Monthly Archives: July 2012

Registration Open for ANS Winter Meeting in San Diego

It’s time to make plans to attend the American Nuclear Society’s 2012 Winter Meeting and Nuclear Technology Expo, this year held in San Diego, Calif., on November 11–15 at the Town and Country Resort & Conference Center.

The theme of the meeting is “Future Nuclear Technologies: Resilience and Flexibility.” In addition to regular technical sessions throughout the week, the meeting will include the embedded topical meeting “Advances in Thermal Hydraulics” (ATH ’12), as well as the “International Meeting on Severe Accident Assessment and Management: Lessons Learned from Fukushima Dai-ichi.”

Some other meeting highlights will include the ANS President’s Reception, professional development workshops, technical sessions, and tours of some of the many attractions of San Diego.

Online registration is open, and more information about the meeting is available at the Winter Meeting 2012 website. We look forward to seeing you in San Diego.


115th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 115th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up
Atomic Power Review.

carnival maskThe Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that 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 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.
If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brain Wangat 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.

Put this Widget on your Blog!

This widget code will link to the ANS Nuclear Café’s latest pointer to the most current Carnival.

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Utility Working Conference & Vendor Technology Expo 2012

The American Nuclear Society’s annual Utility Working Conference and Vendor Technology Expo kicks off this weekend at The Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, located at 3555 South Ocean Drive in Hollywood, Florida.  The conference will be held August 5-8.

The program for this executive conference, including a detailed schedule of events, is available here.  More information including an online registration form is available here.

Registrations can be made on the Westin Diplomat website, or by calling 888-627-9057. Attendees should identify themselves as part of the American Nuclear Society to receive a Group rate.

Nuclear Matinee Double Feature: What Is Mass? How to Discover a Particle?

The probable confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson, announced on Wednesday, July 4, 2012, marked a great achievement in the history of science.  The Higgs field, as proven by the existence of the Higgs boson, is basically the reason that matter has “mass” in our universe.

But then… What is Mass?  Warning: The following video may be astonishing.

Back to the recent “discovery” of the Higgs: How can physicists say they have “discovered” such an elusive particle as the Higgs boson? (with guest star John Green of World History Crash Course.)

Also recommended: Part I of the Higgs MinutePhysics trilogy.

Thanks to MinutePhysics!

Climate Change and Nuclear Energy: We Need to Talk

By Suzy Hobbs Baker

During my undergraduate studies in art school, I created a body of artwork about micro-organisms. After taking my two required biology courses, I was completely obsessed with cyano-bacteria and diatoms (they are still a central theme in my home décor). Learning that every cell in my body has mitochondrial RNA identical to these ancient life forms floored me, and made me feel completely connected to the planet and all of the other life on it in a very concrete way.

These phytoplankton are not only our actual ancestors — they absorb CO2 and pump out oxygen, which created a unique environment that gave rise to the variety of oxygen-loving species that exist on our planet today (including humans). I wanted to glorify these little powerhouses and to encourage others to think about how these simple, tiny life forms could create a transformation on a global scale. It’s really quite inspiring.


Ocean Acidification

While I was making artistic monuments to single celled organisms in the ceramics studio, new research was emerging about ocean acidification affecting these beautiful and integral pieces of our ecosystem. As the ocean absorbs excess carbon from humans burning fossil fuels, the pH of the ocean is rapidly changing. This means that our ancient oxygen-making pals cannot properly do their job. As their ocean home becomes inhospitable, they are dying off in droves. This not only impacts the ocean’s ability to naturally sequester man made carbon emissions; it also negatively impacts the entire food chain, since they are the primary food source for other multi-cellular ocean creatures, some of which we enjoy eating.

Oh, and did I mention that these little phytoplankton are also responsible for creating the ozone layer that protects all life on the planet from cosmic radiation, and they churn out 70-80% of the oxygen we breathe? These creatures are much more than just a pretty floating form.

Ocean acidification is the issue that brought me to supporting nuclear energy. Ocean acidification is an often-overlooked aspect of climate change that is potentially more threatening than the heat, the super storms, the fires, the drought, the crop losses, and all of the other trends that we are seeing now, which climate scientists have been warning us about for decades.

Climate Change and Nuclear Energy: Like Oil and Water?

It didn’t take long for me to find out that in the nuclear industry, climate change is not something we all agree on. Discussing climate change as a concern is often polarizing, and brings up intrinsic conflicts of interest in the larger energy sector (the companies who design/build/run the nuclear plants also happen to design/build/run the fossil fuel plants). I’ve been advised by people who deeply care about me, and the success of my organization, not to bring up climate at all, and to be extremely careful not to base my support of nuclear on climate issues. I’ve also been specifically advised not to make the argument that nuclear energy is the only solution to climate change.

When you are the new kid, it is usually best not to make waves if you can help it. So, for the most part, I have heeded that advice and held my tongue, despite myself.

However, as I watch the news (and my wilting vegetable garden) and see the magnitude of human suffering that is directly related to increasingly severe weather events, I cannot keep silent. Climate change is why I am here supporting nuclear energy, so what am I doing not talking about it?

The CEO of Exxon Mobile recently made clear that despite his company’s acknowledgement of the irrefutable evidence of climate change, and the huge ecological and human cost, he has no intentions of slowing our fossil fuel consumption. In fact, he goes as far to say that getting fossil fuels to developing nations will save millions of lives. While I agree that we need stronger, better energy infrastructure for our world’s poorest nations, I wholly disagree that fossils are the right fit for the job.

Fossil fuel usage could be cast as a human rights issue only to the extent that access to reliable and affordable electricity determines what one’s standard of living is. At the same time, fossil fuel usage is the single largest threat to our planet and every species on it. Disregarding the impacts that fossil fuel use poses, merely to protect and increase financial profits, is unethical, and cloaking fossil fuel use as a human rights issue is immoral.

Although we are all entitled to our own opinions and beliefs, the idea that climate change and ocean acidification are even up for debate is not reasonable. Just think: The CEO of the largest fossil fuel company in America freely speaks out about climate change, while nuclear energy advocates are pressured to stay silent on the subject.

Silence is No Longer an Option

I am someone who avoids conflict, who seeks consensus in my personal and professional lives, and so I have followed the advice of well-meaning mentors and stayed silent in hopes of preserving a false peace within my pro-nuclear circles, including my family and friends. But my keeping silent is now over— starting here and starting now—because this is too big and too important to stay silent. I am not alone in believing this, and the nuclear industry does itself no favors by tacitly excluding the growing movement of people who are passionate about the need to use nuclear energy to address climate change.

And nuclear power is the only realistic solution. It would be great if there were also other viable solutions that could be easily and quickly embraced; however, the numbers just don’t work out. Renewables and conservation may have done more good if we had utilized them on a large scale 40 years ago, when we were warned that our ecosystem was showing signs of damage from fossils fuels…but at this point it’s really too late for them. And burning more fossil fuels right now, when we have the technologies and know-how to create a carbon-free energy economy, would be the height of foolishness.

In the meantime, there is real human suffering, and we here in the developed world are directly causing it. Our poorest brothers and sisters cannot escape the heat. They cannot import food when their crops fail. They cannot buy bottled water when there is a drought. They cannot “engineer a solution” any more than my childhood friends the phytoplankton can.

Energy Choices as an Ethical Obligation

We have an ethical obligation to stop killing people with our energy consumption. That statement may sound oversimplified, but let’s be honest—we know that fossil fuels kill approximately 1.3 million people each year through respiratory diseases and cancers, and the death toll for climate change related events rises every day. Yet, we do nothing but dither about climate change politics. Where is the outrage?

The fossil fuel industry has been successful at presenting a united front and maintaining consistent strategic communications. In contrast, the safety record and clean energy contributions of nuclear are always overshadowed by politics favoring fossil fuel use. If anything, nuclear advocates should be particularly sensitive that the very same politics are happening with climate science.

We should be championing nuclear energy as a science-based solution, instead of enforcing a meek code of silence. People from outside the nuclear industry, like Gwyneth Cravens, Barry Brooks and Tom Blees, have pointed out these relationships, yet the nuclear industry has yet to internalize and accept these realities.

How can we expect people to listen to science and not politics when it comes to nuclear energy, but not climate change?

Disagreeing with a policy does not change the facts. You can disagree with policy to limit carbon emissions, but that doesn’t change the fact that our fossil fuel consumption is changing the PH of our oceans. Many people disagree with the use of nuclear energy, but that doesn’t change the fact that nuclear is our largest source of carbon free electricity and the safest source of electricity per kilowatt hour.

Nuclear Must Lead by Example

If we want the public to overcome the cognitive dissonance between science and policy when it comes to nuclear energy, we need to lead by example and overcome our own cognitive dissonance when it comes to climate change — even if it means risking our own interests as members of the larger energy industry. We are not going to run out of fossil fuels any time soon, so the decision to move to carbon-free energy—to move to nuclear energy—must be made willingly, and based on ethical principles, not the limits of our natural resources.

As green groups wait endlessly for renewable technologies to have some kind of breakthrough, and nuclear supporters stay mum on climate change, we continue using fossil fuels. Our collective inaction is allowing the destruction of our planet’s ecosystem, the dying of our oceans, and the suffering of the poorest members of our own species. The climate conversation has become so convoluted by politics and greed that many smart, compassionate people have “thrown in the towel.” We should be more concerned than ever at our lack of a comprehensive global response.

I strongly believe that there’s still time to reclaim the dialogue about climate change based on ocean acidification evidence, and to use nuclear technologies to improve the long-term outcome for our planet and our species. The first step is acknowledging the complicated and unique role of the nuclear industry in this conflict, and the conflicts of interest that are impeding open communication. The second step is to realize that the climate change community is a potential ally, and that openly addressing the subject of climate change in our communications is in the best interest of the nuclear community. The third step is choosing to do the right thing, not just the polite thing, and reclaim our legitimate role in the energy community as the “top dog” of carbon-free electricity, instead of quietly watching natural gas become “the new coal.”

Climate change is not going away—it is getting worse—and each one of us in the nuclear community has an ethical obligation to speak up and to do something about it. I am speaking up for the oceans, for the cyano-bacteria and diatoms and our shared mitochondrial RNA that still fills me with wonder at the beauty of this world. Please join me if you can, to speak up for what you love—and if you cannot, please understand that we all remain nuclear advocates, and that the nuclear community is much stronger with the no-longer-silent climate change harbingers in it.

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 State Nuclear Advisory Panel: Safety Again!

By Meredith Angwin

VSNAP is the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel. This state panel gives advice to the state government on nuclear issues. The most recent meeting was in Montpelier, Vermont, on July 9.

In my opinion, VSNAP has not accepted the fact that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in charge of nuclear safety. In other words, while a Federal judge already ruled in Entergy v. Vermont that nuclear safety is in the purview of the NRC but not the state — the state still doesn’t “get it.”

Bill Irwin (designee of the Agency of Human Services); Larry Becker (designee of the Agency of Natural Resources); Elizabeth Miller (Chair and Commissioner of PSD); Leslie Kanat (public member appointed by Governor Shumlin); Rep Sarah Edwards (Representative, chosen by the Speaker of the House); Jim Matteau (public member, appointed by Governor Shumlin). Not pictured, Sen. Mark McDonald (Senator, chosen by the Committee on Committees) (thanks to Sarah Hofmann of the Department of Public Service)

Many Changes

I had been to VSNAP meetings in the days before Governor Shumlin was elected, but I had missed some meetings that took place more recently. I wondered how the panel’s deliberations had changed. Since the last time I attended the panel:

* A Governor (Governor Shumlin) opposed to Vermont Yankee was elected, and he appointed a new Department of Public Service Commissioner, Liz Miller

* Vermont Yankee received its license extension from the NRC

* Reactors similar to Vermont Yankee suffered melt-downs at Fukushima

* Vermont Yankee won its federal lawsuit against the state of Vermont. The judge ruled that the state of Vermont has no authority over nuclear safety issues. Such issues are controlled by the NRC.

In the Old Days

The VSNAP panel includes two members of the Vermont legislature, a Senator and a Representative, appointed by the legislature. The panel is chaired by the Commissioner of the Department of Public Service; the Commissioner is appointed by the Governor. “In the old days” when I went to these panels, the Governor was in favor of Vermont Yankee operation and many in the legislature were against it. Back then, the Commissioner and the two legislative panelists were on opposite sides of the fence about nuclear matters.

In those days, the legislative panelists attempted to wrest control of the meeting from the Commissioner. At one memorable meeting, “wresting control” of the meeting included one of the legislators attempting to wrest the actual microphone out of the Commissioner’s hands.

Naturally, in those days, the panel talked about nuclear safety.

Times Have Changed

Those were the exciting old days. The new Commissioner, Liz Miller, has been appointed by the anti- Vermont Yankee governor, Peter Shumlin. She is basically on the same side of the nuclear fence as the legislative panelists. The meetings have calmed down. Microphone-wrestling is over.

In another change, this meeting was held in Montpelier, not Brattleboro or Vernon. (Brattleboro and Vernon are near the southern boundary of Vermont. The plant is in Vernon.) Liz Miller wants people throughout the state to have access to VSNAP meetings. I think this is a good idea. The same people always formerly came to the meetings. Many of the regular attendees came from nearby Massachusetts.

However, this Montpelier meeting had few attendees, and only three members of the public spoke during the public comment section. I think that if the former Commissioner had tried to move the VSNAP meeting away from the Brattleboro area, the proposed move might have been seen as a trick to make it difficult for plant opponents to attend the meetings. However, Miller was able to move the meeting and include people from different parts of Vermont.

Miller has also made the VSNAP website available to the public (a good thing!). You can hear audio files of the entire meeting here. Other VSNAP documents are available at the site.

Advising on Safety

VSNAP is an “advisory” panel. It doesn’t vote on anything, its job is to advise the state government (agencies and elected officials) on issues relating to nuclear power. It can talk about anything, since it is advisory only.

As far as I can tell, VSNAP advises the state government on safety, safety and safety. The panel had asked Entergy for a briefing on Fukushima upgrades required by the NRC. The Entergy presentation was the main business of the meeting. After Entergy’s presentation, it was almost as if the Judge’s ruling hadn’t happened.

The panel members asked about safety issues internal to the plant. Representative Sarah Edwards was concerned with the Mark I containment. Senator Mark MacDonald claimed that the NRC doesn’t enforce its own standards. He stated that the NRC will “change the graduation requirements, and everybody graduates.” Panel members suggested Entergy should move rapidly toward taking the fuel out of the fuel pool and putting it in dry casks (for increased safety, of course). Miller was concerned with the steam dryer and whether the plant was working effectively to coordinate with first responders in an emergency situation. The diesel generators, the hardened vents, diesel fuel storage. All were up for discussion.

One particular exchange showed the mood of the meeting. The Entergy presenter said “The Fukushima accident” as part of his presentation. Senator MacDonald interrupted him. “Was Fukushima an accident?” At that point, Miller asked MacDonald to hold his questions until the end of the presentation, but then she added: “Point well taken.”

The state panel, being advisory, can legitimately discuss anything. However, the question does arise: after they have held these meetings about safety, whom are they planning to advise? The legislature is in the middle of a court case about federal pre-emption,. The Attorney General (AG) denies that the legislature ever voted on “safety.” The AG claims that Entergy’s lawyers convinced the judge that the legislature was involved in nuclear safety assessments, but nothing could have been further from their minds.  Really?

To me, despite the new venue, the civility, and the new Commissioner, this panel was basically the same as all the previous panels. VSNAP is exactly where it was before the Federal court ruling: quizzing Entergy about safety and safety equipment. People on the panel also make it very clear that they don’t expect the NRC to adequately protect the public.

The state legislature cannot concern itself with nuclear safety, but the state can be an intervenor with the NRC. Maybe that is the point of the VSNAP meetings: helping the AG get ready for the next NRC intervention. Though one would expect such a panel to have a broader reach.

Who Discusses Safety

Many people inside and outside of the nuclear industry discuss safety. Everyone wants to be sure that safety changes prevent any recurrence of the events of Fukushima. People should talk about safety.

However, is nuclear safety the proper concern of a state advisory panel? I don’t think so. I think it is bizarre that elected state officials are quizzing Entergy about safety, and discussing the “inadequacies” of the NRC. To me, it’s like a time warp. It’s as if the court case never happened.

The fundamental issue remains the same. The Vermont legislature and its advisory bodies still seem to think that they, not the NRC, are in charge of nuclear safety.


A more complete description of the meeting is at Vermont Digger.

Howard Shaffer’s testimony at the December 11, 2011 VSNAP meeting.


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.

ANS President Michael Corradini in July Nuclear News

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

  • Michael Corradini: An Educational Approach
  • Tom Sanders: Great expectations for small modular reactors
  • Applications: Updating Plant Emergency Diesel Generators with Intelligent Digital Control Systems

More news in this issue:

Pilgrim receives renewed operating license; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission proposes ways for licensees to comply with post-Fukushima Daiichi orders; phase 3 of U.S. EPR design certification review completed; maximizing the assets: a status report on license renewal and power uprates; NRC to continue current level of regulation for groundwater protection; NRC revises enforcement policy to address construction topics; San Onofre-2 & -3 to stay off line through August; Tennessee Valley Authority inspector general critical of Bechtel’s performance at Watts Bar-2; NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Boards act in license renewal proceedings for Diablo Canyon, Indian Point; three scrams each occur at Browns Ferry-3 & River Bend 1; the NRC revises schedule for review of Seabrook license renewal application; razing of nuclear testing tower sets world record; the NRC amends regulations on import/export of nuclear materials and equipment; South Africa, Nigeria sign nuclear pacts with Russia’s Rosatom; United Kingdom’s energy bill offers incentives for investing in low-carbon sources; University of Manchester is signed for academic work on the PRISM reactor; the reactor pressure vessel installed at China’s first EPR; Russia to begin membership in the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency in January; Indian Prime Minister Singh restates support for nuclear power; appeals court vacates the NRC’s waste confidence rule; appeals court sides with utilities in Nuclear Waste Fund lawsuit; the NRC receives report of rebar issues at Vogtle-3 & -4; Eurodif enrichment plant closes, makes way for Georges Besse II;  the NRC authorizes cascade startup at the Urenco USA facility; 68 early-career researchers to receive Department of Energy funding; the NRC issues final safety evaluation report for Isotopes International’s proposed depleted uranium deconversion plant; and a study finds no DNA damage in continuous exposure of mice to radiation hundreds of times greater than background.

And much more!

Coming up in August. . . .the 18th Annual Vendor/Contractor Profile issue!


114th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers


The problem with junk science is that it treats all meltdowns as equal events

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that 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 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.

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

Junk Science is on the loose. It is another one of those instances where someone with no scientific background in the nuclear field tells the public how dangerous radiation is in tiny amounts.  However, with the imprint of Stanford University on the study, the news media went for it.

Like false positives in drug tests caused by eating poppy seed bagels, a new estimate of radiation induced deaths at Fukushima seems equally suspect. See also Gail Marcus’ post below for more details on the bagels.

Atomic Insights– Rod Adams

Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, has a well known belief that human society can be powered entirely by wind, water, and sunlight.

Mark Z. Jacobson, Prof of Civil Engineering, Stanford University

He is also illogically opposed to the use of nuclear energy, despite a career as an atmospheric modeler whose primary research area has been transportation of carbon particles and air pollution.

He put his modeling and guessing skills to work recently and boldly claimed to have “quantified” the potential cancer death toll from Fukushima. He applied the Linear No Threshold dose assumption in ways that even its defenders caution is a misuse of the admittedly conservative hypothesis. The advertiser supported media gladly swallowed the resulting press releases and took the computed range of values, all of which are based on extremely uncertain numbers, as a scientific result.

Also, Rod Adams points out that in ICRP publication 103, the organization cautions against calculating the number of cancer deaths based on collective effective doses from trivial individual doses.

Canadian Energy Issues – Steve Aplin

Mark Z. Jacobson, a Stanford University prof and serial producer of methodologically dubious anti-nuclear studies, has come out with yet another anti-nuclear study, this time claiming to quantify the health impacts of the Fukushima meltdowns that happened in March 2011.

In spite of shoehorning the numbers and cherrypicking data—Mark Lynas does an excellent job of showing how Jacobson skewed his methodology toward a preferred outcome—Jacobson is forced to admit that the number of statistically modeled casualties from Fukushima is less than the number of actual deaths caused by the panic mass evacuation of people out of the Fukushima prefecture when it became evident that the reactors had indeed melted down.

In other words, in Jacobson’s own study the real world trumped his imaginary one.

NEI Nuclear Notes

[E]xposures received by Fukushima workers and the public are quite low, including among the 20,000 or more workers decommissioning the facility and the approximately 100,000 evacuees. This doesn’t mean there will be no future radiation-caused cancers, as some claim. But because there may be so few cancers, it is unlikely any epidemiological investigations will detect an increase in Japan or elsewhere that can be directly attributed to Fukushima.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

Steps that I think should be taken based upon Fukushima
– do not evacuate very old and infirm people unless there is risk of prompt radiation death. Prepare for better sheltering in place
– develop effective and heavy duty rapid response for containment and to replace damaged systems

Background radiation is 50 times higher than New York in the Sudan and parts of India. Background radiation is 5 times higher than New York in India in general. Background radiation is almost 3 times higher than New York in the UK

Radiation levels are also far higher on planes. Long term studies do not show increased deaths from the radiation

Applying the Mark Jacobson Fukushima analysis of no lower threshold radiation to Japan Airlines shows 90 deaths per year.  A reminder of a past paper by Mark Jacobson where he assigned carbon dioxide emissions to nuclear power based upon an estimate of a likelihood for a nuclear war and emissions from burning cities.

There is no correlation between the time spent watching TV and the size of the set. Apples and oranges don't compare or correlate.

This is even though there is almost no correlation between civil nuclear power and nuclear bombs and nuclear bomb proliferation and no correlation to increased nuclear war risk. Jascobson’s own methodology is flawed in that he does not include the increased risk of hydro electric dam being broken in war or from terrorism in spite of actual attacks on dams during wars (world war 2).

He also looked at “opportunity cost” over 100 years from slower construction of nuclear power. Even though a proposed Desertec project to build wind and solar that exceeds current nuclear power in Europe by 12% would take until 2050 if it meets the proposed schedule. Nuclear could add that level of power in Europe in 15 years with uprates and France’s historical construction rate.

Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcuspoppy-seed-bagel-catalina-kolker

The dreaded poppy seed bagel

Gail Marcus warns of the false positives in drug tests from poppy seed bagels.

False positives in drug tests after eating poppy seeded bagels are a threat to worker sanity.

Don’t eat poppy seed bagels if you work in drug free environment like a nuclear power plant. It turns out that cheapo drug test kits produce false positives.

Years back a coworker of mine at Indian Point ate a poppy-seed bagel for breakfast.He got picked that day for a random drug test. He came up positive on the test. He was sent down to Brooklyn to be examined and evaluated. Found out it was because of the poppy seed bagel. Con Edison made him sign a paper where he promised never to eat poppy-seed bagels. If this sounds odd to make matters worse they still sold poppy-seed bagel in the cafeteria!

Margaret Harding – Four Factor Consulting

She offers an explanation of the pictures and videos of the fuel movements at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4.  The blog post explains what kind of fuel is being moved and what they are doing with it.

Les Corrice – Hiroshimasyndrome

Tokyo anti-nuke rally was caused by the Hiroshima Syndrome – This past Monday’s antinuclear rally in Tokyo demonstrates that most, if not all of those involved are Hiroshima Syndrome victims. Those afflicted suffer because of one or more of three fundamental misconception; belief that there is a crucial similarity between reactors and bombs, bomb fallout and nuclear power plant releases are one-and-same and/or there is no safe level of radiation exposure. The people of Japan run the risk of being the source in the world-wide contamination of the Hiroshima Syndrome.

ANS Nuclear Cafe – Paul Bowersox

Dan Yurman on the details of U.S. and Israeli cyberattacks on Iran’s uranium enrichment program

Jim Hopf provides perspective on a recent court decision upholding the US Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions — and the implications for coal and nuclear power generation.

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin

At Yes Vermont Yankee, Vermont Yankee opponents have noted the appearance of pro-Vermont Yankee letters to the editor.  One opponent website features a set of these letters, in order to encourage rebuttals.  Meredith Angwin of Yes Vermont Yankee finds it very convenient that the opponents are aggregating these positive letters, and urges plant supporters to read the existing letter, and keep those letters coming

Idaho Samizdat – Dan Yurman

Poster for Chaplin's movie "Modern Times"

Both nuclear reactors will remain offline while Southern California Edison works on steam generator problems.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said in a press statement and report July 19 faulty computer modeling that inadequately predicted conditions in steam generators at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), and manufacturing issues that tied back to Mitsubishi, which supplied the units, contributed to excessive wear of the steam generator tubes.

The NRC team also determined that Southern California Edison provided the NRC with all the information required under existing regulations about proposed design changes to its steam generators prior to replacing them in 2010 and 2011.

This makes sense if put in the context of pending reactor deals. So why would these firms collaborate? One of the useful ways to look at global nuclear markets is to conduct scenario analyses. These are “what if” thought exercises which assess the pros-and-cons of various plausible market developments.

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ANS Friday Matinee: Eric Loewen at Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium

The Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia addresses scientific topics of broad and current interest that cut across the boundaries of traditional disciplines. “The Science of Science Communication” was a Sackler Colloquium interdisciplinary scientific meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., on May 21–22, 2012. At this meeting, American Nuclear Society Past President Dr. Eric Loewen addressed the other “three R’s” of [nuclear] education:  Radiation, Reactors, and Residuals.

More featured speakers at Sackler Colloquia’s video channel.

The code inside code; Cyber attacks against Iran

The New York Times reveals who did it

By Dan Yurman

In a massive article that took 18 months to complete, New York Times reporter David E. Sanger reveals for the first time the details about sophisticated cyberattacks on computer systems that run Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

The attacks, which have been authorized by two U.S. presidents, Bush and Obama, temporarily disabled up to 5,000 uranium centrifuges by sabotaging the software inside the Siemens programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that set the spin rate of the machines. In short, the centrifuges, which operate at over 7,000 rpm, spun themselves to pieces when malware programmed erratic changes in their performance.

According to the New York Times article, the cyber software, known as the Stuxnet work, was developed jointly by the U.S. government working through multiple agencies and their counterparts in Israel. The joint effort also had the political effect of convincing Israel that the stealthy destruction of the centrifuges via software was a preferable option to starting a Middle East war by bombing Iran’s uranium enrichment plants.

It isn’t clear how successful the cyberattacks have been as tactics. Also, the latest rounds of sanctions against Iran, which include severe reductions on oil sales to Europe, have not resulted in progress at the negotiation table between western powers and Iran.

The country continues to robustly support its nuclear program while the economy takes a dive. Fuel and food prices are rising sharply. The national airline has difficulty getting spare parts for its commercial fleet. In some ways, Iran is becoming more like North Korea where military priorities trump civilian needs.

History of Stuxnet revealed

The New York Times article reveals that Stuxnet and a predecessor worm dubbed “Flame” hid in plain sight on computers in Iran’s uranium enrichment plants because they cloaked themselves in “signatures” from Microsoft. The Siemens PLCs that were the targets of the Stuxnet work use the Windows operating system.

The cyberattack had two phases. The first program maps networks for infiltration. The second follows the maps to do the dirty work. Specifically, finding the location of PLCs on computer networks in the uranium enrichment plant was essential.

That was the job for Flame that appears to have been deployed at least five years ago. The Stuxnet attack, which was revealed in 2010, followed the roadmaps provided by Flame and caused the centrifuges to crash by disrupting the operation of the PLCs.

The U.S. effort to develop both pieces of software was undertaken in close collaboration with Israeli developers. Even more interesting is the revelation that the U.S. tested the effect of the software with replicas of the Iranian uranium centrifuges. In a classic case of application of OPSEC (operational security), the testing was divided up among U.S. Department of Energy laboratories to prevent any one of them from seeing the whole picture.

The Wall Street Journal for June 1, 2012, reported that some of the work was done at the Idaho National Laboratory that has a test center for protecting critical infrastructure, such as power substations, from cyberattacks. The newspaper reported that lab scientists identified weaknesses in the PLC’s software.

The Stuxnet software was successful and reportedly drove the Iranians crazy because they could not figure out why the centrifuges were breaking down. It reported normal operations of the centrifuge while in fact it was destroying it.

Getting the software into the underground facilities, which were not directly connected to the Internet, turned out to be surprisingly easy. The project relied on transmission of the information via thumb drives, some possibly loaded with popular music or other entertainment and carried into the plant by unsuspecting workers.

Stuxnet was supposed to remain a secret, but it got out when the thumb drives were carried to other nations. Siemens was able to document the flow of the computer virus as it attacked its PLCs installed on other machines in other countries.

Israel goes after Iran’s oil plants

The Flame virus showed up in the radar screen of cyber security experts in May 2012 after Iran said through state controlled news media that it had discovered it in computers at the nation’s oil refinery operations. It turns out, according to an Associated Press report for June 19, that Israel unilaterally used the virus to attack the oil processing plants.

While the U.S. and Israel have reportedly collaborated on the development of Flame, its use to disrupt oil refining operations appears to be a unilateral operation by Israel.

The New York Times reported May 29 that Iran’s Computer Emergency Response Team went public with its identification of the cyberattack on oil facilities. Kamran Napelian, an official with the team, said in a web site posting that Flame was designed to mine data from personal computers and that it had entered Iran’s networks through USB sticks.

“This virus copies what you enter on your keyboard; it monitors what you see on your computer screen,” Mr. Napelian wrote. That includes collecting passwords, recording sounds if the computer is connected to a microphone, scanning disks for specific files, and monitoring Skype.

“Those controlling the virus can direct it from a distance,” Mr. Napelian said. “Flame is no ordinary product. This was designed to monitor selected computers.”

Share and share alike

Like Stuxnet, the Flame virus hid in plain sight by appearing to computer firewalls as a certified Microsoft update to the Windows operating system. Cyber security experts say the sophistication of the effort is revealed by the fact that Flame and Stuxnet share some of the same computer code and that they successfully avoided detection from commercial security software.

The AP article quotes Michael V. Hayden, a former NSA director and CIA director who left office in 2009. “It is far more difficult to penetrate a network, learn about it, reside on it forever and extract information from it without being detected than it is to go in and stomp around inside the network causing damage,” he said.

The Kaspersky Lab, a Russian security firm, told AP, “We are 100 percent certain Flame and Stuxnet worked together.”

Agents of Assassination

A new book published last week by two noted Israeli journalists claims the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, was responsible for at least four deadly bombing attacks inside Iran that killed nuclear scientists. The book is Spies Against Armageddon: Inside Israel’s Secret War by authors Dan Raviv and Yossi Melman.

In a July 8 interview with the Associated Press, the two authors said the assassinations had two objectives. The first is that they are Israel’s response to threats by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. The second is to strike fear in the hearts of Iran’s nuclear science community that anyone in a leadership role could be a target.


Dan Yurman publishes Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy, and is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Café

Court upholds EPA greenhouse gas regulations

By Jim Hopf

In a strongly worded unanimous decision, a federal appeals court recently upheld the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the EPA’s “endangerment finding” that holds that those gases present a threat to human health and welfare. The court also upheld the EPA’s authority to “tailor” such regulations as it sees fit, which will allow the EPA to exempt small sources of emissions and focus its regulations on large emitters (which would be more practical, and a less expensive way of reducing emissions). The court stated that the EPA’s interpretation of the Clean Air Act (CAA) requirements was “unambiguously correct” and that its proposed rules were neither capricious nor arbitrary.

Lawsuits had been filed by organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association, and the National Association of Manufacturers, as well as the states of Texas and Virginia. The plaintiffs had argued that the proposed regulations would be “devastating,” and would result in substantial economic costs and job losses, which would be especially harmful in times of economic weakness and high unemployment. In response to the ruling, the plaintiffs have stated that all legal avenues are being considered, and that there is a good chance that they will appeal.

One of the first specific EPA greenhouse gas regulations is a proposed rule that concerns new power plants. The rule would require any new plant to have CO2 emissions equal to or less than that of a modern natural gas-fired plant. Thus, any new coal plants would have to rely on some form/degree of carbon sequestration in order to comply. Since large-scale, economic, commercially available sequestration technology does not yet exist, this is generally viewed as being a de-facto ban on new coal plant construction.

Political responses/ramifications


Although the current Supreme Court is generally considered “conservative,” it may be unlikely that any appeal of the appeals court ruling would be successful. After all, in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA violated the CAA by NOT taking any action to address global warming emissions.

Essentially, the CAA simply requires that hazardous air pollution be adequately addressed, and it leaves the details (and specific cases) up to the EPA (and to science). Thus, unless the CAA is amended, it comes down to science, and the scientific case was (apparently) already successfully made to the Supreme Court. Thus, unless there is some major new scientific evidence to present (showing that global warming is not an issue), it is unlikely that the court will reverse itself, especially given that the EPA is now on the other side of the issue.


In the legislative arena, Republicans have vowed to pass legislation that would specifically remove EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Mitt Romney has stated that he would support such legislation, as well as efforts to roll back other EPA requirements on other fossil plant pollutants.

While this legislative approach would pass constitutional muster, the effort is unlikely to succeed, given the current Democratic control of both the senate and the presidency. It’s doubtful such a law could pass even if Romney wins in November and the Republicans gain a majority in the senate. In present day Washington, 60 senate votes are necessary to pass any significant or controversial piece of legislation, and it is very unlikely that the Republicans (or those opposed to action on global warming) would ever get such a large senate majority.


The final avenue for opposing EPA greenhouse gas rules is in the administrative arena (if Romney becomes president). Here, the situation is a little less clear.

The EPA is part of the administrative branch, and answers to the president. A new EPA head would be appointed by Romney, and would likely share his views on greenhouse gas regulations. Would a Romney EPA simply halt the development of any proposed rules? If the rules are formally established before he takes office, would his EPA actually rescind the rules? Could they simply choose not to enforce them?

I couldn’t find any references to Romney having plans to defeat greenhouse gas regulations administratively; only references to his support of legislative efforts. Perhaps the reason for this is the 2007 Supreme Court ruling. In that case, the Bush EPA was dragging its feet in terms of regulating greenhouse gases, and the court basically said that they had to do something. Thus, if a Romney EPA tries to rescind or not enforce greenhouse gas regulations, the agency will be sued, and it is likely that the courts will require the EPA to take action, given that the CAA has not been amended.

Economic cost of emissions controls

I don’t find opponents’ arguments about greenhouse gas regulations having a “devastating” economic impact at all compelling, especially given the current low cost of natural gas. These are largely the same people who are crowing the loudest about the “miracle” of low cost (shale) gas, and how much it will benefit the economy. But they then try to ignore the low gas cost when they make grim predictions about the effect of coal plant closures on electricity prices and the overall economy. They can’t have it both ways.

Currently, gas prices are so low that many utilities are voluntarily shutting down coal plants and firing up (or even building) gas generation to take its place. Note that they are making this decision despite the fact that there is absolutely no economic incentive being given to choose gas over coal (i.e., to reflect coal’s higher CO2 emissions and the enormous environmental/health impacts of its other pollutants).

For the first time ever, gas recently accounted for the same fraction of U.S. power generation (32 percent) as coal did. A dramatic example is Southern Company, a large, historically coal-dependent power utility. As recently as five years ago, Southern got 70 percent of its power from coal and only 16 percent from natural gas. Now they’re getting only 35 percent from coal and 47 percent from gas.

In general, utilities are planning on shutting many of their existing coal plants in a few years, rather than installing expensive retrofits that will be required by EPA rules already on the books. Instead, that generation will be replaced by gas (and a few new nuclear plants).

Again, these decisions were made in the absence of any economic disincentive (e.g., tax) for CO2 emissions or any other pollutants. Thus, we’re seeing a substantial reduction in CO2 emissions without any economic cost. As many experts have pointed out, EPA’s (de-facto) no-new-coal-plant rule is entirely moot, since no coal plants are (or will be) built anyway. As we’re seeing, even existing coal plants are finding it hard to compete with gas. Paying a high capital cost to build new coal plants is a non-starter (especially given that most utilities still expect some kind of CO2 limits or penalties, eventually).

The need for emissions reduction policies

Given how close gas and coal generation are right now in terms of operating cost, it seems clear that even a small economic disincentive to use coal would go a very long way, and result in a much larger reduction in coal use.

My belief is that given the low cost of natural gas, we’ve lost every last excuse for keeping very old, grossly-polluting coal plants open. There are no longer any valid economic arguments, given that the incremental cost of replacing those plants with gas generation would be minimal. I find the notion of using coal instead of gas (or nuclear, or renewables) just because the operating cost is slightly lower to be very disturbing. This shows why we must have policies that place at least some economic weight on health and environmental impacts. In an earlier post, I discussed the possibility of using the dispatch queue to give preference to cleaner generation.

Most experts agree that natural gas prices will go back up at some point, after the economy recovers. Will coal plants closed today remain closed in the future? In our (nuclear) industry they certainly do. On the other hand, many utility executives have said that they will go right back to coal (i.e., reopen old coal plants) once gas prices increase. Strict pollution regulations, or even a small price on CO2 emissions, would go a long way toward preventing coal plant restarts, and would significantly raise the gas price threshold at which such restarts would be considered.

The EPA’s proposed power plant rule would effectively rule out new coal plants. Stricter pollution controls, policies that tax or limit CO2 emissions, or the proposed Clean Energy Standard would all act to speed the retirement of old, heavily-polluting coal plants. Such policies that place a small economic penalty on CO2 emissions and/or other air pollutants will lead to significant reductions in emissions at a very modest cost to the overall economy.

Impact on nuclear

The above policies would increase gas demand in the short term, which will eventually result in higher gas costs. This will make nuclear more competitive. Without these rules/policies, nuclear’s future looks rather doubtful, frankly, as it will probably remain more expensive than coal, and continued coal use would act to keep gas prices low.

The basic fact is that if nuclear is required to completely contain all of its wastes/toxins, for as long as they remain hazardous, and competing sources are allowed to freely dump their toxins into the environment, at no cost, it’s hard to see how nuclear will ever have a chance. It’s a matter of fairness, if nothing else.



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


Video interview with ANS President Dr. Michael Corradini

In this video interview, American Nuclear Society President Dr. Michael Corradini outlines some major goals and objectives for the Society during his upcoming term.

Dr. Corradini discusses updating the strategic plan to continue to improve services available to members and build membership; focusing on improving nuclear science & technology education at all levels from K-12 students to the media & national leaders; and continuing to move the Society’s financial status to a more “sound footing.”  See video for details!


The passing of the gavel

Following the American Nuclear Society Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, June 28, Michael Corradini officially became ANS President and Eric Loewen transitioned to ANS Immediate Past President. ANS President Corradini presented a commemorative gavel to the ANS Immediate Past President at the conclusion of Dr. Loewen’s term.

ANS President Corradini and ANS Immediate Past President Loewen












ANS President Corradini and Loewen (holding gavel commemorating conclusion of tenure as ANS President)













Past President Loewen, ANS President Corradini, their predecessor Past President Joe Colvin











113th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 113th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up at Next Big Future

ANS Tag Cloud

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by legendary names that 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 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.

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.

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ANS Friday Nuclear Matinee: The First Nuclear Chain Reaction

Very highly recommended. On December 2, 1942, 49 scientists, led by Enrico Fermi, made history when Chicago Pile 1 (CP-1) went “critical” and produced the world’s first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction.

Seventy years later, two of the last surviving CP-1 pioneers, Harold Agnew and Warren Nyer, recall and explain the events of that historic day.

Of course, nuclear chain reactions power the Sun and stars, and Earth had its own nuclear chain reactions long before humans achieved the controlled version — so some license is taken with the title of this post.