Webinar with NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane—Thursday, Sept. 11, 9 AM Eastern

The American Nuclear Society will host an online webinar for nuclear bloggers—an unscripted question-&-answer session with Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Allison Macfarlane—on Thursday, September 11, 2014, from 9 AM–10 AM Eastern Time

To register for the webinar, click the ‘Register’ link at:

https://ansbrief.webex.com/ansbrief/onstage/g.php?d=667766847&t=a

How to submit questions

Macfarlane

Macfarlane

Participants in the September 11 session may submit questions ahead of time by sending to Paul Bowersox at the American Nuclear Society. The conference call webinar will be listen-only and facilitator Margaret Harding, ANS Treasurer, will take questions via online webinar chat while the discussion is in progress. Those registrants unable to attend via computer may dial in to listen at the number listed on their registration confirmation.

Harding

Harding

To attend in-person

A limited number of spaces are available for writers to join in person at 2000 M Street, NW, Washington, DC, Conference Room A (basement level). Space is limited to the first 20 respondents.

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flyer snip

 

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 223

ferris wheel 202x201The 223rd edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers has been posted at Next Big Future.  You can click here to access this latest post in a long running tradition among pro-nuclear authors and bloggers.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance, improved health, and broadened security through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, EntrepreNuke, Thorium MSR and Deregulate the Atom.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  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.

Motives for pushing a no-threshold dose radiation risk model (LNT) in 1955-56

By Rod Adams

Dr. Edward Calabrese recently published a paper titled The Genetics Panel of the NAS BEAR I Committee (1956): epistolary evidence suggests self‐interest may have prompted an exaggeration of radiation risks that led to the adoption of the LNT cancer risk assessment model.

Abstract: This paper extends a series of historical papers which demonstrated that the linear-no-threshold (LNT) model for cancer risk assessment was founded on ideological-based scientific deceptions by key radiation genetics leaders. Based on an assessment of recently uncovered personal correspondence, it is shown that some members of the United States (US) National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Biological effects of Atomic Radiation I (BEAR I) Genetics Panel were motivated by self-interest to exaggerate risks to promote their science and personal/professional agenda. Such activities have profound implications for public policy and may have had a significant impact on the adoption of the LNT model for cancer risk assessment.

This new work was inspired when Calabrese found a 2007 history of science dissertation by Michael W. Seltzer titled The technological infrastructure of science. One facet of the paper is to explain how self-interest can create biases that affect scientific conclusions, policy setting, and public communications. Identical measurements and observations can be used to support dramatically different reports depending on what the scientists are attempting to accomplish.

That is especially true when there is difficulty at the margins of measurement where it is not easy to discern “signal” from “noise.” The risk of agenda-driven conclusions has become greater as the scientific profession has expanded far beyond the sporadically funded idealists motivated by a pure search for knowledge, and into an occupation that provides “good jobs” with career progression, regular travel opportunities, political influence, and good salaries.

On the other hand, their efforts on the committee illustrate one component of the technological infrastructure of genetics outside of the laboratory: the increasing significance of large-scale laboratories, federal funding agencies, policy-making committees, and government regulatory bodies as critical components of the technological infrastructure of science. Clearly, how the science of genetics was to advance into the future would have much to do with traditionally non-epistemic factors, in addition to epistemic ones.

Finally, in considering all these themes together, it is difficult to conclude that there is any sharp separation between the practice of science and the practice of politics (in the Foucauldian sense of power/knowledge). Rouse’s view of the intra-twining of epistemology and power, his view of epistemic politics, is pertinent here. The practice of science was at times the playing of politically epistemic games, whether at the level of argumentation in the contestable theoretical disputes of population genetics, at the level of science policy-making, as with the various organizations and committees responding to the scientific and political controversies surrounding the efforts to establish exposure guidelines in the light of concerns over fallout from atomic testing, or with the planning of the future infrastructure of experimentation based on funding opportunities.

(Seltzer 2007, p. 307–308)

Admittedly, the language in the above quote uses jargon from the field of historians, but my translation is that Seltzer found ample evidence to support an assertion that the majority of geneticists on the BEAR I Genetics Panel were more concerned about fitting into a political narrative than they were in answering the questions they were ostensibly assembled to answer. Their tasking was to provide political decision-makers with scientifically supportable answers about the genetic effects of the radiation exposure that might be expected as a result of atomic weapons testing. However, they decided to complete a different task.

Some members of the committee had an agenda to assert the zero threshold dose response assertion desired by politically active members of the scientific community. They knew that answer—whether or not it was the truth—would assist their scientific colleagues in their efforts to raise concerns about fallout to a fever pitch. Fallout fear was their agreed-upon lever for gaining public support for their efforts to halt nuclear weapons testing.

Other members of the committee were more concerned about obtaining financial support for a long-term research program in general genetics research. That desired research program could only be tangentially related to determining the effect of the tiny, but chronic and largely unavoidable radiation exposures to human populations from highly dispersed atmospheric weapons testing fallout.

(Warning: If you are interested in the history of how the no-threshold dose assumption was imposed and you are pressed for time, please do not download Seltzer’s paper and begin reading it. It is full of intriguing information, but it is 450 pages long including footnotes. The section on radiation health effects controversies is 112 pages long.)

Here is a quote from Calabrese’s paper that does an excellent job of summarizing the important take-aways from Seltzer’s historical research for people who are mainly interested in encouraging a new look at radiation protection assumptions and regulations:

Seltzer provided evidence that members of the Genetics Panel clearly saw their role in the NAS BEAR I committee to be a vehicle to advocate and/or lobby for funding for radiation genetics (p. 285 footnote 208). Moreover, it was hoped that the committee, which would exist continuously over many years, would influence the direction and priorities for future research funding. According to Seltzer (2007), such hoped for funding possibilities for radiation geneticists can be seen in letter correspondence between Beadle, Dobzhansky, Muller and Demerec.

Demerec responded by saying that “I, myself, have a hard time keeping a straight face when there is talk about genetic deaths and the tremendous dangers of irradiation. I know that a number of very prominent geneticists, and people whose opinions you value highly, agree with me” (Demerec to Dobzhansky 1957). Dobzhansky to Demerec (1957b) responded by saying “let us be honest with ourselves—we are both interested in genetics research, and for the sake of it, we are willing to stretch a point when necessary. But let us not stretch it to the breaking point! Overstatements are sometimes dangerous since they result in their opposites when they approach the levels of absurdity.

Now, the business of genetic effects of atomic energy has produced a public scare, and a consequent interest in and recognition of (the) importance of genetics. This is to the good, since it will make some people read up on genetics who would not have done so otherwise, and it may lead to the powers-that-be giving money for genetic research which they would not give otherwise.” (Dobzhansky to Demerec (1957b)

Calabrese goes on to tie this newly uncovered history-of-science work to several other papers that he has recently published regarding his own excavation work digging through the collected papers of major players in the drama associated with using fears of radiation to slow and then stop nuclear weapons testing.

In retrospect, therefore, a historical assessment of the LNT reflects the so-called “perfect toxicological storm”: Muller receiving the Nobel Prize within 1.5 years after the atomic bomb blasts in Japan, the deliberate deceptions of Muller on the LNT during his Nobel Prize lecture (Calabrese 2011a, 2012), the series of stealth-like manuscript manipulations and deceptions by Stern to generate scientific support for the LNT and to prevent Muller’s Nobel lecture deceptions from being discovered (Calabrese 2011b), the series of subsequent false written statements by Muller to support Stern’s papers and to protect his own reputation (Calabrese 2013), the misdirection and manipulation of the NAS Genetics Panel by the actions of Muller and Stern (Calabrese 2013), and now evidence of subversive self-interest within the membership of the Genetics Panel to exaggerate risk for personal gain. This series of Muller/Stern-directed actions inflamed societal fear of ionizing radiation following the bombings of Japan and during the extreme tensions of the cold war with its concomitant environmental contamination with radionuclides from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and led to the acceptance of the LNT model for cancer risk assessment by a human population that had become extremely fearful of radiation, even at very low doses.

(Calabrese 2014 p. 3)

Though the scientist-led antinuclear weapons movement saw fear of fallout as one way of inciting public action to limit atmospheric weapons testing and its uncontrolled releases, other people might have had less admirable motives. There are many solid financial reasons to encourage people to fear all sources of ionizing radiation, especially the doses that members of the public could possibly receive from nuclear energy production.

After all, even in the 1950s, the fuel industry was one of the largest and most important businesses in the world and was the source of a number of enormous fortunes. The industry has always been interested in avoiding the unprofitably low prices that result when there are more energy options and when the total supply of available energy is greater than the immediate need.

When I spoke to Dr. Calabrese for Atomic Show #218, he indicated that he had not done much to find out where the BEAR I committee members thought they would be obtaining the funds that might be made available if they exaggerated the dangers of low dose radiation. Modern scientists often assume that basic scientific research funding comes from a government agency, but that is something that developed gradually after World War II. Before then, nearly all funding for science came from private sources.

A 1987 biography of Warren Weaver published by the National Academies of Science described the genesis of the NAS study of radiation started in 1955.

Paraphrasing the description on pages 506–507, in the United States one of the largest basic science funders was the Rockefeller Foundation. In 1954, there were numerous articles in the press indicating that the public was confused about the effects of radiation. At a Rockefeller Foundation board meeting, attendees asked Detlev W. Bronk, who was both a Rockefeller Foundation board member and the NAS president, if there was a way to produce some definitive answers.

The NAS proposed forming six committees to investigate various aspects of the issue and the Rockefeller Foundation agreed to provide the necessary funds to produce the reports. Warren Weaver served as the chairman of the Genetics Committee for the first BEAR reports. Of the other members of the committee, at least four (George W. Beadle, M. Demerec, H. J. Muller, and A. H. Sturtevant) had been recipients of Rockefeller Foundation grants before 1956 and several continued receiving substantial grants well after their work on the committee.

The NAS biography described Weaver’s successful committee chairmanship:

The first committee was chaired by Weaver, who successfully mediated the opposing positions of the two groups of geneticists who were members of the committee and prepared a report that had their unanimous support. After the first summary report was published in 1956, there was virtual editorial unanimity in the nation’s newspapers that the “report should be read in its entirety to be appreciated” and that it deserved the close attention of all concerned citizens.

Pages 506–507

In the June 13, 1956, edition of the New York Times, the news of the committee’s report occupied the entire far right column of the front page from top to bottom. Here is the top portion of the article:

Peril to future of man

Below those scary, attention-grabbing phrases, the article’s lead was designed to shock and raise serious concerns:

Washington, June 12 — A committee of outstanding scientists reported today that atomic radiation, no matter how small the dose, harms not only the person receiving it but also all of his descendents [sic].

The article continued:

The six committees studied the radiation problem in the fields of genetics, pathology, meteorology, oceanography and fisheries, agriculture and food supplies, and disposal and dispersal of radioactive wastes.

Overshadowing all others because of its implication for mankind was the report of the genetics panel. This was headed by Dr. Warren Weaver of the Rockefeller Foundation. It was this foundation that provided the funds for the year-long survey.

It is important to understand that the primary data that the genetics committee had available to review were from experiments using X-rays on fruit flies, most of which were conducted by foundation grantees and members of the committee.

It is also worth noting that Warren Weaver served as director for Natural Sciences for the Rockefeller Foundation from 1932–1959. During that period the program that he directed provided more than $90 million in grants for experimental biology. (NAS biography pg 504.) He had a distinguished career, received many awards, and had a major influence in selecting the science that was funded for molecular biology, radiation health effects, and genetics.

Weaver was a mathematician by education with a lifelong interest in statistics and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. According to his obituary, he had the world’s largest collection of various editions of the book. Upon his death, the collection was given to the University of Texas.

The Rockefeller Foundation was, and remains, interested in maintaining the dominance of oil and natural gas in our energy supply system. Those fuels were the source of the largess that the foundation has been able to give for more than 100 years.

Radiations_at_low_doses


Note: A version of this article appeared on Atomic Insights on July 19, 2014, under the headline of Selfish motives for LNT assumption by geneticists on NAS BEAR I. At the time, I was not aware that the Rockefeller Foundation provided grants supporting all of the Biological Effects of Atomic Radiation committees from 1955-1962.

_______________________

Adams

Adams

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

Graduate Student Members Awarded Automatic Membership in ANS Young Members Group

By Ben Holtzman

For too long, graduate students have been inadvertently marginalized due to a lack of status recognition in the American Nuclear Society, but those days are now past. The ANS Board of Directors has unanimously approved the joint Student Sections Committee (SSC)/Young Members Group (YMG) proposal to offer free YMG membership to graduate students. This is a great day for all Young Members, regardless of whether they’re still in graduate school or not.

We in the YMG have discussed on many occasions our belief that including graduate students as Young Members would be an appropriate classification and would better assist in integrating graduate students into the fabric of ANS during a crucial juncture of their careers. Well, we now have our chance. Of course, YMG will benefit from this change not only because it will bring graduate students into our organization to be among their friends and peers, but YMG will also benefit through the influx of energy and ideas of our newly incorporated peers. But how did we get here?

This change would have been impossible without the support, initiative, and drive of many individuals. The process began when a YMG/SSC special subcommittee on retaining students and the YMG Executive Committee identified a need to automatically give graduate students YMG membership as a way to address student attrition. A proposed plan of action was taken to the YMG Executive Committee, the SSC Executive Committee, and the ANS Membership Committee to explain the proposed change and attain each respective group’s endorsement. In parallel, it became apparent that the YMG rules would need to be updated to allow for such a classification of graduate students as Young Members. This wording change was developed with assistance from the ANS Bylaws and Rules Committee (BRC) and sent to YMG for approval. After YMG approved the change, the BRC subsequently approved it as well.

This rule change, in conjunction with the endorsed proposal by YMG and SSC Executive Committees and the ANS Membership Committee, allowed for a formal proposal to the ANS Board of Directors to be drafted by motivated volunteers. It was this formal proposal that has been approved granting graduate students automatic and free membership in the YMG.

Therefore, on behalf of all Young Members, let me be the first to officially welcome all graduate students into the YMG. We look forward to working with you as we continue to make our Society truly the Society of choice for all nuclear professionals.

ymg rectangle 343x201___________________________________

Ben Holtzman c2 141x120Ben Holtzman has been actively involved with the American Nuclear Society for 10 years. He has been on numerous governance committees and division executive committees, has contributed to an ANS Standard, and was a Presidential Executive Assistant. He is employed as a Senior Licensing Engineer, AP1000 International Licensing, at the Westinghouse Electric Company.

Unintended Anti-Nuclear Consequences Lurking in the EPA Clean Power Plan

By Remy Devoe

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan has gained favor with some nuclear energy advocates. An extensive analysis of the proposal, however, reveals that current nuclear generating capacity would largely suffer under the new carbon rules. In fact, the results of an evaluation performed by my fellow graduate student Justin Knowles and myself show that 15 states are actually incentivized to shut down all of their nuclear units and replace them with natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) generation. In effect, this plan allows for increasing carbon emissions; a far cry from the stated goals of the Clean Power Plan.

We conducted our analysis after learning about the plan in July while participating in the Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation in Washington, DC. While in Washington, EPA representatives explained to us how nuclear energy was considered in the rule, but admitted that only a small portion of current nuclear energy generation would be credited in a state’s emissions rate. The EPA contacts we met with encouraged us to submit a comment of what changes we would make and analyses to support these recommendations. We have been working to understand this plan since then, and intend to submit our analyses with our comment.

Reading the entire 130-page rule is a daunting task, but the root of our concern can be found in the section titled “New and Preserved Nuclear Capacity” (page 34870 of the Federal Register), which states that current nuclear generation is given 5.8 percent credit for replacing fossil-fuel energy. While seemingly arbitrary, this figure comes from an Energy Information Administration (EIA) report that states that six reactors in the United States (equivalent to 5.8 percent of U.S. nuclear generation) are at risk of being shut down. The EPA recognizes that keeping current nuclear generation is the only way this plan will be able to achieve its goal, but erroneously attributes only 5.8 percent of the energy produced from nuclear plants to calculating a state’s emissions reduction goal.

The current rule regulates emissions through a state’s carbon intensity in lbs/MWh using an equation developed by the EPA for this specific purpose. (For example, the EPA provides a sample calculation for Ohio). As you can see, only fossil fuels, renewables, 5.8 percent of current nuclear generation, and 100 percent of nuclear presently under construction are used in this calculation. The plan then outlines a Best System of Emissions Reductions (BSER) used to calculate what carbon intensity a state can attain if they implement emissions reduction practices. This new carbon intensity is the goal that each state must meet by 2030.

Since current nuclear generation is only valued at 5.8 percent of its energy generation, the loss of one plant in a state has only a marginal effect on a state being able to achieve its goal under this standard. If this rule is intended to be a carbon regulation, then all energy sources should be valued based on their emissions and no technology should be given preference over another. Renewables, coal, natural gas, and others are given credit for 100 percent of their current capacity; nuclear energy should be no different.

UT students at the EPA Clean Power Rule hearing

(left to right): UT students Daniel Tenpenny, Gregory Meinweiser, and Remy Devoe at the EPA public hearings in Atlanta

Following these revelations, a triumvirate of three students from the University of Tennessee ANS student section attended the EPA hearing in Atlanta to share our comments on the new carbon regulations and draw attention to the subject. We were very fortunate that each of us was allowed to provide public comments, and the EPA responded by requesting detail on our analyses and an official comment on its plan. Afterwards, one of the panelists requested a conference call to clarify our points and asked for a personal copy of our analyses.

Below you can watch each of our public comments:

Daniel Tenpenny

Remy Devoe

Greg Meinweiser

To create a fully developed comment, we—with the aid of our advisor, Dr. Steven Skutnik—used the data provided by the EPA to perform our analyses. We simulated a hypothetical scenario in which all nuclear plants were shut down and their generation replaced by natural gas combined cycle units. The results of this analysis were astonishing. By crediting nuclear at only 5.8 percent of its generating capacity, 15 states were shown to have lower emissions rates under the rule as currently proposed when all nuclear generation was replaced by NGCC—a clear indication that the EPA’s method of emissions calculations is flawed. By valuing only a fraction of current nuclear generation, utilities are incentivized to shut down nuclear plants in favor of natural gas, the exact opposite of the EPA’s stated intent with this plan. Our analysis has exposed a perverse incentive for states to allow the retirement of carbon-free nuclear generation for replacement with carbon-emitting sources.

We must insist that the EPA considers the total generation from all energy sources in calculating carbon emissions intensity. If the EPA gives nuclear energy its full due, then every reactor in the nation must keep running or be replaced with other clean energy sources for a state to meet its goals, making currently operating nuclear units all the more valuable to states. We can make this happen, but only if the nuclear community rises to this urgent challenge, rallying together to push for a fairer, more effective rule that credits current nuclear generation at 100 percent of its current capacity in state-level emissions goals.

I urge each and every one of you to take a look at the Clean Power Plan and submit a comment. The comment period on the carbon rule is open until October 16, 2014, and the final rule will be implemented in June 2015.

coal and nuclear


Head ShotRemy Devoe is a graduate student in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He is currently working towards his Master’s degree in nuclear engineering and plans to pursue a PhD in the same. His research focus is in nuclear fuel cycles and used fuel management. He is currently the Vice-President of the University of Tennessee American Nuclear Society Student Chapter.

Proposed Revisions to Nuclear Plant Release/Public Exposure Regulations: ANS Response to EPA

By Jim Hopf

DC PerspectivesIn January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) concerning 40 CFR 190—the regulations that govern public exposure and release of radioactive materials resulting from normal nuclear power plant operations (it does not pertain to nuclear accidents). The public comment period for the proposed rulemaking ended on August 3.

On August 1, the American Nuclear Society submitted a formal comment to the EPA. I also submitted a comment, personally.

EPA ANPR

In the ANPR, the EPA did not make any proposed changes to the regulations. Instead, the ANPR was a proactive solicitation of public input. The EPA asked if 10 CFR 90, which was issued in 1977, should be revised or updated. It also asked for public input on six specific issues or questions:

  1. Should the 40 CFR 190 public exposure limits be expressed in terms of (individual) dose or health risk?
  2. If dose limits are used, should the dose calculation methodologies be updated, and if so how?
  3. Should release limits for specific isotopes be retained (in addition to public dose limits) and should release limits be applied industry-wide or to individual facilities?
  4. Should a separate groundwater standard be added?
  5. Should specific rules pertaining to spent fuel and waste storage be added?
  6. Should revised or new standards be added to address new or emerging technologies (such as new reactor types or fuel cycle technologies)?

Details about the ANPR in general can be found in the EPA notice. More details about the six issues that the EPA sought public comment on can be found in this EPA slide presentation. Also, more information can be found in a July 15 ANS Cafe post by Rod Adams on the EPA ANPR.

ANS response

ANS submitted a response to the ANPR in an August 1 letter. ANS made some general comments, as well as specific comments on each of the six issues listed above. ANS’s responses are summarized below:

General

ANS stated that the EPA should move forward with a comprehensive rewrite of 40 CFR 190, due to the substantial advances that have occurred since 1977 in the understanding of the health effects of ionizing radiation, particularly in the area of low-level exposure.

ANS also stated that other things have changed, since 1977, with respect to the overall environmental and health context that applies to radiation standards. Public doses from air travel and medical procedures have increased dramatically since then (with medical procedures alone increasing the average public exposure to ionizing radiation by 200 mrem/year), and no detectable public health impacts have resulted from that increase in exposure. Also, as the negative public health and environmental impacts from fossil-fueled power generation have become more clear, there is more of as consensus that nuclear power has significant environmental benefits that may offset any negative impacts from public radiation exposures.

ANS also stated that while 40 CFR 190 specifically applies to the nuclear power industry, the risk modeling methodologies that form the bases of any requirements or limits should be consistent with those used to regulate other (non-nuclear-industry) sources of public radiation exposure.

Issue 1

ANS stated that an individual, total effective dose limit should be applied, as opposed to any kind of health risk limit.

Issue 2

ANS stated that dosimetry methodologies should be based on “effective dose” and urged the EPA to use standards and methodologies that are consistent with other agencies, such as the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. ANS also suggested using the effective dose definition used in ICRP Publication 103 (in its response to Issue 1), that document being one of the methodologies suggested by the EPA in its Issue 2 question.

Issue 3

ANS strongly recommended that the EPA revise 40 CFR 190 to discard any radionuclide release limits, as they are “duplicative, unnecessary and inconsistent with international practice.” ANS stated that limits on overall individual dose are sufficient to protect public health.

The reason for the radionuclide release limits currently in 40 CFR 190 was that in 1977, large-scale reprocessing was anticipated and there were concerns about long-term buildup (in the environment) from routine radionuclide releases from reprocessing facilities. This issue is far less significant now, given that the United States has not pursued reprocessing. The limits were also based on an extreme application of the linear no-threshold (LNT) theory, with very small doses to very large populations being used to predict significant health impact—something that is now considered questionable scientific practice by most experts.

Issue 4

ANS argued against having any separate regulations or dose criteria for specific public exposure pathways, such as a separate groundwater standard. Instead, limiting total effective dose to an individual, from all pathways, is the best approach for protecting public health.

Issue 5

ANS stated that there should be no specific EPA regulations related to storage of spent fuel and other forms of radioactive waste. Spent fuel and waste storage operations are already rigorously regulated and monitored by the NRC, making EPA involvement unnecessary. Any releases into the environment from storage operations would be covered by limits on overall public exposure (from all nuclear plant operations).

Issue 6

With respect to potential new reactor and/or fuel cycle technologies, ANS reiterated its position that limits on overall exposure (total effective dose) for individual members of the public is the most rational and effective approach for protecting public health. After all, any health impacts will be a function of dose, regardless of the source of that dose. It is clear than any limits on public exposure should be technology-neutral.

My own response

I submitted my own response to the EPA ANPR. My response concurred with ANS positions, and made many of the same points, with a few exceptions.

It is clear that any limits should be on public exposure (dose), and regulations should not distinguish between specific isotopes, pathways, or technologies. While there may be some disagreement over the health risk from a given amount of radiation exposure (rem), there is almost complete agreement that any health impacts from radiation are solely a function of dose (in the case of long-term exposure, at least). The science of dose determination is very well-developed, with the radiological and biological half-lives, and the chemical/biological behavior of various isotopes within the body, being fully accounted for in dose calculations. Dose is dose.

Therefore, it is clear that it is dose, and only dose, that should be controlled. To support the determination of any isotope-specific release limits, the EPA would have to do extensive pathway calculations to equate a given release (of a given isotope) with some predicted dose to a member of the public. That would be duplicative, as plant operators are already required to perform extensive environmental monitoring around the plant sites. This is necessary to determine public doses to comply with EPA and NRC public dose limits. Also, how would any EPA analyses account for differences between various sites (whereas plant operator monitoring and dose calculations are already site-specific)? Limiting dose, as opposed to releases of specific isotopes, maximizes flexibility and places the focus where it should be, i.e., on controlling the maximum overall exposure to members of the public.

As for long-term environmental buildup being a justification for isotope-specific release limits, it seems to me that this problem would be a uniquely small one for the nuclear industry, given the fact that radionuclides decay away (with most of the significant isotopes having relatively short half-lives). Meanwhile, other industries, whose pollutants often do not decay away at all, don’t seem to be asked the same questions (mercury from coal plant emissions being one possible example). Instead, the focus seems to be based solely on immediate (present day) health impacts from their pollution, as determined by various epidemiological studies. In the context of Issue 3, I asked the EPA why this question is seemingly only being asked of the nuclear industry.

Where I differed from ANS

While I agree that any regulations should be based on dose, I didn’t entirely agree with ANS’s position that limits should be placed on individual dose (to some most-exposed member of the public). To be fair, the EPA essentially asked responders to choose between a limit on individual dose or a limit on allowable individual health risk. Given that choice, I would pick a limit on dose, as did ANS. However, I also recommended different, even better, bases for regulations, which were not suggested by the EPA.

Limits on collective dose

Many nuclear professionals believe that repudiating the LNT theory (on low-level exposure health effects) would be key to rationalizing dose (or release) regulations. I’ve often argued that all we need to do is point out that LNT is being selectively applied (to the nuclear power/weapons industry only).

Current public individual dose limits are determined by using LNT to argue that there is some health risk even at very low doses, and then applying an absurdly low limit on allowable health risk (e.g., a 10-4 or 10-6 lifetime cancer risk). This process results in very low limits on individual exposure, that are only applied to nuclear industry related exposures. Much larger doses from other sources, such as natural background, radon, medical, and air travel are simply ignored (not regulated).

The problem with this “logic” is that if you assume LNT, and that the dose response is truly linear all the way down to zero, it then follows (purely mathematically) that total health impact (i.e., cancers or deaths) scale directly with collective exposure, in man-Rem. As I argued to the EPA, the concept of limiting maximum individual risk is not even meaningful. At the end of the day, you either die (from radiation-induced disease) or you don’t, and the number of deaths (which is what you’re really trying to avoid) scales directly with collective exposure (man-Rem). Thus, it is hard to justify placing limits on exposure to a (most exposed) individual, as opposed to limiting overall collective public exposure. The only downside to limits on collective exposure is that it may be somewhat harder to determine (or estimate) than maximum individual exposures.

Limits in individual exposure, as opposed to collective exposure, work against nuclear, since any pollution that nuclear plants release (under normal operations or in an accident) tends to stay localized, whereas many forms of pollution from many other industries drift far and wide. I believe that this is one reason why nuclear plant limits are a small fraction of natural background (far too small to have any measurable public health impact) while fossil fuel generators are still allowed to cause ~10,000 deaths in the United States annually (according to the EPA itself).

Also, the other sources of radiation exposure I listed earlier affect most or all the U.S. population, whereas any nuclear plant releases would affect only a handful of local residents. This results in differences in collective exposure that are even more vast than the differences in individual exposure (between nuclear power sources and other sources). The collective exposure that U.S. residents get annually from radon is far larger than the total public collective exposure that will result from the Fukushima accident, yet nothing is done about it. Such exposures are unregulated. Public exposures from U.S. nuclear plants, under normal operation, are about a million times smaller than the public exposures from these other, unregulated sources.

Based on the above reasoning, I asked the EPA to consider limiting collective public exposure from U.S. nuclear plants, as opposed to limiting the exposure to a maximally exposed individual. I also asked the EPA to put any proposed limits on collective exposure in the context of the collective exposures the U.S. public gets from other sources. I essentially asked how they could apply strict controls limiting nuclear operations to tiny public collective exposures while completely ignoring other sources of collective exposure that are a million times larger.

Cost-benefit analysis

The EPA currently performs cost-benefit analyses to justify most of its proposed regulations in most industries. In fact, the EPA even uses a published dollars-per-life-saved figure of ~$10 million per life as the basis for its regulations. This makes sense (to me) as the basis for any regulations, as one shouldn’t arbitrarily apply limits on doses, or health risks, regardless of the cost. Such policies allow society’s limited public health and safety resources to be applied where they will have the most impact.

Thus, I suggested to the EPA that they go one step further than limiting collective public exposures (man-Rem). I suggested that the best policy of all would be to establish a criterion for how much plant operators should have to spend per public man-Rem avoided. This would be similar to industry ALARA (As Low As Reasonably Achievable) policies currently in place for limiting exposures to plant personnel. If the EPA does not want to leave it up to operators to perform such cost estimates, then, at a minimum, the EPA should keep the $10-million-per-life-saved criterion in mind when determining limits on public collective exposures from plant operations. $10 million per life saved corresponds to a spending requirement of ~$4,000 per man-Rem avoided (based on current LNT estimates of one death per ~2,500 man-Rem). The EPA could consider industry input when determining what limits on public collective exposure would correspond to a cost of ~$4,000 per man-Rem.

I also (again) asked the EPA why nothing at all is being spent to reduce all the other, vastly larger sources of public collective exposure, and inquired about what other practices it should mandate (e.g., radon abatement) that could be performed for $4,000/man-Rem or less.

Distinction between different sources of exposure

ANS alluded to how nuclear industry–related sources of public exposure are treated differently than non-nuclear industry sources when it said that “the risk modeling methodologies that underlie them must be consistent with those used in EPA’s regulatory involvement (or lack thereof) pertaining to all other pathways of public exposure to ionizing radiation.”

I was more direct. I stated that “with the possible exception of medical exposures (that have an offsetting health benefit), all public exposures should be treated equally by regulations, regardless of source.”

It is indefensible to arbitrarily apply strict regulations to some sources of public exposure while ignoring much larger sources of public (collective) exposure. Given this fact, dose limits that are a small fraction of natural background (which ranges up to ~1,000 mrem/year in many places) are hard to justify. When considering collective (as opposed to maximum individual) exposures, strict limits on localized exposures in the vicinity of a nuclear plant are even harder to justify.

Although it is outside the scope of 10 CFR 190, this argument is even more important with respect to setting exposure limits in the event of nuclear accidents. Given the relatively small number of affected people (on the order of 100,000, based on the Fukushima experience), the assumption of LNT should allow individual exposure limits of several Rem/year, as that would still result in overall collective exposures that are smaller than those received routinely by the overall population. Expensive cleanup operations (e.g., to get doses down to 100 mrem/year, as Japan is considering) are hard to justify, given that far larger reductions in overall public collective exposure could be achieved at far lower cost in other areas (such as radon abatement or reducing unnecessary medical exposures).

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Hopf

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.

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 222

ferris wheel 202x201The 222nd edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers and Authors has been posted at Atomic Insights.  You can click here to access the latest installment in a long running tradition among pro-nuclear authors and bloggers.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance, improved health, and broadened security through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, EntrepreNuke, Thorium MSR and Deregulate the Atom.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  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.

Why TVA Is Completing Watts Bar 2

Got a minute (and 22 seconds)? Catch a quick update on the first new commercial nuclear energy in the United States of the 21st century—in Tennessee.

Mike Skaggs, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s senior vice president for Watts Bar Operations  and Construction, explains how and why Watts Bar Unit 2 will be completed. Watts Bar-2 is scheduled to come online at the end of 2015, and will make nuclear energy a full 40 percent of TVA’s electrical generation. (Much more on Watts Bar-2 here, and more Watts Bar videos at ANS Nuclear Cafe here.)

Thanks to Nuclear Energy Institute Network for sharing this video.

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The Final Entrant – Last Nuclear Utility in Japan Applies for Restart

Shika NPP Unit 2.  Courtesy Hokuriku Electric Power Co.

Shika NPP Unit 2. Courtesy Hokuriku Electric Power Co.

by Will Davis

Yesterday, the saga of nuclear energy in post-Fukushima Japan reached an important milestone as the final utility that owns nuclear power plants in that country applied to the regulator for restart, in an event that snuck under the radar of most news venues.

Hokuriku Electric Power Company yesterday submitted its application to have Shika Nuclear Power Plant Unit 2 examined by the Nuclear Regulation Authority under the revised guidelines for nuclear plant safety. Hokuriku owns only one nuclear power station, Shika, which has two units; Unit 1 is a BWR-5, while Unit 2 is an ABWR that went into commercial operation in March 2006. This application for Unit 2 means a number of things; it marks the end of the final holdout, if you will, by a nuclear utility; it shows that all utilities with nuclear plants will attempt to restart at least one unit; and it answers the question once and for all whether the Japanese utilities unanimously want to continue to include nuclear in their fuel mixes for the future.

Hokuriku has stated that work at the site (which mirrors heavy site work underway at most nuclear plants in post-Fukushima Japan) is not yet complete and that it does not have a specific restart date for this nuclear plant.

Shika Unit 2 had some press before this; this plant, along with Chubu Electric Power Company’s Hamaoka Unit 5, made some notoriety in 2006 when both were shut down for some time due to turbine generator problems. Hamaoka-5 shut down first in June 2006, actually on a turbine trip due to high vibration; this was quickly discovered to be a result of broken blades in the “B” or center (of three) of the low pressure turbines on its Hitachi TC6F-52 turbine generator. Because Shika Unit 2 had the same model turbine generator, it was ordered shut down in July 2006 for inspection; this revealed similar, if not as extensive, damage.

Hitachi paid for repairs to the Hamaoka and Shika turbine generators; the Hamaoka unit was back on-line in February 2007, eight months after the event. Shika Unit 2 however was saddled with a reduced power rating, and was also delayed in its restart while NISA (the former nuclear regulator) dealt with systemic problems at the site. Shika Unit 2 finally restarted in June 2008, rated at 1108 MWe instead of its original designed 1358 MWe. Hokuriku detailed plans to modify the turbine in 2010 and return the plant to its original full rating, but the only increase allowed was to 1206 MWe, which is where the official plant rating lies at the moment according to Nuclear Regulation Authority records. Hitachi has since modified its designs to eliminate the problems that originally caused these failures, which have not recurred in any other Hitachi turbine generators.

The restart applications, as they came

It is now appropriate to briefly detail the nuclear plant restart applications in a neat bunch as we find ourselves at a convenient historical point from which to look back.

The initial applications for restart actually came in a rush; on July 8, 2013, four utilities applied for restart examination for no fewer than 10 reactors at five sites. Quite interestingly, all of these were Mitsubishi pressurized water reactors); their ages varied, with commercial operation starting dates ranging from 1984 to 2009, in two, three, and four loop configurations. These were Hokkaido Electric Power’s Tomari NPP Units 1, 2 and 3; Kansai Electric Power’s Ohi NPP Units 3 and 4 and Takahama NPP Units 3 and 4; Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata Unit 3; and Kyushu Electric Power’s Sendai Units 1 and 2.

Just four days later on July 12, 2013, Kyushu Electric Power also applied for its Genkai NPP Units 3 and 4. These are also Mitsubishi PWR plants.

As had long been expected, on September 27, 2013, Tokyo Electric Power applied to restart two units at its massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP—and these, Units 6 and 7, were the first boiling water reactors of any kind to apply to restart. These units are Hitachi-GE-Toshiba ABWRs, and are the newest TEPCO nuclear units.

Chugoku Electric Power applied to restart Shimane NPP Unit 2, a Hitachi BWR-5, on December 25, 2013. Two days later on December 27th, Tohoku Electric Power applied to restart Onagawa NPP Unit 2—another BWR-5, but of Toshiba heritage.

The first application of 2014 was February 14, when Chubu Electric Power applied to restart Hamaoka Unit 4, a Toshiba-Hitachi BWR-5.

Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) applied to restart its Tokai Daini NPP, a GE BWR-5, on May 20, 2014. With a commercial operation date in November 1978, this is by far the oldest reactor applied for restart in Japan; the next closest date is Sendai Unit 1, commercially operational in 1984.

It was June before another application was made; on the 10th, Tohoku Electric Power applied to restart Higashidori 1, a BWR-5 of rather recent vintage, having entered commercial service in 2005.

And, of course, as we now know Shika Unit 2 applied yesterday (August 12, 2014,) marking only the third ABWR to apply for restart.

In total, the restart applications include 12 Mitsubishi PWRs, three ABWRs, and a total of five BWR-5 reactors of various heritage, making 20 reactors overall.

Hamaoka NPP: Courtesy Chubu Electric Power Co.

Hamaoka NPP: Courtesy Chubu Electric Power Co.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (TEPCO, two units applied), Tomari (Hokkaido, three units), Shika (Hokuriku, one unit applied), Shimane (Chugoku, one unit applied), Ikata (Shikoku, one unit applied), Takahama and Oi (both Kansai, four units total), and Genkai and Sendai (both Kyushu, four units applied) are on the West coast of Japan or on coasts facing west, making a total of 16 of the 20 units that are not subjected to future tsunami from the same fault that triggered the Great East Japan/Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. The majority of these 16 units (12) are the Mitsubishi PWR units; three more of these 16 units are the ABWRs applied for restart.

The results of these restart applications are, of course, expected to be an exceedingly mixed bag. Anti-nuclear court rulings, mistrust among prefectural governments, environmental groups, and anti-nuclear activists are already having a major impact on the processes to restart the nuclear plants. It is certain that we will look back on this historical point as a mere footnote; the hard work of both preparing the plants for future events and regaining the public trust all lies mainly ahead, and it is likely to take many years to bottle those results as conveniently as we bottle the applications here.

For more information:

Japanese Utilities Lining Up to Restart Reactors

Preparing to Restart:  Tsunami Safety Measures at Japanese Nuclear Power Plants

Japan’s Nuclear Restarts:  Abe says “Will See To It;” Courts Differ; Plants Prepare

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WillDavisNewBioPicWill Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian, newsletter editor and member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant.  He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.

The Latest Sop to Nuclear Opponents

By Howard Shaffer

viewfromVermontVermont Yankee will go into decommissioning at the end of its current fuel cycle. The last day of operation for the nuclear plant is now set for December 29, 2014. Entergy, the owner, elected this course last year after financial analysis indicated the plant’s unprofitability in a future of projected low natural gas prices.

Yet, in the first year after the end of Vermont Yankee’s original 40-year license, natural gas prices and the market price of electricity in the region were so high that the plant remitted $17 million to the state from power sales above 6.1 cents per kilowatt-hour under the terms of its 2002 purchase agreement.

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Vermont legislature

Nuclear opponents have great influence and support in the Vermont legislature and governor’s office. With plant operation ending, there needed to be a mechanism to keep the anti-nuclear crusade going.

The new panel

The legislature created a new panel—the Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel—to provide representation for nuclear opponents and to set up a new means to access information from the plant. The new panel replaced the Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel (VSNAP), which previously had received information from the plant at public meetings, via oral testimony, and public comments and questions. VSNAP had one public member, with the remainder members coming from the legislature and state agencies.

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Vermont State Nuclear Advisory Panel

At the end of the legislative session, the legislature created a new panel by writing it into the budget bill (H885). This new panel, which is advisory only, was created to:

  • Discuss issues related to the decommissioning.
  • Advise the governor, the General Assembly, state agencies, and the public on decommissioning issues.
  • Serve as a conduit for public information.
  • Receive reports on the decommissioning trust fund and other funds.
  • Receive reports on decommissioning; provide a forum for public comments and comment to state agencies and the plant owner

Meetings and an annual report are specified.

The panel consists of 19 members:

  • Four state officials.
  • Two state legislators.
  • Two local government representatives.
  • Six members of the public appointed by the legislature.
  • Two representatives of the plant.
  • One representative of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
  • Two representatives of adjacent states in the plant’s 10-mile emergency planning zone (EPZ), representing towns in New Hampshire and Vermont, appointed by the states’ governors.

Since the end of the legislative session there has been no further mention of the panel in public sources.

The composition of this new panel, as well as being larger than the one it replaces, is a radical departure from the old one. It includes representatives of the plant, the union, the towns in the EPZ, and several representatives from the public. Including the union is parallel to the practice in Germany of including unions on corporate boards of directors. This is not surprising, since at least one former member of the legislature, now a member of the Vermont Public Service Board, is an advocate of the German approach to energy management.

What will the panel bring?

The previous panel’s meetings were all public and attended by opponents and advocates, myself included. They were contentious but mostly one-sided. The plant was in the position of being a witness to be cross-examined. There was no appeal to the panel’s findings. The meetings were covered in detail by the regional press. The panel, in effect, became a vehicle for anti-nuclear publicity.

The new panel has plant and union representation, so their opinions will be official components of panel deliberation, not testimony from witnesses. The new panel must meet and report periodically. The reports’ format has not been specified, but it is logical to assume that minority opinions will be included, as is the usual government practice.

It is possible that if the previous panel had officially included pro-nuclear voices, the information reaching the public might have been more balanced.

The adjacent states

Governors Hassan (NH) and Patrick (MA)

Governors Hassan (NH) and Patrick (MA)

There are five towns in New Hampshire and seven in Massachusetts that will be represented by a governor’s appointee. As of this writing, there has been no word as to whether the governors have yet been invited by Vermont to make the appointments. The governors will need to determine the process they will use to make these appointments. Since there are pro- and anti-nuclear advocates in all places, the selection process may be difficult. It is possible the governors might ask the selectmen in these 12 towns, which use a town meeting form of government, to recommend a process. This would seem logical, since it would pass the “hot potato” to the towns. If the towns wind up deadlocked, a governor might end up appointing someone from a state government agency. Or, they might choose a qualified state resident from outside the towns.

Keeping engaged

As a New Hampshire resident, and considering myself qualified, I applied for the New Hampshire state position on the Vermont panel. When I applied in June, the governor’s appointments assistant had not heard of this position, nor heard anything from Vermont. With an election coming up in November, including for governor in both Vermont and New Hampshire (two year terms), and with the plant operating until the end of 2014, perhaps it’s not surprising that this issue is far down on their agendas.

I also sent a letter to the selectmen in all five New Hampshire towns, with a copy of the application to the governor.

We’ll see.

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________________________

Shaffer

Shaffer

Howard Shaffer has been an ANS member for 35 years.  He has contributed to ASME and ANS Standards committees, ANS committees, national meeting staffs, his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow. He is a former member of the ANS Public Information Committee, consults in nuclear public outreach, and is coordinator of the Vermont Grassroots Project.  Shaffer holds a BSEE from Duke University and an MSNE from MIT. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 221

ferris wheel 202x201It’s time for the 221st edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers and Authors.  This event circulates among the top pro-nuclear blogs, and each week highlights those items submitted to the host as most important or most timely.  Of course, every week, there is a post made right here at ANS Nuclear Cafe to direct you to the Carnival – but on a rotating basis we host it here, and this week is one of those occasions.  Let’s go in!

Forbes – Jim Conca

Extinction by Traditional Chinese Medicine

An epidemic of poaching is sweeping over Africa, paid for by Chinese and other Asians, fueled by the growing energy production from coal.  Caught up in this frenzy of rituals are animals like the rhinoceros, which may not be long for the world.

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Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcus

Energy Policy and Disruption: Managing Change

This week, Gail Marcus follows up on a previous post about the impacts of the evolution of energy technologies and takes the discussion a few steps further.  In addition to the always present tendency to protect existing jobs, she points to a study by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) that shows that mining and related activities are a significant part of the economies of several states in the US.  She notes that this fact creates an additional dimension to the problem – it’s not just replacing one job with another one if the jobs are in different places – and comments on how states might proactively face such changes.

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NewsOK – Robert Hayes

Radioactive Materials in the Oilfield

Oilfield work involves long hours and back-breaking work.  It also involves radioactive material in many ways, including natural radioactivity and man-made radionuclides used in a number of specific ways.

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Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin / guest post by George Coppenrath

New England Energy: What were they thinking?

George Coppenrath, a Vermont state senator who served on the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, wrote this guest post.  He wonders what Vermont energy planners were thinking; did they think that closing Vermont Yankee would push energy production to wind and solar?  Did they think natural gas would be inexpensive forever? It looks like they were wrong.

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NEI Nuclear Notes – submitted by Eric McErlain (various authors)

US Technology Exports and Africa:  A delegation from Niger, South Africa and Namibia visited NEI on August 7th to see how peaceful commercial nuclear technology could be exported to those countries.

In a Pit in a Nuclear Free Vermont:  A series of bad choices when it comes to energy policy has led Vermont down a blind alley.

Transatomic Power snags $2 million Investment:  The Founders Fund, a group that provided seed money for Facebook and other Silicon Valley start-ups, has made a $2 million investment in Transatomic Power.

What It Takes to Become an Operations Shift Manager:  Megan Wilson at PG&E talks about what it takes to move up the ladder at California’s only nuclear plant.

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Next Big Future – Brian Wang

India needs to expand nuclear; HTGR in works

India needs to both expand its power system to serve 300 million people, as well as move away from coal fired generation assets.  Nuclear power would, potentially, grow 15 times faster here than other assets.  Also, a piece on shared development of HTGR’s between Japan and Indonesia.

Cameco on track; Cameco’s production target not impacted by process changes.

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Atomic Insights – Rod Adams (guest post by Bill Sacks / Greg Myerson)

Why Does Conventional Wisdom Ignore Hormesis?

In light of repeated assertions that all ionizing radiation is harmful no matter how high or how low the dose, the existence of a beneficial health effect may be surprising.  But nearly a century of laboratory experimentation and epidemiological observation of both humans and animals supports the protective response region and contradicts the conventional wisdom.  Why then does the concept that all ionizing radiation is harmful hang on with such tenacity, and how did it gain a foothold against all evidence to the contrary?

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The Hiroshima Syndrome – Les Corrice

Did Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 have a “melt through?”

TEPCO says the Unit 3 core may have completely melted and most of it might be embedded in the basemat under the reactor.  The company cautions that their analysis “entails some degree of uncertainty.”  Their degree of uncertainty might be substantial.

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Canadian Energy Issues – Steve Aplin

Fighting darkness and steel with carbide, and carbon with nuclear energy; Canada’s revolutionary past, present and future

What does calcium carbide have to do with nuclear energy?  Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues remembers his spelunking days and their connection to the Second Industrial Revolution.

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That’s it for this week’s entries!  Thanks to all of our submitters, and authors.

Nuclear Matinee: Heavy Lifting at V.C. Summer

Heavy lifts equal heavy progress at the construction site of V.C. Summer-2 and -3 in South Carolina. Following is the latest update on recent major milestones completed at what will be the first new commercial nuclear energy reactors in the United States in 30 years.

Earlier this summer CNBC paid a visit to V.C. Summer and featured the plant and its workers—see CNBC’s Where the Jobs Are: The New Nuclear Generation at V.C. Summer.

Thanks to SCE&G Nuclear YouTube for sharing this video update.

ca20 module lift vc summer

Correcting History Can Be an Uphill Battle

By Rod Adams

In April 2014, ANS Nuclear Cafe published a valuable historical account and analysis of the Three Mile Island accident titled TMI operators did what they were trained to do.

As author Mike Derivan explained in great detail, the operators on duty at TMI-2 during the early morning hours of March 28, 1979, took exactly the actions that they were trained to take when provided indications of low primary plant pressure, combined with pressurizer water level indication that was “pegged high.” That level indicator told operators that the pressurizer was full of water. There were no other direct indications of water level provided.

Derivan has a unique perspective on this historical event; he was the shift supervisor on duty at the Davis Besse Nuclear Power Plant on September 24, 1977, when that plant experienced an event that was virtually identical to the event that initiated the TMI accident. Derivan and his crew initially responded like the crew at TMI; their indications were the same and both crews had been trained to make the same diagnosis and perform the same actions.

The primary reason that the event at Davis Besse turned out to be a historical footnote, while the event at TMI resulted in billions of dollars worth of equipment damage, world-wide attention, and changes throughout the nuclear industry, was that Derivan recognized that he had been trained to make a wrong diagnosis, which led to incorrect actions.

About 20 minutes after his event began, he took a new look at the symptoms his indications were describing and revised his overall diagnosis. That led him to recognize that his plant was experiencing a loss of coolant from the steam space of the pressurizer. He realized that the response of available indicators to that event was unlike the indicator response for loss-of-coolant accidents from any other part of the reactor coolant system. He directed his crew to shut the valves that isolated the stuck power-operated relief valve and to restore water flow from the high pressure injection system into the primary coolant system.

Derivan participated in the required post-event analysis and reporting, so he knew what the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the plant vendor B&W were told. He was thus uniquely affected by the TMI accident, especially once technical explanations of the accident sequence were available. He spent a considerable amount of time during the subsequent 35 years reviewing the available reports on TMI, trying to understand why the lesson he and his crew had learned in September 1977 had not been absorbed by the operators at TMI.

His conclusion is that the operators never had a chance to absorb and incorporate the lessons he had learned because they were never told that his event happened and never informed how to revise their procedures and training to enable a safer response. Despite all the effort that was put into various commissions and internal lessons learned efforts (Kemeny, Rogovin, the NRC task force that wrote NUREG-0585, etc.), none of the documents clearly state that the specific root cause of the sequence of events that melted 25–40 percent of the fuel material at TMI-2 was that almost everyone associated with pressurized water reactor design and operation misunderstood how the system would respond to a leak in the steam space of the pressurizer.

Unlike any other leak location, a steam leak would provide indications of falling system pressure and rising indicated level in the pressurizer. Since designers, regulators, and trainers assumed that all loss-of-coolant accidents would cause both pressure and pressurizer level to fall, that is what the available training materials—including the computerized simulators—taught operators to expect.

From the start of the accident, operators at TMI were thus placed into a situation that almost no one expected; they did not have an emergency operating procedure to follow. They had strong warnings about not overfilling the pressurizer, so they stopped pumping water into the plant when the level indication showed that the pressurizer was already more full than it should be. That was not an error on their part; it was an error in system response understanding that carried through to all training materials and operating procedures.

It was also an error in processes for sharing operational experience; at the time, the NRC was the only agency that received all reports from operators, so it was the only one that could distribute those reports back out to others that might need the information.

Unfortunately for the hard-working people who chose to become plant operators, the court of public and industry opinion blamed “operator error” as a primary cause of the accident. An excerpt from the history page of the Professional Reactor Operator Society (PROS) provides an operator perspective on how this misapplied responsibility affected members of the elite community of commercial reactor operators.

Remember Three-Mile Island (TMI)? Even if you weren’t in the nuclear business in March of 1979, you couldn’t have missed all the references since. As markers for change go, the event itself will not soon be forgotten, but more important are the lessons learned on all fronts.

Life was not very pleasant for the nuclear plant operators in the early eighties. The Three Mile Island accident started a chain of reforms in the industry that to a large extent were directed at operators. The basis for change was reported to be that the accident was caused by operator error. That announcement was made to the public almost immediately after the accident began and, as the core was uncovering, every special interest group in the nuclear industry was racing to protect its image.

In the days that followed, a media picture of incompetence in the TMI control room emerged. As we operators picked up the bits and pieces of information, it became clear that the picture was somewhat distorted. The TMI operators were being held accountable for deficiencies that legions of engineers, designers, trainers, and regulators had failed to recognize. Operators everywhere began to imagine themselves in a similar situation and realized that the results would probably be the same.

During the next few years, the industry was deluged with solutions to the “problem” of operator incompetence. The solutions ranged from threats of jail sentences to mandatory college degrees for all nuclear power plant operators. Few thought it was necessary to ask operators what tools they needed to help them operate the plants.

In addition to writing his story for distribution and creating an informative website—Nuke Knews—with his collected wisdom about the TMI event, Derivan recently took one more step in his quest for an improved understanding of why TMI happened and who should bear the responsibility.

He wrote a letter to NRC Chairman Macfarlane asking her to remove “operator error” as the root cause of the accident. His letter and supporting documentation can be found in the NRC ADAMS document database with a search for accession number ML14167A165. The NRC’s official response was provided on July 21, 2014, by Thomas R. Wellock, the agency’s historian. It is available in the same place with accession number ML14197A635.

Here is a quote from that response letter:

… none of the five major investigations of the accident commissioned by the NRC, Congress, and President Jimmy Carter claimed that operator error was “the” root cause of the accident.

Virtually all of the studies I reviewed agree with your analysis that while the operators committed errors, the chief culprits behind the accident were industry-wide and regulatory flaws. These included a poor understanding of PWR plant response to loss-of-coolant accidents (LOCA), a failure to circulate information about several precursor events at plants in the United States and Europe, flawed operator training and plant procedures, and inadequate control-room design. While you argue that these reports implicitly blame the operators as a “default position,” my reading of them indicates they were careful to avoid such a conclusion, and some pointedly challenged the thesis that operator-error caused the accident.

It may be correct, as you argue, that more should have been made of the industry’s poor understanding of plant response during a LOCA in the pressurizer steam space, but as you know, the NRC and industry addressed this issue with numerous reforms in training, reporting requirements, and event analysis. In fact, learning from precursor events may be the most important history lesson from TMI. On the 25th anniversary of the accident, NRC Historian J. Samuel Walker published Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective. The Davis-Besse event, Walker shows, was a critical missed lesson: “Neither Babcock and Wilcox nor the NRC had taken effective action to draw lessons from Davis-Besse or provide warnings to other plant operators that ‘could have prevented the accident’ at TMI-2.”

In sum, the official reports and NRC histories have been and continue to be in substantial agreement with your overall analysis as to the causes of the accident. Like you, they place the errors committed by the TMI operators in the context of general industry and regulatory failings regarding human factors.

That letter comes close to the pardon that Derivan is seeking, but it might have been better if he had asked for “operator error” to be removed as “a” root cause rather than as “the” root cause.

In the years since the accident, plant designers and regulators have made substantial improvements in their system understanding and in the processes that they use to share lessons learned and operating experience. However, it is still worthwhile to remind everyone, especially as newly designed systems and whole new technologies are introduced, that there is no replacement for a questioning attitude and careful incorporation of operating experience to enable continuous improvement.

There is a useful paragraph on page 2-3 of NUREG-0585 that can serve as a conclusion to remember:

In the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, Admiral Rickover has insisted that there be acceptance of personal responsibility throughout the program and that the designer, draftsman, or workman and their supervisor and managers are responsible for their work and, if a mistake is made, it is necessary that those responsible acknowledge it and take corrective action to prevent recurrence. This concept applies equally to the commercial nuclear power program, but it has not yet been achieved.

____________________________

Adams

Adams

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

 

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Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 220

ferris wheel 202x201The 220th edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers and Authors has been posted at Next Big Future.  You can click here to access this latest installment of a long running tradition among pro-nuclear authors and bloggers.

Each week, a new edition of the Carnival is hosted at one of the top English-language nuclear blogs. This rotating feature of nuclear “posts of the week” represents the dedication of those who are working toward a future of energy abundance, improved health, and broadened security through nuclear science and technology.

Past editions of the carnival have been hosted at Yes Vermont Yankee, Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Hiroshima Syndrome, Things Worse Than Nuclear Power, EntrepreNuke, Thorium MSR and Deregulate the Atom.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support.  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.

Japan Nuclear Restarts: Abe Says “Will See To It,” Courts Differ, Plants Prepare

By Will Davis

HamaokaChubuElectric“I will see to it by some means or other. I will properly deal with it.” So go the reported words of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe regarding the restart of nuclear power plants in Japan, as printed recently in the Japanese press. At the present time, while the Japanese government and courts seem to be at odds on restarting plants—with the public left in the middle—those at the nuclear plants themselves must count on eventual approval to restart and must ensure required measures are completed properly. Those preparing for restart continue to work toward that end while facing an improving, but not yet by any means certain, situation in the public and legal arenas.

Abe says yes, court says no

Those wishing for nuclear plant restarts in Japan, and especially power companies and large manufacturers (which consider their businesses in great peril), were bolstered by the continued support for nuclear restarts expressed by Abe, although it’s now becoming clear that a one-man fight isn’t what lies ahead. Abe’s recent statement, specifically about Sendai Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), comes on the heels of a public presentation to the Prime Minister of produce from the governor of Fukushima Prefecture—a sure sign that life indeed continues in the prefecture. That rosy picture of recovery stands opposed by courts, however.

Just last May, the Fukui Court issued an order to Kansai Electric barring the restart of reactors at the Oi NPP. The language of the order has more recently been translated into English, and the finding is troubling—the court basically saying that no person or establishment is capable of predicting the maximum severity and effect of prospective natural disasters; and that since the people of Japan generally derive their welfare and well-being from the land, it can be ruled illegal to operate nuclear plants that could in theory lead to the loss of the land and well-being of the people.

Residents in the immediate vicinity of Sendai NPP in Kagoshima Prefecture were this week issued iodine pills as part of a disaster preparedness plan, along with access to pharmacists who could answer questions, according to NHK World. One resident interviewed said that he indeed felt better because of this “ounce of prevention” approach. In some regions, public opinion appears to sway toward the return of nuclear energy, as utilities and prefectural governments make advance preparations and keep the public “in the loop.”

Preparing by building and training

KashiwazakiKariwaAs scenes of quite public debate continue, the utilities meanwhile have long recognized the need to restart their nuclear plants, if at all possible, to begin to recoup some of the massive losses they’re incurring—as a result of having to buy large amounts of fossil fuel and having to build temporary fossil-fired power plants to make up for the loss of generation from nuclear plants. And lest there be any doubt, overall power generation is still far, far short of what it had been with all nuclear plants available.

Some plants have experienced setbacks. This week, Shikoku Electric Power Company announed that its Ikata NPP would delay restarting by up to a year because its on-site emergency control center didn’t meet required revised seismic standards.

Others continue apace. We’ve reported here on the massive amount of time and money that Tokyo Electric Power Company (owner of Fukushima Daiichi) has put into its Kashiwazaki–Kariwa nuclear plant on the opposite coast of Japan; these safety measures continue with further massive construction. A recently published video displays the continued wide effort underway to meet all the required precautions and standards, and is worth viewing in its entirety for anyone interested in the preparations at nuclear plants in Japan:

Click here to watch the TEPCO Kashiwazaki-Kariwa video

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) released a report stating that the triggering event for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident was in fact the tsunami, and not the earthquake itself, lending support to safety actions taken at Kashiwazaki–Kariwa and other nuclear plant sites around Japan (including Chubu Electric’s Hamaoka NPP and Kyushu Electric Power’s Genkai and Sendai NPP’s) in the sense that the majority of expenditure lies in prevention of damaging effects from tsunami. A previous Japanese government panel had implicated the quake as the cause, but the NRA’s investigation has resulted in little or no evidence that the quake itself caused any damage to the plants that would have led to core melt. For example, the summary of the NRA report states that any small leaks caused by the quake would not have caused a threat to core integrity within 10 hours, and that there were no detectable signs of any serious breach of primary plant integrity during the time between the quake and the arrival of the tsunami.

It seems assured now—given the work required, the recent court position, and the overall sensitivity of the issue—that none of the nuclear plants in Japan will restart before autumn. As that original hope slips, the public and industry continue to forge a new understanding of the importance of safety in the Japanese nuclear power industry.

For more information:

Hamaoka NPP – 19 minute video of preparations, training entitled “Amassing Our Full Strength in Pursuit of Greater Safety

Nuclear Regulation Authority (Japan) – Overview of Regulatory Requirements

New Regulatory Requirements for Light Water Nuclear Plants (Earthquakes and Tsunami.)  Nuclear Regulation Agency

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SavannahWillinControlRoomWill Davis is the Communications Director for the N/S Savannah Association, Inc. where he also serves as historian and as a member of the board of directors. Davis has recently been engaged by the Global America Business Institute as a consultant.  He is also a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; an active ANS member, he is serving on the ANS Communications Committee 2013–2016. In addition, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.