Category Archives: News

Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival 205

ferris wheel 202x201The 205th Carnival of Nuclear Energy has been posted at Atomic Power Review.  You can click here to access the latest post in a long running tradition among the top English language pro-nuclear bloggers and authors.

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.

Pioneering STURGIS will go to shipbreakers

by Will Davis

Nuclear barge STURGIS; photo from US Army Corps of Engineers.

Nuclear barge STURGIS; photo from US Army Corps of Engineers

Last week, we were reminded of a mostly forgotten but ambitious effort spanning the late 1950′s and 1960′s by the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the U.S. Army—to develop a versatile range of small nuclear power plants—when it was announced that CB&I had been awarded a contract to decommission the former Army nuclear power plant barge STURGIS.  While many have recently touted the Russian Akademik Lomonosov as the “first floating nuclear power plant,” the expected completion date for that plant in 2016 will put it almost exactly a half century later than the successful STURGIS.

The first glimpse of the concept for this floating power station came in the late 1950′s as the Army and the AEC worked to develop a wide range of small power plants (the Army’s range of nuclear plants was given an upper bound of 40 MWe) for stationary, portable or mobile applications.

The earliest concept for what became the STURGIS is seen in an illustration from the book "Army Nuclear Power Program," published by the Engineer School, Fort Belvoir, 1958.  Under "Possible Future Projects" is "Barge-mounted Plants," described thus:  "Another type of mobile plant which has been considered, would be mounted on a barge as shown in Figure 7 or on a mobile pier.  Such plants could be built to furnish large blocks of electric power for remote installations and for emergency use both overseas and in the United States."

The earliest concept for what became the STURGIS in an illustration from the book “Army Nuclear Power Program,” published by the Engineer School, Fort Belvoir, 1958. Under “Possible Future Projects” is “Barge-mounted Plants,” described thus: “Another type of mobile plant which has been considered, would be mounted on a barge as shown in Figure 7 or on a mobile pier. Such plants could be built to furnish large blocks of electric power for remote installations and for emergency use both overseas and in the United States.” (Will Davis collection)

Eventually it was decided to convert an existing ship.  The Martin Company, a subsidiary of the Martin-Marietta Corporation, was selected to build the 10 MWe pressurized water reactor plant for this project.  Martin had already been awarded the contracts for the small PWR plants used at Sundance Air Force Station, Wyoming (1.0 MWe and 2.0 MWt space heating) and at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica (1.5 MWe.)

Although STURGIS is often said to have been converted from a Liberty Ship (which originally was supposed to have been the SS Walter F. Perry, but ended up being the SS Charles)—in fact it was over one-third new; a brand new, and wider, midsection was inserted between the bow and stern of the Second World War vessel.

Erhard Koehler, an acknowledged expert on the nuclear powered merchant ship N.S. Savannah, and familiar with the STURGIS, elaborates on the construction of the new configuration.  “The midbody, which contains the nuclear plant, turbogenerators, control room, and superstructure were all newly built.  So although the STURGIS is often said to have been ‘converted from a Liberty Ship,’ that really isn’t quite true.  It may have been a necessary administrative fiction at the time.”  The new section also contained heavy concrete radiation shielding and collision protection for the power plant.

The powerplant was small, but conventional; it contained a 45 MWt pressurized water reactor which itself had a two-region core, and interestingly (for nuclear engineers, anyway) had boron poison added to its fuel cladding.  The core was designed to run one year before a fuel shuffle / reload (in which the 16 inner elements would be removed, the 16 outer elements moved to the inner positions, and 16 new elements added in the outer positions).  The plant had a single loop and a vertical steam generator, with two reactor coolant pumps.

The complicated construction process for the ship was begun in 1963 when the Cugle was pulled from the Maritime Administration’s reserve fleet; it ended with testing of the completed plant at the Army’s station at Fort Belvoir, Virginia (where its original SM-1 nuclear plant was constructed and where a large amount of training was also performed.)

STURGIS testing at Fort Belvoir.  US Army Corps of Engineers.

STURGIS testing at Fort Belvoir. US Army Corps of Engineers.

The STURGIS tested at Fort Belvoir for approximately one year, after which it was moved to the area of the Panama Canal, where it was more or less semi-permanently stationed at Gatun Lake for the purpose of delivering reliable, around the clock power to this vital resource.  Eventually the Panama Canal Company installed extra (non-nuclear) generating assets, rendering the STURGIS’ services unnecessary; in addition, the Army was getting out of nuclear power.  The plant was shut down for the last time in 1976, and the ship eventually made its way to the James River Reserve Fleet.  Koehler notes that after about 15 years, the languishing STURGIS was joined by the N.S. Savannah, which was tied to it.  STURGIS was occasionally moved to drydock as required for maintenance and upkeep—according to Koehler, most recently in late 2007 – early 2008.

“There are a couple interesting ties between STURGIS and SAVANNAH, not the least being the 12 years that they were literally tied to one another in the reserve fleet,” says Koehler, who also relates a little known and more serious relation the two have.  “When B&W (the reactor vendor for the SAVANNAH) declined to bid for the STURGIS contract, one of their lead engineers from the NSS project, Zelvin Levine, left B&W and went to the Martin Company.  Martin won the contract, and Zel was a senior project manager for the conversion.”  It’s interesting to note that when Oak Ridge National Laboratory was performing supportive analytical study of the nuclear characteristics of the core for the STURGIS’ power plant (officially designated as the MH-1A plant) its characteristics were similar enough to those of the reactor on SAVANNAH that much of the work was carried over.  However, it’s important to point out here that the two aren’t identical.

Erhard also notes that the N.S. Savannah Association, Inc. recently received from Zel Levine some papers “that include several preliminary and final  volumes from the STURGIS Safeguards Report,” which means that some of the ship’s documentation at least will survive.

STURGIS photographed on April 9, 2014 by Erhard Koehler.

STURGIS photographed on April 9, 2014 by Erhard Koehler.

Will any of the vessel itself survive?  Probably not much.  Koehler tells ANS, “The two steaming Liberty Ship museums (Jeremiah O’Brien in San Francisco and John W. Brown in Baltimore) have been given opportunities from the Army to salvage useful equipment from STURGIS during the project.  The Army Corps has a number of curatorial artifacts already removed and preserved.  They are in the process of consulting under the National Historic Preservation Act to determine any further mitigation actions that will be taken prior to the dismantlement.  However, at the moment it doesn’t appear that any other features of the ship are slated for preservation.  As an example, two nearly identical control rooms are already preserved; one at Fort Belvoir, so the STURGIS console may not be removed.”

STURGIS photographed by Erhard Koehler on April 10, 2014.

STURGIS photographed by Erhard Koehler on April 10, 2014.

Eventually, later this year, the STURGIS will make its way to Galveston, Texas, where the decommissioning of the power plant section will take place.  The ship’s power plant will be dismantled and disposed of in the same manner as commercial nuclear plants, with waste being shipped to approved disposal sites (which have not yet been determined).  Once this section has been removed the rest of the ship will be scrapped at Brownsville, Texas.  The Army Corps of Engineers estimates presently that the entire process “should take less than four years,” according to its announcement.  (There will be a public meeting in Galveston this summer to “provide more details and answer questions.”)  With the dismantling of the STURGIS, another vestige of a once-promising but now ever-vanishing program disappears, although as we’ve seen with the recent frenzy over the Russian floating plant, the concept is as sound today as it was a half century ago.

For more information:

Final Environmental Assessment – Decommissioning and Dismantling of STURGIS and MH-1A

Decommissioning and Dismantling of STURGIS – US Army Corps of Engineers.  This page has links to videos of the construction and testing of STURGIS.

Will Davis posted on the STURGIS on March 31 at Atomic Power Review.

World Nuclear News posted on the STURGIS on April 14.

CB&I Press Release on Contract Award for STURGIS decommissioning.

A view abeam of the STURGIS.  Photo by Erhard Koehler, April 9, 2014.

A view abeam of the STURGIS. Photo by Erhard Koehler, April 9, 2014.

WillDavisNewBioPicWill 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. 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, is secretary of the board of directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.

Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival 204

ferris wheel 202x201It’s time for the 204th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers and Authors – and this week, it’s hosted right here at the ANS Nuclear Cafe.  The best pro-nuclear authors and bloggers have lined up to submit their choices for this week’s compilation.

 

NEI Nuclear Notes – submitted by Eric McErlain

Why DOE Should Back SMR Development

Energy Northwest VP Dale Atkinson on why his company is pursuing SMR’s

NEI’s Ted Jones lists the top 5 reasons to support reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank – something critical for the US nuclear industry

FirstEnergy’s Tony Alexander doesn’t like what’s happening to the grid

Popular Mechanics just published an expose on Joe Mangano.  Are reporters listening?

NEI’s Tara Young watched the first episode of Showtime’s documentary series on climate change, but didn’t hear anything about energy solutions.

———-

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin

Predicting the 60 Minutes Fukushima Story: Guest post by James Greenidge

This guest post was written as a comment on another blog, shortly before the 60 Minutes ”third anniversary of Fukushima” television segment was broadcast.  In the post, Greenidge predicts that desolate towns and earthquake-induced natural gas fires will be featured on 60 Minutes.  Comparative background radiation levels will not be featured. Was he correct?

———-

AREVA North America Next Energy Blog

Nuclear Components Riding the Bull for Seismic Testing

As part of the response to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s post-Fukushima requirements, companies that operate nuclear energy facilities are re-evaluating the earthquake potential at their sites using the latest data and methodologies.  Surviving the up to 20 g bull ride atop AREVA’s 7-ton shake table is one way to test safety-related components, and help U.S. nuclear power facilities remain a safe, reliable and bountiful clean energy source of electricity to power America’s industry, hospitals and homes.

AREVA Inc’s Rencheck:  Nuclear Energy Crucial to New England

With our need for energy growing, not just during cold weather snaps, we need a reliable, diverse energy mix that prioritizes low-carbon energy sources to improve public health and reduce emissions.  Nuclear energy currently accounts for approximately 20 percent of U.S. electricity and 63.3 percent of emissions-free electricity.  Increased energy grid stability and reliability are some of the more well-known benefits of nuclear energy, but its positive contributions to public health are too often overlooked.

———-

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams

TMI Operators Took Actions They Were Trained to Take

This is a guest article by Michael Derivan who was the Davis Besse shift supervisor on September 24, 1977 when the plant experienced an event that was almost identical to the event that resulted in the TMI core melt accident. For the first 20 minutes, the Davis Besse plant and operator responses were almost identical to those at TMI. Then Derivan had an ah-ha moment and turned his event into an historic footnote instead of a multi-billion dollar accident.

In this lengthy, carefully explained piece, Derivan tells why his plant and his crew responded to a loss of feed water event in the same way that the TMI plant and crew responded 18 months later. He wonders why the lessons learned from his event were not shared with the TMI operators sometime during interval before their accident and why the subsequent investigations did not reveal the true root cause.

———-

ANS Nuclear Cafe

Kenya’s Studied Approach to a Nuclear Future

Will Davis takes a look at the program being developed by the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board, its history and its effort to have its core of nuclear engineers and experts educated overseas to seed the program in future years.

Small Modular Reactors – U.S. Capabilities and the Global Market

Rod Adams recently attended the Nuclear Energy Insider SMR conference, and at ANS Nuclear Cafe he reports on the events of the second day of that conference which focused on information for those interested in developing a market for such plants outside the U.S.

A Pyrrhic Victory In Vermont for Nuclear Power?

Howard Shaffer continues the long-standing ANS Nuclear Cafe coverage on events surrounding the Vermont Yankee plant with this piece which describes the recent Vermont Public Service Board’s issuance of a Certificate of Public Good for the plant.  Important facts for nuclear advocates – as well as great motivation – can be found in this article.

———-

The Hiroshima Syndrome – Les Corrice

Arnie Gundersen’s Fukushima hot particle myth

Arnie Gundersen is making a concerted effort to have the world think that hot particles also come from nuke plants, especially Fukushima Daiichi. His latest “evidence” comes from a professional civil engineer in Massachusetts who has been trying for three years to use this contrived hot particle notion as a basis for getting a PhD…without success. Further, Gundersen makes one of the most convoluted conspiracy theory claims to yet come out of the Fukushima realm of distorted journalism.

———-

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

Here are details on the General Atomics (GA) Energy Multiplier Module
(EM²) reactor.

GA is innovating new materials, getting the efficiency way up,
simplifying the design and getting the cost into the competitive
range.

GA is developing a Brayton cycle to convert heat to electricity at 53%
versus 28 to 34 percent for regular steam turbines. In a four-module
plant (1.06GW), one point of efficiency is worth a billion dollars in
revenue over the life of the plant. 53% efficiency means $19 billion
dollars more than a 34% efficient plant.

GA’s design is a 265-megawatt (electric) sized reactor, with a fuel
cycle lifetime of 30-plus years.

General Fusion

Possibly later this year, General Fusion will begin work on a
full-size prototype reactor. At the center will be a sphere, three
meters in diameter, inside which molten lead swirls at high speed
creating a vacuum, or vortex, in the middle. Arrayed around it will be
200 to 300 pistons, each the size of a cannon. Firing in perfect
harmony, they will create an acoustic wave that collapses the vortex
at the very moment a plasma injector shoots hydrogen isotopes, the
nuclear fuel, into it. If General Fusion has its physics right, the
heat and pressure will ignite a fusion reaction that spins off
countless neutrons which will heat the lead even more. Pumped through
a heat exchanger, that hot lead will help generate steam just like a
conventional thermal power plant.

HTR-PM High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor

The pouring of concrete for the basemat of the first HTR-PM unit – a
demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor – at Shidaowan in
China’s Shandong province was recently completed. Another 19 of the
small modular reactors could follow.

HTR-PM are modular reactors that will be mainly factory mass-produced.
The first one is taking 5 years to make. The reactor module will head
towards about two years to build when they are making them by the
dozen.

The demonstration plant’s twin HTR-PM units will drive a single 210
MWe turbine. It is expected to begin operating around 2017. Eighteen
further units are proposed for the Shidaowan site, near Rongcheng in
Weihai city.

———-

Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcus

External Hazards at Nuclear Power Plants: A New Study

Gail Marcus describes a recent IAEA study on the risks of external events at nuclear power plants.  She summarizes the major findings of the report, and notes that, in many cases, corrective actions have already been taken to address some of the plant vulnerabilities.

———-

That’s it for this week’s entries.  Thank you to all of our authors and to those who selected pieces for submission!

 

Kenya’s Studied Approach to a Nuclear Future

by Will Davis

There has been an increasing amount of press lately about the growing number of nations on the African continent interested in exploring the benefits of nuclear energy. South Africa has led the way in this realm, having had operational nuclear power for many years. Kenya plans to follow next.

Kenya-Nuclear-Electricity-BoardInterest in nuclear energy in Kenya began to take formal shape in 2010 with the formation of the Nuclear Electricity Project Committee (NEPC) whose purpose was to fast-track the development of nuclear power in Kenya.  NEPC also launched a modern and well-thought-out public information campaign using the internet and social media. In 2012, NEPC became the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB), which is a statutory body taking the next steps in developing not only nuclear energy but also an independent regulatory body. The excellent communications of the previous NEPC have been expanded and improved by KNEB, so that the public is educated about the benefits and technical demands of nuclear energy. In the establishment of its program, Kenya is proceeding in accord with the general International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines on the development of nuclear energy.

In pursuit of its goal, Kenya has sent a number of highly qualified students to study nuclear engineering at Korea Electric Power Company’s KEPCO International Nuclear Graduate School (KINGS), located in the Kori nuclear power complex in South Korea. Kenya has recognized the challenge of training people in its own country, which has yet to establish a nuclear regulator or industry, and has sent students to a number of places around the globe as a key element of the establishment of a nuclear industry.

Why nuclear for Kenya?

Data at the KNEB site tells us that not only Kenya’s but Africa’s overall power demand is increasing, and expected to continue to do so. Kenya, for example, expects that its sweeping, nation-wide power modernization program will enable rapid growth to a level of perhaps just under 17,000 MWe by 2031. To meet the growing demand, Kenya hopes to have its first 1000-MWe nuclear unit online around 2022, with additional units in 2026, 2029, and finally in 2031. KNEB’s site also illuminates a greater benefit: ”It is further noted,” the site observes, “that the introduction of nuclear electricity into the grid is justified by the growing demand for huge power within the Eastern Africa Power Pool (EAPP) whose objective is to create a common market for power in the East African region.”

And as to why the nation is pushing so aggressively with nuclear—well, let’s just check the KNEB’s website, because its writing is eloquent:

SKoreaNuclear“Nuclear energy is the best way to produce safe, clean, reliable base load (at a constant supply) energy. Both nuclear and other renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar, and geothermal plants could play a major role, as the reduction of carbon emissions becomes a higher priority.

The problem is that no ‘renewable’ source has been demonstrated to have the capacity to provide the ‘base-load’ amounts of power needed to replace large fossil fuel plants. Wind power, for example, may be an excellent choice for sparsely populated rural economies, particularly if they lack modern electrical infrastructure; on the other hand, it seems unlikely that wind power will be able to support the electricity needs of tomorrow’s mega-cities.”

Kenya has decided on a stable power supply—one that also boosts local economies, encourages (and indeed demands) a rigorous educational establishment, and that can drive economies and ensure stability.

First, train—then, build

Recently, ANS Nuclear Cafe had the chance to ask Joe Mwangi, technical officer for the KNEB and presently a student at KINGS, some questions about a recent announcement of graduation ceremonies from KINGS that included some Kenyan students, as well as about other aspects of the program that provide some insight.

ANS Nuclear Cafe: Can you tell us about the recent graduations from KINGS?

Mwangi: Since KINGS is a new school, the recent graduation was a first-of-its-kind event that happened at the school, after the first group of students were trained for two years, and there were six graduates from Kenya. KINGS admission requires that applicants are working in energy-related fields in their respective countries, and hence the Kenyans came from Kengen (utility), Kenya Power (distribution), Radiation Protection Board (radioactive waste regulator)two graduates from each company. The Kenyan group members have undergraduate qualification in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and physics.

ANS Nuclear Cafe: What has the experience at KINGS been like for you so far?

Mwangi: My personal experience at KINGS has been great, starting from my first yearcurrently I’m in year two. I have gained knowledge on system engineering, nuclear power plant (NPP) systems, NPP technology, fundamentals in NPP engineering, and deployment. As such, this will give me a variety of options during my second year in selecting projects and management courses that will give me a hands-on experience in the field of nuclear power.

ANS Nuclear Cafe: What is KNEB’s long-term commitment to using KINGS in the future?

Mwangi: KNEB’s commitment with KINGS is to train about 100 nuclear engineers, since they comprise about 5 percent of the work force in a nuclear plant, and also in the setting up of an expert work force in the regulator (a bill is being drafted to set up one). There are plans to offer technical training in other fields to diversify the work force.

ANS Nuclear Cafe: Does attendance at KINGS also include hands-on experience at the adjacent nuclear power station?

Mwangi: KINGS has established nuclear power plant (APR1400) simulators in which students get training, but in terms of hands-on experience at the local NPPs, they’re given tours to understand various projects that are undertaken in construction and planning of such NPPs. Also visits to radioactive waste management facilities are undertaken, together with national energy generating facilities other than nuclear.

ANS Nuclear Cafe: What convinced KNEB to use KINGS as an educational institution to help launch Kenya’s nuclear energy program?

Mwangi: Kenya and the Republic of Korea have had a long-term relationship and hence this was a way of commitment by both states in strengthening their partnership. There are also various international member states with whom MoUs (memoranda of understanding) are being considered as a way of diversifying avenues in collaborating on Kenya’s nuclear power program.

What’s next?

KNEB has established review teams to study other nations’ nuclear regulators, and is proceeding with complete cooperation from the IAEA. Its goal is to develop both robust legislation covering the operation and regulation of nuclear energy, and (as we’ve seen) to begin to bring home the newest, best nuclear trained talent in the world to give birth to its nuclear energy future. As the program develops, ANS Nuclear Cafe will keep abreast of developments and report on them occasionally and when important developments occur.

THANKS to the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board, and to Joe Mwangi in particular for making this article possible.

———-

For more information:

Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board website

IAEA E-learning for establishment of new nuclear power programs

___________________________

WillDavisNewBioPicWill 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. 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, is secretary of the board of directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.

 

 

Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival 202

ferris wheel 202x201The 202nd Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival has been posted at Next Big Future.  You can click here to see this latest installment in a long running tradition among the top English language pro-nuclear bloggers and authors.

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, 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.

Nuclear Matinee: How It’s Made—Spent Nuclear Fuel Containers

This excerpt from the Discovery Channel’s How It’s Made series documents the making of a spent nuclear fuel container.

It might be a little dry, but if so that’s still OK—it’s for dry cask storage after all.

Thanks to How It’s Made Youtube for sharing this video

spent fuel 306x201

Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival 201

ferris wheel 202x201The 201st Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival has been posted at The Hiroshima Syndrome.  You can click here to see the latest installment in a long running tradition among the top English language pro-nuclear bloggers and authors.

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, 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.

Eisenhower’s Atomic Power for Peace III: CAP and Power Demonstration Reactors

Hallam Nuclear Power Facility; part of Sheldon Station.

Hallam Nuclear Power Facility; part of Sheldon Station.

By Will Davis

In our previous installment we looked at the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Five Year Plan for development of commercial nuclear power in the United States. In this final installment, we’ll look at two programs that were initiated in the mid-1950s to help launch the era of construction of commercial power reactors—the Civilian Application Program, and the Power Demonstration Reactor Program.

CAPphotoA1CAP—Civilian Application Program

Through the mid-1950s, there was quite simply no way to get information that was developed within the defense complex/AEC with a restricted classification into the hands of any person or entity who wished to use it for the development of peaceful atomic energy. This changed when the Civilian Application Program was initiated in early 1956. A Westinghouse Bettis letter says it best: “The Civilian Application Program (CAP), established in accordance with the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, was designed to encourage the entry of private enterprise into atomic energy development”—a direct interpretation of Eisenhower’s vision, and as we’ve seen already supported by industry that wished to enter and investigate the field for profit.

In May 1956, Bettis (Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory, operated for the AEC by Westinghouse) put out a summary explanation for the CAP and what it entailed. Its introduction offers more insight into the CAP and its intent. To wit:

“To encourage the entry of private enterprise into atomic energy development, the Atomic Energy Commission on February 4, 1956, made effective a regulation entitled, “Access to Restricted Data.  Under this program, known as the Civilian Application Program (CAP), business firms and individuals may gain access to certain categories of Confidential and Secret Restricted data relating to civilian uses of atomic energy. It represents a deliberate, determined attempt by the AEC to avoid further extension of Government ownership and operation of facilities and to encourage the entrance of private investment into the field of atomic energy.”

CAPphotoB1As might be imagined, this opportunity led to a mountain of paperwork for interested parties, and a large number of questions. AEC published a wealth of informative data (shown variously on this page) to support those who wished access to information. Specifically excluded from any access whatsoever was design and operational information that was specific to, or peculiar to, naval nuclear power plants, as well as some other areas of particularly sensitive information. A complete description of the types of information that were available to those with proper permitting fills several pages of the guide quoted above.

One might imagine that companies had to get further security clearance for their employees who would be handling such informationand one would be correct. The AEC publication “Suggestions for Security Plans of Access Permit Holders” sheds light on this aspect:

“One of the principal objectives of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 is to encourage American industry to take an active part in the development of the civilian uses of atomic energy. In order to facilitate the discharge of its regulatory responsibilities in this regard, the Atomic Energy Commission established a Division of Civilian Application. Regulations governing access to Restricted Data (10 CFR Part 25) and the safeguarding of Restricted Data (10 CFR Part 95), by persons engaged in such uses, have been published in the Federal Register.

Pursuant to 10 CFR Part 25, the Division of Civilian Application issues access permits to those individuals and organizations that have a potential use or need for Restricted Data in the development of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. The approval of such a permit is merely a preliminary measure and does not grant access to Restricted Data. In order to obtain Restricted Data, appropriate personnel security clearances must be obtained for those who will require access to such information, and in addition, a facility clearance (i.e., clearance of premises) is required if the access permit holder is to receive and store Restricted Data. It is therefore incumbent on the permittee who desires access to Restricted Data to properly submit his request for clearance to the Atomic Energy Commission office administering his permit. (The identity of this office is indicated in the letter transmitting the permit.)”

The utility of such information, obtained by the AEC over a decade of work, is obviousmuch work had been done, many reactors had been built, and much information learned. The CAP opened up a great deal of this work to civilian firms that now only had to meet the CAP requirements to obtain it, instead of investing millions of dollars to essentially reinvent the wheel.

Power demonstration reactors

Still, even with the progress to clear civilian firms to obtain and use classified information, there was felt to be a need to spur the development of different kinds of nuclear plants (as was clearly shown in my previous post on this topic).

To this end, the AEC announced in early 1955 its Power Demonstration Reactor Program. The AEC update on its five-year plan, found in the Atoms for Peace Handbook, notes this development thus:

“It is the Commission’s intent to stimulate outside groups to undertake developmental or demonstration power reactor projects with financing of the type normal to the particular group’s activities. This policy is implemented by the Commission’s power demonstration reactor program. This program was announced on January 10, 1955, along with announcement of availability of a schedule of prices for materials and services controlled by the Commission.”

The AEC most certainly did not want to fund entire projects, and did not. Instead, it assisted in various ways and didn’t pay for cost excesses. The report continues:

“Reactor projects resulting from the power demonstration reactor program are to have primary technical and financial responsibility rested in the industrial group making the proposal. The Commission’s financial contribution, if any, will be fixed in amount as the project is approved and overruns in cost must be borne by the industrial organization. In its invitation to industry to develop, construct, and operate these demonstration power reactor plants, the Commission stated that it would consider offering certain assistance including the following:

1. Waiving of fuel charges for loan of source and special nuclear material for fuel for a period up to 7 years.

2. Purchase by Government of special nuclear materials produced.

3. Performing research and development in Commission facilities.

4. Support of research and development in non-Commission facilities.”

As we can clearly see, the Government did not pay for the first round of power reactors. These were privately financed with assistance rendered by the AEC as listed above, with any overrun in cost being the responsibility of the owner-operator and not of the AEC.

Three reactors were built under the first round of the programall well-known early nuclear plants. These were Atomic Electric’s Westinghouse pressurized water reactor at Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Rowe, Massachusetts; Atomic Power Development Associates’ sodium cooled plant known as Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant near Monroe, Michigan; and the Hallam Nuclear Power Facility adjoined to a coal-fired plant and constituting part of Sheldon Station in Nebraska.

The AEC announced another round of this program later in 1955; this round solicited applications for small nuclear plants, of advanced types, by cooperatives or rural power companies. According to the Atomic Energy Deskbook, applications were received but contract negotiations revealed numerous problems, to the extent that the entire provisions for this round had to be revised. Under the second round with the new AEC provisions, “The AEC owns the reactor, bears related research and development costs, and bears the cost of fabricating the first core. The utility owns the electrical portion of the plant and operates the complete facility.” In other words, the second round essentially duplicated the arrangement first used at the pioneering Shippingport Atomic Power Station.

Elk River Station - "America's first rural atomic power plant."  Owned by Rural Cooperative Power Association; built under second round of AEC demonstration program.

Elk River Station – “America’s first rural atomic power plant.” Owned by Rural Cooperative Power Association; built under second round of AEC demonstration program.

The second AEC round of power demonstration reactors included Elk River in Minnesota (seen above), which was an ACF, later Allis-Chalmers indirect cycle boiling water reactor hooked on to a previously constructed coal-fired plant, with interposed superheater fired on pulverized coal; the Piqua Nuclear Power Facility, an Atomics International organic moderated and cooled reactor hooked on to the original Piqua, Ohio, powerhouse; and the Boiling Nuclear Superheat reactor or BONUS, a General Nuclear Engineering Co., later Combustion Engineering BWR with integral nuclear superheat, constructed at Punta Higuera, Puerto Rico.  Later on, a fourth plant, Dairyland Power Cooperative’s Genoa No. 2 plant in Wisconsin (most often known in the nuclear world as the LaCrosse BWR), which was an Allis-Chalmers BWR, was added in to the program under the terms of the second round when two of the original financiers dropped out of a prospective program and the AEC worked the project in after the second round had otherwise been set.

The announcement of the third and final round of the program came in 1957. The program’s terms reverted to being identical to those of the first round but which encouraged the construction of more advanced reactor types. This round resulted in the Carolinas-Virginia Tube Reactor, a Westinghouse HPWR hooked on to an existing power plant at Parr, S.C.; Big Rock Point, a GE BWR; Pathfinder, an Allis-Chalmers BWR with integral nuclear superheat (comparable in concept generally to BONUS of the second round); and a final concept originally known just as the HTGR or High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor, which was completed almost a decade later as Peach Bottom Atomic Power Plant, a General Atomics HTGR located in Pennsylvania.

This closes our examination of the Atoms for Peace initiative. We’ve seen how the initial vision of getting private industry involved in the design and construction of commercial nuclear plants evolved from mere concept to actual nuclear plants in about as simple a way as is possible to present; much more detail is of course available on each and every step along the way, but the process is important to understand generally. I would like to dedicate this series of articles to the many thousands of men and women who worked through the events portrayed here in the development of civil nuclear power, whose efforts today have begun to dim in the collective memory but not in the mutual beneficial effect.

Documents pertaining to CAP and material controls included in files of Sylvania-Corning Nuclear (SYLCOR) now in Will Davis' library.  These include periodic AEC Contractor Bulletins, the AEC Industrial Security Manual (and supplement) and various AEC guides.  Provisions of the CAP were so extensive that SYLCOR had to revise and reissue its security manual in 1956.

Documents pertaining to CAP and material controls included in files of Sylvania-Corning Nuclear Corp. (SYLCOR). These include periodic AEC Contractor Bulletins, the AEC Industrial Security Manual (and supplement) and various AEC guides. Provisions of the CAP were so extensive that SYLCOR had to revise and reissue its security manual in 1956.

———-

Sources for this article include the following:

ATOMS FOR PEACE MANUAL—A Compilation of Official Materials on International Cooperation for Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. 84th Congress, 1st Session, Document No. 55. July 1955 US Government Printing Office.

THE ATOMIC ENERGY DESKBOOK. John F. Hogerton. Reinhold Publishing, New York 1963.

Various AEC publications as shown in the article.

Illustrations are entirely from Will Davis’ personal collection, or show documents in his collection.

———-

For more information:

Several of the pioneering plants mentioned above are described in detail in an earlier ANS Nuclear Cafe post by the same author.

———-

WillDavisNewBioPicWill 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. 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, is secretary of the board of directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.

Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival 200

ferris wheel 202x201The 200th Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival has been posted at Atomic Power Review.  You can click here to see the latest installment in a long running tradition among the top English language pro-nuclear bloggers and authors.

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, 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.

Fukushima Three Years Later

KashiwazakiKariwa

Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Station; Units 6 and 7 were submitted for safety screening in September 2013.

By Will Davis

In our collective memory, disturbing images played out on video around the world in the days following the apocalyptic Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami have somewhat receded, even if they haven’t lost their impact—images of rushing waters, floating vehicles, buildings and debris, massive (and unstoppable) outbreaks of fire, and implications of lives lost and lives ruined.

Peculiar among these images, however, are those refreshed by their association with the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station; peculiar because people remain out of their homes, because the cleanup at the plant has been protracted and troublesome and failure-prone, peculiar because a seemingly insidious enemy of people and life—ionizing radiation—is completely invisible in our images and films, quite unlike the rushing and thundering waters.

Indeed, what is not seen can be frightening, and what is not known can be daunting; what is happening is that the public, both evacuated Fukushima refugees and other peoples around the world, are beginning to grasp the realities of the present in addition to focusing on the days of the tsunami, the nuclear accident, and the evacuation—and the world is starting to respond.

The plant

In the past several months, the story at Fukushima Daiichi has had one parallel with the original disaster—the problem, quite plainly, is water. Lots of water. Millions of gallons of it, coming onto the site at a rate of several hundred tons per day, in the form of runoff and precipitation, and millions of gallons of water that have been used to cool the damaged reactor cores at Units 1, 2, and 3. This water is being both cleaned up and stored in a dizzying array of onsite tanks, and unfortunately occasionally is escaping out of the nuclear plant buildings and tanks and into places onsite where it should not be.

Personnel patrols among the giant, fabricated tanks now beginning to fill the entire hillside behind the nuclear plant (the shore side) have been stepped up to ensure tanks that overflow do not continue to; however, exposure rates can be high in areas around these tanks and failures have been missed. The news continues to be of struggles with these systems, and with those systems purifying the water.

What has received less press has been occasions of positive news—perhaps foremost of which is the continued, methodical removal of fuel elements from the spent fuel pool at Unit 4. As of now, 462 of the 1533 fuel elements stored there have been moved safely to the site’s common fuel pool. None of the dire predictions made by numerous anti-nuclear prognosticators concerning this spent fuel pool and its contents have come to pass, and TEPCO’s continued methodical removal of the elements emphasizes the fact that nuclear energy is a practice of procedure, of care, of attention to detail, and that this environment does indeed exist at the Fukushima Daiichi site.

Progress is in fact taking place on the water issues as well; the plant site is fairly well sealed from the harbor, and the harbor from the ocean. The mechanisms behind the spread of contaminated water around the site are known and preparations are underway to stop it using means both tried and new. The TEPCO video below demonstrates just one of the “small victories” that can be checked off in the massive effort to first contain the water and then decommission the nuclear plants.

The actual moment-to-moment actions that were taken during the progression of the accident—indeed, even the natural events such as the exact timing of the arrival of the first tsunami wave—continue to be debated, questioned, and analyzed by expert panels worldwide. Just this week, an analysis was released by the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, backing up the theory that the earthquake itself did no critical plant damage, and that the tsunami was the triggering event for the accident. This theory is espoused by a large number of experts and was backed up by evidence presented at the American Nuclear Society’s 2013 Fukushima Daiichi embedded topical meeting in November.

Questions about the operation of the isolation condenser systems at Unit 1, and the high pressure core injection system at the other units, remain at the forefront of discussion, as does the question of containment venting. Only the full decommissioning and teardown of the nuclear plants, piece by piece, will finally yield all the answers about what happened and when. For now what matters is preventing anything like it from happening again—anywhere.

Hokuriku Electric Power Company's Tomari Nuclear Station.

Hokuriku Electric Power Company’s Tomari Nuclear Station.

Prevention—machines and manpower

An approach to prevention underway in Japan is similar to that of the United States in one respect; it is recognized that preparation for cataclysmic events that could cause interactions among nuclear units on the same site is of utmost importance (e.g., a hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 stopped efforts for a time at all other units). To that end, Japanese nuclear plant owners and the Nuclear Energy Institute in the United States recognize that a massive array of stand-by generating trucks (for electric power), fire engines (for water pumping) and other vehicles, as well as personnel and the ability to get all of this to a plant site in short order are necessary developments. And the progress to this end is remarkable in both countries.

In Japan, there is a growing desire to get nuclear plants restarted so that they can provide energy at far lower cost than the fossil fuels that are now being imported. However, no nuclear plants can be started back up until they’ve passed new safety inspections mandated by the new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in Japan. Not surprisingly, the plants at which the most upgrade work has been completed are those that have already applied to restart. Seventeen units have applied as of now—see the NRA graphic below.

NRAplantrestartappsMarch2014

The efforts underway to allow restart are well known; this link details the work done at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s giant Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant and at Chubu Electric Power Company’s Hamaoka plant. Since that article was written, the containment vent filters have been delivered to and installed at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Units 6 and 7. Other plant owners have begun to take steps as well, including Hokkaido Electric Power Company at its three-unit Tomari Nuclear Station, as seen in the graphics below excerpted from an official company report.

HEPCOTomariPlan1HEPCOTomariPlan2

The steps above concerning plant additions to adapt to use of portable power and water supplies, in addition to the mobile supplies themselves, are typical of provisions being made throughout the country.

In the United States, similar work is also in process and showing real progress. By the end of this year, two regional centers, each with five full sets of mobile backup emergency equipment, will be opened. This backs up equipment already bought by and stationed near the nuclear plants themselves; NEI informs us that 20 nuclear plants will complete their FLEX preparations by the third quarter of 2014 in the area of mobile electric power. Twenty plants will also have installed spent fuel pool water level monitoring equipment. Already completed are plant-specific seismic walkdowns and flooding walkdowns; actions resulting from these are all forthcoming. In all, over 1500 pieces of equipment (such as generator trucks and water pump trucks) have been purchased for this FLEX effort, or are on order. NEI reports that all FLEX modifications at all nuclear plants in the United States will be complete by 2016.

In Japan, it’s expected that at some plants the modifications and provision of equipment will occur much sooner so that plants can be restarted in the near-term. The NRA has recently bolstered its staff significantly after having merged in an outside professional organization, and with the help of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, the safety reviews (delineated in the table above) are now well underway. However, it may not in fact be the final safety reviews that hold up restarts. For example, TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is assumed in TEPCO’s business plan to restart after July this year, but a revisit of the seismic conditions under the plant may take as much as six months by itself. This would push the safety review out at least that long; further, TEPCO may not finish all of the physical upgrades by July either. In a similar fashion, some of the other operators may not complete some large construction projects such as seawalls by summer. What’s important to realize is that operators now have safety squarely in mind, and not only do not wish to attempt to restart until it’s nearly assured as possible, but cannot do so anyway without NRA approval.

Public 0pinion shifting, people moving

According to a recent Kyodo News poll, 37 local governments in Japan (out of 156 total) would today allow restarts of nuclear plants when the NRA safety checks are passed. This is a surprise, given a continuous flood of negative press covering anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan. This follows the election of a government in Tokyo that is, at the very least, not anti-nuclear, and of course the exploits of Prime Minister Abe who is pushing for the restart of nuclear plants. Abe is also pushing to repatriate displaced families back to areas where safe return is assured.

As reported by NHK World, Abe visited Fukushima Prefecture last week, and held a meeting with persons displaced from Miyajoki District who will be allowed to return home April 1. This step is the first in the real recovery of Fukushima; the “real recovery” isn’t just about the nuclear plant, and “Fukushima” isn’t a nuclear plant, but a giant prefecture that was and again will be the home to many thousands of people, and the site of farms and villages and fishing ports—just as it was before March 2011. Prime Minister Abe was quoted as saying that the recovery of Japan cannot begin until the recovery of Fukushima is underway, and the progress seen so far as well as the ongoing efforts to ensure future nuclear safety (and thus reliable energy supply, safe living, commerce, and prosperity) are absolute sign posts on the road to a recovery that we all know is coming, and we can just see dawning on the horizon.

For more information:

NEI has very recently published a new resource entitled “Fukushima Daiichi Recovery:  The Facts,” which addresses many issues both in Japan and the US

Utilities Service Alliance: USA Fukushima team ensuring plants can respond

Events and Highlights on the progress related to recovery operations at Fukushima Daiichi NPS. IAEA February 2014.

Events and Highlights on the progress related to recovery operations at Fukushima Daiichi NPS. IAEA March 2014.

(Above two links contain information provided to International Atomic Energy Agency by the Japanese government.)

OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency: Accident Management Insights after the Fukushima Daiichi NPP Accident

June 2012 TEPCO handout on tsunami protection, other measures being installed at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa

Kyushu Electric Power Company – Initiatives for Ensuring Safety in Nuclear Power Stations. (Sendai NPP and Genkai NPP)

Kyushu Electric Power Company – Application for compatibility check to New Regulatory Requirements (Sendai NPP and Genkai NPP)

______________________________________

WillDavisNewBioPicWill 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. 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, is secretary of the board of directors of PopAtomic Studios, and writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy reactor operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants. 

Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival 199

ferris wheel 202x201ANS Nuclear Cafe is proud to host the 199th edition of the Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival – a long standing tradition among the top English-language pro-nuclear bloggers and authors.  The top news and views of the week appear in a rotating fashion each week at one of the top pro-nuclear blogs.  With that, let’s get to the entries from this week.

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams

Smoking Gun – Antinuclear Talking Points Coined by Coal Interests

Some of the earliest documented instances of opposition to the development of commercial nuclear power in the United States originated from designated representatives of the coal industry. They were the first people to mount sustained opposition to the use of taxpayer money to support the development of nuclear power stations.

They testified against the implied subsidy associated with nuclear fuel leasing and complained about the value credited to commercial plant operators for the plutonium produced during operation, even though that material was locked up inside used fuel rods. They were the first people to label the Price-Anderson nuclear liability limitations as a subsidy.

———-

Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcus

Energy Diversity – A Discussion on Capital Hill

At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus reports that she participated in a session on Capitol Hill on the subject of energy diversity, along with Dr. Pete Lyons, the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.  The meeting was cohosted by the Global America Business Institute (GABI) and the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI).  Lee Terry, a Congressman from Nebraska and Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power, opened the proceedings.  He pointed out that his committee dealt with all forms of energy and he was convinced we needed them all.  Dr. Lyons provided an overview of the work of his office, and Gail covered some of the unique contributions that nuclear energy makes.  Gail also quoted a recent talk by Prof. Richard Lester, Chairman of the MIT Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering that also explained how nuclear energy contributes to assuring a secure and adequate energy supply to meet present and future needs.

———-

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin

Decommissioning, Governor Shumlin, and Dry Cask Storage

At Yes Vermont Yankee, Meredith Angwin defends her assertion that the Vermont state government is finally learning about nuclear energy.  She discusses Entergy’s decision to use SAFSTOR, Governor Shulin’s odd timelines, and more.

(Meredith also nominated her own post this week at ANS Nuclear Cafe which also covers the Vermont Yankee situation – a nomination we agree with!)

Moving Forward and Living Well

At ANS Nuclear Cafe, Meredith Angwin analyzed the probable future choices for people who currently work at Vermont Yankee.  Younger, nuclear-trained people should have an easy time of the transition when the plant closes.  They will simply move away.  For others, the transition may be much harder.

———-

The Hiroshima Syndrome – Les Corrice

Les Corrice covers the February 28th PBS report “Inside the slow and dangerous cleanup of the Fukushima nuclear crisis,” showing it to be nothing more than the worst kind of fearmongering.  The obvious intent of the special, according to Corrice, is to scare and upset viewers with exaggeration, innuendo and thinly-veiled conspiracy theories, all predicated upon fostering fear, uncertainty and doubt.

Corrice also looks at what might have happened had Naoto Kan not been inserted into the decision-making process for venting the containments at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station.  Corrice’s assessment is that there may not have been hydrogen gas explosions, no evacuation and shorter recovery time.

———-

Forbes – Jim Conca

WIPP is Still the Best and Only Choice for Nuclear Waste

The only operating deep underground geologic nuclear waste repository had its first minor accident on Valentine’s Day.  The amount of radiation released into the environment was a million times less than any EPA action levels, but to hear the outcry you’d think it was Chernobyl.

———-

NewsOK Energy Issues – Robert Bruce Hayes

WIPP Radioactivity Release

Robert Bruce Hayes has, as stated in this article, “been at the WIPP site almost every day after the event.”  Hayes feels that statements from someone who is there are vital; he provides perspective and in addition opens up for questions.

———-

Atomic Power Review – Will Davis

More Nuclear Energy for Mexico?

In a brief post, Davis observes that a recent Korean press piece on KEPCO energy exports has surprisingly revealed Mexico’s revitalized plan to greatly increase the percentage of energy it generates by nuclear fission.

———-

Next Big Future – Brian Wang

China wants to export nuclear plants

South China Morning Post reports that Beijing-based State Nuclear
plans to start construction of the first CAP1400 demonstration reactor
in Shidaowan, Shandong province, this year and commission it in late
2018, according to Xinhua.

The schedule is about a year behind the original target as Beijing
suspended new projects for about 18 months to review the safety of all
nuclear power projects after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

The two other state-owned nuclear power plant developers, China
National Nuclear and China General Nuclear Power, have also been
looking for opportunities to expand abroad, even though they have the
world’s biggest nuclear power expansion programme to complete.

After raising industry safety standards, Beijing set a target for the
country’s installed nuclear generating capacity of 58GW by 2020, up
from 12.57GW now, although insiders had believed the industry was
capable of generating 70 to 80GW.

China’s nuclear companies are in talks to export to Brazil, UK and
South Africa and other countries

That’s it for this week’s submitted entries.  Thanks to all of the contributors for great content this week on a wide variety of issues.

Nuclear Matinee: ‘Cosmos’ Returns

“It is time to make the case for science,” says host Neil deGrasse Tyson of the upcoming relaunch of the classic 1980 series Cosmos. The new Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey premieres this Sunday, March 9, on FOX, and Monday, March 10, on the National Geographic Network—all in all, in 170 countries and 45 languages, the largest global opening ever for any television series, according to executive producer, writer, and director Ann Druyan.

Nuclear-related? Sure! The universe itself is nuclear-powered, and from the Curiosity rover on Mars to the most powerful space telescopes, our understanding of nuclear science and use of nuclear technologies have been indispensable in humanity’s exploration and understanding of that greatest of all mysteries, and greatest of all voyages… the Cosmos.

We no longer have Carl Sagan, but if the new series can capture the charm and wonder of the old, and portray this to a mass audience, we could be in for something special. As in this trip back in time, in which Dr. Sagan (at 28:27) begins to discuss the prospects for… nuclear-powered starships.

For more on the new Cosmos and its creators, see this review in the New York Times. Or, just tune in Sunday evening and enjoy the ride.

cosmos 355x200

 

Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival 198

ferris wheel 202x201The 198th Nuclear Energy Blogger Carnival has been posted at Next Big Future.  You can click here to access this latest installment of a long running tradition among the top English language pro-nuclear bloggers and authors.

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, 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.

Is St. Lucie next on the antinuclear movement target list?

By Rod Adams

The most informative paragraph in a lengthy article titled Cooling tubes at FPL St. Lucie nuke plant show significant wear published in the Saturday, February 22, 2014, edition of the Tampa Bay Times is buried after the 33rd paragraph:

In answers to questions from the Tampa Bay Times, the NRC said the plant has no safety issues and operates within established guidelines. That includes holding up under “postulated accident conditions.”

Unfortunately, that statement comes after a number of paragraphs intended to cause fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of Floridians about the safety of one of the state’s largest sources of electricity. St. Lucie is not only a major source of electricity, but it is also one of the few power plants in the state that is not dependent on the tenuous supply of natural gas that fuels about 60 percent of Florida’s electrical generation.

In March 2013, at the height of the political battle about the continued operation of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station—a battle that ended with the decision to retire both of San Onofre’s units—Southern California Edison issued a press release that contained words of warning for the rest of the nuclear industry.

The Nuclear Energy Institute’s Scott Peterson called the Friends of the Earth claims “ideological rhetoric from activists who move from plant to plant with the goal of shutting them down.” He goes on to say: “Not providing proper context for these statements incorrectly changes the meaning and intent of engineering and industry practices cited in the report, and it misleads the public and policymakers.”

In San Onofre’s case, the context of the public discussion should have included a widespread understanding that the decision to shut down the plant was based on a single steam generator tube leak that was calculated to be one-half of the allowable operating limit. That leak was detected by an alarm on a radiation sensing device sensitive enough to alarm with a leak that might have exposed someone to a maximum of 5.2 x 10-5 millirem.

The antinuclear movement has a long history of using steam generator material conditions as a way to force nuclear plants to shut down. Most nuclear energy professionals will freely admit that the devices have been problematic since the beginning of the industry. There was a period of acrimonious litigation when the utilities sued the vendors because the devices did not last as long as initially expected. However, with an extensive replacement program, focused research, attention to detailed operating procedures, and material improvements, steam generators are more reliable today than they were 25 or even 15 years ago.

It is also worth understanding that steam generator leaks do not cause a public health issue. Operating history shows that essentially all of the leaks have been modest in size and resulted in tiny releases of radioactive material outside of the plant boundaries. U-tubes are part of the primary coolant boundary and are thus classified as “safety-related.” Their integrity is important to reliable plant operation, but the 30 percent of the plants operating in the United States that are boiling water reactors don’t even try to keep radioactive coolant out of the steam plant.

The Tampa Bay Times feature article, written by Ivan Penn, included quotes from some of the same players involved in the—unfortunately—successful effort to close down San Onofre. Their words have that familiar ring of “ideological rhetoric,” indicating that St. Lucie might be high on the target list for the activists who move from plant to plant.

Arnie Gundersen, who Penn correctly identified as a frequent nuclear critic, provided a fairly explicit quote supporting the guess that the antinuclear movement has selected its next campaign victim. “St. Lucie is the outlier of all the active plants.” Later in the article, he stated that St. Lucie’s steam generators have a hundred times as many “dents” as the industry average. That might be true, but that is mainly because the industry average is in the single digits. The important measure is not the number of wear spots, but their depth.

Daniel Hirsch, described as a “nuclear policy lecturer” from the University of California at Santa Cruz, used more colorful language, “The damn thing is grinding down. They must be terrified internally. They’ve got steam generators that are now just falling apart.” Like Gundersen, Hirsch has fought against nuclear energy for several decades.

David Lochbaum, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, indicated that he thought that the plant owners were gambling, even though their engineering analysis, which was supported by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, indicates that the plant has no safety issues and is operating within its design parameters.

Those quotes from the usual suspects, spread throughout the article, are balanced by quotes explaining or supporting FPL’s selected course of action to continue operating and to continue conducting frequent inspections to ensure that conditions do not approach limits that would require additional action.

Here is an example from Michael Waldron, a spokesman for FPL, that appears near the end of the article:

“We have very detailed, sophisticated engineering analysis that allow us to predict the rate of wear, and we are actually seeing the rate of wear slow significantly.”

Even though it is balanced with an almost equal number of pro and con quotes, Ivan Penn’s article includes a number of phrases that appear to be carefully selected to increase public uncertainty and worry about St. Lucie’s continued operation. It is possible to also attribute the words to the author’s desire to add drama and emotion to attract additional readers; that can be difficult to do while maintaining accuracy. Unfortunately for people who love drama, nuclear power plants are quite boring. The vast majority of the time they simply keep working.

Here is an example of the type of rhetorical enhancement that frustrates people who value the accurate use of words:

Worst case: A tube bursts and spews radioactive fluid. That’s what happened at the San Onofre plant in California two years ago.

As stated above, the tube at San Onofre did not “burst” and it did not “spew” radioactive fluid. A tube developed a small, 75–85 gallon-per-day leak from the primary system into the secondary steam system. The installed equipment provided an immediate indication of a problem and the operators promptly took a very conservative course of action to shut down the plant.

While the responsible engineers were performing their detailed investigations and drafting their recommendations, the activists and the politicians took charge of the public communications and worked hard to ensure that San Onofre never restarted. Their focused misinformation offensive resulted in the early retirement of an emission-free power plant that reliably provided 2200 MW of electricity at a key node in the California power grid.

Today, local residents in California are not safer, the air is not cleaner, and the wholesale price of power has already increased by more than 50 percent. Several large-scale infrastructure investments are being planned to restore resiliency to California’s grid. The primary beneficiaries of the antinuclear actions are the people who sell the 300–400 million cubic feet of natural gas needed every day to make up for the loss of San Onofre.

Let’s hope that the regulators and the politicians do a better job of finding sound technical advice, and that the responsible experts do a better job of helping people to understand that St. Lucie is safe, even if its steam generator tubes have more wear marks than anyone wants.

st. lucie 386x201

__________________________

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.

Argonne nuclear engineer on new season of Survivor

By Lenka Kollar

Dr. J’Tia Taylor is a nuclear engineer at Argonne National Laboratory—and on the cast for the newest season of Survivor, which premiered on February 26 at 8/7c on CBS. J’Tia received her Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was the first black female to successfully defend and receive a Ph.D. from the department. She now works at Argonne in the area of nuclear nonproliferation policy—learn more about J’Tia’s work at Argonne here.

This season of Survivor is set in the Philippines province of Cagayan, and the 18 contestants are split into three tribes according to their skills: Brawn, Brains, and Beauty. The contestants compete in various challenges and vote each other off the island until the “Sole Survivor” is left standing. Although J’Tia could easily qualify for the Beauty group, she is obviously on the Brains tribe. She describes herself as “intelligent, adaptable and competitive” and uses her analytical engineering skills for solving problems. J’Tia says that she came to Cagayan to win the $1 million first prize and will “do what needs to be done.” Watch her casting video below to see more!

J’Tia is an American Nuclear Society member and active participant in nuclear science and STEM outreach programs in the Chicago area. She is especially passionate about encouraging young women to pursue technical fields because of her own unique background. J’Tia spent a few years as a successful fashion and beauty model until she decided to return to graduate school. She asked herself, “Do I want to be a 40-year-old ex-model or a 40-year-old nuclear engineer?” J’Tia tells young women that so-called “glamorous” careers are short-lived and it is much more fulfilling to use your intelligence and creativity to solve real world problems.

JTia-IGED 390x201

J’Tia Taylor giving the keynote speech at Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day at Argonne National Laboratory

JTia-GirlScouts 386x290

J’Tia Taylor explaining nuclear science fundamentals at the Girl Scouts Atomic Fission Fun Event hosted by the ANS Chicago Section

J’Tia’s fun personality and fierce attitude will make this season exciting to watch. Her analytical background and problem solving skills will definitely give her a leg up on the competition. Be sure to tune in to CBS tonight at 8/7c to support our fellow nuclear engineer and ANS member!

J'Tia Taylor and friends

J’Tia Taylor and friends at Girl Scouts Atomic Fission Fun

Follow J’Tia Taylor on Twitter and Facebook, visit her Survivor cast bio page, and find out more information about Survivor: Cagayan on the CBS website.

J'Tia on location

___________________________

kollar c 124x150Lenka Kollar is the owner and editor of Nuclear Undone, a blog and consulting company focusing on educating the public about nuclear energy and nonproliferation issues. She is an active ANS member, serving on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Technical Group Executive Committee, Student Sections Committee, and Professional Women in ANS Committee. Connect with Lenka on LinkedIN and Twitter.