: The Politics of Intimidation

By Meredith Angwin

A recent public meeting held by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) turned out to be a horrific way for a nuclear supporter to spend an evening. The NRC held the meeting to report its annual review of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s performance. The plant received the highest safety ratings, but that was not the focus of the May 23 meeting in Brattleboro, Vt.—to put it mildly.

I hope I never get that close to a mob-rule situation again. I will be completely honest here. The politics of intimidation at this meeting definitely intimidated me. I have always urged people to “show up at the meeting and stand up for nuclear energy” in my discussions of nuclear activism. I will continue to say and do this, but perhaps more cautiously.

The meeting begins

The NRC meeting was divided into two parts. The first session in some ways resembled a “science fair.” Attendees could see NRC exhibits and ask questions one-on-one with NRC officials. Vermont Yankee also provided an exhibit, a cut-away model of the plant. This part of the meeting was completely civil. You can see people standing by an NRC table, and standing around and chatting, in this picture:

Near the end of this first session, however, a group of women in black, with white death masks, filed into the room and began walking a circuit around it.

As the NRC attempted to set up tables for the second session, intended to be a more formal meeting with a question-and-answer period, many of the black-dressed women went to the front of the room and stood behind the NRC tables. The NRC moderator asked them to sit down. He said that he wouldn’t start the meeting with them standing there, and that standing behind the tables was disrespectful. (You can see the interaction at WCAX “Vermont Yankee hearing turns heated.”)

The crowd shouted that those were merely the NRC rules, that this is a democracy, that the women don’t have to sit down. Then most of the crowd surged up from their seats to stand near the women.

At this point, at the front of the room, the NRC regulators were now surrounded by a hostile crowd. The police and the NRC decided that the NRC officials should leave the room for their own safety. This picture shows the NRC officials leaving (at right) while the front of the room is filled with protesters.

I hope to leave

With the NRC gone from the room, the opponent group had taken over the microphones and were saying anything they wanted and clapping for each other. This was an anti-nuclear rally, with a meeting room thoughtfully provided by the NRC.

I realized I had no earthly reason to be in that room. Maybe it was time for me to leave too. While the NRC was out in the hallway, I became hopeful that the meeting would be cancelled and I could leave.

Alas, the NRC came back in to the meeting. The NRC ceded the front of the room to the opponent crowd. Chris Miller, NRC Region 1 director of the Division of Reactor Safety, answered questions from the side of the room. Karl Farrar, NRC Region 1 regional counsel, called on people to ask questions from the aisle at the center of the room.

Same old, same old

The anti-nuclear crowd was noisy and intimidating. At random-seeming intervals, they started chants. One of the leaders would shout “Mike Check” and the group would echo it. Then the leader would shout a few more lines about the plant, or “This is what democracy looks like!” and the group would echo that. The audience also shouted, whistled, and rang bells to show approval for one of their speakers, or disapproval for an NRC official, or for the sole brave pro-nuclear speaker.

The questions and statements of the opponents were the usual. NRC is an industry lapdog, there is strontium in the fish, etc. The final query was what could the people at the meeting say that would get the NRC to shut down the plant. Karl Farrar answered, “That’s not the way the system works.” With that response, the anti-nuclear leaders declared that “the people” were leaving. There was a final burst of chanting, and most of the audience walked out.

Was it worth it to attend?

Yes and no. During the “science fair” session of the meeting, I had a friendly talk with Mike Mulligan, a Vermont Yankee opponent. Mulligan frequently comments on my blog Yes Vermont Yankee. Howard Shaffer also spoke with several plant opponents at that time. I saw several pro-nuclear people whom I like a lot (but they left early—and I do not blame them!). I was interviewed by a local TV station (it’s in the video clip above) and also a radio station. So for those reasons, it was worthwhile to attend.

I have been to many meetings dominated by nuclear energy opponents, but in general the meetings have been civil enough that I felt my presence counted for something. My feeling about this meeting is different. My presence at the formal meeting did not count, and I had no chance to stand up and speak during the entire meeting. A Keene Sentinel article said this about the one man who did speak up:

One man spoke in favor of the plant, but was shouted down by other audience members.

Go to meetings anyway

I still encourage people to go to public meetings and show support for nuclear energy. Most public meetings are not like this one, thankfully. On the other hand, after this meeting, I would also suggest that you keep your eyes open. “Bail out” if you think things might get ugly. Many of my friends left early. There’s no shame in deciding to get out.

I put a link to the WCAX video on the Save Vermont Yankee Facebook page. Here’s what one man wrote in response. I think I will end this post with his words:

It’s strange I did not see anyone arrested in the video. It’s almost at the level of a lynch mob, which is where this type of activity appears to be escalating. You should be careful around mobs like this. They can be very dangerous and things could get ugly quickly.

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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.

Discount registration for ANS conference available through June 1

The American Nuclear Society’s 2012 Annual Conference—Nuclear Science and Technology: Managing the Global Impact of Economic and Natural Events—will take place June 24–28 in Chicago, Ill.. Discount registration is available through Friday, June 1.

The preliminary meeting program is available at the ANS website. Online registration and meeting sponsor information is also available at the same link.

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106th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 106th Carnival of nuclear energy bloggers is up at Atomic Power Review

World's Fair

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs with legendary names which emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

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 Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America that we will 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.

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.

# # #

Friday Nuclear Matinee: “Nuclear Energy: Cleaner, Safer and Made in America”

The 2012 Nuclear Energy Assembly wrapped up this Wednesday evening in Charlotte, NC.  The Nuclear Energy Assembly is the nuclear energy industry’s annual conference, attracting leaders worldwide from all segments of the industry.

The Nuclear Energy Assembly is organized by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI). A few months ago NEI unveiled a multimedia campaign to highlight the benefits of nuclear energy for policymakers and opinion leaders. The following appealing and effective video debuted on primetime network television as part of the campaign. Enjoy!

 

President Obama names Allison Macfarlane as NRC Commissioner to replace Jaczko

President Barack Obama today announced his intent to nominate Allison Macfarlane to be U.S. Nuclear Regulatory (NRC) commissioner and to designate her as NRC chair upon her appointment. Macfarlane is an associate professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University (GMU), a position she has held since 2006. Macfarlane served as a member of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future from March 2010 to January 2012.

Macfarlane received a B.Sc. from the University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in Geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She co-authored an article titled “Nuclear proliferation: Time to bury plutonium,” which appears in the May 9, 2012, edition of Nature.

Macfarlane would serve the remainder of current NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko’s term, which is set to expire at the end of June 2013. This past Monday, May 21, Jaczko announced that he would resign his position as soon as his successor is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

This nomination will join President Obama’s nomination of NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki for a second five-year term in awaiting action by the U.S. Senate. Svinicki’s current term is set to expire at the end of June 2012. On May 14, the American Nuclear Society issued a statement urging the U.S. Senate to act promptly on Ms. Svinicki’s nomination so that there is no interruption in her service.

Immediate reactions to the Macfarlane nomination

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) issued the following statement:

I am confident that like her predecessor, Dr. Allison Macfarlane will make preserving the safety and security of American citizens her top priority as chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Dr. Macfarlane’s education and experience, in particular her service on the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, make her eminently qualified to lead the NRC for the foreseeable future. The nuclear industry has a perfect opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to safety by supporting Dr. Macfarlane’s nomination.

I continue to have grave concerns about Kristine Svinicki’s record on the commission. But I believe the best interests of the public would be served by moving the nominations of Dr. Macfarlane and Ms. Svinicki together before Ms. Svinicki’s term expires at the end of June, to ensure that we have a fully functioning NRC. Republicans claim to share that goal, and I hope they will work with us to make it a reality.

Marv Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, issued the following statement:

The nuclear energy industry congratulates Professor Macfarlane on her selection by the president. She has been an active contributor to policy debates in the nuclear energy field for many years.

Given the importance of having a fully functioning, five-member commission to carry out the NRC’s safety mission, the nuclear energy industry urges the administration to submit her confirmation paperwork as expeditiously as possible. It would not serve the public interest to have her nomination linger with the term of Commissioner Kristine Svinicki set to expire at the end of June. We urge the Senate to confirm both Commissioner Svinicki and Professor Macfarlane expeditiously.

The NRC must continue to be an effective, credible regulator if the nation is to maximize nuclear energy’s role in achieving America’s economic growth and energy security.

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Aris Candris honored with Henry DeWolf Smyth Nuclear Statesman Award

Aris Candris

Aris Candris, Ph.D., senior advisor and a member of the Westinghouse Electric Company Board of Directors, is the recipient of the 2012 Henry DeWolf Smyth Nuclear Statesman Award. Established in 1972 by the American Nuclear Society and the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Smyth Award recognizes outstanding and statesmanlike service in the development and safe management of nuclear energy science. The award commemorates a lifetime’s achievement in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Loewen

“Aris Candris is an international leader in nuclear science and technology innovation,” said ANS President Eric Loewen, who presented the award yesterday at the Nuclear Energy Assembly held in Charlotte, N.C. “His dedication to developing and deploying advanced reactor designs will benefit people worldwide for generations by expanding the use of clean, safe, and reliable nuclear energy.

“Aris Candris has helped instill a commitment to excellence in the nuclear energy industry that extends far beyond the offices and production facilities of Westinghouse Electric. His leadership has been instrumental in the strides made by the company and by our industry over the past three decades,” said Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

Fertel

“I have no doubt that our industry will continue to owe him and the Westinghouse reactor design team a debt of gratitude in the decades ahead for their pioneering work to bring to market a new-generation technology to produce low-carbon electricity. The culture of innovation that Aris has fostered will help reassert American leadership in the export of nuclear energy technologies and services for many, many years to come.”

Candris has had a distinguished career in nuclear services with Westinghouse Electric Company. He is the former president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Company, a position he held from July 2008 to April 2012. Prior to serving as president and CEO, he held a variety of leadership positions. He began his Westinghouse career in 1975 as a senior engineer in the former Advanced Reactor Division.

Smyth

Henry DeWolf Smyth was a Princeton University physicist, served on the Atomic Energy Commission from 1949-54, and was a U.S. representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

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Nuclear Engineering PE Exam at June ANS Meeting

By Jennifer Varnedoe

Ready for the next leap in your career? Who doesn’t like extra letters after their name? Well then, why not get a Professional Engineer license?

As the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) states:

Just as the CPA defines the accountant, and a law license defines the lawyer, the PE license tells the public that you have mastered the critical elements of your profession. It demonstrates your commitment to the highest standards of engineering practice. The PE after your name is an advantage that will open doors for the rest of your life.

Four good reasons from NSPE to get licensed:

Prestige

PEs are respected by the public and are seen in the same positive light as those licensed professionals in other fields. PEs are also held in high esteem by their peers in the engineering community, who see a licensed PE as part of an elite group.

Career development

Employers are impressed with engineers who have their PE license. Licensure not only enhances your stature, it shows commitment to the profession and demonstrates heightened leadership and management skills. Licensure is also a necessity for rising to increased levels of authority and responsibility.

Flexibility

Having a PE license opens up your career options. You can become a specialist, or establish your own business. It also protects you during industry downsizing or outsourcing. The PE license allows you to go as far as your initiative and talent will take you.

Money

Studies have shown that PEs earn higher pay throughout their business careers. Having your PE allows expanded opportunities beyond a company structure—as an independent consultant, for example.

ANS Nuclear PE workshops

The American Nuclear Society periodically offers workshops through the Professional Development Committee to help you get your mind wrapped around the “administrivia” of taking the nuclear PE exam and the actual exam content. The workshops cover how to register for the exam and how the process differs from state to state, and provides an overview of the exam formats. For each of the four basic skill areas—nuclear power, nuclear fuel cycle, interaction of radiation, and nuclear criticality/kinetics/neutronics—the instructor walks through the topics and the skills tested within each topic. During the course, example questions are presented in depth, and you’ll have an opportunity to work some problems on your own and then review them with the group.

And the best part… [drumroll, please!]

ANS will provide you with a study guide, including a sample exam, along with additional helpful resources!

In addition to assisting you in preparing for the test, ANS supports the development of the test as well. So, once you get your license, you can step up and be instrumental in developing and grading the test. What a great way to give back to the profession!

Please join us in Chicago for the next “Preparing for the Nuclear Engineering Professional Engineering Exam” session at the June ANS Meeting. The session will be held on Sunday, June 24, 2012,  from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm.

NOTE: If you are not attending the ANS meeting in June to participate in the workshop, you can order a copy of the newly revised PE study guide—as a
downloadable PDF file, or as a CD-ROM or a hard-copy three-ring binder version mailed to you—from the ANS Store .

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Varnedoe

Jennifer Varnedoe is chair of the ANS Young Members Group. She is a project engineer with Advanced Programs at GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. She has been an ANS member since 2007 and is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Reactions to NRC Chairman Jaczko resignation announcement

By Paul Bowersox

On May 21, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Chairman Gregory Jaczko announced that he would resign his position as soon as his successor is confirmed (Jaczko resignation statement). The New York Times in its reporting of the story noted:  “The White House said it would name a successor ‘soon,’ but it is unlikely that anyone will be confirmed to succeed Dr. Jaczko for many months, ensuring continued turmoil at the deeply divided agency.

Reaction to resignation

Jaczko

Reaction to this announcement “inside the Beltway” was swift and partisan. U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.): “The resignation of Chairman Jaczko will close an ugly chapter and allow the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to focus on its mission—ensuring the safe operations of the nation’s nuclear plants.

Jaczko clashed with other commissioners during his tenure, and the other four commissioners took the unprecedented step of signing a letter alleging bullying by the chairman, resulting in an internal commission investigation and congressional hearings in the House and Senate (December 15, March 15). Jaczko was also severely criticized for terminating a proposal to build a national high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

White House reaction

White House spokesman Clark Stevens: “A strong and effective NRC is crucial to protecting public health and safety, promoting defense and security, and protecting the environment, and we intend to nominate a new chairman soon.

Congressional reaction: Republicans

Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Environment Committee James Inhofe (R., Okla.): “Given the numerous reports of Chairman Jaczko’s failed leadership at the NRC, it was right of him to step down today.

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.): “Dr. Jaczko’s troubling behavior as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had clearly resulted in a hostile work environment for women that ran counter to acceptable norms of workplace equality and that threatened to undermine the mission of the NRC itself.

Congressional reaction: Democrats

On the other side of the aisle. appraisals were more favorable.  Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.): “For his efforts to hold the nuclear industry accountable, Chairman Jaczko was subjected to repeated personal attacks made by some of his colleagues and pro-industry advocates in Congress. I am extremely disappointed he is leaving the Commission.”

Rep. Edward Markey (D., Mass.): “Greg has led a Sisyphean fight against some of the nuclear industry’s most entrenched opponents of strong, lasting safety regulations.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: “I thank Chairman Jaczko for always fighting for the health and safety of the American people. I look forward to the President’s nomination of a successor that will carry the same level of concern…

The Nuclear Energy Institute

Marvin Fertel, president and chief executive officer of The Nuclear Energy Institute, was balanced in his appraisal: “In the seven years that Chairman Jaczko has served as a member of the commission we recognized his commitment to set the highest standards for the safe operation of the nation’s 104 nuclear power plants and transparency throughout the nuclear regulatory framework. We have had differences with the chairman on how best to achieve our mutually shared safety goals. But to his credit we’ve always had open lines of communications and a willingness to respectfully discuss the issues.

Reading the tea leaves

Speculation and conjecture concerning Jaczko’s eventual successor immediately began swirling around the internet. The Energy Collective quotes nuclear industry analyst Dan Yurman: “If the White House is smart, they’ll nominate [current Commissioner] Bill Magwood as a successor, in order to minimize political fallout” while also noting that Magwood is controversial and unpopular among environmental groups.

Others who may be considered, according to buzz in the nuclear industry, include Bill Borchardt, executive director for Operations at the NRC, who has been with the NRC since 1983 and enjoys a very favorable reputation as an exceptional federal regulator; and Allison MacFarlane, who has served on National Academy of Sciences panels on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons issues and was a member of the White House’s Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future. Are these dark horse candidates? Who else will be in the running?

Inside the Beltway, only the tea leaves can portend.

Addendum Friday, May 25:  Tea leaves no longer necessary.  President Obama names Allison Macfarlane as NRC Commissioner to replace Jaczko.”

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Bowersox

Paul Bowersox serves on the staff of the Outreach Department at the American Nuclear Society.

 

 

NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko announces resignation

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Chairman Gregory Jaczko announced today that he would resign his position as soon as a successor is confirmed. Jaczko has served on the 5-member commission since January 2005 and was named chairman in May 2009. His current term as commissioner was set to expire in June 2013.

In reporting the resignation, the New York Times noted:

The practical impact of the announcement is not clear. Dr. Jaczko’s term as a member of the commission ends in 13 months, but the commissioner who serves as chairman does so at the pleasure of the president, meaning that he would be replaced in January if Mr. Obama does not win a second term. Given the slow pace of Senate confirmations, especially in an election year in which control of the White House and the Senate could change, it is not clear that the Senate will approve a replacement before the election in November, and it is more unlikely to do so if Mr. Obama loses and becomes a lame duck.

Below is Jaczko’s official statement.

STATEMENT OF NRC CHAIRMAN GREGORY B. JACKZO

After nearly eight years on the Commission, I am announcing my resignation as Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, effective upon the confirmation of my successor. My responsibility and commitment to safety will continue to be my paramount priority after I leave the Commission and until my successor is confirmed.

After an incredibly productive three years as Chairman, I have decided this is the appropriate time to continue my efforts to ensure public safety in a different forum. This is the right time to pass along the public safety torch to a new chairman who will keep a strong focus on carrying out the vital mission of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

During this last year alone, the agency has responded with an impressive focus on safety under my leadership to a number of diverse challenges including the accident at the Fukushima Da-ichi reactors in Japan, and a number of severe incidents at reactors in the United States ranging from flooding, an earthquake and tornados to damaged plant structures and steam generator problems. In addition to this vigilant oversight, together we identified and began to implement lessons learned from Fukushima and completed our rigorous safety reviews for the first new reactor licenses in 30 years.

Throughout my time on the Commission as both Chairman and Commissioner, the agency finalized regulations to ensure new reactors are designed to withstand an aircraft impact, completed the development and implementation of a safety culture policy statement, enhanced our focus on openness and transparency, and enhanced awareness of and worked to resolve some of the most long-standing generic issues facing the nuclear industry, including sump strainer issues and fire protection. Beyond the power reactor work, substantial progress was made in establishing a more transparent and effective oversight program for fuel cycle facilities. In addition, radioactive sources of concern are now fully protected with our new security regulations and source tracking system. We stand as a stronger and more decisive regulator now because of these years of efforts. I am truly humbled by the agency’s success.

Serving the American people as the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been an honor and privilege. The mission of this agency—protecting people and the environment, and providing for the common defense and security—could not be more clear, or more critical. Our collective focus on that mission was, I believe, one of the primary reasons the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was one of the best places to work in the federal government throughout my tenure. The highly talented and dedicated professional staff, including dozens who have served on my personal staff over the years, have been instrumental in fulfilling the agency’s mission.

I will always be grateful for the opportunity of having served alongside the staff for all of these years, and for all that we accomplished together. I am looking forward to bringing all I have learned from my work and focus on safety at this agency with me as I move forward.

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Nuclear capacity factors in May Nuclear News

The May issue of Nuclear News magazine is available in hard copy and electronically for American Nuclear Society members (must enter ANS user name and password in Member Center).  The issue contains the following feature articles:

  • U.S. capacity factors: The oldest reactors keep pace, by E. Michael Blake
  • From its birthplace: A symposium on the future of nuclear power, by Larry Foulke
  • INPO/WANO performance indicators: U.S. fleet posted strong performance in 2011

Other news in the issue: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issues combined construction and operating licenses for two new reactors at Summer site; the Tennessee Valley Authority announces late 2015 startup for Watts Bar-2 and an additional cost of $1.5 million to $2 million; the NRC issues confirmatory action letter on San Onofre restart plans; the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board allows a challenge to Limerick’s license renewal; the NRC’s staff and the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards favor a 15-percent power uprates for Turkey Point-3 and -4; Gallup poll shows U.S. public’s support for nuclear power is near pre-Fukushima levels; the NRC cites PSEG Nuclear for security infraction at Hope Creek/Salem; South Korea hosts second Nuclear Security Summit; the NRC to establish new security regulations for the use and transport of radioactive materials; the National Nuclear Security Administration sends last shipment of high-enriched uranium to France; major milestone reached in waste treatment project at the Idaho Site; and underground waste tanks at the  Savannah River Site are being readied for closure.

Also, the low-level waste repository in Texas clears a regulatory hurdle; the Hanford Site’s Plutonium Fabrication Pilot Plant/308 Building is demolished; the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future urges the NRC to begin work on generic regulations for nuclear waste management; Cameco acquires Areva’s share of the Millennium project, receives license renewals for three facilities; Energy Resources of Australia explores potential for underground mining at Ranger 3 Deeps; Peninsula Energy commits to Lance projects in Wyoming;  E.ON and RWE drop plans to build nuclear plants in the United Kingdom; Babcock-led consortium takes over Dounreay site in Scotland; GE Hitachi and Britain’s National Nuclear Laboratory sign agreement to dispose of plutonium in the UK; Berkeley boilers shipped from England to France for recycling; With no investors, Bulgaria drops Belene nuclear plant project; and fuel loading begins at Canada’s refurbished Point Lepreau plant.

And there is much more.

Don’t go a month without your Nuclear News!

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105th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park is a carnival of terrestrial energy

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs with legendary names which emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

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 Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

The publication of the Carnival each week is part of a commitment by the leading pro-nuclear bloggers in North America that we will 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.

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.

This Week’s Carnival

It goes without saying there is a lot of happy nonsense on the Internet. A famous cartoon published by the New Yorker shows two canine friends sitting at a computer with the caption, “No one knows you are a dog on the Internet.” That’s the light side.

The dark side is that the Internet is home to all sorts of wrong headed and biased information. Some of it gets picked up by the mainstream news media as part of “he said, she said” reporting.

One of the realities of science and engineering in society is that when you are building bridges, energy plants, and airplanes it require the use of hard facts.

It follows that people who work in these fields are particularly attuned to factual errors, especially when the result of not correcting them can lead to distortion of public opinion.

What principles of aerodynamics and nuclear fission have in common is that the hard facts about the physics of the way the world works, in terms of material properties and fluid dynamics, cannot be changed by opinion.  Otherwise, airplanes would never take off to carry people to their destinations and our cities would turn cold and dark.

ANS Nuclear CaféSpent fuel at Fukushima Daiichi safer than asserted

Led by Will Davis at Atomic Power Review, a group of nuclear bloggers and analysts has crafted a response to information posted by Robert Alvarez about spent fuel at Fukushima and the structural integrity of reactor #4.

Alvarez’s first claim is that the reactor building #4 is at risk of collapse. Second, he claims the spent fuel pool could catch on fire. These assertions, both of which are demonstrated to be false, have been picked up by others in the anti-nuclear world and some of it has made its way into the mainstream news media.

Anti-nuclear activists, like Alvarez, have an agenda to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt, otherwise known at FUD, about the progress of decommissioning the six reactors at Fukushima-Daiichi.  Any time you can create more fear about Fukushima, you create more distrust of nuclear energy generally.

Jules Verne imagined a giant octopus in his epic adventure; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

One of his (Alvarez’s) favorite rhetorical strategies is to total up the mass of material at a nuclear site and then make the assumption that all of it will blow up through some mysterious and unspecified mechanism spewing its contents far and wide.

This is great stuff for a B- movie on the SciFi channel. Like an imaginative idea for a script of Mega-Shark meets Atomic Octopus, it can scare the socks right off your feet, but it doesn’t match reality.

That’s the issue and that’s why there is an answer at ANS Nuclear Cafe.

NEI Nuclear Notes – Eric McErlain

Setting the Record Straight on Spent Fuel Pool #4

At NEI Nuclear Notes, the blog of the industry trade association, its editors took note of the effort at ANS Nuclear Care in a post titled “Setting the Record Straight.”  It records the unprecedented collaborative effort of the nuclear blogging community to collectively respond to an international nuclear energy issue and in a timely manner.

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams

Debunking the Fukushima Spent Fuel Fable

There is a scary myth floating around the internet. According to the tall tale, the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi unit four poses a dire threat to all mankind. Nothing could be farther from the truth. (The post attracted a spirited discussion at the blog)

Neutron Economy – Steve Skutnik

TEPCO’s triage at Unit 4

Contrary to certain colorful accounts circulating the internet, the ongoing recovery process at Fukushima Daiichi by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is specifically addressing many of the concerns over the safety and stability of the spent fuel pools, particularly that of Unit 4. Steve Skutnik gives a deeper account of TEPCO’s triage and recovery efforts.

Idaho Samizdat – Dan Yurman

Svinicki

The pretzel politics of life in Washington took on new twists this month. The White House nominated sitting NRC Commissioner Kristine Svinicki for another term over the objections of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)  Svinicki occupies a “republican” seat at the NRC, but Reid’s ire isn’t about partisan distinctions.

Because of its physical properties as a liquid, CO2 has become a target fluid of opportunity to run turbines connected to a small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) and thus make electricity. Steven Wright, Ph.D., who recently retired from Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), has set up a consulting company called Critical Energy LLC to bring this technology to a commercial level.

A closed loop supercritical CO2 system has the density of a liquid, but many of the properties of a gas. A turbine running on it, “is basically a jet engine running on a hot liquid,” says Wright.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

Uranium ore

The World Nuclear Association reports 53,494 tons of uranium produced for 2011.  The WNA reference scenario projects world uranium demand as about 72,680 tU in 2015.

Also, Brian publishes a list of reactors that should start or restart in 2012.  All 14 are on track for commercial operation in 2012.

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin

May 23 NRC Meeting. Show Up for Vermont Yankee

In a guest post by Howard Shaffer, Yes Vermont Yankee encourages people to attend the NRC review meeting for the plant on May 23.  Shaffer suggests strategies for the question period and for dealing with plant opponents. These  ideas will be helpful to any nuclear supporter who attends a public meeting or hearing.

S&T Blog – Robert Hayes

Radiation and sterilization of food

Low doses of radiation can be used to partially sterilize food items without using preservatives or other chemicals.  When this is done, the food is neither left contaminated nor radioactive from the process.  The process does break down some of the chemical bonds in the food in the same way that slightly cooking the food would do.  The food is not left in a state that will never perish but rather, it will have a much longer shelf life.  Because of this, many people feel food irradiation is an option for a healthy alternative to using chemical preservatives.

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Friday Nuclear Matinee: Our Friend The Atom

This week’s Nuclear Matinee takes a nostalgic look back to the dawn of the Atomic Age and an exciting new power source: “atomic energy.”

 

 

Update on India’s civilian nuclear energy program

The nation continues to chart an independent course

By Dan Yurman

According to research compiled by the World Nuclear Association, India expects to have 20 GWe nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63 GWe by 2032.

It aims to supply 25 percent of electricity from nuclear power by 2050. That’s an ambitious program. Getting there won’t be easy.

Whether or not U.S. firms, including small modular reactor vendors, will have any access to the Indian market remains an open question. Here are a few updates about progress, and setbacks, along the way.

First fuel loading at Kundankulam

Despite eight months of tumultuous anti-nuclear protests in India, in March the provincial government of Tamil Nadu came out in favor of starting the two Russian built 1000-MW VVER reactors at Kudankulam. Local government officials weighed in on the side of alleviating chronic electricity shortages in the region.

This week, India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board gave its approval for loading real fuel in the first unit. Following a 20-day startup period, the reactor will achieve criticality and begin generating electricity on the grid.

Indian Minister of State V. Narayanasmay, in the prime minister’s office, said that the decision for hot start was made following a special review by an independent team of 13 scientists and engineers.

The second nuclear unit is nearing completion. Narayanasmay said that 95 percent of the work is done and that the reactor could be commissioned later this year.

NPCIL to proceed with Kovvada plant

With ducks in a row at Kundankulam, Nuclear Power of India Limited (NPCIL) is planning to move ahead with development of a 10-GWe power station at Kovvada Matsyalasem in Ranasthalam. Construction of the first two units could start as early as 2014.

Indian government authorities have learned a thing or two from the protests at Kudankulam and also Jaitapur. At Kovvada, they are working hard to address land compensation issues for displaced farmers. This has turned out to be a crucial issue to promote local acceptance of the power stations.

Aluminum plant drives demand for new reactors

The completion of two 700-MW indigenous design PHWR reactors at the Kakarapar Atomic Power Station in Gujarat is the basis for a new collaboration between NPCIL and Nalco, the state-owned aluminum company. The two units under construction are a joint venture and the two firms are now in talks for a new round of reactors.

If the new deal goes through, NPCIL would have a 51-percent stake and Nalco a 49-percent stake. Options being considered include sites to support 1500-MW at West Bengal, Odisha, or Rajasthan.

Nalco’s plan is to diversify to become an independent power producer. Its aluminum and other non-ferrous metal smelters consume huge amounts of electricity, hence its investments in current and new nuclear reactors.

Passing the torch

Ratan Kumar Sinha

Ratan Kumar Sinha, director of the Bbabha Atomic Research Center (BARC), took over the first week of May as chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission from Srikumar Banerjee, who retired after 45 years of service.

Sinha has worked extensively on advanced reactor designs as well as on development of small modular reactors for remote areas of India that are not connected to the national grid. He first joined BARC in 1973.

In response to questions from the Indian news media about protests at Kudankulam and Jaitapur, Sinha said, “My priority will be removing irrational fear about radiation from people’s minds. Nuclear energy will have a larger role for India’s growth.”

He added that the benefits of electricity from nuclear energy will be power for economic development and desalinization processes to increase supplies of potable drinking water.

In a ceremony marking the changing of the guard, Banerjee said that India could now deliver its 700-MW PHWR reactors at the equivalent of $1700/Kw. He said that by comparison, international vendors working on Indian projects were coming in at $3000/Kw for a 1000-MW unit.

Banerjee also said that Larson & Tubro would soon be making reactor pressure vessels at its Hazira plant.

He closed by saying that despite Fukushima fears that caused other nations to shut down their nuclear reactors, India is building more of them.

“After Fukushima, we received expressions of interest from Haryana, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh to set up nuclear power plants. We will do all of them,” Banerjee said.

U.S firms remain locked out of India’s market

The landmark civil nuclear agreement signed in 2008 between the United States and India was supposed to open the door for U.S. firms to compete for up to $150 billion in new nuclear reactor business. It hasn’t worked out that way. The two countries continue to have differences, expressed through diplomatic channels, over the issue of liability in the event of an accident.

A series of high-level consultations, including a direct discussion between U.S. President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last November, have yielded little progress on the subject. Since then, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited India to address the issue, but without effect.

So far, no U.S. firm is involved in any of the planned 39 new reactors (45 GWe) that are on the books.

In early May, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner met with Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Washington, DC, to complain about “dampened enthusiasm” by U.S. firms related to India’s investment climate.

Ron Somers, a spokesman for the U.S. India Business Council, complained publicaly at the time of the Mukherjee’s visit by saying that “it is harder to do business there,” referring to restrictions that the Indian government has put on U.S. firms trying to enter its markets.

Somers warned about protectionist actions by several provincial governments favoring local manufacturing of electronics and their failure to protect patents by allowing generic manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.

In addition to the nuclear liability issue, India has raised issues with the United States about reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and whether U.S. firms can have the lead in an equity relationship with NPCIL for any new reactor sites. All of these actions add up to a continuing lock out of U.S. firms from India’s civilian nuclear energy markets.

Liability law a two-edged saw

It appears U.S. firms are not alone in their concerns about India’s nuclear liability law. Indian vendors providing components for new nuclear reactors to NPCIL have privately complained that insurance companies are now denying the coverage because of it.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (FICCI), speaking collectively on behalf of members, wrote a letter to the prime minister’s office in early May saying that the law places them in jeopardy of “unlimited liability.”

FICCI said that it wants a turnover of liability to the reactor operators—NPCIL and its equity partners—for components five years after installation.

Japan sets conditions for nuclear technology

Japan’s heavy industries, including Hitachi and Mitsubishi, have marketing strategies that cover penetration of India’s civilian nuclear energy market estimated to be worth $150 billion over the next two decades.

India has indicated it wants access to Japan’s nuclear energy expertise. If it sounds like a case of full speed ahead, wait, because there is a major pothole in the road.

Japan said on May 1 that it wants India to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). For its part, India has said that it feels its commitment to the principles of nonproliferation make the signature a non-event. Actually there are strategic reasons why India won’t sign, which have to do with Pakistan—which also has not signed the NPT.

India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said during a visit to Tokyo in 2007, “If India did not sign the NPT, it is not because of its lack of commitment for non-proliferation, but because we consider NPT as a flawed treaty and it did not recognize the need for universal, non-discriminatory verification and treatment.”

Koichiro Gemba

The issue of India’s position on the NPT relative to Japan was kicked into high gear in early May by the visit of Koichiro Gemba, Japan’s minister of Foreign Affairs, who met with India’s Minister of External Affairs S.M. Krishna.

This isn’t a new issue for either country. Japan wants to do business, but it also wants the formal NPT to guarantee that its technology won’t be used for weapons work.

Gemba said that Japan wants India to sign the NPT as proof it will not engage in any further nuclear weapons testing. India isn’t willing to make that commitment. Its future relations with the Nuclear Suppliers Group rests in part on how this issue is viewed by its members.

India needs Japanese nuclear technology and parts, especially reactor pressure vessels. While India is building a factory to make them, production is a few years away. In the meantime, Japan holds a virtual monopoly on these components through Japan Steel Works.

If the two countries can’t work out their differences, it could impact not only India’s construction of its 700-MW PHWRs, but also Areva EPRs. The Russians supply their own pressure vessels and would not be impacted by an impasse.

Singh reaffirms commitment to nuclear power

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said May 14 there would be no compromise on safety of atomic plants and it would hurt the nation’s economy to close the additional source of energy.

“It would be harmful for the country to pass an ordinance on denial of nuclear power,” Singh said.

Singh was replying to a question in parliament on whether India would  re-think its commitment to nuclear power in the post-Fukushima world in which Germany is closing its reactors and Japan has shut down its fleet for now.

“We must have nuclear power as an additional source of energy,” Singh said.

He said there would be no compromise on the safety of nuclear power plants.

Singh said after the Fukushima accident of March 2011, he had ordered a complete review of all the 20 operating nuclear power reactors across the country and none of them has reported any incident.

India currently has 4 GWe of nuclear generated electricity.
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Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.