Monthly Archives: September 2012

124th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers now on line

The 124th weekly Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers is up right now at Atomic Power Review.

Each week, the top voices in the pro-nuclear blogging universe come together to present their top posts of the week.  As a result, the Carnival is THE place to go in order to find out what the most popular voices in the nuclear renaissance are saying.  They usually have a lot to say.

The weekly Carnival posts, due to the diverse backgrounds and disciplines of the authors, have a widely varied background that is certain to present something of interest to anyone curious about nuclear energy, or nuclear energy news.

Support those who contribute to this effort by making it count via social media.  That means make a Tweet, or a Facebook post – even a post on your own blog promoting the Carnival.

Those of us who believe that nuclear energy has a safe, viable place work tirelessly to ensure it retains just that.  The bloggers do it for free on their own sites; recognize their efforts by helping to get the word out!

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

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

In case of atomic bomb, beer still OK

Science historian Alex Wellerstein recently wrote of a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted in 1955 at the Nevada Test Site, known as Operation Teapot. Among the important civil defense questions explored at the time was: What will the survivors drink after a nuclear apocalypse?

There was only one way to find out, at least according to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) of the day: Detonate an atomic bomb near some bottles and cans of soda and beer and then examine the evidence.

The results, it turns out, are quite reassuring. Many bottles and cans survived the nuclear blast, even those only a quarter mile away. Further, only those closest to Ground Zero registered radioactivity—but these readings were ”well within the permissible limits for emergency use,” according to the AEC.

Nearly as important: “Immediate taste tests indicated that the beverages, both beer and soft drinks, were still of commercial quality.”  (Immediate taste tests?)

Unfortunately, the flavor of the beers very close to Ground Zero was “definitely off,” the AEC concluded. Nonetheless, the ANS Nuclear Cafe concurs that it may be advisable, for readers who are so inclined, to keep a six-pack or two in one’s basement, as part of any sensible emergency preparedness program.

For further research:

Stefani Bishop announces the breaking news at WRKR radio, Kalamazoo, Michigan:

Atomic Beer Testing

Alex Wellerstein’s Restricted Data blog: “Beer and the Apocalypse

NPR’s Robert Krulwich’s sciencey blog: “U.S. Explodes Atomic Bombs Near Beers To See If They Are Safe To Drink

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Nuclear Matinee: The Higgs, or not the Higgs? Spin will tell

The Higgs boson caused quite a stir earlier this year when its discovery was announced on July 4. After all, the Higgs field, as proven by the existence of the Higgs boson, is basically the reason that matter has “mass” in our universe.

But, do we know for sure? In these delightful videos from CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research)—the headquarters for the pursuit of the elusive Higgs [click here for a video of Professor Peter Higgs speaking about the  discovery of the particle]—physicists Christopher Pauss and John Ellis explain what more we will need to know.  <Hint: “Very weird quantities” will need to be measured…>

Part 1:

Physicist Aiden Randle-Conde joins in Part 2:

 

 

 

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U.S. Global Nuclear Leadership Through Export-Driven Engagement

By Art Wharton

The latest American Nuclear Society board-approved Position Statement (PS83) is titled “U.S. Global Nuclear Leadership Through Export-Driven Engagement.” This statement highlights a paradigm shift that is occurring within ANS, as global macroeconomic issues force the recognition that clean energy is imperative for continued global development.

It’s logical that ANS would want U.S. nuclear technology to dominate the global market; but the position statement does not come from a market-driven angle—it is noted as a non-proliferation measure. This may seem paradoxical at first, but I ask the audience: Would you rather the U.S. nuclear energy industry influence the world’s developing countries as they inevitably build their nuclear infrastructure? Or would you prefer the influence of the nuclear energy industry of another country, which might not enforce and teach the same level of rigor in operational excellence, human performance, and design for non-proliferation?

ANS is now taking the stance that nuclear energy is not only a valuable source of domestic stability, but also an international security imperative. As developing countries begin taking advantage of nuclear energy as a clean energy source (this is already well underway and accelerating), the United States will be looked toward for its technology leadership in nuclear energy.

1-2-3 Agreements

For bilateral nuclear trade agreements (known as 1-2-3 Agreements), it is imperative that the 1-2-3s be negotiated in a way that assures safety, but does not necessarily demand that a sovereign nation give up its sovereignty (such as automatically requiring that a country never “enrich” uranium to the very low levels required for use as nuclear fuel). The origination of the ANS position statement was a U.S. House of Representatives bill proposed to essentially enact a “gold standard” in 1-2-3 agreements, after the United Arab Emirates had agreed to forego its right to enrich uranium as an anti-proliferation measure. Since we know that these types of requirements are not being placed on agreements among other countries, such a requirement would place the United States in an uncompetitive stance, left to watch from the sidelines as the international nuclear trade landscape develops. Logically, ANS would like to see American technology leading the way to a cleaner and safer energized world.

The exportation of peaceful nuclear technology is highly valuable to developing nations. Historically, countries that developed nuclear energy technology actually developed nuclear weapons first, before they realized how much more valuable nuclear technology is for peaceful purposes. Why not help developing countries skip that first step?

U.S. nuclear technology is designed with anti-proliferation in mind as part of global security policy, so the exportation of U.S. nuclear energy technology as a market leader serves as a security imperative, to ensure that peaceful and nonproliferative technology is used dominantly throughout the world. I ask again: Would you rather see a developing country install U.S. technology under the guidance and influence of the United States? Or, would you rather see a developing country buy from someone else?

Influence and control

This is actually an area where Position Statement 83 may bring a little discomfort to the people in the nonproliferation community. It contains an undertone of influence, rather than control, over the expansion of nuclear science and technology in the international community. When I was a very young boy, my parents were able to control me; indeed, it was their responsibility to control me as I was raised. But something weird happened as I grew up into my teen years: I gained a sense of sovereignty. I could think for myself, act for myself, and I was pretty sure I knew more than them anyway, as most teenagers do. I wasn’t completely grown up yet, but the game had changed. My parents could no longer expect the ability to control me, but needed to still influence me to grow into a productive member of society (Craig Piercy, the Washington, D.C. representative for ANS, tells of this paradigm shift with pictures of his children as they grew up—it’s personally compelling and relatable).

In a global society where the United States out-spends everyone else on national defense (and shall we say, international defense), there yet comes a time when even the immense capability of the U.S. Armed Forces cannot effectively control the global community—but the positive example of the U.S. nuclear energy industry, its exemplary safety record, and its operational excellence can serve as a beacon of influence as it exports its technology.

This is why the United States must be the market leader in the exportation of peaceful nuclear technology. But I’m not done.

Poverty and risk

One of the (some might say, naïve) dreams that I had roughly a decade ago as I was working on my undergraduate degree was the dream that I could forge a career selling and building nuclear power plants in developing nations—as part of a larger global effort to bring people out of poverty. “U.S. Global Nuclear Leadership Through Export-Driven Engagement” could help that dream come alive.

World Bank research indicates that besides the opening of new markets and increasing global wealth creation, security is the other imperative to reduce world poverty, and vice-versa. A “rich” person has a lot more to lose if they go to war or otherwise commit acts of violence. What has a poor person to lose by taking such large risks? In a world where only about 1/6th of the population lives on more than $5 of purchasing power per day, the opportunities are endless for improving global security hand-in-hand with global economic activity. Peaceful nuclear science and technology applications can be a significant piece of the puzzle—with the United States leading the way through a high level of engagement in exports.

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Disclosure: I have a deep personal interest in the topic of exporting nuclear technology, which influenced my choice of employment at the finest nuclear technology company on the planet; however, all opinions contained above are my own opinions, and do not necessarily represent the opinions, positions, or strategies of Westinghouse Electric Company LLC or any of its subsidiaries or parent companies, or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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Wharton

Art Wharton is a principal project engineer at Westinghouse Electric Company LLC in Nuclear Power Plants Business & Project Development. He is a member of the ANS Planning Committee, ANS Public Policy Committee, the ANS Operations and Power Division Program Committee, is the Treasurer of the ANS Operations and Power Division, is the Pittsburgh ANS Local Section Past Chair, a Trustee on the Board of Pittsburgh’s Urban Pathways Charter School, and is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

ANS wants your VOTE! in WSJ nuclear energy online poll

Voting season is upon us!  The Wall Street Journal has an online poll underway:

Vote: Should the World Increase its Reliance on Nuclear Energy?

Voting is very quick and easy.  And… comments can be very educational for others. See Meredith Angwin’s ANS Nuclear Cafe post: Pro-Nuclear Activism: Something for Everyone for more comments about comments. Thanks for your support!

 

Pro-Nuclear Activism: Something for Everyone

by Meredith Angwin

A few days ago, the Connecticut Section of the American Nuclear Society invited Howard Shaffer and me to give a talk on “Pro-Nuclear Activism.” Well, it is true, we have been very actively pro-nuclear in Vermont. So, armed with our recent experiences, our presentation was an effort to convey “lessons-learned,” or perhaps “best-practices” of pro-nuclear activism.

It was our story of what works for nuclear advocacy. And, a lot of “what works” can be summarized in three words: Just Show Up!

(Speaking of which, may I also recommend readers peruse “The future of nuclear at #MOXchat” posted yesterday at ANS Nuclear Cafe—exemplifying much of what we are talking about here.)

Hearings and public meetings

When we think about nuclear advocacy, we think about hearings, public meetings, and pro-nuclear rallies. These events are essential for “showing up” for nuclear power.

If there is a hearing:

Be there
Be with a friend
Be visible

Being there is what makes all else possible.

Bring a friend so you aren’t alone. At the MOX meeting in Tennessee, ANS had arranged for a coffee room (with cookies!). In this room, nuclear advocates could chat, eat (until the cookies ran out), and decompress from the hearing. This was a brilliant idea and made the hearing much more fun for the people who attended.

Be visible (e.g., wear a pro-nuclear shirt or button) so you can identify your friends, and reporters can also identify you as pro-nuclear.

May I add, socializing and having fun are important. Pro-nuclear people can sometimes encounter a “brownie-deficit.” Pro-nuclear people need to get together, even if ostensibly it’s to have brownies and coffee. We need to schmooze and plan our activities: letter-writing, hearing attendance, sign-making, and so forth. Nuclear opponents munch brownies and have potlucks, and thus they WANT to show up for another meeting. We need to do the same.

Other ways to be there

However, if our only chance to support nuclear energy is when we can attend a hearing or rally, opportunities for pro-nuclear activism would be few and far between. It is important to be publicly pro-nuclear—frequently! As Howard Shaffer says: We will always need pronuclear outreach. We emphasized this at the Connecticut Section ANS meeting, and you can see our viewgraphs here.

There are many things you can do from the relative safety of your computer to support nuclear on a constant basis. You can write letters to the editor. You can write on the web—print newspapers have websites, and if you see an anti-nuclear article, you can usually go to the website and comment on it. If you see a pro-nuclear article, you can do the same, showing that you agree with the article.

Easy does it

Supporting pro-nuclear is not all or nothing. Many of us are scientists and engineers, and sometimes we think we have to do a whole research project before we can write anything. But we can just share a pro-nuclear opinion, too. Your opinion counts!

For example, we included two viewgraph examples of pro-nuclear comments to web articles. Both of the web articles were on Vermont Digger, an online local news organization. When Judge Murtha ruled for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in federal court in January this year, one online commenter suggested that Murtha was inappropriately pre-disposed to Vermont Yankee. Lance Hagan responded: “I suspect if Judge Murtha had made a judgement the other way, you wouldn’t be questioning his integrity, but writing letters to the pope, nominating him for sainthood.”

That’s a pro-nuclear comment that didn’t take a lot of work to research. But it’s an opinion, and a voice that is heard. And it certainly counts as a public pro-nuclear statement.

The second comment explains why it is impossible to replace Vermont Yankee with renewables. It is written by Willem Post, a member of the Coalition for Energy Solutions with me and Howard.  (Willem Post blogs at the Energy Collective.) He wrote a fact-filled, excellent comment. In fact, it’s the gold standard for comments. <click image to enlarge>

I am giving these examples to show that you can answer with an opinion, or answer with well-researched information. But the important thing is… to answer!

For further reference, check this string of pro-nuclear comments on a Vermont Digger article about a Vermont Yankee protest.

Make it real

Unfortunately, our slides don’t show Howard Shaffer’s great use of props to make things real. Often, this can make all the difference. Howard bought a tritium self-illuminated exit sign, and he takes it to meetings. It contains more tritium than was spilled in a pipe system leak at Vermont Yankee—yet, it can be ordered through the mail! Howard points out that hazardous materials cannot be sent through the U.S. mail.

Howard also carries a fire-starter for a gas grill. Any ordinary gas grill serves as an example of a controlled chain reaction. A small spark starts a fire, and the size of the fire is controlled by the fuel one gives it. Thus, we are surrounded by controlled chain reactions…in our cars, furnaces, and gas grills. Howard gives a terrific presentation, because he makes it real.

Our Connecticut meeting had a good mixture of students and old-timers. There are all sorts of people in nuclear energy. Similarly, there are many ways for people to be pro-nuclear activists. Choose something to do, and start today!  And then, invite a pro-nuclear friend over and have some cookies together.

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We want to thank the Connecticut ANS Section for their hospitality, and for everything they did to make the meeting a success. Special thanks to Uli Decher and Shawn Downey for all the work they did before the meeting, and for mounting the presentation on their website so quickly.

Photos from the Connecticut Local Section meeting.

Steve Skutnik’s eyewitness account of the Chattanooga meeting.

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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.

The future of nuclear at #MOXChat

By Laura Scheele

On September 11, the National Nuclear Security Administration (U.S. Department of Energy) hosted a public meeting in Chattanooga, Tenn., concerning its Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on the disposition of surplus weapons-grade plutonium as mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in power reactors. You may have seen the ANS Call to Action for the hearing and perhaps read the ANS position statement or background information.

L to R: Stephanie Long, Nick Luciano, Alyx Wszolek, and Suzy Hobbs Baker.

This is the story about how ANS members fulfilled the mission set forth in the position statement:  to inform the public and media about the nonproliferation benefits of the MOX fuel program. It’s also the story of how ANS student members answered the Call to Action and contributed to the success of this event for the Society.

The Chattanooga ANS Local Section and the Chattanooga State Community College ANS Student Section both committed to supporting the September 11 hearing as a priority outreach project. ANS Public Information Committee Chair Dave Pointer e-mailed nearly 700 ANS national and student members within a 5-state radius and asked them to come to the hearing to represent the Society, to explain why MOX fuel use makes sense, and to make a stand for nuclear in an area where nuclear opponents had monopolized the public discussion about nuclear.

ANS members showed up.

ANS student members from University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UT-K): (l to r) Hailey Green, Remy Devoe, Tyler Rowe, Seth Langford, John Wilson, and Brent Fiddler. (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

LOTS of ANS members showed up.

Chattanooga State Community College ANS students wear their blue-and-orange shirts in a standing-room-only public hearing.

MOST of the ANS members who showed up were students.

The faculty and student delegation from University of Tennessee-Knoxville (UT-K). (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

ANS members who couldn’t show up replied to the e-mail to say they couldn’t come, but wanted to pass along their encouragement and their belief that this was the right thing to do.

We can take pride in how well the Society was represented in Chattanooga.

The students took pride in representing the Society and the profession—and did so very well.

Chattanooga was a communications victory for ANS across the board: a great turnout for nuclear professionals and students and a great event for explaining the benefits of MOX fuel technologies.

Defying expectations

The presence of so many young people supporting the ANS position on MOX fuel made a definite impression upon attendees. The most common question I was asked by non-ANS participants was, “How many Chattanooga State students are here today?” One gentleman who opposed MOX fuel prefaced his remarks by saying that he once taught at Chattanooga State and was thrilled to see so many students attending the hearing.

Chattanooga ANS Local Section Chair Samuel Snyder wrote following the hearing:

Samuel Snyder, Chattanooga ANS Local Section Chair

Samuel Snyder comments during the hearing.

One thing that struck me last night was the average age of those who attended the meeting in support of the nuclear science and technology industry. When you take last night’s “pro-nuclear” group as a whole, I would say that the average age was in the 20s.

A good number of students were willing to get up in front of the group and provide public comments in favor of the ANS-backed proposal for the disposition of surplus plutonium. The comments were very civil from the “pro” side, and mainly civil from the “anti” side, though my biased opinion is that the “pro” side did a much better job of presenting facts and providing sound arguments for their position.

It’s good to have friends…

This was the first public hearing experience for most of the participants. Recently, Chattanooga has seen a lot of anti-nuclear activity, including opponents who stage protests dressed as zombies.

In asking ANS members to attend this hearing, we were asking nuclear professionals to venture outside of their comfort zone in terms of making public comments on an issue that might not really be their area of expertise—and oh, by the way, you might also need to wade through a crowd of zombies who will be heckling you. No worries!

Three ANS students wisely team up and keep their backs to the wall to prevent a zombie sneak attack. (L to R: Alyx Wszolek, Steven Stribling, and Stephanie Long ) (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

That’s what friends (and professional membership societies) are for—to watch your back when you’re surrounded by zombies. Being the only science-informed person in the room can sometimes be uncomfortable and even intimidating. There is strength in numbers, and so coming together on a vitally important issue strengthens our association by strengthening our professional and personal bonds.

…Especially social media friends

Suzy Hobbs Baker of the Nuclear Literacy Project drove from South Carolina to support the hearing. (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

The social media promotion of this event contributed to its success. The ANS Social Media Group is an amazing collection of people with wildly different perspectives and backgrounds who share one thing: the conviction that the nuclear community needs to improve how we communicate if nuclear energy’s promise is to be realized.

 

Alex Woods, Chattanooga State

Alex Woods, Chattanooga State Student Section president, led off the comments.

Individually and collectively, they have shed much blood, sweat, and tears in their efforts—and they are willing to lend a hand so that your blood, sweat, and tears might be spared.

#MOXChat was the twitter hashtag for the Chattanooga hearing. The live-tweeting provided a minute-by-minute rundown of the comments and observations by nuclear professionals across the country who followed this on twitter. Unfortunately, the tweets have expired on Twitter.

A roundup of social media coverage of #MOXChat is at the end of this article. Many thanks to everyone who supported this event via social media. Your observations and advice were invaluable, and many of the students brought printouts of your entries to the hearing as prep material.

Steven Skutnik

Steven Skutnik

A special tip of the ANS Nuclear Cafe cap to Steve Skutnik, who did it all at this hearing: made public comments, live-tweeted the hearing, live-blogged the hearing here at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, blogged pre- and post-hearing at his Neutron Economy blog, and helped prep students in his capacity as UT-K assistant professor. Thanks, Steve!

 

The power of  showing up

Howard Shaffer, Meredith Angwin and Eric Loewen

Howard Shaffer and Meredith Angwin receive presidential citations from ANS Past President Eric Loewen.

Meredith Angwin and Howard Shaffer have spearheaded a nuclear advocacy effort in Vermont that has changed the public debate over nuclear energy. They often talk about the value of  ‘Showing Up’ to support nuclear. By showing up, Meredith and Howard have built a pro-nuclear grassroots movement in a place where people sometimes seem to think nuclear is a four-letter word.

Pro-Nuclear Rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Go Team Nuclear!

We asked ANS members to come to the hearing and comment on behalf of ANS—but we also asked those who could not comment to show up and support their friends and colleagues. They did—and they applauded every comment. Some who couldn’t stay for the hearing showed up to meet with the students and answer questions that they had about MOX fuel and reactor operations.

ANS members mingle before the public hearing begins.

Everyone there contributed to the success of this event—just by showing up.

Having fun is contagious

The disposition of excess weapons-grade plutonium is a serious issue. The ANS student members took seriously the responsibility of speaking on behalf of the ANS position and the need to counter some of the more implausible assertions by the nuclear opponents who attended.

Chris Perfetti preparing his public comments.

Taking the responsibility seriously, however, doesn’t mean being humorless. Sometimes we err too much on the side of serious and need to remember that positive experiences build upon themselves: having fun at an event makes it more likely that you’ll do something similar in the future.

Besides, we’re hilarious! Why try to fight it?

Sometimes a little #MOXSnark needs to be vented due to the wild claims made by nuclear opponents.

And sometimes brilliant ideas—like ANS Man, or a YouTube show featuring Sarcastic Science Guy in a Turquoise Shirt, or setting future public comments to cheering cadences—are born of these shared experiences.

All I will say is this:  My understanding of  plutonium dispersion factors has been forever transformed. Or, as Steve Skutnik live-tweeted, #youprobablyhadtobethere.

You know, in Chattanooga.

WHERE ANS ACHIEVED TOTAL DOMINATION*!

*in a technically credible, knowledgable, and thoroughly polite and eloquent manner, while adhering to the highest standards of safety (no zombies were harmed in the writing of this post).

L to R: Remy Devoe, John Wilson, Rob Milburn, and UT-K Student Section President Ryan Sweet

Social media roundup

Rod Adams, Atomic Insights:
Plutonium Power for the People

Meredith Angwin, Yes Vermont Yankee:
MOX & Hearings in Chattanooga
Meeting Success Story in Chattanooga
Show Up for Nuclear in Chattanooga

Steve Skutnik, Neutron Economy:
Wading into the Zombie Nuclear Horde
Mixing it up over MOX – a wrapup from Chattanooga

Dan Yurman, Idaho Samizdat:
Mix it Up about MOX in Chattanooga
Calling Out Red Herrings about MOX Fuel for TVA

US Areva:
Can you Talk MOX? 10 Things You Need to Know about MOX Nuclear Fuel

Chattanooga State students stand near a MOX fuel assembly mock-up at the open house. (L to R: Geneva Parker, Mark Hunter, and Brian Satterfield) (Photo by Charles Ellsworth)

Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information

ANS was able to support this important effort thanks to funding provided through its Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information.

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 Laura Scheele is the Communications and Public Policy Manager for the American Nuclear Society’s Communications and Outreach Department.

8th International Conference on Isotopes

The American Nuclear Society will welcome delegates from around the world to Chicago in August 2014 for the 8th International Conference on Isotopes (8ICI).

The conference is held every three years to highlight the importance of nuclear science, medicine, and technology in advancing human health and protecting the environment, under the auspices of the World Council on Isotopes.

8ICI will assemble an international community of nuclear and medical physicists, radiochemists, engineers, materials scientists, physicians, health physicists, and others for an interdisciplinary discussion of current and future research in the field of isotopes. Complementing the scientific and technical program will be an exhibit on isotope production, distribution, devices, applications, and measurements.

Contact ANS by e-mail for more information by clicking here,

or by telephone at 708-579-8287, or by regular mail at:

American Nuclear Society
555 N. Kensington Avenue
La Grange Park, IL 60526 USA

<click to enlarge>

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TVA’s Browns Ferry road to recovery

The Browns Ferry nuclear power plant is located on the Tennessee River near Decatur and Athens, Alabama. The site, which has three General Electric boiling water reactors, is owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority.

In 1974, the time of its initial operation, Browns Ferry was the largest nuclear plant in the world. In 2006, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission renewed the licenses for all three Browns Ferry reactors, extending each one for an additional 20 years.

NRC findings

One reactor at the Browns Ferry plant currently carries a “red” finding from the NRC in 2011. That finding stemmed from a faulty valve on a reactor shutdown cooling system that went unnoticed for 18 months until it was needed in a routine shutdown. A backup system intended for use in the event of fire was employed to safely take the reactor off line.

All three Browns Ferry units also carry a “white” finding from a recent NRC inspection that found plant operators and staff would not have been able to satisfactorily perform newly implemented procedures for safe plant shutdown.

Improvements

Keith Polson, Browns Ferry Nuclear Site VP

TVA’s Chief Nuclear Officer Preston Swafford and Browns Ferry Site Vice President Keith Polson met September 12 with reporters in the regional media to share news about improvements currently being made at Browns Ferry.

The two executives provided an overview of TVA’s nuclear fleet, and shared an Integrated Improvement Plan Summary plan for Browns Ferry, explaining how it was developed and the metrics that will be used to measure improvements. Their update also included a review of the Browns Ferry Road to Recovery report, which explains Browns Ferry’s focus and activities in the areas of people, processes, and the plant itself since 2009.

In short, the message from Swafford and Polson:

TVA is committed to making the improvements needed at Browns Ferry to return the facility to a top-operating nuclear plant.

TVA has a detailed action plan to make improvements at Browns Ferry.

Preston Swafford, TVA chief nuclear officer

TVA is confident it is on track, and already seeing improvements in key areas.

Addressing the NRC’s red finding at Browns Ferry is part of a larger effort to improve operations at the plant for the long term.

Nuclear power continues to be a key component of TVA’s vision: becoming one of the nation’s leaders in low-cost and clean energy by 2020.

Some of the regional news coverage:

Browns Ferry executives say they are developing safety measures” — Decatur Daily

TVA: Improvements boil down to personnel” – Athens News Courier

TVA touts fire protection at Browns Ferry” — Athens News Courier

TVA in midst of recovery program at Browns Ferry and other nuclear plants” — The Huntsville Times

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123rd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 123rd weekly Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up at The Hiroshima Syndrome.

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by well-respected 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.

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

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

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Idaho Samizdat, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, and CoolHandNuke, as well as several other popular nuclear energy blogs.

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

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

Nuclear Matinee: Virtual Tour of a Nuclear Reactor in Second Life

Today the ANS Nuclear Cafe Matinee takes viewers on a virtual tour of an EPR nuclear power plant, in the virtual world of Second LifeEPR (European Pressurized Reactor or Evolutionary Pressurized Reactor) is a relatively new design, third-generation nuclear reactor, with units under construction in Finland, France, and China.

The making of the Second Life tour of the EPR, very interesting:

Thanks to Jeffrey Corbin (aka zazen Manbi in Second Life) at the University of Denver and his associates.

Japan’s Non-nuclear decision

Implementation of the energy policy announced last week will keep reactors running well into the second half of the 21st century.

By Dan Yurman

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Japan Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda announced on September 14 that his nation will end reliance on nuclear power by 2040. On paper it looks like a replay of Germany’s decision to scrap its reactors by 2022. In reality, it isn’t anything like that, plus the government plans to complete several reactors that are already under construction.

Unlike Germany, which immediately closed half of its aging fleet, Japan has already restarted two of its reactors shuttered following the Fukushima crisis and will like restart many of them by the end of 2013. The most urgent effort is Tokyo Electric Power Company’s work to restart the seven reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

The launch of an independent nuclear safety agency this month is expected to add credibility to the government’s plan to keep the lights on with nuclear energy.

The political motivation for Noda’s decision includes an obvious reading of the overwhelmingly anti-nuclear mood of the Japanese electorate that has lost the traditional trust of the government and the nuclear utilities that run the reactors. Elections expected to take place this fall, or certainly by early 2013, center on two issues–nuclear power and taxes. Pulling the teeth on one of them, the fate of the reactors, is seen as a tactic designed to improve the chances of Noda’s party to stay in power.

Noda’s party may still lose the election. The reason is that many in Japan see the decision to move away from nuclear energy as a smokescreen. Noda’s Democratic Party is, in any case, deeply unpopular, which suggests that the late arrival of the policy of appearing to pull the plug on the reactors may have little lasting political effect.

The policy leaves decades of time for future political decisions that would undo Noda’s policy. And there are plenty of reasons why that might happen.

Take for instance the views of Japan’s biggest corporations represented by the Keidanren business federation. It insists that the cost of replacement fossil fuels are crippling the country’s economy and forcing its members to consider moving their heavy industrial manufacturing operations offshore to countries like Vietnam.

There the government has committed itself to building eight new nuclear reactors to provide reliable electric power. Intel has opened a $1-billion computer chip manufacturing center, one of the largest of its kind, based on Vietnam’s reliable electricity and cheap labor.

And the United States isn’t happy either about Japan’s decision. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman said on September 14 that dropping reliance on nuclear energy in Japan could have negative impacts on fossil fuel markets, particularly regarding the current cheap prices for natural gas.

According to the Japan Times, Poneman told Japanese political leader Seiji Maehara that if Japan starts “snapping up” fossil fuels, energy prices will rise dramatically over the short term. Poneman is reported to have urged Japan to “exercise caution” in moving too quickly to shut down its reactors.

The energy policy announced by Maehar’s boss, Prime Minister Noda, calls for reactors to operate to the end of their 40 year life, but it offers a loophole to operate them for another 20 years if it can be proven they can do so safely. That loophole would allow a reactor that loads fuel for the first time in 2015 to have a decommissioning date of 2075.

Reactors already under construction will be completed, says Yukio Edano, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry trade minister. They are the No. 3 reactor at the Shimane plant (94- percent complete) in Matsue, capital of the Shimane Prefecture, which is operated by Chugoku Electric; a reactor at the Oma plant (38 percent complete) in Aomori Prefecture, which is operated by Electric Power Development; and, No. 1 reactor (10 percent complete) at the Higashidori plant also in Aomori Prefecture.

It should come as no surprise that Edano made his remarks in Aomori Prefecture. There provincial officials have also told the government that unless it starts up and operates a spent fuel reprocessing center located there, they will send the material back to wherever it came from. Japan has no deep geologic repository for spent fuel, nor a national interim storage site.

Edano’s other problem is what to do about Japan’s heavy industries that export nuclear components. The firms include Japan Steel Works, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, and Hitachi. On September 3, Edano noted that he does not see a contradiction between ending reliance on nuclear power at home and exporting the technology overseas. The problem with that policy is that Japan’s nuclear exports have always relied on a robust domestic market. Take that away and there might not be enough business for some manufacturing operations to stay open.

Paradoxically, Japan is slated to build the second pair of Vietnam’s nuclear reactors. In doing so, it may enable the creation of exactly the conditions (reliable power) Japan’s current manufacturing firms, e.g., autos, electronics, and other durable goods, need to survive in a global market. An offshoring trend for these firms will add rising unemployment to Japan’s economic woes.

Proponents of the closure of nuclear plants argue that renewables such as wind and solar can make up the difference. This is delusional thinking. The intermittent nature of wind and solar requires baseload sources to keep the national grid stable.

But wait, Japan doesn’t have a national grid. Each electric utility has its own. Plus, Japan will have to build new natural gas plants to replace the power from shuttered reactors. Higher demand from Japan could push up gas prices and add to the cost of keeping renewable projects online.

Japan made it through a hot summer with no blackouts and just two reactors online. However, with an economy in the doldrums, electric power demand from industry was down which may have allowed the country to skip a seasonal energy crisis.

Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan relied on nuclear power for 30 percent of its energy and had plans to boost that number to 50 percent. Prime Minister Noda’s politically expedient decision to drive forward with a zero power option for nuclear energy throws cold water on any rational plans for the future of rational energy plans in his country.

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

Dr. Elia Merzari, ANS Thermal Hydraulics Division win Young Members Group awards

The American Nuclear Society’s Young Members Group (YMG) has announced the recipients of the 2012 ANS Young Members Advancement Award and the ANS Young Members Excellence Award.

ANS Thermal and Hydraulics Division

The recipient of the Young Members Advancement Award is ANS’s Thermal and Hydraulics Division (THD), which receives the award for demonstrating strong support of YMG activities over the past several years.

Since 2006, the THD has been collaborating with the YMG to organize an annual research competition for young members: the Thermal Hydraulics Young Professional Research Competition. This competition has enjoyed continued success over the years, and has been one of the key events in the technical program within the THD. The competition also promotes the exchange of information and ideas between experienced and young professionals and has created an informal, but very effective, mentoring program.

Merzari

Dr. Elia Merzari

The 2012 Young Members Excellence Award has gone to Dr. Elia Merzari, who has been recognized for his technical accomplishments, volunteer contributions to ANS, and dedication to expanding opportunities for young member involvement.

Merzari’s technical accomplishments include internationally recognized work on demonstrating the applicability of advanced computational fluid dynamics methods to the analysis of a variety of advanced reactor fuel assembly designs, and 14 published articles in referenced journals thus far in his early career.

Merzari’s ANS volunteer activities include working with the THD as a session organizer, session chair, and paper reviewer, and working with the YMG as secretary. His contribution to the advancement of young members includes undertaking the revitalization of the THD’s Young Members Paper Contest, and expanding the contest from a single entry to two full sessions at ANS winter meetings.

Please join us in congratulating the THD and Dr. Merzari for their accomplishments and thanking them for their contributions to the YMG!

Do you know someone who is deserving of these awards? It’s never too early to think about next year’s nominations. Visit the ANS Honors and Awards page and contact Tim Gnadt for more information.

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The party platforms on energy–and nuclear

By Jim Hopf

Both the Republicans and the Democrats have recently released their party platforms. Here’s a look at what each platform has to say about energy and environmental issues in general, and on nuclear specifically.

Republicans on energy

The Republican party platform favors an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy that involves responsible development of all our energy resources, and results in a domestic, secure energy supply that is stable, reliable, and affordable. Other general goals of the strategy include the creation of jobs, spurring economic growth, lower energy prices, and a strengthened domestic energy industry. The platform states that it does not support, however, policies that “pick winners and losers” through government intervention in the energy industry.

With respect to environmental regulations, the platform is generally opposed to federal environmental regulations and the Environmental Protection Agency, preferring regulation by the states as well as an approach to achieving environmental goals that is more cooperative (vs. punitive) with industry.

With respect to coal, the platform support the development of new “environmentally responsible” coal plants, as well as research and development into clean coal technology and technologies to convert coal into liquid fuel or gas (that can be cleanly burned). The platform states that it is opposed to President Obama’s “war on coal”, since there is no economic replacement for coal (the largest electricity source) and reductions in coal use will result in the loss of large amounts of jobs in that sector. It states that the GOP is opposed to any type of carbon dioxide–limiting legislation such as cap-and-trade. It also opposes the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gases, and supports legislation that specifically bars the EPA from doing so. It also appears to be generally opposed to stricter limits on other coal pollutants as well.

With respect to oil and gas, the platform claims that the use of imported oil is undesirable in that some of the money sent overseas may wind up in the hands of nations, or other groups, that want to harm the United States. The main response, favored in the platform, is the opening up of offshore areas, federal lands, and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. In addition to reducing oil imports and increasing energy security, the platform states that the resulting domestic oil and gas development will result in large numbers of new jobs. It also explicitly states its support for the Keystone XL oil pipeline (from Canada to refineries in the United States) for similar reasons, and it criticized Obama for opposing the pipeline. It also expressed support for natural gas fracking and opposed new federal regulations on the practice, saying that state regulations are sufficient.

The platform touched briefly on renewable energy, stating that it supports the development of renewable energy in general, but that it was opposed to government loan guarantees for renewable projects. It instead favors a “market based approach” to renewable energy development. (Not in the platform is that most Republicans also oppose extension of the wind energy tax credit, one of the most significant federal renewable energy subsidies.)

Democrats on energy

The Democratic party platform does not have a section on energy per se. Its policies related to energy can be found in the section on the environment. The discussion on energy is shorter in general than it is in the Republican platform, and it generally does not discuss specific energy sources.

The platform states that protecting the environment is a top priority for the party, and touts Obama’s investments in clean energy and the administration’s efforts to protect the environment. It states that Obama has made the most significant strides in decades to cut pollution, citing the increase in the fuel efficiency standard for vehicles as an example. It specifically talks about many of the pollutants that primarily arise from coal-fired power plants and states that they are a significant threat to health. It states that clean energy development will be a significant source of domestic jobs. It also highlights Obama’s (first time ever) proposed limits on CO2 for new power plants.

Much of the platform’s discussion relates to climate change (global warming). It affirms the party’s belief that global warming is a problem, calling it “one of the biggest threats of this generation–an economic, environmental and national security catastrophe in the making”. It says that the administration (and party) will combat global warming by exercising leadership on the issue abroad, while using “market and regulatory solutions” to reduce emissions at home. It argues that domestic reductions are necessary to show leadership on the issue, which is essential to getting a global agreement to reduce emissions.

Specifically, the platform states that the administration will continue diplomatic efforts to work toward an international agreement to limit/reduce emissions. At home, Obama and the Democrats will continue to invest in clean energy, and will take steps (both legislative and regulatory) to reduce domestic emissions. Regulatory measures include the (already passed) vehicle gas mileage standard and the (proposed) EPA regulations that limit CO2 from new power plants (effectively requiring CO2 sequestration for any new coal plant). Possible legislative efforts would include cap-and-trade, some kind of CO2 tax, or the proposed Clean Energy Standard for getting ~80 percent of electricity from “clean” sources by 2035. None of these legislative options are specifically mentioned in the platform, however, with discussion of specific CO2 limiting policies such as cap-and-trade being conspicuously absent.

In another section of the platform, it states that global warming also represents a “real, urgent and severe” national security risk, arguing that it will result in increased geopolitical conflicts over resources (e.g., water) and refugees, will result in suffering from drought and famine (creating potential instability in various regions), and increased frequency and severity of natural disasters.

Finally, the platform criticizes the Republican party (and candidate), stating that the GOP doubts the science of climate change and wants to roll back regulations protecting our air and water. It also states that the Republicans do not recognize the benefits of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and do not recognize the jobs created by clean energy development.

Nuclear energy

In a relatively brief (two paragraph) discussion, the Republican platform expresses support for nuclear energy, saying that it “must be expanded”. It calls for timely review of new reactor license applications by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It also raises the waste issue, stating that federal government’s failure to address storage and disposal of spent fuel has cost “the States and taxpayers” a lot of money. It calls for a “more proactive” approach for managing spent fuel, which includes the development of advanced reprocessing technologies. Mention of Yucca Mountain is conspicuously absent.

The Democratic platform is completely silent on nuclear energy. Although the platform generally does not mention specific energy sources (as I said earlier), it also does not touch on any policies or proposals that would affect nuclear in any way.

Who’s better for nuclear?

While the Republicans have generally had kinder words for nuclear than the Democrats, it’s less clear whether or not Republican policies would be more helpful to the industry. In general, it appears that while Republicans may be more helpful in the area of waste, Democratic policies such as CO2 limits (and stricter limits on fossil fuel pollution in general) would do more to make nuclear more economically competitive with fossil fuels.

Waste issues

In the area of waste, it would be hard to do worse than the Obama administration, with the shameful termination of the Yucca Mountain licensing process, and the (political) suppression of the results of the NRC staff’s essentially finished licensing review (which virtually everyone knows was about to approve the repository). The administration also appointed not one but two NRC chairmen whose opposition to Yucca Mountain was clearly the primary basis for their selection. On the other hand, would the Republicans be much better? Given that Yucca is not mentioned at all in their platform, it appears that they are not willing to stand up for the repository (or the completion of the licensing process, at least) either.

My view is that the waste issue does not impact nuclear’s competitiveness, since the cost of storing the waste, even over a long time period, is very small—on the order of 0.1 cents/kW-hr. The primary impact of the continued delay in resolving the waste issue is that it strengthens and extends the false notion, held by much of the public, that nuclear waste disposal is an intractable problem with no technical solution. This, in turn, results in increased opposition to the construction or continued operation of nuclear plants. For this reason, I’ve advocated the completion of Yucca’s licensing process, even if the project itself is not continued, since it will show the public that we had a technically sound solution. I personally doubt that alternative solutions—such as the reprocessing discussed by the Republicans, which involves going back to the drawing board and pushing resolution of the issue decades into the future—will have much positive impact.

All that said, it’s not clear that public opposition to nuclear over the waste issue is all that big a factor, in the grand scheme of things. It has not led to much increased opposition to specific projects, especially in the Southeast, where most new plants are proposed. The biggest obstacle to new nuclear plants is clearly economic competitiveness (with fossil fuels, especially gas).

Economic competitiveness

The Republicans made a vague statement about expediting the NRC review of new reactor projects, but specifics, and any real impact, remains to be seen. One would hope that now that the initial license applications (e.g., Vogtle and Summer) have been approved, follow-on applications would go pretty quickly. In any event, a somewhat faster approval process will not help nuclear’s competitiveness that much. (The cost of the licensing process is more of an issue.)

On the other hand, policies that would significantly reign in fossil fuels’ privilege of just dumping massive amounts of pollution (including CO2) into the environment, for free, would significantly increase nuclear’s competitiveness in the future. I’ve always believed that nuclear will never stand much of a chance if it is required to completely contain all of its wastes/toxins (with even the small possibility of release being something that has to be avoided, almost regardless of cost), while its competitors have nowhere near the same requirements.

Policies that would aid nuclear’s competitiveness (in addition to being the right thing to do) would be taxing or limiting CO2 emissions, reducing allowable emissions levels for other toxic pollutants (e.g., particulates, mercury, etc.), classifying coal ash/sludge as a hazardous material, and doing something to more adequately regulate gas fracking, which currently enjoys an exemption from the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts (I believe).

The EPA’s proposed policy that effectively bans new coal plants that don’t employ CO2 sequestration would have a huge impact over the long term. Although it would mainly result in the replacement of coal with gas over the shorter term, it would greatly help nuclear over the long term, since it would increase gas demand (leading to higher natural gas prices). I (and many others) also believe that the current gas glut will not last forever, and that renewables will never be capable of providing most (let alone all) of our power generation.

It’s clear which party would be better in this regard. Many in the Republican party are actually calling for pollution regulations to be rolled back, let alone be improved. The GOP platform clearly states that it will block any attempts to tax or limit CO2, prevent or reverse the EPA’s proposed policy on new coal plants, and oppose any regulations on gas fracking. With fossil fuels getting such a (continued) free ride, and the regulatory playing field remaining so unlevel and unfair, it is hard to see nuclear being competitive in the future.

Some may argue that global warming policies will not happen anyway, so having more reasonable treatment of nuclear in the waste area, as well as (perhaps) better NRC appointments, would make the Republicans better for nuclear, over the next presidential term. My personal view is that the EPA’s new coal plant rule alone, not to mention not having air pollution regulations rolled back, is more than enough to offset those benefits, in terms of the overall climate for nuclear.

Nuclear’s influence?

My general view is that the Republicans primarily support fossil fuels while the Democrats primarily support renewables. Both are now supporting gas, to some degree. Neither party supports nuclear to any significant degree.

This is due to a profound lack of influence in Washington by the nuclear industry, compared to other energy industries. Recently, some have tried to suggest that the industry (Exelon Corp., specifically) has had significant influence with Obama, due to campaign contributions and its presence in Illinois. This view is absurd. Here’s a question: What is the ONLY major energy source that was NOT mentioned at all in Obama’s Democratic convention speech? He (the Democratic candidate) even made brief mention of “clean coal”, but didn’t mention nuclear at all.

Due in large part to this lack of influence, the current regulatory playing field is heavily slanted against nuclear, with nuclear’s requirements being orders of magnitude more strict than those applied to fossil fuels (as measured by dollars spent per unit of public health and safety benefit, etc.). Five years ago, it seemed like things were finally moving in a more fair, balanced direction, with the prospect of CO2 limits, etc., but now things seem set to get even worse.

We have the NRC considering adding even more regulation, and arguing that current regulations are insufficient since the Fukushima event inflicted significant economic costs, even though the public health impacts have been very small—much smaller than what NRC had always assumed the consequences of a severe meltdown would be (i.e, current regulations were always based on the assumption that such an event would be vastly more harmful). Meanwhile, we hear calls from the right side of the political spectrum, to reign in or even eliminate the EPA, with no similar calls for the NRC. Humble proposals to merely reduce the ~20,000 annual deaths, in the United States alone, from fossil plant pollution are loudly decried, while nuclear requirements are being increased even further, in a quest to reduce even the chance of the release of pollution to even more negligible levels, without any fanfare or political resistance (even from the industry itself).

Nuclear’s complete lack of political influence, and the overly powerful influence of other sources such as coal, is starting to be examined in some quarters—a recent article by William Tucker being one example.

If our industry does not find a voice, its future does not look bright. We will continue to have policies such as Renewable Portfolio Standards (that mandate the use of large amounts of renewable energy, regardless of cost or practically) on one side, while continuing to allow fossil fuel plants to freely pollute on the other. The tremendously unlevel regulatory playing field between nuclear and fossil sources will remain, or get even worse.

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Hopf

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.

 

ANS’s Nuclear Science and Engineering journal for September

The September 2012 edition of the technical journal Nuclear Science and Engineering is available electronically and in hard copy for American Nuclear Society member subscribers and others.

Nuclear Science and Engineering is an international journal of the American Nuclear Society and is edited by Dr. Dan G. Cacuci.

The September issue contains the following peer-reviewed articles:

ANS journals are available for purchase by edition or by article. Please click here to go to the online journals page. A menu of ANS’s publications is available online by clicking here. Just an FYI, you will notice that our electronic journals are available ahead of when our printed versions are available.

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