Category Archives: lessons learned

Can we repeat facts about Fukushima often enough to overcome fears?

by Rod Adams

We are within one week of the one year anniversary of the Great North East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. That powerful punch from nature slowly destroyed four out of six of the nuclear units at Fukushima Daiichi while the world watched with rapt attention.

However, as many nuclear experts predicted at the time of the accident, the defense-in-depth strategy worked well. The end results have been far better than were predicted using some of the fantasy-inspired “worst case scenarios” propagated by antinuclear activists and by researchers working several decades ago – before much data had been gathered and digested.

The painstakingly-gathered empirical data from this unfortunate theory-to-practice exercise have validated the recently released State of the Art Reactor Consequences Analysis, which computed a one in a billion chance that an accident at typical licensed nuclear reactors would harm anyone in the general public.

The total quantity of long-lived radioactive isotopes released from all three of the melted cores was approximately 11 kilograms. None of the material stored in the spent fuel pools was released. There has not been, and never will be, any injuries more serious than a mild sunburn to two workers, from the radiation released into the environment from the melted nuclear fuel inside the plant pressure vessels and containment structures.

Despite the lack of any negative radiation health effects, there are people who relish in stimulating as much fear, uncertainty, doubt and stress about radiation and nuclear energy as they possibly can. They are working overtime to obscure any good news and to label the people who share truthful information as nuclear industry PR hacks, apologists, or even worse.

While participating in discussion threads associated with recent reports published in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Time magazine and Scientific American, I have seen nuclear supporters accused of killing babies, being mere industry shills, and of being completely insensitive to the continued suffering of the Japanese people.

Unlike people who have been trained in nuclear sciences and engineering, facts do not matter as much to antinuclear activists as repeatedly telling the tale they want people to hear. Greenpeace has released a report titled Lessons from Fukushima featuring a chapter by Arnie Gundersen that claims that the nuclear industry is a prime example of regulatory capture, despite being one of the most tightly regulated industries in the US, Europe and Japan.

Karl Grossman, a man who has been making a living on the antinuclear lecture and book circuit since the Three Mile Island accident, continues to claim that Fukushima will be worse than Chernobyl. He also claims that Chernobyl has already killed nearly a million people, instead of the less than 100 reported by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation report as having died in the 25 years since the accident.

Like Helen Caldicott, Grossman continues to spout the belief that Yablokov’s thoroughly discredited book titled Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment is the definitive work on the 1986 accident. In the imaginary world where Caldicott and Grossman spend their time, the thousands of other researchers who studied the accident and came to completely different conclusions were either misinformed, bought by the powerful nuclear industry, or just plain lying.

The antinuclear opposition also spreads fear by describing effects using unfamiliar, frightening units. Instead of saying that a total of 11 kilograms of material (out of approximately 60,000 kilograms of fuel per unit) escaped from the reactor pressure vessels, people who discourage the beneficial use of nuclear energy say that the plants “spewed” 36,000 terabecquerels of radioactivity. (A terabecquerel of Cs-137 has a mass of 3.2 grams.)

If that number does not scare people thoroughly enough, some nuclear opponents compare the cesium emissions from Fukushima to the cesium emissions from the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The Hiroshima bomb produced its explosive power fissioning about 1 kilogram of U-235. The 6.3% fission yield for Cs-137 means that Little Boy, the Hiroshima bomb, produced a little less than 30 grams of Cs-137. (89 terabecquerels at 3.2 gms/terabecquerel).

In the eyes of people who hate nuclear energy, that means that the melted Fukushima reactors did not release a mass of radioactive cesium that is about half the weight of the backpack I routinely carry when I spend a weekend on the Appalachian Trail. Instead, those reactors released 400 times as much radioactive cesium as was released by The Bomb!

That is a great piece of propaganda. It sounds really bad while using very few words. Contradicting the scary statement with logical reasoning requires too detailed of an explanation to be useful to a newspaper or television show.

There is, however, reason to be hopeful that the end result of the Fukushima accident on nuclear energy will be less damaging to the ultimate success of the technology than the end result of the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents.

Unlike the period following the Three Mile Island accident, the public conversation has broadened considerably. Discourse is no longer dominated by broadcast television networks or major printed newspapers. It is not dominated by the people who have been able to spend years working their way to the front of journalist contact lists by always being ready with pithy, if often false, quotes.

Instead, people who understand nuclear technology are supporting each other, using a wider variety of media access points and are participating in active public outreach campaigns.

On March 8 at 10AM EST, the American Nuclear Society, a professional society with 11,000 members, will be holding a news conference at the National Press Club to announce the release of its long awaited report on the lessons learned from the accident.

I am looking forward to reading that report and then cooperating with other nuclear professionals to ensure that its factual material is repeated as often as the tripe that emanates from the mouths and keyboards of Caldicott, Grossman, Wasserman, Gunter, Lovins, and so many other professional opponents of nuclear energy.

Like many of my colleagues, I feel a sense of personal responsibility to do something to alleviate the suffering of the victims who have a far greater probability of negative health effects from irrational radiation fears than they do from radiation itself. Spending some of my spare time to ease their fears, reduce their stress and enable their safe return to their ancestral homes is an investment worth making.

There has been one result from the accident that I never would have predicted. A year ago, I could not imagine that two countries (Germany and Japan) that were famous for their technological skills and rational decision making would have decided to shut down undamaged reactors in favor of spending a growing share of their national income to make the fossil fuel industry increasingly richer. If anyone can think of ways to influence the decision process in those two key countries, I am listening.

 

Adams

Rod Adams is a pro-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.

 

Fukushima health effects

The American Nuclear Society Special Committee on Fukushima has been conducting a comprehensive study of the events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011. The special committee was tasked with providing a clear and concise explanation of what happened during the Fukushima Daiichi accident, and offer recommendations based on lessons learned. A report from the special committee will be released at a press conference on Thursday, March 8, at 10AM EST. The press conference will be webcast at http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=85244, and the report will be available for download at http://fukushima.ans.org/.

The report will include a detailed analysis and assessment of radiological health effects resulting from the accident.

The HPS Panel: Robert Emery, John Boice, Robert Gayle, Howard Dickson, Kathryn Higley, Richard Vetter

Meanwhile, the Health Physics Society (HPS) on March 1 held a press conference addressing Fukushima radiological health effects. Major online media coverage of the HPS conference included the New York Times Green Blog, Sizing Up Health Impacts a Year After Fukushima, and the Wall Street Journal Japan Realtime,  Fukushima Health Impact: Minimal?

What have been the basic findings, so far, of the HPS radiation experts? As paraphrased in the New York Times article: “Health impacts from the radioactive materials released in the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns will probably be too small to be easily measured… And the area cordoned off by the Japanese government as uninhabitable is probably far too large.”

Caracappa

Peter Caracappa, chief radiation officer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, assisted the ANS Special Committee on Fukushima on radiological issues, and was interviewed in this very informative recent article in Scientific American: Japan’s Post-Fukushima Earthquake Health Woes Go Beyond Radiation Effects.

Radiation monitoring continues in Japan, and long-term studies are underway.

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ANS Special Committee on Fukushima to issue report on March 8

Webcast event available from National Press Club

The American Nuclear Society Special Committee on Fukushima will issue its full report next week on Thursday, March 8.  A press conference will be held at 10 AM EST at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, and will be webcast at http://www.visualwebcaster.com/event.asp?id=85244.

The special committee’s co-chairs are Dale Klein, Ph.D., former chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Michael Corradini, Ph.D., Wisconsin Distinguished Professor of nuclear engineering and engineering physics at the University of Wisconsin.

Klein

“To prepare this report, we gathered from our membership some of the world’s leading figures in the nuclear science and technology community,” said Klein. “The report will look at all aspects of the events at the Fukushima plant after the earthquake and tsunami, and will include recommendations for the nuclear community, for citizens, and for policymakers as a result of the lessons we learned.”

Corradini

Corradini added, “This report will also serve as an historical document for reference by those who wish to know what really happened, from a scientific and technically informed perspective. We thank all of our committee members for their dedication, time, and service creating this report to help us understand these events and better plan for our future.”

Topics addressed in the report will include risk-informed regulation, hazards from extreme natural phenomena, multiple-unit site considerations, hardware design modifications, severe accident management guidelines, command and control during a reactor accident, emergency planning, health physics, and societal risk comparison.

The full report will be available for download Thursday morning.

ANS President Eric Loewen, Ph.D., Klein, and Corradini discussed the goals of the report in interviews at the 2011 ANS Annual Meeting:

ANS Board Member Steven Arndt named Federal Engineer of the Year

Steven A. Arndt, Ph.D., P.E., cited as best engineer in federal service

American Nuclear Society board member Steven A. Arndt, Ph.D., P.E., has been named the federal government’s Engineer of the Year by the National Society of Professional Engineers. “Steven is an extremely distinguished member of the Society with a long history of exceptional and diverse public service,” said ANS President Eric Loewen regarding the award. “We’re very fortunate to have him on our board of directors and we extend our heartfelt congratulations to him on this well-deserved recognition.”

Dr. Steven A. Arndt and Mr. David L. Skeen, Director of Japan Lessons-Learned Project Directorate, NRC

Arndt, since 2007 a senior technical advisor in the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has more than 30 years of experience as a nuclear engineer. Much of his career has been at the NRC, but he also co-founded a business supporting the nuclear community. In addition, he served as a professor of nuclear engineering, including two years at the United States Naval Academy. He was appointed by the governor of Maryland to the Maryland State Board for Engineering. During the Fukushima nuclear event, Arndt responded to the NRC’s Operation Center supporting the Japanese government and the U.S. ambassador’s office in his role as a severe accident analyst. He continues to support the NRC–Japan lessons-learned efforts, including screening and prioritizing recommendations for U.S. nuclear plants.
 
When asked about the recognition received on Thursday at a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, Arndt said, “I’ve devoted my professional life to nuclear engineering and I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to make contributions. I’m honored to receive this award.”

Christopher M. Stone, P.E., National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE), Dr. Arndt, Mr. Skeen, Lawrence A. Jacobson, executive director NSPE

“Steven is a great example of the dedication and experience of ANS members,” said Loewen. “The country is fortunate to have him acting in a role of such responsibility and importance at the NRC, and we’re fortunate to have him among our membership.”

Christopher Stone, P.E. and Dr. Steven Arndt

For more information about the National Society of Professional Engineers’ awards, please visit the NSPE website.

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ANS to hold teacher workshop in Phoenix, AZ

ANS November 2011 Teachers Workshop

Hands-on activity during a November 2011 ANS Teachers Workshop

The American Nuclear Society’s Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information and the ANS Outreach Department will be sponsoring a one-day teacher workshop on Sunday, February 26, in Phoenix, Ariz. The workshop—Detecting Radiation in Our Radioactive World—is intended for science educators (including biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, physical science, life science, environmental, and general science teachers) at the high school and middle school levels. The workshop will be held prior to WM2012, the international waste management conference that takes place annually in Phoenix.

The following video provides feedback from teachers and presenters who attended the June 2011 ANS Teachers Workshop, held in Hollywood, Fla.

 

The full-day workshop will prepare attendees to teach the basics about radiation, how we detect radiation, and the uses of nuclear science and technology in society. Teachers who complete the workshop will receive a wealth of materials—background information, hands-on activities, and supplementary resources—and a Geiger counter. Career opportunities in nuclear science and technology will be highlighted during the sessions.

“We’re excited to be offering this overview of radiation and nuclear science to teachers in the Phoenix area,” said Chuck Vincent, ANS Outreach administrator. “Workshop participants are always eager to receive their free Geiger counters and learn about hands-on demonstrations that they can use in their classrooms.”

Currently, scheduled presenters include:

  • Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, assistant professor of nuclear engineering, Idaho State University, and research scientist at Idaho National Laboratory
  • Mansel Nelson, program coordinator, environmental education outreach program, Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, Northern Arizona University
  • Terry Price, mechanical engineer, Palo Verde Generation Station of Arizona Public Service Company
  • Walter Thomas, chemistry teacher and district science coordinator, Wickenburg Unified School District, Wickenburg, Ariz.
  • Debra Thrall, executive director, Albert I. Pierce Foundation, Albuquerque, N.M.

Please visit the ANS website for more information, including an announcement and online registration form. The workshop will be limited in size to optimize interaction with presenters. Registration is on a first-come first-served basis.

There is a $60 nonrefundable registration fee—which includes continental breakfast, lunch, printed materials, and a Civil Defense Surplus analog radiation monitor—for teachers to reserve a place at the workshop.  The registration deadline is 12:00 noon (Central Time), Tuesday, February 14.

Funding for the workshop is provided in part by individual and organizational contributions to ANS. Additional support is provided by Waste Management Symposia and WM2012.

Ballot initiative to close California’s nuclear plants

By Jim Hopf

There’s not much new happening in DC right at the moment, so this month I’ll discuss something that’s going on in the state of California. That is, a proposed ballot initiative to shut the two remaining nuclear power plants—the two-unit Diablo Canyon and the two-unit San Onofre—in the state.

The Initiative

The initiative proposal has been filed by Ben Davis, a delivery driver, self-taught legal professional, and long-time anti-nuclear activist who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif. He tried (unsuccessfully) to pass a similar initiative in 1988. More than 500,000 signatures are required by April 16 in order for the initiative to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.

The language of the initiative is similar to that of previous initiatives. It would require the state’s nuclear power plants to close until “there exists a demonstrated technology or means for the disposal of high-level nuclear waste.” The plants in question generate 16 percent of California’s electricity.

Response from Legislative Analyst

Like all of California’s legislation and ballot initiatives, this proposal was evaluated by the state’s legislative analyst, an objective, non-partisan office that is tasked with evaluating the impacts (economic impacts in particular) of all proposed policy initiatives. The analyst’s conclusions regarding this initiative were very strong, and almost entirely negative.

Diablo Canyon

The legislative analyst requested an evaluation of the impact of the plants’ closure on grid stability and reliability from the states independent system (grid) operator (ISO). The ISO stated that the plants’ closure “would reduce the capacity to deliver electricity in the Los Angeles Basin area to below state and local standards for reliability”, and that it would significantly increase the risk of rolling blackouts in the area.

The analyst went on to say that the plants’ closure could result in economic damages/costs of tens of billions of dollars to the state. These economic impacts would be due to:

  • Increased cost of power in the short term due to scarcity.
  • Economic costs due to blackouts and reduced reliability in the short term.
  • Loss of jobs and industries due to the above power cost and lack of reliability.
  • Higher power costs (and associated job losses) over the long term due to higher costs of replacement power sources.
  • Cost to the taxpayer from compensation that will have to be paid to the utilities.

Other Reactions

Probably due, in part, to the very negative conclusions of the non-partisan legislative analyst, the initiative has garnered little political support (from state newspapers, etc.). No major paper has taken a position in favor of the initiative, and many papers have come down strongly against it. Even the article about the initiative in the (formally anti-nuclear) LA Times took a negative tone, focusing primarily on the negative conclusions of the legislative analyst.

Most independent observers believe that the initiative has little chance of passing.

My Perspective

It’s clear that Mr. Davis is filing this initiative (again) in response to the event at the Fukushima plant in Japan last March. He believes that this will increase his chances of passing an initiative that he has failed to pass before.

Initiative’s Purpose?

I find it ironic, and telling, that the initiative itself does not talk about nuclear plant safety features at all, but instead only refers to the waste issue, even though it is trying to take advantage of Fukushima fears. It does not require the plants to install any safety upgrades (e.g., earthquake and/or tsunami defenses) as a condition for being allowed to operate. It only requires that the waste problem be resolved.

Perhaps this is because Mr. Davis knows that the waste requirement will not be met for decades, whereas the plants would be able to install any required safety improvements and restart. Thus, the waste requirements are better if your real goal is to permanently shut the plants. Perhaps the waste issue is the real reason Mr. Davis is opposed to nuclear power, and the initiative language reflects that. In any event, it seems clear that the initiative is trying to use the Fukushima event in pursuit of another agenda.

California Plants’ Safety

As for the actual safety of the California plants, it should be noted that the earthquake and tsunami risks at the California plant sites are nothing like those that existed for the Fukushima plant. The Diablo Canyon plant sits on a high bluff, 85 feet above the water. The San Onofre plant sits 50 feet above the water, with a 30-foot tsunami wall for additional protection. Thus, neither plant would have been inundated by a tsunami as high as the one that struck Fukushima. As for earthquakes, the California plants are actually designed to withstand ground acceleration levels roughly twice those that were experienced by the Fukushima plant.

In addition to the greater levels of protection (discussed above), the maximum earthquake and tsunami that could occur at the California plant sites is far smaller than that which occurred in northern Japan. The (thrust) type of fault that can produce earthquakes and tsunamis of that size does not exist near Southern California. Furthermore, California has relatively few off-shore fault lines that could produce tsunamis.

San Onofre

Finally, some of the issues and weaknesses that apply for the old boiling water reactor plants at Fukushima are less severe or not applicable to the more modern pressurized water reactor plants in California. On top of that, the U.S. plants had already made several safety and security upgrades in response to September 11, and will make further upgrades as a result of the lessons learned from Fukushima. All this adds up to a severe release risk that is much smaller than that which was present at Fukushima.

Economic Impacts of Plants’ Closure

I concur with the legislative analyst’s conclusions regarding the impact of closing California’s two nuclear plants, but I believe that they do not go far enough. I believe that there would be additional negative impacts that the analyst failed to mention, or clarify.

The analyst was right about the short term (scarcity) costs and blackout risks, but it failed to clarify the magnitude of the impact on long-term power costs. Continuing to operate an existing nuclear plant is extremely inexpensive, with going-forward operational costs of ~2 cents/kW-hr or less. Building and operating new natural gas and/or renewable generation (to replace the nuclear plants’ output) would be much more expensive. These costs will be passed down to consumers in the form of higher power costs, and tax bills related to compensation the state will have to pay the utilities (for forcing them to close perfectly good nuclear plants with decades of life left).

Whereas continued operation of the nuclear plants costs ~2 cents//kW-hr, construction and operation of renewable sources will cost ~10 cents/kW-hr or more, even before costs related to grid upgrades and fossil backup capacity are considered. New natural gas generation may cost somewhat less (6-7 cents/kW-hr) in theory, it may not be that simple in practice.

A RAND Corporation study was performed to evaluate the impact of California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard policies. The study concluded that the renewables could reduce overall energy costs even though their per kW-hr generation costs were higher than that of natural gas plants. The reasoning was that the cost of gas is very sensitive to the balance between supply and demand. Thus, any reduction in gas demand (for power generation) would result in a reduced cost for gas, which in turn would reduce the cost of the (remaining) gas-fired power generation, as well as the cost of all other applications that use gas (e.g., space heating, industrial use, etc.). Another argument they gave was that the gas pipelines into California were near their limit, and therefore any measure that would reduce or avoid any further increase in gas use could prevent a large cost associated with upgrading the pipeline infrastructure.

Well, what’s good for the goose (renewables) is good—or perhaps even better—for the gander (nuclear). If the two nuclear plants are shut down, most of the generation will be replaced by gas-fired generation. This will result in a significant increase in demand for natural gas in California, which will in turn measurably increase the price of gas. If the new level of gas demand is beyond the capacity of the existing gas pipeline infrastructure, the economic impacts will be even greater. This will have a significant effect on the overall economy.

Employment Impacts

The legislative analyst talked about job losses as a result of higher power costs and reduced reliability, and their impacts on electricity-using industries. They did not, however, sufficiently discuss employment impacts in the power generation sector itself.

The plants’ closure will have a significant, negative jobs impact, particularly in the local area around the plants. Any new gas or renewable generation used to replace the plants’ capacity will not create as many jobs as those lost at the plant; not in California, anyway.

Gas-fired power plants employ far fewer people, for a given level of capacity. Most of the cost of gas generation is in the fuel, and therefore many if not most of the jobs associated with gas generation are those associated with fuel extraction and transport. These jobs, however, occur elsewhere in the country, or in other nations.

A similar (jobs) situation exists for renewables. Most of the cost, and jobs, associated with renewable generation is in the fabrication of the wind turbines and solar panels, etc. Relatively few are employed at the generation site. Suffice it to say that such jobs are offshore-able (unlike the jobs at the nuclear plant). These components can be manufactured anywhere; in other states or even other countries. In fact, it is well known that most renewable component construction has been moving to China.

With nuclear power, on the other hand, most of the jobs are associated with on-site plant construction and plant operation, both of which occur in the local area. Nuclear plant jobs are not offshore-able. Local (or state) employment, per unit of generation, are much higher for nuclear than they would be for either gas or renewables.

Environmental Impacts

In addition to higher power costs, the retirement of California’s nuclear plants will have a significant negative impact on the environment and public health. In the short-term, the nuclear plants’ capacity will be replaced by firing up old, relatively dirty fossil (gas, and perhaps oil) fired power plants. These plants will emit significant amounts of CO2 and other harmful pollutants. Over the longer term, new and more efficient combined cycle gas plants may be constructed, but even those plants will emit significant amounts of CO2 and measurable amounts of air pollution. This will significantly impact California’s ability to meet its CO2 emissions reduction goals.

It is unlikely that the nuclear plants’ closure will result in a significant amount of additional renewable generation. This is because the amount of renewable generation that will be built in California is almost entirely governed by the state’s aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard requirements. Many, including myself, believe that the (33 percent) renewable generation goal is already unrealistic and impractical. Given this, it seems pretty clear that utilities will struggle to meet those requirements, and will not be building any renewable capacity beyond what is required by the policy. The closure of the nuclear plants will do nothing to change this. Getting one third of overall generation using intermittent sources is probably already beyond what can be done (practically, let alone economically). Even with the increased gas costs that occur as a result of the nuclear plants’ closure, it will not be economic to build renewable generation beyond the state’s requirements. Thus, it seems clear that most if not all of the generation used to replace the nuclear plants will be gas-fired.

Summary

The proposed initiative to close California’s nuclear power plants (until the nuclear waste problem is “solved”) is an attempt by a long-time anti-nuclear activist to take advantage of the Fukushima event to further a pre-existing agenda. It does not acknowledge the fact that overall risks, particularly risks associated with earthquake and tsunami, are much smaller for the California plants. The initiative does not even require, or refer to, plant safety upgrades to further reduce these vulnerabilities.

Closure of California’s nuclear plants would have very large negative economic impacts on the state, as well as significant negative impacts on public health and the environment (due to the firing up or construction of fossil fuel power plants for replacement power). Power costs will rise significantly, and taxpayers will be on the hook for billions of dollars of utility compensation. Over the short term, grid reliability will suffer, and the risk of rolling blackouts will increase significantly. The plants’ closure will also result in the loss of thousands of non-offshore-able jobs in the local area. These job losses will not be offset by jobs associated with (gas or renewable) replacement generation. The plants’ closure will also make it much harder for California to meet its CO2 emissions reduction goals.

This initiative does not deserve serious consideration, let alone passage.  Fortunately, most experts believe its chances of passage are slim.

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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.

Today is National Nuclear Science Day!

Today is National Nuclear Science Day, an event celebrating nuclear science and technology. The American Nuclear Society is proud to be a sponsor of this full-day event at the Illinois Institute of Technology that features world-class nuclear experts in many fields of nuclear science and technology. The experts, during presentations during the day, are explaining what nuclear is all about during live internet webinars and question-and-answer sessions for students in grades 5-12 (and other interested parties).

You can register for the webinars by visiting the National Science Teachers Association Learning Center—a great all-around resource for science learning). The webinar is open to the public (free registration is required).

For details on the Nuclear Science Day agenda, the presenters, and all the day’s information, check out the Nuclear Science Day Press Release. About 1,000 classrooms are viewing the webcast throughout the day—representing more than 20,000 students and teachers across the United States.

Loewen

ANS President Eric Loewen spoke to students from six area high schools about nuclear careers. His presentation began at 1:00 pm Central Time and was  live-tweeted at ans_org using the twitter hashtag #NNSW12.

Don’t forget to check back at the ANS Nuclear Cafe for live reports!

Priorities for 2012 in Vermont Politics

By Howard Shaffer

Vermont’s “Citizen Legislature” meets from January to May/June. During this term, the major issue is Hurricane Irene and its aftermath. The hurricane caused major devastation, but, thankfully, few lives were lost.

Vermont’s geography of steep mountains and narrow valleys makes heavy rains destructive. Many roads and bridges were washed out during the hurricane.  Homes, trailers, and propane tanks were carried away. Rivers changed courses, which changed some property lines. A few town halls and their records were flooded. Federal disaster assistance and private help were provided. Heroic efforts by citizens restored the roads and bridges by winter, and the economy picked up. Governor Peter Shumlin rightfully acknowledged these efforts in his Vermont State of the State speech.

The Legislature and Governor

Shumlin

The governor is working with a legislature dominated by his Democratic party, 22 to 8 in the Senate and 102 to 48 in the House. In the 2010 election, he credited 14 percent of his vote to the anti-nuclear power/Vermont Yankee vote, in his slim victory margin. An Associated Press local writer wrote a January 17  article “Vermont Settles in To One-Party Government.”

With all the major issues the legislature must face, and with the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant’s fate in the hands of the federal courts, it might be thought that there would be no time to devote to the “Great Anti-Nuclear Crusade,” local version. Not a chance of that happening in Vermont, however.

Another Lawsuit

The two privately-owned electric utilities in Vermont that are purchasing power from Vermont Yankee are now suing the plant for their extra costs. They claim reimbursement for the replacement power they had to purchase when the plant had to reduce power in 2007 and 2008. One cell in one of two eleven-cell forced draft towers collapsed, and the next year there was a problem with areas that had been repaired.

Vermont Yankee, with the forced draft cooling towers in the foreground.

Apparently, these two companies had no insurance for power lost in these events, nor did their contracts with Vermont Yankee call for reimbursement. The companies say that the contracts did call for “good utility practice.” There was no report of negotiations, or if there is a statute of limitations.

In a change in course, the local AP writer’s story on this lawsuit described how the towers work, and how they use river water. The story finally reports that the infamous picture of the collapsed cell, with water pouring on the debris from the collapse, was leaked to the New England Coalition, an opponent of the plant. The coalition passed the picture to the media, and it is on the internet and used nationally in articles about Vermont Yankee. The plant’s opponents trot it out at every opportunity, and use it in their literature, trumpeting the dangers of nuclear power.

Keeping the Money Flowing

In order to store used fuel in dry casks on its site, Vermont Yankee had to apply to the state’s Public Service Board for a Certificate of Public Good. In the Memorandum of Understanding signed to obtain the certificate, the plant agreed to contribute to the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund. Per the memorandum, the contribution will stop on the date when the plant’s original 40-year license, now extended for 20 years, ends.

Dry cask storage

A new revenue stream is needed. Bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate to tax the used fuel from nuclear power plants stored in the state. Vermont Yankee is the only nuclear plant in the state, and the representative introducing the bill, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, is an ardent anti-nuke. It is not likely that he is contemplating any more nuclear plants in the state. If the tax targeted just one entity, however, it is believed it would be found illegally discriminatory.

The House version calls for an annual $2 million per dry cask. It also calls for an equivalent tax on the fuel in the storage pool, determined by a formula. This formula appears to have been originated by someone with limited knowledge of the plant and fuel details, and it is incorrect. It says to “divide $2 million by the volume of a dry cask and multiply by 50 percent.” The text implies this figure would be used to apportion the volume of used fuel in the pool (i.e. multiply by), but this is not in the formula. Engineers would use a logical per fuel assembly basis to easily achieve a correct answer.

Re-greening the Green Mountain State

The House bill taxing used fuel also initiates a “Postclosure Funding Tax” of $25 million per year. This tax starts when the bill becomes law. The purpose of the fund is to restore nuclear plant sites, which are “well-suited for electric generation and transmission” to “greenfield” condition, “without a long delay.” Greenfield is defined as “removal of all above- and below-grade structures, equipment, and foundations.”

The bill assumes decommissioning as required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will take place first. It prohibits use of the funds for decommissioning unless all other funds have been exhausted. Just as with decommissioning, funds reimburse activities completed. The fund draws interest, and excess funds are returned to the owners. The tax stops when the Public Service Board determines that greenfield conditions have been met.

It will be interesting to see how the lawsuit and the tax bill fare.

Meanwhile the Vermont Yankee plant has been operating very well.

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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, and his local section, and was the 2001 ANS Congressional Fellow. He is a current member of the ANS Public Information Committee and consults in nuclear public outreach. 

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

Nuclear News and the new year

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

  • The year ahead: This time for sure? by E. Michael Blake
  • 2012 Preview: Impact of Fukushima Daiichi on global prospects for nuclear, by Dick Kovan
  • 10-year D&D program under way at Zion plant, by Rick Michal
  • The index to 2011 Nuclear News content

There is also an in-depth report on the 2011 ANS Winter Meeting, along with side coverage of two topicals at the meeting: the first ANS Small Modular Reactor conference, and the Young Professionals Congress 2011 meeting.

Other news in the January issue:  NRC commissioner Jaczko votes to publish AP1000 certification final rule; revised emergency plan rule published in final form; study sees potential for small modular reactors to compete with gas-fired generation; is yellow inspection finding at Oconee an old design issue? Davis-Besse restart allowed while concrete studies continue; special inspection at Brunswick; NRC takes no significant action on four petitions; a status report on license renewal and power uprates; Fukushima-related motions in licensing proceedings continue to be denied; Levy site tour, limited statements scheduled; power reactor stress tests in the European Union said to be on track; European Union proposes additional €500 million to close Soviet-era reactors; fuel loading begins at Canada’s long-idled Bruce-1; Vietnam’s pact with Japan upheld, and new pact made with South Korea; three sites on short list for Poland’s first nuclear plant; United Kingdom chooses reuse as MOX to manage plutonium stock; nuclear research center opens in West Cumbria; and much more.

Past issues of Nuclear News are available here.

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The Fable of the Scary Monster

By Margaret Harding

Once upon a time…

There lived a little girl named Polly. She lived in a big castle with lots of aunts and uncles. The aunts’ and uncles’ only job was to keep Polly safe. One night, after watching a scary Japanese movie, Polly said to them, “I’m scared. There is a monster in my closet. It’s going to come out and eat me all up!”

The aunts and uncles decided that from now on Polly would live in a different part of the castle, where there were no closets. More so, she was not allowed to leave the castle or watch movies unless one of them approved. Many years passed, and Polly grew into a young woman, but never stepped outside of the castle because she was afraid of the monster.

Polly lived in her castle, relying only on her aunts and uncles to tell her about the wide world outside. She could see out the windows, but that was all. One day, she came to them and said, “I want to go outside. I’m a young woman now and I want to see the rest of the world.”

They were horrified. They told Polly,  “Oh no!The world is full of monsters! You cannot leave.”

Polly was determined, but afraid of what her aunts and uncles told her, so she decided to find someone to help her escape.

The next day, as a stranger rode by, Polly called out, “Stranger, help me escape!”

The stranger replied, “Why?”

“I’ve been locked up in this castle to keep me safe from monsters. Will you protect me so that I can go out into the wide world?”

“You are a fool. There are no monsters, you should have run away years ago.”

Polly was crestfallen. “I’m not a fool. My aunts and uncles told me there are monsters and locked me in to keep me safe. Go away.”

The next day, another stranger rode by.

“Stranger, help me escape!”

The stranger replied, “Why?”

“I’ve been locked up in this castle to keep me safe from monsters. Will you protect me so that I can go out into the world?”

“Your aunts and uncles are stupid liars. They are just locking you up to be mean. You don’t need protection, just run away.”

Polly was hurt. “Don’t you call my aunts and uncles such names! They are protecting me and I’ve known them my whole life. Go away.”

Another stranger rode up.

“I hear you want to leave this place.”

Polly brightened. “Yes, I do, but I need someone to protect me from monsters.”

He replied,  “The probability of anyone actually being killed by a monster is really low. There are no monsters here anyway. You don’t really need any protection.”

Polly shivered. “Oh yes, I do need protection. My aunts and uncles have told me so.”

“Well, now. Don’t worry your little head. I’m really smart and I know that the likelihood of you getting hurt or killed by a monster is really, really low. You don’t need anyone to guide you.”

Polly decided to stay put.

So it went day after day. Some days no one came, other days many came by, but they each called her or her family names, or talked in complicated ways that Polly couldn’t understand.

Then one day, a man rode up. “I hear you want to leave this place.”

Polly sighed. “Not another one. Are you going to call me or my family names, or talk so complicated that I don’t understand?”

“I don’t think so. What are you afraid of?”

“Monsters. My aunts and uncles told me that they are hiding in closets everywhere. I want to leave, but I’m afraid.”

“Hmmmm. Why are you so afraid of monsters in the closet?”

Polly told her sad story.

“Well, I understand how you might be afraid. I studied about monsters and know a lot about them. I’ll keep you safe and teach you more while we go explore. My name is Dennis.”

“You will?! Let me go tell my aunts and uncles.”

The aunts and uncles were aghast. “Dennis came here? Oh, he’s a very bad man. You can’t trust Dennis.”

Polly sighed. “But he seemed so nice.”

“Oh, yes, he pretends to be. You can’t trust him—he’s in league with the monsters.”

Polly went back to Dennis. “My aunts and uncles tell me that I can’t trust you.”

Dennis thought for a minute. “Do you really want to leave this place?”

“Oh yes! But I’m afraid and I want to stay safe.”

“If I could prove that I’m speaking the truth, would that help?”

“Yes, it would.”

“Can you be a little brave?”

“Well, monsters really scare me.”

“I don’t want you to get hurt. Just go back to that very first closet and peek inside. Take a flashlight and take a really quick peek. If you see a monster, slam the door shut on his toes and run back to tell me. I believe that you will not see a monster. I think your aunts and uncles were mistaken.”

Polly took a deep breath and decided she would at least look. She got a flashlight and ran to the closet. Her aunts and uncles were all shouting that this was dangerous and bad. But Polly wanted the truth. She peeked into the closet with the flashlight and saw only dusty clothes from her childhood.

She threw the door open and turned to her aunts and uncles. “You LIED to me! There wasn’t a monster here.”

They all cried out, “But there could have been. We were protecting you! You should listen to us. Dennis was just lucky. There are monsters out there.”

Polly looked at them. “You might be right. But Dennis told me the truth about this closet. I want to talk to him some more and go see more of the wide world.”

With that, Polly left.

Polly and Dennis traveled the world and Polly learned all about monsters and closets and what could and couldn’t happen. And she lived happily ever after.

The moral of the story:  If you want to help someone understand, perhaps you should begin by understanding.

Illustrated by Susan Roberts

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Harding

Margaret Harding has almost 30 years of experience in the nuclear industry in technical design, licensing, and quality issues.  She worked for GE-Hitachi for 27 years with positions of increasing responsibility, leading to vice president of Engineering Quality. Two years ago, she left GE-Hitachi to start her own consulting business to help companies with business ventures in the nuclear industry. She is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Pretty Energy

By Suzy Hobbs Baker

I recently joined the latest social media phenomenon—“Pinterest”—after some good old-fashioned peer pressure from my pals. Basically it is an online scrapbook, where you can collect images from all over the Internet and organize or “pin” them under categories like “recipes to try” or “ideas for the garden” on your personal page. There is very little text and not much user-to-user interaction. You just browse thousands of images of party dresses, wedding ideas, art, or whatever you or other users have uploaded to the site. Essentially it’s a whole lot of eye candy.

This new forum is largely dominated by women, and has an overwhelming number of users, to the extent that there is currently a waiting list to join. Upon recognizing that this website is basically the “visual-Google-for-women,” I decided to do a little experiment to find out what nuclear-related images were on the site. Since every image has to be “pinned” from the web, I figured that whatever images I found on this site would be a pretty good visual representation of how women feel about nuclear power at this exact moment in time.

Well, what I found wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was downright bad:  Earless bunnies of Fukushima, atomic bomb explosion after atomic bomb explosion, and not a single image of a nuclear power plant. Not one. The closest thing I found that was even remotely positive regarding nuclear energy was this image:

For those who can’t read Spanish it says, “Nuclear Today, Solar Tomorrow.”  But hey, at least they are smiling and shaking hands.

So my next step, which I thought was going to bring up thousands of results, was to search for wind power. Surprisingly, only two images of wind turbines resulted, and I thought to myself, “Okay, maybe this just isn’t a forum where energy is a topic that people are thinking about.” But before I could rest assured, I did a quick search for “solar power” and stumbled into the archetypal female brain for all things solar energy. Put simply, women like solar energy. A lot. In fact, “solar power” yellow is a very popular color right now. You might even say that solar is en vogue with the ladies.

The common thread among all of the “solar power” search results is that they are small consumer items that you can use in your everyday life. They are all relatively inexpensive, cute, and easy to use. I get the distinct feeling that women’s experiences with “solar” products inform their broader beliefs about solar power. But what else are women thinking about energy issues?

According to the 2009 “Woman’s Survey on Energy and the Environment” by Women in Public Policy, the single largest concern among women is moving toward clean energy sources, trumping cost, reliability, and jobs. Women are the primary decision makers about household energy use, which is good, but they collectively have a lot of misconceptions about energy, which is not so good. Fifty-four percent of women think that nuclear energy releases CO2 and is a primary cause of climate change. Only 12 percent of women surveyed know that coal is the largest source of electrical generation in the United States. Basically, a lot of the ladies making decisions about energy at home do not have all the facts.

So, what can we do to solve this problem? First of all, we need to focus our outreach efforts specifically toward women. When we present information, we should take the time to gear it toward the specific concerns of our audience that we know to be reducing environmental impact. And we must make it visually appealing. Basically, make it pretty. Make it fun. If we can learn anything from Pinterest.com, it’s that ladies really like resources that are pretty, user friendly, and interactive. The best way to increase public support and overall use of nuclear energy is to appeal to women.

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Hobbs Baker

Suzy Hobbs Baker is the executive director of PopAtomic Studios, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the power of visual and liberal arts to enrich the discussion on nuclear energy. Hobbs Baker is an ANS member and a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe

Hall Talk Nov 1 – social media

Our intrepid reporter files another update from the ANS Winter Meeting.

By Dan Yurman

Social media session draws 55 nukes

Social media meet up poster

Getting the message out about nuclear energy using blogs, Twitter, and other forms of social media drew an enthusiastic crowd on Tuesday night, November 1. In a session co-sponsored by the American Nuclear Society, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and Areva, the group held a round table discussion about using social media tools to communicate with the public, thought and opinion leaders, and the news media.

It is not just the same online stuff you read about in USA Today. There are exciting new developments coming on tablets and real time interactive video on the web.

Curtis Roberts, who now leads the social media work for Areva in the United States, told the group, “We are committed to using social media to shape the conversation about nuclear energy.”

Jarrett Adams from Areva showed off a social media application for mobile devices that will be released soon and handed out a printed sheet of QR codes to help people access all forms of Areva’s social media online and sources of information via smart phones.

Eric McErlain, who is the senior manager at NEI for social media, said that the power of social media is in distributed networks of people who do not let anti-nuclear nonsense go unanswered.

“Use social media to get in there and make yourself heard,” McErlain said.

The round robin discussion that took place over the next 90 minutes covered a lot of topics. Here are a few highlights.

Lars Hanson, a member of the ANS social media listserv, raised the topic of commenting online when the mainstream media publishes articles that contain inaccurate information. Numerous suggestions were offered about how to use the comment fields effectively to get accurate information across about nuclear science and engineering topics.

Miriam Mazer, an intern at Fuel Cycle Week, said that as someone who is new to the industry, she sees a need for nukes to make the technical terminology accessible. Andrea Jennetta, the publisher at Fuel Cycle Week, said that “facts don’t always work because people are emotional about the risks of radiation exposure even when there is no risk.”

Margaret Harding, a former General Electric nuclear energy executive with more than three decades of experience in the area of nuclear fuels, suggested that people read the book Don’t Be Such a Scientist.

Here’s a clip from the book …

“In 1997, marine biologist Randy Olson recognized that scientists needed better communications skills to address a growing backlash against ‘rational data-based science.’ Inspired by the ‘power of video,’ Olson gave up a tenured professorship and went to Hollywood to reach a broader audience through filmmaking. The crucial lesson he learned was how to tell a good story, a largely absent concern for scientists, who focus on accuracy rather than audience engagement.”

Dave Pointer, the chairman of the ANS Public Information Committee, told the group that ANS plans to do more projects like the recent webinar with the NRC, which had an interactive component through the Internet.

Art Wharton, who is working on the new ANS Strategic Plan, said that the use of social media will continue to play a role in future society outreach to the public, the news media, and K-12 education.

This was the fourth social media meet up held at ANS national meetings.  The conversation continues online at the ANS social media listserv and the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog. For more information, contact Laura Scheele, ANS manager of Policy & Communication, via email:  lscheele [at] ans.org

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Yurman

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

 

The Rally for Vermont Yankee: At the Plant Gates During the Refueling Outage

By Meredith Angwin

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant is undergoing a refueling outage. For most plants, the situation would be business as usual.  The state of Vermont, however, believes it has the power to shut down Vermont Yankee in March 2012, even though the plant has a 20-year license extension from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In order to continue operations at Vermont Yankee, Entergy (the plant’s owner and operator) has sued the state.

In these uncertain circumstances, it was unclear whether or not Vermont Yankee would buy and load fuel in October. A decision to load fuel would mean that Entergy might lose tens of millions of dollars if the plant is actually shut down in March. Entergy’s other choice was closing the plant in October, which would mean job losses, rising electricity prices, and increased air pollution in Vermont.

The company made a choice to keep the plant running, even amidst uncertainty. Entergy is loading fuel right now at Vermont Yankee, which is a true vote of confidence in nuclear power!

Motivation for the Rally

We decided to show our support for Entergy’s decision and for all the workers at the refueling. Howard Shaffer and I planned a pro-nuclear rally that would take place right at the gates of the plant during shift change. We wanted the workers to see that people support them! Here’s a quote from the press release about the rally:

“The people working the outage will appreciate our support,” said co-organizer Howard Shaffer, coordinator of the Vermont Pilot Project of the American Nuclear Society. “We are grateful to Entergy for giving us permission to be at the Governor Hunt House for the rally.”

(The Governor Hunt House is right outside the gates of the plant. The last lieutenant governor of the independent Republic of Vermont built the house in 1789. Vermont Yankee owns the house, and uses it for some meetings and press conferences.)

Planning and Hoping

Howard and I planned thoroughly, as usual. We sent a press release. We sent e-mails to lists of people, inviting them to come. I put the rally on my blog and on the Save Vermont Yankee Facebook page. Howard sent a practical e-mail with directions to the plant and recommendations for dressing for the weather. He stressed the importance of wearing sturdy-soled shoes for standing on damp grass. We did everything we could to make the rally a success.

We had held a rally before, early in the morning of the first day of the Entergy/Vermont trial. At that rally, we had 25 people, a good showing, and reporters noted that both opponents and supporters of the plant were present. (I blogged about this rally at ANS Nuclear Cafe). We hoped to have an equally successful rally this time.

Going Viral

Instead, this rally  “went viral.” About 25 people had said they would come. Instead, there were about 60 people! People told their friends. People brought their kids. One man of 92 years came to support the plant.  (He is sitting on the bench in the photo.) One couple came down from Vermont’s Champlain Islands. A man who owns the local tavern came with his son. Among all these people, I met some who I had previously met only on Facebook, and I met their kids, too! Two documentary filmmakers interviewed Howard, and one interviewed me. The people at the plant were very happy, honking, and waving at us. “Nuke Roadie” (look up his Facebook page) was there and posted pictures of the rally on his page. The plant posted great pictures of the rally on the Vermont Yankee Facebook page.  (I include some of those pictures here, by permission.)

The people holding signs at the rally were happy and inspired. The people working at the plant were happy and inspired by our presence. The whole thing was a great deal of fun! Even the weather was perfect.

An article that appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer newspaper was very positive about the event.  Since the supporters came and went during the rally, however, the article stated there were thirty people. Actually, there were about twice that many.

Lessons Learned

What are some of the lessons learned from this rally? Well, the rally was yesterday, and we haven’t quite digested all the lessons yet, but here are some:

  • Organizations grow. Success at one rally helps build success at the next one. People tell their friends.
  • Afternoon rallies are better than rallies that start at 7:30 a.m., at least in terms of getting people to show up. (Yeah, this is obvious…)
  • Some rallies let people stand up for nuclear in a potentially confrontational situation (our first rally). On the other hand, sometimes it’s great just to be among friends!

This pro-nuclear rally was a great evening amongst friends!

We are grateful to everyone who attended. We are grateful to the workers who honked and waved at us and gave us thumbs-up signals. We are grateful to Entergy for allowing us onto their property, and providing the Governor Hunt House with snacks and coffee.

As one woman said as she was leaving the Governor Hunt House, “This was a real nice clambake, and we all had a real good time!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77yk703OncU

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.

ANS Special Committee on Fukushima focuses on communication

Samples from NRC Webcasts (First of a Series)

by E. Michael Blake

For a while in the early 1990s, my work at Nuclear News magazine included coverage of Washington, D.C.  Eight or ten times a year, I’d spend two or three days in our nation’s capital, attending congressional hearings, interviewing bigwigs, pestering agencies to give me copies of arcane documents, and frantically taking notes in public meetings at the headquarters of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Two decades later, much of that scurrying around is no longer necessary, in large part because many NRC meetings can be accessed by phone or internet.  This is fortunate, because in recent months the commissioners and staffers have held several public sessions of substantial importance, and this reporter has been able to watch them from his office as a normal workday activity (reducing both the cost to the American Nuclear Society and the travel-related aggravation of the reporter).

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2002

Many of the high-profile meetings this year have had to do with the NRC’s effort to learn from the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan, or with the first few new reactor projects to reach the brink of receiving combined construction and operating licenses (COL). Nuclear News does not have room, nor do its readers likely have time, for all of what goes on at all of these events.

Here at the ANS Nuclear Cafe, however, it may be possible from time to time to mention isolated moments that don’t make it through to detailed coverage in the magazine. Because Fukushima Daiichi and new reactors will remain important issues for quite a while, it seems safe to conclude that this sort of webcast sampling will become a series here on the blog. And so it begins:

Jaczko

• In an August 30 commission meeting on the development of inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria (ITAAC) for new power reactors, Chairman Gregory Jaczko stated early on that he had previously not looked closely at any ITAACs, and that he found the first one that he’d read carefully to be “surprisingly vague,” and that he didn’t think this “bodes well for our ability to work through these issues.”

Jaczko returned to the point often during the meeting. The ITAAC concerned the waterproof membranes and mudmats for the nuclear island foundations at Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s Vogtle-3 and -4; Jaczko asked whether the ITAAC’s statement—that the mudmat’s coefficient of friction will be tested—describes adequately what will be done by the applicant, how it would be examined by the NRC, and what would have to happen next if the goal is not met.

The chairman’s statements contrasted with the presentation of Laura Dudes, director of the division of construction inspection and operational programs in the agency’s Office of New Reactors, who said in her prepared remarks that ITAACs are a “good news story,” but later conceded (as did other speakers from the staff) that not all ITAACs thus far have been written as clearly and as objectively as perhaps they should have been; the staffers said that they’d work on this some more. Dudes did affirm, however, that every aspect of the work covered by an ITAAC would be inspected against the plant’s licensing basis, so there would not be an issue of the NRC not fulfilling its mission or allowing any unsafe practices to exist.

• Both the NRC and the Nuclear Energy Institute have recently referred to being guided, in their efforts to learn lessons from Fukushima Daiichi and to respond accordingly, by “living documents.” On the charter proposed for the NRC’s Long-Term Task Force on the accident in Japan, the staff told the commissioners in an August 26 paper that the charter would “live” in the sense that the staff would change it as needed, if information gleaned from the recovery of Fukushima Daiichi indicated that different lines of inquiry should be pursued. During a September 21 meeting with NRC staffers, industry representatives said that their own guidance document, titled The Way Forward, is intended to “live” as well, and for essentially the same reason: to keep open all options until after the damaged reactors have reached cold shutdown and more detailed examinations can be carried out by Japanese experts.

Apostolakis

• On September 14, the staff briefed the commissioners on the latter’s request for input on which of the recommendations from the Near-Term Task Force (NTTF) report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident should be acted upon without delay. One of the proposed actions is for information requests to be sent to current power reactor licensees to develop and carry out seismic and flooding walkdowns at their reactors. Commissioner George Apostolakis looked at the request for licensees to develop acceptance criteria for the process, and asked, “Don’t we know how to do walkdowns?” Martin Virgilio, NRC deputy executive director for reactor and preparedness programs, replied, “I would have thought so until I had a discussion with Jack Grobe,” a member of the NTTF. Because the walkdowns will be related to response to events beyond a reactor’s design basis, acceptance criteria must be developed and agreed upon by the licensee and the NRC, before these walkdowns can be carried out.

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Blake

E. Michael Blake is a senior editor of the American Nuclear Society’s Nuclear News magazine.