Tag Archives: nuclear power

Past, Present, and Promise 3: Return to the NS Savannah

By Will Davis

Previous articles in this series were published on November 8 and November 14; this is the third and final installment of the series, which concludes just prior to the 60th anniversary of President Eisenhower’s famous “Atoms for Peace” speech.  That speech, whose official title was “Atomic Power for Peace,” was delivered to the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 8, 1953 and its ramifications for the future of civil nuclear energy the world over were immense.

November 14, 2013—This was the day on which I was to see my old friend again, the nuclear-powered passenger and cargo ship NS Savannah, after 20 years. As about 30 American Nuclear Society members boarded the bus at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. on the afternoon of that day, I wondered how many of them had ever seen the ship before, or had a similar personal connection with it.

On arrival, to say that I found the ship better than I’d left it would be a supreme understatement; she’s in absolutely wonderful shape in comparison; although, frankly, there is yet major work to be done. The ship seems for now to be in no imminent threat for disposal; according to Erhard Koehler, who administrates the Savannah for the U.S. Maritime Administration, an annual budget of about $2 million keeps the ship docked and maintained (sales of souvenir items on board also benefit the ship). The ship is stipulated, legally, to be decommissioned by 2031, which simply means that the primary nuclear plant components must be removed and disposed of, and doesn’t mean the ship will be scrapped—but as we have seen, the federal government does not always adhere to its own laws (Yucca Mountain, anyone?). So, this deadline being a “hard” line seems pretty unlikely. The problem in getting this done, Koehler told us while we were assembled in the Eisenhower Room on board the ship, is that eventually the Congress must budget money to do it—and it never comes.

What does come are visitors. People who are curious, or “nukes” who want to see the storied ship, or even people like me who have some sort of past attachment to the ship. The ship is opened at least once a year on Maritime Day for the public, and arrangements can be made for tour groups to visit the ship as well. The NS Savannah may not be as easily visible today as she was while she was at Patriot’s Point in South Carolina in the 1980s and early 1990s, but she’s in better waters, we might say—with dedicated caretakers, secure funding for upkeep, and more than a skeletal plan for the future.

What follows is a photographic tour of the ship. Photos for this piece were taken by myself and by ANS’s Paul Bowersox, who accompanied me on this tour. I’ve placed them in the order in which they were taken, duplicating our tour route throughout the ship. My observations are included in the captions and following the photo-essay. Please remember to click on the photos to enlarge them; some will be quite large and spectacular when clicked.

The NS Savannah is docked at a pier location which is largely blocked from view by land by a giant grain elevator.  This view shows the port side of the ship from the gangway leading to the passenger reception area.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

The NS Savannah is docked at a pier location that is largely blocked from view by land by a giant grain elevator. This view shows the port side of the ship from the gangway leading to the passenger reception area. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

One accesses the ship the same way that she was accessed when in service; via a brow leading up to the original reception area. This area was never open to the public during the time span 1981–1994 when the ship was at Patriots Point, when access to the ship was via a side opening.

Some of the contingent from the American Nuclear Society climbing up to the NS Savannah.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

Some of the contingent from the American Nuclear Society climbing up to the NS Savannah. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

Maritime Administration 'Visitor' badges were issued at the original purser's desk location inside the passenger lobby, which features a spectacular original piece of furniture.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Maritime Administration ‘Visitor’ badges were issued at the original purser’s desk location inside the passenger lobby, which features a spectacular original piece of furniture. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Erhard Koehler, administrator of the NS Savannah for the US Maritime Administration, addresses the assembled visitors.  He is flanked by Larry Kenworthy (left, wearing ball cap) and Francis "Bucky" Owens (right, yellow shirt) who led the two tour groups around the ship.  Both Kenworthy and Owens were reactor operators on the Savannah.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

Erhard Koehler, administrator of the NS Savannah for the US Maritime Administration, addresses the assembled visitors. He is flanked by Larry Kenworthy (left, wearing ball cap) and Francis “Bucky” Owens (right, yellow shirt) who led the two tour groups around the ship. Both Kenworthy and Owens were reactor operators on the Savannah. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

This is the Veranda, the public (passenger) bar / lounge on the NS Savannah.  The lighted, sculptured wine rack behind the bar is meant to be a representation of the periodic table and is one of many striking decorative features in this space.  A glass bulkhead looks aft from this space over the former swimming pool and shuffleboard areas. Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This is the Veranda/Cocktail Bar area, the public (passenger) bar/lounge on the NS Savannah. The lighted, sculptured wine rack behind the bar is meant to be a representation of the trilinear table of the elements, and is one of many striking decorative features in this space. A glass bulkhead looks aft from this space over the former swimming pool and shuffleboard areas. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The tables in the cocktail bar area, which are original, display a wonderful "modernistic" motif right out of the 1958-1961 period during which the ship was designed and built. These tables were originally lighted internally, so that the lexan table tops provided a glow.  This space made extensive use of indirect lighting. Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The tables in the cocktail bar area, which are original, display a wonderful “modernistic” motif right out of the 1958-1961 period during which the ship was designed and built. These tables were originally lighted internally, so that the lexan table tops provided a glow. This space made extensive use of indirect lighting. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The original tour brochure for the ship states that the overall design was the responsibility of George C. Sharp, Inc. As to the veranda/cocktail bar, “the veranda is carefree, open and light in feeling to suit daytime gatherings as well as evening festivity.” There is no question that the ship was built as a ‘showboat,’ albeit a completely functional one.

The starboard side (right side for landlubbers!) of the cocktail lounge area is bordered by large windows and this attractive seating area. A passageway leads along the starboard side forward to what used to be called the Main Lounge, and is now the Eisenhower Room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The starboard side (right side for landlubbers!) of the cocktail lounge area is bordered by large windows and this attractive seating area. A passageway leads along the starboard side forward to what used to be called the Main Lounge, and is now the Eisenhower Room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The NS Savannah is simply full of wonderful artifacts - there wasn't time to see them all, and some aren't even yet properly mounted or labeled.  One such item was this print signed by the crew, which was spotted leaning against a podium in the Eisenhower Room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The NS Savannah is simply full of wonderful artifacts – there wasn’t time to see them all, and some aren’t even yet properly mounted or labeled. One such item was this print signed by the crew, which was spotted leaning against a podium in the Eisenhower Room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The tour visits the bridge of the Savannah.  The ship's control console is at right, under the bridge windows, with the right most device on the upper section being the engine order telegraph, and the device to the left of it being the shaft RPM indicator.  The ship's wheel is just out of view on the left of the photo.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

The tour visits the bridge of the Savannah. The ship’s control console is at right, under the bridge windows, with the right most device on the upper section being the engine order telegraph, and the device to the left of it being the shaft RPM indicator. The ship’s wheel is just out of view on the left of the photo. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

The Engine Order Telegraph is used to transmit the desired ship’s speed from the bridge to the power plant. Perhaps as an expression of hope for the ship’s future, the telegraph is presently rung up Ahead Full.

View directly forward out of the bridge windows, over the ship's wheel.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

View directly forward out of the bridge windows, over the ship’s wheel. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox

The after end of the Main Dining Room on "B" Deck.  The Captain's Table is seen, with the original sculptured wall art which is meant to depict fission.  If one looks carefully, splitting atoms and straight lines of flight of emitted particles can be made out.  This is one of the most impressive spaces on the ship, and is almost entirely still original.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

The after end of the Main Dining Room on “B” Deck. The Captain’s Table is seen, with the original sculptured wall art which is meant to depict fission. If one looks carefully, splitting atoms and straight lines of flight of emitted particles can be made out. This is one of the most impressive spaces on the ship, and is almost entirely still original. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

All of the overhead light fixtures in the main dining room incorporate a wonderful atom motif.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

All of the overhead light fixtures in the main dining room incorporate a wonderful atom motif. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

Entryway into the Main Dining Room.  A wonderful original depiction of the SS Savannah, first ship to cross the Atlantic with aid of steam power in 1819 and after which N.S. Savannah is named, is visible in the glass partition.  To the left in the photo is the passageway to the passenger elevator and passenger stairwell.  These are forward of the dining room. Passage to the ship's galley is to the right of the painting seen mounted on the bulkhead.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Entryway into the Main Dining Room. A wonderful original depiction of the SS Savannah, first ship to cross the Atlantic with aid of steam power in 1819 and after which NS Savannah is named, is visible in the glass partition. To the left in the photo is the passageway to the passenger elevator and passenger stairwell. These are forward of the dining room. Passage to the ship’s galley is to the right of the painting seen mounted on the bulkhead. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Original seating down the port side of the dining room.  The carpet is original.  Historic photos showing the exact original appearance of this and other spaces are placed around this, and other, spaces in the ship as some features are no longer perfectly original.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Original seating down the port side of the dining room. The carpet is original. Historic photos showing the exact original appearance of this and other spaces are placed around this, and other, spaces in the ship, as some features are no longer perfectly original. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Either side of the foyer leading to the dining room is an interesting "two top" table, with button style vinyl seat backs affixed to the bulkhead.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Either side of the foyer leading to the dining room is an interesting “two top” table, with button style vinyl seat backs affixed to the bulkhead. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

A display case in the dining room contains original servingware from the ship, complete with atom motif.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

A display case in the dining room contains original servingware from the ship, complete with atom motif. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Painting depicting N.S. Savannah, foyer of Main Dining Room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Painting depicting NS Savannah, foyer of Main Dining Room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

This is the most interesting piece of equipment in the ship's galley - the RADAR RANGE.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This is the most interesting piece of equipment in the ship’s galley – the RADARANGE. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The NS Savannah put to sea with one of the very earliest available microwave ovens. This oven carries the brand name “RadaRange” clearly on the front—and we were told on the tour that Amana, the company with whom this brand name is associated, was a division of Raytheon Corporation (well-known as a provider of radar equipment for both commercial and Navy ships.) It’s interesting to note, however, that this particular microwave oven says “Amana” nowhere on it, but only says “Raytheon” in an oval-shaped emblem seen further down the front of the oven.

This oven has two interesting features. First, it is water-cooled; water cooling piping runs from the overhead down to, and back from, the oven inboard (and just out of view here.) Second, the oven had no safety shutoff interlock on its door; the oven could run with the door open. The output of the oven was not stated, but given its size and the fact that the timer runs up to 21 minutes, it cannot be high compared to today’s appliances.

The rest of the galley was indeed fascinating—the ship’s fittings were extensive and elaborate, even to the point of including a separate butcher’s shop.

After exiting the galley and viewing some crew spaces, we found, in an athwartships passageway, the first 'real' nuclear component on the ship; the entry door to the reactor plant containment.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

After exiting the galley and viewing some crew spaces, we found, in an athwartships passageway, the first “real” nuclear component on the ship; the entry door to the reactor plant containment. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

The ship still needs help - many areas are not fully restored.  We passed an open door, which our guide informed us led to the control rod drive hydraulic pump room.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

The ship still needs help – many areas are not fully restored. We passed an open door, which our guide informed us led to the control rod drive hydraulic pump room. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

This is a photograph of a photograph.  New York Shipbuilding constructed a complete but non-operative mockup of the Savannah's PWR reactor plant to test for access and clearance.  The mockup was scrapped years ago.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This is a photograph of a photograph. New York Shipbuilding constructed a complete but non-operative mockup of the Savannah‘s PWR reactor plant to test for access and clearance. The mockup was scrapped years ago. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

In the illustration above, it’s clear that the NS Savannah used an early style of steam generator like that found at the Shippingport Atomic Power Station and at Indian Point Unit 1, with separate (lower) heat exchanger sections and upper steam drum sections connected by riser and downcomer pipes. Two steam generators (one for each loop) are visible here. The reactor of course is at center, and the tall vessel at left is the pressurizer.

Each of the steam generators was rated to deliver 136.5 million BTU per hour at full rated reactor power, with shells, heads, and tubes made of 304 stainless steel. The pressurizer (which as its name implies pressurizes the primary coolant system to prevent boiling) had 160 cartridge type replaceable heaters, with a total heat capacity of 224 kw. The maximum heatup rate allowed was 75F/hr. This vessel was also made of 304 stainless steel.

The reactor was rated 80 MWth, and contained 8050 kg of uranium dioxide, enriched to 4.2% U-235 (inner 16 elements) or 4.6% U-235 for a total U-235 load of 312 kg. The fuel pellets were contained in 304 stainless tubes, with an active height of 66 inches. Each element had 164 of these rods and was 8.5 inches square; 32 fuel elements total made up the reactor. Twenty-one control rods, made up of boron stainless steel and Zircaloy-2 followers all clad with 304 stainless, were fitted. The designed core life was 40,000 megawatt-days, or 700 days at an actual average power of 63.5 MWth. The plant did not operate with boron poison in solution in the primary coolant, although provision for emergency boron injection for shutdown was installed.

(Information above from “NS Savannah Technical Specifications, May 1964—NS Savannah Technical Staff/Babcock & Wilcox—Todd Shipyards” in Will Davis collection.)

One of the most memorable features of the ship is the provision of a gallery deck surrounding the engine room.  The inboard side of this three-sided gallery contains windows looking down while the outboard side features many illustrations of the power plant and its workings.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

One of the most memorable features of the ship is the provision of a gallery deck surrounding the engine room. The inboard side of this three-sided gallery contains windows looking down while the outboard side features many illustrations of the power plant and its workings. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

In the photograph above, at the bottom we see (with black handwheels) the throttle box of the high pressure ahead steam turbine; the Savannah used compound turbines, in which steam drives first a high pressure and then a low pressure turbine. The drive pinion mounted to this turbine contacts an intermediate gear inside the rounded yellow housing seen a bit further away; on the end of the pinion housing as a green 750 HP electric motor, called the “Take Home motor” that can propel the ship at roughly 6 knots should steam from the reactor plant be unavailable. (The Savannah has two 12 cylinder Electro-Motive 567 series diesel engines that we today would call EDG’s or Emergency Diesel Generators,  which would provide emergency power for this motor and ship’s loads if required. Each diesel was rated 750 KW or about 1000 HP.)

This spectacular photo clearly depicts the control room at the after end of the NS Savannah's engine room.  Click to enlarge.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

This spectacular photo clearly depicts the control room at the after end of the NS Savannah’s engine room. Click to enlarge. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

The control room seen above, which was located at the after end of the Savannah‘s engine room, was the space from which the reactor was controlled and monitored. The control and indicating equipment seen here was the responsibility of Bailey Meter Co., Cleveland, Ohio, which had been a subsidiary of Babcock & Wilcox (which was the vendor for the nuclear power plant of the ship) since 1925. As announced in the October 1959 issue of Nucleonics, this control and indication equipment for the Savannah included “20 flow indicators, 15 level indicators, 45 pressure indicators, 35 temperature indicators, 55 meters, 31 valve selector switches, 60 selector switches and 120 push buttons” and had a total of over 480 control and indicating devices. A complete simulator, using a duplicate of this control panel, was built by Westinghouse and fitted with an analog computer including 54 switches to enable “simulations of various malfunctions.” That simulator was eventually installed at a training facility at Lynchburg, Virginia. (Nucleonics, October 1959, copy in Will Davis collection.)

The turbines and reduction gears, products of DeLaval Steam Turbine Company, were rated for a maximum 22,000 SHP ahead, and 8000 SHP astern using saturated steam variable from 430-700 psia. The turbines had interstage moisture extraction to prevent erosion. The ship also had two 1500 KW steam turbine generators, not shown. (Technical Specifications, NS Savannah and Nucleonics, October 1959.)

Returning to the cocktail lounge, we found time to buy souvenirs, and to examine this fantastic model of the ship, with an accurate depiction of the reactor plant and containment.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Returning to the cocktail lounge, we found time to buy souvenirs, and to examine this fantastic model of the ship, with an accurate depiction of the reactor plant and containment. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

This lounge, with its distinctive bar, is an absolutely unforgettable space.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

This lounge, with its distinctive bar, is an absolutely unforgettable space. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

Distinctive time-zone clocks, not all of which have survived, line part of the bulkhead by the bar.  Photo for ANS by Will Davis.

Distinctive time-zone clocks, not all of which have survived, line part of the bulkhead by the bar. (Photo for ANS by Will Davis)

A look over the stern of the NS Savannah.  The ship's screw can be seen on deck; the ship has been completely disabled, and the screw and main reduction gear were removed.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

A look over the stern of the NS Savannah. The ship’s screw can be seen on deck; the ship has been completely disabled, and the screw and main reduction gear were removed. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

Many of us took advantage of the ship's well-stocked gift shop; these are only a few of the available items.  Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox.

Many of us took advantage of the ship’s well-stocked gift shop; these are only a few of the available items. (Photo for ANS by Paul Bowersox)

The American Nuclear Society's tour group, along with some of the Savannah staff.  Photo courtesy Erhard Koehler.

The American Nuclear Society’s tour group, along with some of the Savannah staff. (Photo courtesy Erhard Koehler)

The feeling I had leaving the ship after several hours’ worth of touring and photographing and talking can’t be described. I had erased the old suppositions about what she might be like with real, new memories—and facts. The facts are that while the ship is in good hands, much more work is required to plan out the decommissioning and fund it. While the people involved are desperately dedicated to the ship, there just aren’t enough of them. The fate of the ship doesn’t so much presently hang in the balance, as it has a cloudy future; the funding per year is steady, but there are not sufficient accumulated funds to decommission the power plant in the legally binding time frame… although I’ve already given my impression on that mark.

Erhard Koehler spoke the most memorable quote of the day, even before most of the tour had commenced; he said to the assembled group that

“The Savannah here is really the only remaining, intact example of President Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ program. For that reason alone, she needs to be preserved and cared for.”

I could not agree more—and will do everything in my power in the future to aid those efforts.

I personally would like to thank the American Nuclear Society, the U.S. Maritime Administration, and the NS Savannah Association for setting up this tour and providing their support and information. Also, Paul Bowersox of ANS HQ staff provided an invaluable service during this pre-planned tour as photographer, ensuring that we’d have great shots.

I would like to finish this piece by adding something—there is a great deal of this ship not shown in this article. Many thousands of linear feet of passageway, many views topside and below, and many distinctive areas remain for visitors to see and explore should they tour the ship. This photo-essay in no way relieves anyone interested in the ship of a need to visit—and what’s more, in most cases the photos don’t do the ship justice. I personally encourage those with an interest in America’s atomic history to find a way to visit the NS Savannah.

Recognition after Removal From Service:

•NS Savannah was given an American Nuclear Society Nuclear Historic Landmark Award in 1991.

•The ship was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

•The American Society of Mechanical Engineers named the ship as an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1983.

•The ship was named a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1991.

_____________________

SavannahTourWillPhotoWill Davis is 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. He’s also an avid typewriter collector in his spare time.

SavannahTourPaulPhotoPaul Bowersox works for the American Nuclear Society at its Chicago, Illinois, headquarters on staff where he manages social media. Although an avowed landlubber, he also holds in high regard those who go down to the sea in ships and do business in great waters.

Kewaunee: What does the future hold?

By Will Davis

kewaunee 200x92Shortly after 11 a.m. on Tuesday, May 7, 2013, the operators at Dominion Resources’ Kewaunee nuclear power plant opened its output breaker, disconnecting the turbine generator from the grid for the last time after just under 40 years of operation. Shutdown of the reactor followed, and the plant entered what for some is an uncertain (even if pre-ordained) future—a long-term storage period, followed eventually after many years by the complete dismantling and removal of the plant.

Prior to the shutdown, Dominion had announced its decision to change the plant’s status (after the shutdown) to what is called SAFSTOR, which, just as it sounds, implies “Safe Storage.” The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s official definition of SAFSTOR reads as follows: “A method of decommissioning in which a nuclear facility is placed and maintained in a condition that allows the facility to be safely stored and subsequently decontaminated (deferred decontamination) to levels that permit release for unrestricted use.” This definition implies that a long period of time will be allowed to elapse before serious and heavy dismantling and removal of key plant components is performed, and before the many site structures are completely demolished and removed.

While the intensity of radiation around the immediate vicinity of the reactor and steam generators is slight compared with when the plant was in operation (and those areas unoccupied), it is not insignificant. The time period between the final reactor shutdown and the beginning of the disassembly of the ‘heart’ of the plant will help in a major way to reduce the radiation exposure of the people who will be required to perform the work—not a small consideration, even in a relatively small nuclear station such as Kewaunee.

Briefly, in disposing of a shut down nuclear plant, there are three options: Decommissioning immediately, which means relatively quickly launching into demolition; SAFSTOR, as described above; and ENTOMB, wherein a plant and some of its components are sealed and abandoned in place for a long period of time or permanently. (Piqua and the Hallam Nuclear Power Facility are two examples of former commercial nuclear stations in this status.)

Dominion has, under federal law, 60 years to complete the entire complicated and expensive decommissioning process, which will see the nuclear plant site returned to “green field” status (releasable for any use) with the exception of a dry cask type spent fuel storage facility. According to Dominion’s latest 10-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, decommissioning cost overall will total $680 million; the decommissioning fund presently has roughly $578 million, with the rest expected to be made up by future earnings. Dominion took a $281 million after-tax charge in the third quarter of 2012 as a result of deciding to decommission Kewaunee.

SAFSTOR

Kewaunee is not by any means the only nuclear plant that will be in, or has been in, the SAFSTOR condition. There are a number of other plants that were placed in this condition either to prevent disruption of the operation of other plants on the same site and/or take advantage of economies of decommissioning multiple reactors at once (Dresden Unit 1, Peach Bottom Unit 1, and Millstone Unit 1 all fit in this category, since they are in SAFSTOR and occupy sites that in all cases contain two other operating nuclear plants.) Other plants, such as Dairyland Power Co-Op Genoa No. 2, which was much more commonly known by its Atomic Energy Commission title as the Lacrosse Boiling Water Reactor, was in a state of modified SAFSTOR for many years as most of the heavy work was deferred while some limited disassembly went on in irregular phases.

In the case of Kewaunee, Dominion will relatively soon (in the next months) remove the fuel from the reactor and move it to the spent fuel pool. Dominion will notify the NRC within 30 days, in writing, that it has shut down the reactor for good; after the reactor has been defueled, Dominion will again notify the NRC, which will issue a license amendment rendering the plant “possession only” in regulatory status, wherein Dominion cannot fuel, much less operate, the reactor.

A Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report (PSDAR) will be submitted to the NRC by Dominion within two years, which lays out expected procedures, timelines, and costs. Ninety days after the NRC receives this report, the plant owner could conceivably begin heavy demolition and component removal if the disposal choice were immediate decommissioning. However, in the case of Kewaunee, the plant will remain in a monitored state, with (very likely) some component removal taking place slowly.

A Dominion spokesman told Platts that the expectations are that Kewaunee’s spent fuel pool contents will be moved entirely to dry cask storage on site by 2020. Much later, in June 2069, heavy dismantling of the plant will begin with completion expected in August 2072.

Decommission

The difficult work will begin when Dominion finally commences the physical dismantling of the plant. Many readers may not be aware that a number of large (and small) nuclear power plants have been not only shut down, but completely demolished and removed. The challenges encountered at each included both expected and unique problems; the work is complex and time consuming, but is proven to be able to release a site completely for other use. A few examples are in order:

Big Rock Point containment under demolition; courtesy Consumers Power

Big Rock Point containment under demolition. (Consumers Power)

Big Rock Point: This plant (designated by the American Nuclear Society in 1991 as a Nuclear Historic Landmark) was an early General Electric boiling water reactor plant in a remote area of Michigan. The plant operated successfully from 1965 through 1997. Over the next nine years, Consumers Power completed major site surveys and engaged in the complete demolition of the plant. Heavy components such as the reactor vessel were shipped to South Carolina for burial. Thirty-two million pounds of concrete were removed; 53 million pounds of material labeled as low-level radioactive waste were transferred to storage facilities in other states.  Fifty-nine million more pounds of clean (uncontaminated) building materials were transported to landfills and buried. The entire 560-acre site was returned to “green field” or a natural state in August 2006, except for the independent spent fuel storage facility.

Connecticut Yankee: This plant, when shut down in 1996 after 28 years of operation, was designated for immediate decommissioning with no SAFSTOR period. The project to return the site (except for spent fuel storage) to green field took place over the period 1998–2007, and 525 acres of natural terrain were the result. Small sections of the property have begun to be turned over to other owners, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yankee Rowe site as it appears today; courtesy Yankee Atomic Electric

Yankee Rowe site as it appears today. (Yankee Atomic Electric)

Yankee Atomic Electric: The nuclear plant constructed by this company was among the very earliest commercial power stations, yet operated for 30 years. After final shutdown in 1992, the plant began decommissioning the next year. From the official website of the plant: “Since the start of physical decommissioning in 1993, more than 21 miles of piping and tubing, 1071 valves, 8569 pipe hangers, 321 pumps, and 33 miles of conduit and cable tray have been removed. In addition, six large components weighing a total of more than 500 tons were also removed. Some of the material, including the large components, was sent to the Barnwell, S.C. low-level radioactive waste disposal facility for permanent disposal. Some of the metal was sent to a processing facility in Tennessee.” Over 1700 acres have been released by the NRC and are being considered for future use in a scenic, natural environment.

Component and structural removal

Eventually, the most solidly constructed components of Kewaunee will have to be removed; these are the reactor building and the components inside of it. Projects in the past have encountered special problems and considerations in this type of work, but enough ground has been laid in past years to provide ample experience in this project. Here are some interesting reactor plant related project links:

The International Atomic Energy Agency hosts an excellent presentation by Bluegrass on the processes used to remove the reactor vessel at the long-SAFSTOR but now decommissioning Lacrosse BWR in Wisconsin; see it here. Particular problems were encountered with very small clearances around the reactor vessel, especially at its lower head.

Saxton decommissioning; courtesy GTS Technologies

Saxton decommissioning; courtesy GTS Technologies

GTS Technologies has an impressive set of web pages showing the work it did to remove the reactor containment building at the former Saxton nuclear reactor in Pennsylvania.

The final result—in 60 years

Kewaunee employees right now aren’t thinking about whether or not someone will, eight or nine decades from now, be having a picnic or plowing a field on the spot where the plant’s turbine building once stood. They’re worried about where they’ll find work—Reuters has reported that 200 of the 630 workers will be laid off at the end of May, 100 more in another month. By the middle of 2014, the plant will have just under 300 permanent workers on site; this number will remain (along with outside contractors) for the duration of the procedures. Dominion has not yet announced whether or not it intends to contract some or all of the work to an outside company such as EnergySolutions, whose ZionSolutions unit is presently decommissioning Zion Nuclear Station.

Long after the memories of the stress of the workers’ movement and breakup of the Kewaunee Station’s family is over, it’s the intent that the plant site will be returned to as completely natural a state as is possible. As we’ve seen, even though this work will provide many challenging days ahead, it’s not only possible but proven—and perhaps, if we’re lucky, some entity will erect a sign at the site to tell future generations that a complete nuclear power station was built and operated here for many years, and then completely removed. It will be proper if a sign is needed in order to be able to tell.

——————–

(For more information on the nuclear plant decommissioning process, you can read the NRC’s excellent pages on the topic by clicking here. In addition, other sites that have decommissioned include Maine Yankee, Rancho Seco, and Trojan. Part of the former Rancho Seco nuclear plant site is now the Rancho Seco Recreational Area.)

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WillDavisNewBioPicWill Davis is a consultant to, and writer for, the American Nuclear Society; he will serve on the ANS Public Information Committee 2013-2016.  In addition to this, he is a contributing author for Fuel Cycle Week, and also writes his own popular blog Atomic Power Review. Davis is a former US Navy Reactor Operator, qualified on S8G and S5W plants.

2012 ~ The year that was in nuclear energy

Plus a few pointers to what’s in store for 2013

By Dan Yurman

Former NRC Chairman Gregory Jackzo

On a global scale the nuclear industry had its share of pluses and minuses in 2012. Japan’s Fukushima crisis continues to dominate any list of the top ten nuclear energy issues for the year. (See more below on Japan’s mighty mission at Fukushima.)

In the United States, while the first new nuclear reactor licenses in three decades were issued to four reactors, the regulatory agency that approved them had a management meltdown that resulted in the noisy departure of Gregory Jazcko, its presidentially appointed chairman. His erratic tenure at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission cast doubt on its effectiveness and tarnished its reputation as one of the best places to work in the federal government.

Iran continues its uranium enrichment efforts

The year also started with another bang, and not the good kind, as new attacks on nuclear scientists in Iran brought death by car bombs. In July, western powers enacted new sanctions on Iran over its uranium enrichment program. Since 2011, economic sanctions have reduced Iran’s oil exports by 40 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In late November, the U.S. Senate approved a measure expanding the economic sanctions that have reduced Iran’s export earnings from oil production. Despite the renewed effort to convince Iran to stop its uranium enrichment effort, the country is pressing ahead with it. Talks between Iran and the United States and western European nations have not made any progress.

Nukes on Mars

NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover is a scientific and engineering triumph.

Peaceful uses of the atom were highlighted by NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover, which executed a flawless landing on the red planet in August with a nuclear heartbeat to power its science mission. Data sent to Earth from its travels across the red planet will help determine whether or not Mars ever had conditions that would support life.

SMRs are us

The U.S. government dangled an opportunity for funding of innovative small modular reactors, e.g., with electrical power ratings of less than 300 MW. Despite vigorous competition, only one vendor, B&W, was successful in grabbing a brass ring worth up to $452 million over five years.

The firm immediately demonstrated the economic value of the government cost-sharing partnership by placing an order for long lead time components. Lehigh Heavy Forge and B&W plan to jointly participate in the fabrication and qualification of large forgings for nuclear reactor components that are intended to be used in the manufacture of B&W mPower SMRs.

Lehigh Forge at work

The Department of Energy said that it might offer a second round funding challenge, but given the federal government’s overall dire financial condition, the agency may have problems even meeting its commitments in the first round.

As of December 1, negotiations between the White House and Congress over the so-called “fiscal cliff” were deadlocked. Congress created this mess, so one would expect that they could fix it.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that if Congress doesn’t avert the fiscal cliff, the economy might slip into recession next year and boost the unemployment rate to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared with 7.9 percent now. Even record low natural gas prices and a boom in oil production won’t make much of a difference if there is no agreement by January 1, 2013.

Japan’s mighty mission at Fukushima

Japan’s major challenges are unprecedented for a democratically elected government. It must decontaminate and decommission the Fukushima site, home to six nuclear reactors, four of which suffered catastrophic internal and external damage from a giant tsunami and record shattering earthquake. The technical challenges of cleanup are daunting and the price tag, already in the range of tens of billions of dollars, keeps rising with a completion date now at least several decades in the future.

Map of radiation releases from Fukushima reported in April 2011

  • Japan is mobilizing a new nuclear regulatory agency that has the responsibility to say whether the rest of Japan’s nuclear fleet can be restarted safely. While the government appointed highly regarded technical specialists to lead the effort, about 400 staff came over from the old Nuclear Industry Safety Agency that was found to be deficient as a deeply compromised oversight body. The new agency will struggle to prove itself an independent and effective regulator of nuclear safety.
  •  Japan has restarted two reactors and approved continued construction work at several more that are partially complete. Local politics will weigh heavily on the outlook for each power station with the “pro” forces emphasizing jobs and tax base and the anti-nuclear factions encouraged by widespread public distrust of the government and of the nation’s nuclear utilities.
  • Despite calls for a phase out of all nuclear reactors in Japan, the country will continue to generate electric power from them for at least the next 30–40 years.
  • Like the United States, Japan has no deep geologic site for spent fuel. Unlike the United States, Japan has been attempting to build and operate a spent fuel reprocessing facility. Plagued by technical missteps and rising costs, Japan may consider offers from the United Kingdom and France to reprocess its spent fuel and with such a program relieve itself of the plutonium in it.

U.S. nuclear renaissance stops at six

The pretty picture of a favorable future for the nuclear fuel cycle in 2007 turned to hard reality in 2012.

In 2007, the combined value of more than two dozen license applications for new nuclear reactors weighed in with an estimated value of over $120 billion. By 2012, just six reactors were under construction. Few will follow soon in their footsteps due to record low prices of natural gas and the hard effects of one of the nation’s deepest and longest economic recessions.

The NRC approved licenses for two new reactors at Southern’s Vogtle site in Georgia and two more at Scana’s V.C. Summer Station in South Carolina. Both utilities chose the Westinghouse AP1000 design and will benefit from lessons learned by the vendor that is building four of them in China. In late November, Southern’s contractors, which are building the plants, said that both of the reactors would enter revenue service a year late. For its part, Southern said that it hasn’t agreed to a new schedule.

The Tennessee Valley Authority recalibrated its efforts to complete Watts Bar II, adding a three-year delay and over $2 billion in cost escalation. TVA’s board told the utility’s executives that construction work to complete Unit 1 at the Bellefonte site cannot begin until fuel is loaded in Watts Bar.

The huge increase in the supply of natural gas, resulting in record low prices for it in the United States, led Exelon Chairman John Rowe to state that it would be “inconceivable” for a nuclear utility in a deregulated state to build new reactors.

Four reactors in dire straights

In January, Southern California Edison (SCE) safety shut down two 1100-MW reactors at its San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) due to excessive wear found in the nearly new steam generators at both reactors.

SCE submitted a restart plan to the NRC for Unit 2 in November. The review, according to the agency, could take months. SCE removed the fuel from Unit 3 last August, a signal that the restart of that reactor will be farther in the future owing to the greater extent of the damage to the tubes its steam generator.

The NRC said that a key cause of the damage to the tubes was a faulty computer program used by Mitsubishi, the steam generator vendor, in its design of the units. The rate of steam, pressure, and water content were key factors along with the design and placement of brackets to hold the tubes in place.

Flood waters surround Ft. Calhoun NPP June 2011

Elsewhere, in Nebraska the flood stricken Ft. Calhoun reactor owned and operated by the Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), postponed its restart to sometime in 2013.

It shut down in April 2011 for a scheduled fuel outage. Rising flood waters along the Missouri River in June damaged in the plant site though the reactor and switch yard remained dry.

The Ft. Calhoun plant must fulfill a long list of safety requirements before the NRC will let it power back up. To speed things along, OPPD hired Exelon to operate the plant. In February 2012, OPPD cancelled plans for a power uprate, also citing the multiple safety issues facing the plant.

In Florida, the newly merged Duke and Progress Energy firm wrestled with a big decision about what to do with the shutdown Crystal River reactor. Repairing the damaged containment structure could cost half again as much as an entirely new reactor. With license renewal coming up in 2016, Florida’s Public Counsel thinks that Duke will decommission the unit and replace it with a combined cycle natural gas plant. Separately, Duke Chairman Jim Rogers said that he will resign at the end of 2013.

China restarts nuclear construction

After a long reconsideration (following the Fukushima crisis) of its aggressive plans to build new nuclear reactors, China’s top level government officials agreed to allow new construction starts, but only with Gen III+ designs.

China has about two dozen Gen II reactors under construction. It will be 40–60 years before the older technology is off the grid. China also reduced its outlook for completed reactors from an estimate of 80 GWe by 2020 to about 55–60 GWe. Plans for a massive $26-billion nuclear energy IPO (initial public offering) still have not made it to the Shanghai Stock Exchange.  No reason has been made public about the delay.

India advances at Kudanlulam

India loaded fuel at Kudankulam where two Russian built 1000-MW VVER reactors are ready for revenue service. The Indian government overcame widespread political protests in its southern state of Tamil Nadu. India’s Prime Minister Singh blamed the protests on international NGOs (non-governmental organizations).

One of the key factors that helped the government overcome the political opposition is that Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited told the provincial government that it could allocate half of all the electricity generated by the plants to local rate payers. Officials in Tamil Nadu will decide who gets power. India suffered two massive electrical blackouts in 2012, the second of which stranded over 600 million people without electricity for up to a week.

Also, India said that it would proceed with construction of two 1600-MW Areva EPRs at Jaitapur on its west coast south of Mumbai and launched efforts for construction of up to 20 GWe of domestic reactors.

India’s draconian supplier liability law continues to be an effective firewall in keeping American firms out of its nuclear market.

UK has new builder at Horizon

The United Kingdom suffered a setback in its nuclear new build as two German utilities backed out of the construction of up to 6 Gwe of new reactors at two sites. Japan’s Hitachi successfully bid to take over the project. A plan for a Chinese state-owned firm to bid on the Horizon project in collaboration with Areva never materialized.

Also in the UK, General Electric pursued an encouraging dialog with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to build two of its 300-MW PRISM fast reactors to burn off surplus plutonium stocks at Sellafield. The PRISM design benefits from the technical legacy of the Integral Fast Reactor developed at Argonne West in Idaho.

You can’t make this stuff up

In July, three anti-war activitists breached multiple high-tech security barriers at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Y-12 highly enriched uranium facility in Tennessee. The elderly trio, two men on the dark side of 55 and a woman in her 80s, were equipped with ordinary wire cutters and flashlights.

Y-12 Signs state the obvious

The intruders roamed the site undetected for several hours in the darkness of the early morning and spray painted political slogans on the side of one of the buildings. They were looking for new artistic venues when a lone security guard finally stopped their travels through the plant.

The government said that the unprecedented security breach was no laughing matter, firing the guards on duty at the time and the contractor they worked for. Several civil servants “retired.” The activists, if convicted, face serious jail time.

None of the HEU stored at the site was compromised, but subsequent investigations by the Department of Energy found a lack of security awareness, broken equipment, and an unsettling version of the “it can’t happen here” attitude by the guards that initially mistook the intruders for construction workers.

The protest effort brought publicity to the activists’ cause far beyond their wildest dreams and produced the predictable uproar in Congress. The DOE’s civilian fig leaf covering the nation’s nuclear weapons program was once again in tatters.

So long Chu

Given the incident at Y-12, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who came to government from the quiet life of scientific inquiry, must have asked himself once again why he ever accepted the job in Washington in the first place.

DOE Energy Secretary Steven Chu

Chu is expected to leave Washington. That he’s lasted this long is something of a miracle since the Obama White House tried to give him the heave ho this time last year after the Solyndra loan guarantee debacle, in which charges of political influence peddling by White House aides colored a half a billion dollar default on a DOE loan by a California solar energy company.

The predictable upswing in rumors of who might be appointed to replace him oozed into energy trade press and political saloons of the nation’s capital.

Leading candidates are former members of Congress, former governors, or just  about anyone with the experience and political know how to take on the job of running one of the federal government’s biggest cabinet agencies. It’s a short list of people who really can do the job and a long list of wannabes. With shale gas and oil production on the rise, having a background in fossil fuels will likely help prospective candidates.

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Dan Yurman published the nuclear energy blog Idaho Samizdat from 2007–2012.

The 129th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The 129th weekly Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is up at Next Big Future.

The Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by well-respected names that emerge each week to tell the story of nuclear energy.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

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

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

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

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

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

 

San Onofre reactors face divergent paths to restart

Southern California Edison submits a plan to the NRC for Unit 2

By Dan Yurman

 The twin 1100-MW nuclear reactors (Units 2 & 3) at Southern California Edison’s (SCE) San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) that have been shut down since January 2012 will take different paths to a decision to restart each of them.

On October 3, Southern California Edison submitted a response to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s confirmatory letter, and a restart plan for Unit 2.

The utility said, however, that it won’t submit a similar response and restart plan for Unit 3 until mid-2013.  In late August SCE said it would remove the fuel from Unit 3, a clear signal that any restart plan for it is well down the road.

(The documents submitted by the utility to the NRC are online at http://www.songscommunity.com )

No timetable for review

The NRC said in response that there is no timetable for review of the restart plan for Unit 2. NRC Chairperson Allison Macfarlane told Reuters on October 4, “Our inspections and review will be painstaking, thorough, and will not be rushed.”

NRC Regional Administrator Elmo Collins said on October 9 that the restart plan could require an amendment to the Unit 2 reactor operating license, a process that could last months or even years.

Anti-nuclear groups have pressed the NRC to address the restart plan with a license amendment. The groups claim that the utility should have asked for the license amendment in the first place when it installed the steam generators.

NRC’s Collins also said that the NRC is still considering penalties against SCE over the generator issues.

Costs of shutdown considered serious

Three weeks after the technical response to regulators proposing to restart one of the reactors, the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted unanimously to consider whether or not ratepayers should pay for repair costs and the additional costs of replacement power.

The review could take several years. By the time the PUC makes up its mind, mid-to-late 2014, both reactors could be back in revenue service.

PUC Chairman Mike Florio said that prior rate reviews are not predictors of how the agency will deal with SCE. He said that “serious errors” have been made by the utility, and he added that the PUC might take preliminary action to reduce rates and/or order refunds sometime in early 2013.

SCE said last July that restart of Unit 2 would cost $25 million in addition to the $48 million it had spent since January on inspections and repairs. Also, it had, as of July, paid out another $117 million to buy replacement power while the reactors were out of service.

These costs have increased since then. The LA Times reported on October 4 that replacement power costs had climbed to $142 million.

SCE has said that it will seek to recover the costs of the prolonged outage from insurance and from Mitsubishi, which supplied the steam generators used at San Onofre. The Japanese firm has denied that a computer error in the design phase of the steam generators was to blame for excessive tube wear.

Computer model and tube wear

Both reactors were safely shut down in January 2012 after excessive wear was discovered on the tubes in the almost-new steam generators.

SCE said in its response to the NRC Oct 3 that the tube wear was caused by a phenomenon called “fluid elastic instability”, a combination of high-steam velocity and low-moisture conditions in specific locations, combined with the impacts of ineffective tube supports at the same locations.

The damage to the tubes in the steam generator at Unit 3 was more extensive than at Unit 2.

One of the root causes of the troubles with the steam generators is that a computer model developed and used by Mitsubishi significantly underestimated key factors involving the flow of steam through the units.

SCE said on its website, “The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) determined that computer modeling used during the design phase by the manufacturer, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, under-predicted the thermal hydraulic conditions in the steam generators which contributed to the unstable tube vibration. The unstable tube vibration caused the unexpected wear in the steam generators.”

Elements of Unit 2 restart plan

SCE’s restart plan for Unit 2 calls for the utility to operate it at 70 percent power, which SCE says will prevent the vibration-causing environment by decreasing steam velocity and increasing moisture content. After five months, SCE will shut down Unit 2 to inspect the steam generator tubes, to confirm that this solution is working as anticipated.

SCE Chief Nuclear Officer Pete Dietrich told the Associated Press on October 4 that the restart plan “is not an experiment.” He said the utility has conducted 170,000 tube inspections and has held technical reviews with independent experts to evaluate the situation.

With regard to Unit 3, Dietrich said that Unit 3 has significantly more of the excessive wear on its steam generator tubes. He told the LA Times that it would be “next summer” before SCE is ready to propose a restart plan for it.

Anti-nuclear groups oppose restart

Anti-nuclear groups were divided about SCE’s restart plan for Unit 2. Arnie Gundersen, who has been working as a consultant to Friends of the Earth, said that the group thinks the restart plan isn’t credible. And S. David Freeman, also a consultant to Friends of the Earth, said, “Both reactors are alike and neither is safe to operate.”

David Lochbaum, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, was less strident, however, in expressing his opinion. He said that although he is not convinced that the 70 percent power level for Unit 2 is the right number, he recognized that SCE planned to install better monitoring equipment.

On October 10, the NRC’s Collins rejected Gundersen’s harsh characterization of the restart plan. He said, “It is far from a done deal. We will take the time we need. We do not experiment with safety.”

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Dan Yurman is a frequent contributor to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Hurricane Sandy links: updates and information (Updated 10-31, 12:00 pm ET)

Scroll down to hurricane graphic for resources and links.

Update 10/31 12:00 pm ET

Alert ends at Oyster Creek nuclear plant in NJ

Updated 10/30 5:00 pm ET

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a news release (excerpts below; emphasis added):

NRC STARTING TO RETURN TO NORMAL INSPECTION COVERAGE FOLLOWING SANDY; ALERT REMAINS IN EFFECT AT OYSTER CREEK NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is beginning to return to normal inspection coverage for nuclear power plants in the Northeastern United States in the path of Hurricane Sandy. Heightened coverage will continue at Oyster Creek, a plant in Lacey Township, N.J., still in an “Alert” due to high water levels in its water intake structure.

In addition to the event at Oyster Creek, three reactors experienced trips, or shutdowns, during the storm. They were Indian Point 3, in Buchanan, N.Y.; Salem Unit 1, in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.; and Nine Mile Point 1, in Scriba, N.Y. All safety systems responded as designed.

At Oyster Creek, the Alert – the second lowest of four levels of emergency classification used by the NRC – remains in effect as plant operators wait for the water intake levels to drop to pre-designated thresholds. The water level rose due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. Oyster Creek was shut down for a refueling and maintenance outage prior to the storm and the reactor remains out of service. Water levels are beginning to subside to more normal levels, but the plant remains in an Alert status until there is enough confidence levels will remain at more normal levels. Offsite power at the plant is in the process of being restored.

Meanwhile, three plants—Millstone 3, in Connecticut, Vermont Yankee, in Vermont, and Limerick, in Pennsylvania—reduced power in advance of or in response to the storm. Millstone 3’s power was reduced to about 70 percent in advance of the storm to minimize potential impacts on its circulating water system due to the storm. Vermont Yankee reduced power to 89 percent in response to a request from the grid operator due to the loss of a transmission line in New Hampshire. Limerick Unit 1’s power was reduced to about 50 percent and Limerick Unit 2’s to about 25 percent in response to low electrical demands on the grid because of storm-related power outages.

Besides potentially affected nuclear power plants, the NRC also monitored any possible impacts on nuclear materials sites it oversees but did not identify any concerns.

NRC inspectors were onsite at all of the nuclear power plants expected to experience the greatest effects of the storm. Those inspectors were tasked with independently verifying that operators were following relevant procedures to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm.

The NRC will continue to coordinate with other federal and state agencies prior to the restart of the affected plants.

###

Updated 10/30 no time stamp

The Nuclear Energy Institute issued the following news release: Nuclear Energy Facilities Prove Resilience During Hurricane Sandy. The release contains status updates on the 34 nuclear energy plants affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The following is a summary of U.S. nuclear power plant performance during Hurricane Sandy (as of 11 a.m. Oct 30) from the NEI release.

Connecticut
Millstone 2
—shut down for refueling outage
Millstone 3
—safely reduced power from 100 percent to 75 percent on Oct. 29 at the request of the electric grid operator.

Maryland
Calvert Cliffs 1 and 2—continued operating at 100 percent power.

Massachusetts
Pilgrim 1—continued operating at 100 percent power.

New Hampshire
Seabrook 1—shut down for refueling outage, but safely restarted Oct. 30 and is at 20 percent power.

New Jersey
Oyster Creek—shut down for refueling outage; alert declared Oct. 29 due to high water level at water intake structure
Hope Creek 1—continued operating at 100 percent power
Salem 1—manual safe shut down from 100 percent power on Oct. 30 due to high water level at water intake structure
Salem 2—shut down for refueling outage.

New York
Indian Point 2—continued operating at 100 percent power
Indian Point 3—manual safe shut down from 100 percent power on Oct. 30 due to an electric grid disruption
Ginna—shut down for refueling outage
Fitzpatrick—continued operating at 100 percent power
Nine Mile Point 1—manual safe shut down from 100 percent power on Oct. 29 due to an electric grid disruption
Nine Mile Point 2—continued operating at 100 percent power.

North Carolina
Brunswick 1 and 2—continued operating at 100 percent power.

Ohio
Perry 1—safely reduced power from 100 percent to 91 percent on Oct. 30 at the request of the regional electric grid operator
Davis-Besse—continued operating at 100 percent power.

Pennsylvania
Peach Bottom 2 and 3—continued operating at 100 percent power
Three Mile Island 1—continued operating at 100 percent power
Limerick 1 and 2—safely reduced power from 100 percent to 50 percent and 22 percent respectively on Oct. 30 due to storm effects and at the request of the regional electric grid operator
Beaver Valley 1—continued operating at 100 percent power
Beaver Valley 2—shut down for refueling outage
Susquehanna 1—shut down for turbine inspection
Susquehanna 2—continued operating at 75 percent power.

Virginia
Surry 1 and 2—continued operating at 100 percent power
North Anna 1 and 2—continued operating at 100 percent power.

Vermont
Vermont Yankee—safely reduced power from 100 percent to 90 percent on Oct. 30 at the request of the regional electric grid operator.

##

Updated 10/30 10:00 am ET

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the following news release (body of news release below; emphasis added):

NRC MAINTAINS HEIGHTENED WATCH OVER NUCLEAR PLANTS IMPACTED BY SANDY; THREE REACTORS EXPERIENCED SHUTDOWNS DURING STORM; OYSTER CREEK PLANT REMAINS IN ALERT

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission continues to maintain its heightened watch over nuclear power plants in the Northeastern U.S. impacted by Sandy. Three reactors experienced shutdowns during the storm while another plant, Oyster Creek in New Jersey, remains in an “Alert” due to high water levels in its water intake structure.

The three reactors to experience trips, or shutdowns, during the storm are Nine Mile Point 1 in Scriba, N.Y., Indian Point 3 in Buchanan, N.Y.; and 1Salem Unit 1 in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.

Nine Mile Point 1 underwent an automatic shutdown at about 9 p.m. Monday when an electrical fault occurred on power lines used to send power to the grid. It is likely a storm-related event, but the plant’s operators are still evaluating the cause. All plant safety systems responded as designed and the shutdown was safely carried out. Meanwhile, Nine Mile Point 2 experienced a loss of one of two incoming off-site power lines as a result of the fault. One of the plant’s emergency diesel generators started in response to generate power usually provided by the line. Nine Mile Point 2 remained at full power.

Indian Point 3 automatically shut down at about 10:40 p.m. Monday in response to electrical grid disturbances caused by the storm. All safety systems responded as designed and the unit was placed in a safe shutdown condition.

Salem Unit 1 was manually shut down by plant operators at about 1:10 a.m. Tuesday as a result of circulating-water pumps being affected by high river level and debris in the waterway. The circulating-water system is used to cool down steam generated by the reactor; it is a closed system that does not come into contact with any radioactivity.

At Oyster Creek, the Alert was declared at approximately 8:45 p.m. An alert is the second-lowest level of emergency classification used by the NRC. The Alert was preceded by an “Unusual Event” at about 7 p.m. when the water level first reached a minimum high water level criteria. The water level rose due to a combination of a rising tide, wind direction and storm surge. While the water level has dropped since peaking earlier today, the Alert will not be exited until the level is below the specific criteria for the intake structure, which is where water from an intake canal is pumped into the plant for cooling purposes. Oyster Creek was shut down for a refueling and maintenance outage prior to the storm and the reactor remains out of service.

The NRC will continue to coordinate with other federal and state agencies prior to the restart of the affected plants.

The NRC stationed inspectors at all of the plants expected to experience the greatest effects of the storm. Those inspectors were tasked with independently verifying that operators were following relevant procedures to ensure plant safety before, during and after the storm.

In addition, the NRC has been monitoring the storm from its emergency response centers.

Nuclear power plant procedures require that the facilities shut down under certain severe weather conditions. The plants’ emergency diesel generators are available if off-site power is lost during the storm. Also, all plants have flood protection above the predicted storm surge, and key components and systems are housed in watertight buildings capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds and flooding.

##

Updated 10/30 6:15 am ET

AP / NJ.com looks at how Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant and others in the region are weathering the storm:

The oldest U.S. nuclear power plant, New Jersey’s Oyster Creek, was already out of service for scheduled refueling. But high water levels at the facility, which sits along Barnegat Bay, prompted safety officials to declare an “unusual event” around 7 p.m. About two hours later, the situation was upgraded to an “alert,” the second-lowest in a four-tiered warning system.

Conditions were still safe at Oyster Creek, Indian Point and all other U.S. nuclear plants, said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees plant safety.

A rising tide, the direction of the wind and the storm’s surge combined to raise water levels in Oyster Creek’s intake structure, the NRC said. The agency said that water levels are expected to recede within hours and that the plant, which went online in 1969 and is set to close in 2019, is watertight and capable of withstanding hurricane-force winds.

The plant’s owner, Exelon Corp., said power was also disrupted in the station’s switchyard, but backup diesel generators were providing stable power, with more than two weeks of fuel on hand.

In other parts of the East Coast, nuclear plants were weathering the storm without incident.

Inspectors from the NRC, whose own headquarters and Northeast regional office were closed for the storm, were manning all plants around the clock. The agency dispatched extra inspectors or placed them on standby in five states, equipped with satellite phones to ensure uninterrupted contact.

Nuclear power plants are built to withstand hurricanes, airplane collisions and other major disasters, but safety procedures call for plants to be shut down when hurricane-force winds are present, or if water levels nearby exceed certain flood limits.

##

Updated 10/30 (no time stamp)

AP breaks down Hurricane Sandy impacts by state

##

________________________________

Updated 10/29

Jim Conca, PhD, has written a blog post at Forbes: Don’t Politicize Sandy – Hurricane Normal Problem for Nukes

Updated 10/29 11:22 pm CT

Indian Point Energy @Indian_Point

Unit 3 safely shut down @ 10:45 EDT due to external electric grid issues. Unit 2 remains @ full power. NO risk to public or employees.

________________________________

Updated 10/29 11:18 PM CT

The New York Times “Tracking Sandy” liveblog reports:

So far, no reactors in Sandy’s path have been forced by the hurricane to shut down, although one in Waterford, Conn., Millstone 3, has lowered its power output to 75 percent. The operator said this was done to assist the New England grid, which would be destabilized if the reactor shut down suddenly from full power, and also to reduce the chance that it would automatically shut down; at 75 percent, Millstone 3 could withstand the loss of a pump without having to close.

Several other reactors in the region are now closed for refueling, which is ordinarily carried out in the spring or fall, when electricity demand is low.

________________________________

10/29: Hurricane Sandy has gained strength and is en route to a predicted landfall late this evening, currently projected to be centered on the coast of New Jersey.  This Category 1 storm is very large and dangerous, with hurricane-force winds extending up to 175 miles from the center of the storm, and tropical-storm-force winds extending up to 485 miles from the center.  Residents and emergency preparedness officials in several states have ordered some evacuations of low-lying areas, shutdowns of mass transit, and similar preparations.

NASA satellite image from October 28 of Hurricane Sandy off the U.S. coast.

RESOURCES AND LINKS

You can view US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Current Event Notification Reports HERE.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission on 10/29  issued a press release outlining preparations and monitoring of the storm.  Nuclear plants receiving enhanced oversight during the storm include: Calvert Cliffs, in Lusby, Md.; Salem and Hope Creek, in Hancocks Bridge, N.J.; Oyster Creek, in Lacey Township, N.J.; Peach Bottom, in Delta, Pa.; Three Mile Island 1, in Middletown, Pa.; Susquehanna, in Salem Township, Pa.; Indian Point, in Buchanan, N.Y.; and Millstone, in Waterford, Conn.

NRC Monday 10/29 afternoon press release: “NRC Continues to Monitor Hurricane Sandy; No Plants Shut Down So Far As a Result of the Storm.”

NRC Tuesday 10/30 morning press release: “NRC maintains heightened watch over nuclear plants impacted by Sandy; Three reactors experienced shutdowns during storm; Oyster Creek plant remains in alert”

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Nuclear energy facilities are designed and built to withstand hurricanes, with a proven track record of success.  The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has an informative outline of general hurricane preparedness procedures now underway at each of the plants expected to be affected. You can also track how nuclear energy plants are responding to Hurricane Sandy via NEI’s blog at NEI Nuclear Notes.

Google has released a very useful interactive Hurricane Sandy tracker map to help those affected keep up-to-date.

Entergy Nuclear press release on Hurricane Sandy preparations.

Dominion Energy advisory to customers in advance of Hurricane Sandy.

Facebook pages from Indian Point Energy Center and power companies and in the affected region which provide storm updates and preparedness information:

Useful Twitter accounts to follow include:

The Twitter blog has posted a comprehensive resource list, broken down by state, of hurricane information and emergency response resources.  In particular, read about how to receive designated tweets via text message if you are concerned about losing power (and the internet).

You can follow—and even contribute to—the Hurricane Sandy liveblog (not focused on nuclear, but a creative way to share experiences online).

DirectTV subscribers, take note of the following message: In order to provide you with the most up to date information, we have set up channels 325 and 349, which will be airing coverage of Hurricane Sandy. Please tune to these channels to get the latest news and developments on the situation.

Sirius-XM satellite radio owners, please note that Sirius-XM has dedicated channels 1 and 184 to Weather Channel reporting on Hurricane Sandy. You can listen to Channel 1 (normally the preview channel) without a current subscription.

Do you have a useful (and credible) link for Hurricane Sandy nuclear-related updates that you don’t see here? Please post and we’ll add it!

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Japan launches nuclear safety agency

Restart of the nation’s nuclear reactors will be guided by its actions

By Dan Yurman

Shunichi Tanaka, chairman, Japan Nuclear Regulation Authority.

A new and independent nuclear safety agency—the Nuclear Regulation
Authority (NRA)—began operating in Japan on September 19, but its future is already clouded by controversy. Approval of the five members of the NRA’s governing commission was not obtained by the central government of the Diet, the Japanese parliament. The NRA’s chairman, Shunichi Tanka, has placed it on the tracks in the face of an oncoming locomotive.

Tanka said that none of Japan’s shut down nuclear reactors would restart until the NRA issued its own set of safety rules and applied them to restart decisions, a process that could take up to a year or longer.

Two weeks ago, Japan’s cabinet backed down from a decision by Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda to phase out all nuclear reactors by 2030. The reason was the implacable opposition to the loss of reliable electric power by Japan’s largest business federation, composed of heavy industry manufacturing operations. These firms, which are also among Japan’s largest employers, have threatened to take their operations offshore if the government doesn’t authorize restart of the reactors.

Tanaka, who has long experience in the nation’s nuclear industry, must know what he’s doing. He formerly was vice chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission. Plus, he has marching orders straight from the prime minister’s office.

Goshi Hoshono, who heads the environmental ministry in which the nuclear safety operation is housed, told Tanaka that he expects the NRA to operate independently of influence from the industry that it will regulate.

Previously, the nuclear safety function in the government was housed in the trade ministry where its functions were routinely compromised by industry influence. It was ineffective, however, in getting the Tokyo Electric Power Company to build a higher seawall at Fukushima, which led to the March 11, 2011, disaster in which a tsunami destroyed six of Japan’s 54 reactors.

Profile of the agency

The NRA will be responsible for developing and enforcing nuclear safety regulations, oversight of the physical security of sites, nuclear materials safeguards, radiation monitoring, and regulation of the use of radioisotopes in fields like medicine, construction, and food processing.

It will have a staff composed mostly of people transferred from the old Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency—about 400–500 people—and an annual budget reported to be in the range of $600 million.

The five people on the commission include its chairman Tanaka and four others:

  • Kenzo Oshima, former Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations
  • Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus of seismology at the University of Tokyo
  • Kayoko Nakamura, Ph.D, a nuclear medicine specialist
  • Toyoshi Fuketa, a senior manager from the Fuel Safety Research Laboratory, Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute

Tanaka, speaking for his colleagues, said that the NRA has to regain the trust of the Japanese public for nuclear power. It is unlikely that local government officials will agree to the restart of reactors without the oversight and assurances of the NRA.

Nuclear politics marches on

Yukio Edano, now the Japan Trade Minister, was the chief spokesman for former prime minister Naoto Kan during the Fukushima crisis.

While Tanaka was organizing his new agency, METI Minister Yukio Edano
wasted no time mounting a new attack on restart of the reactors. In a new book published this week, he called for the government to nationalize the reactors and to immediately begin decommissioning them. The reactors are owned by publicly traded utility companies. Nationalization would cost the debt-ridden government billions of dollars that it does not have. The likelihood of that option seeing the light of day seems to be very remote.

But Edano’s book isn’t meant to be practical. It is designed to whip up public opinion and to keep the anti-nuclear pot boiling. Trading on widespread public distrust of the nuclear utilities, Edano said that the government must take the lead in creating a nuclear-free society.

Edano also said that nine nuclear reactors that are planned to be built will be halted. He called for utility companies to take “voluntary measures” to stop the projects and he threatened legislative actions if they don’t. This threat also seems somewhat hollow since government seizure of privately owned assets would require compensation.

The projects that would be affected include No. 3 and 4 units at the Tsuruga Power Station in Fukui Prefecture and the No. 1 and 2 units at the Kaminoseki Power Station in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Earlier, Edano said that three reactors already under construction could be completed. One of them, the 1383-MW Ohma plant being built by Japan Electric Power, is 40-percent complete. It is expected to be completed in 2014. By then, presumably the NRA will have rolled out its new safety regulations.

Fuel reprocessing center faces new delays

One of the problems with METI Minister Edano’s clarion calls for decommissioning the nation’s nuclear reactors is that Japan has no deep geologic repository for disposing of nuclear waste or spent fuel in a once-through cycle.

For years Japan has been developing a spent fuel reprocessing plant. It would produce mixed oxide from recyclable materials and put the rest of the waste in ceramic canisters. The plant, being developed by Japan Nuclear Fuel, Ltd., is not complete and has encountered a series of technical mishaps that have delayed start of production operations.

Japan is storing 17,000 tonnes of spent fuel at the site, which is in Rokkasho in the Aomori Prefecture. There, political leaders are nominally pro-nuclear because of the jobs and tax base that come from the plant and from several commercial reactors. Their agreement would still be necessary to begin to reprocess fuel on a full-time basis.

However, Kazui Sakai, a senior executive with Japan Fuels, told the Wall Street Journal on September 19 that there is no planned date to start operations other than sometime in 2013. The vitrification process, which Japan acquired from Areva in France, has been significantly scaled up and modified to meet local requirements. It hasn’t worked so far despite assurances from Japan Fuel that the company has solutions in the works for various technical hurdles.

Critics of the plant have tried several times to stop its development. It has survived these efforts for the same reason that Japan will likely restart many of its reactors within the next 12 months. The country has no other economically feasible sources of baseload electricity.

In the long term, Japan cannot hope to compete on global markets with China for supplies of oil and natural gas. Japan will have to live with its “plutonium economy” for at least a few more decades while it experiments with geothermal and renewable sources, or it will have to come to terms with a future that includes nuclear energy as a mainstay of its economy.

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

The future of nuclear at #MOXChat

By Laura Scheele

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

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

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

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

ANS members showed up.

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

LOTS of ANS members showed up.

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

MOST of the ANS members who showed up were students.

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

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

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

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

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

Defying expectations

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

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

Samuel Snyder, Chattanooga ANS Local Section Chair

Samuel Snyder comments during the hearing.

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

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

It’s good to have friends…

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

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

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

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

…Especially social media friends

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

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

 

Alex Woods, Chattanooga State

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

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

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

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

Steven Skutnik

Steven Skutnik

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

 

The power of  showing up

Howard Shaffer, Meredith Angwin and Eric Loewen

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

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

Pro-Nuclear Rally in Chattanooga, Tennessee

Go Team Nuclear!

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

ANS members mingle before the public hearing begins.

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

Having fun is contagious

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

Chris Perfetti preparing his public comments.

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

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

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

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

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

You know, in Chattanooga.

WHERE ANS ACHIEVED TOTAL DOMINATION*!

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

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

Social media roundup

Rod Adams, Atomic Insights:
Plutonium Power for the People

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

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

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

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

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

Center for Nuclear Science and Technology Information

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

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

Japan’s Non-nuclear decision

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

By Dan Yurman

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

122nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The weekly Carnival is the collective voice of blogs by many of the Internet’s foremost nuclear experts and advocates, who continue each week to tell the story of nuclear energy around the World Wide Web.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

This week’s Carnival

Hearing on disposal of surplus weapons-grade plutonium via MOX fuel caused a stir in Chattanooga.

Wading into the “nuclear zombie” horde

Steve Skutnik at The Neutron Economy posts a “nuclear zombie” survival guide prior to the Chattanooga hearing on disposing of surplus weapons-grade plutonium in MOX fuel, including the most important rule: always remember the double tap (especially for certain “zombie” arguments that just won’t die).

Mixing it up over MOX – a wrapup of from Chattanooga

Following the dust-up in Chattanooga over the use of surplus plutonium for use in MOX fuel, Steve Skutnik gives his account of the meeting highlights, including some of the more specious arguments employed by opponents. Despite the no-show of “nuclear zombies,” there was plenty of necromancy at work with respect to some of the arguments being made against destroying plutonium in MOX fuel.

Plutonium Power for the People

Rod Adams at Atomic Insights writes that one of the biggest threats to the continued wealth and power held by the global fossil fuel industry is a “plutonium economy” fueled by abundant resources of uranium that can be converted into fissile plutonium.

The anti-plutonium propaganda machine has successfully delayed the implementation of extensive breeder reactor programs by several decades.

Today, this propaganda machine continues working to stoke fears of plutonium, because the material is still a threat to the prosperity of the fossil fuel industry. Instead of using former weapons material in conventional reactors in the form of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, people opposed to the use of plutonium would prefer this valuable, energy-dense material to be encapsulated into glass logs and buried deep into the earth’s crust, where even our smarter future generations might have trouble getting to it.

After all, the law of supply and demand tells suppliers that they can make more money when supply is tight; that situation drives prices higher to levels well above the cost of production.

 

Aquatic life and thermal discharge were a focus at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant

The River and the Rhetoric–Who Speaks for the River

Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee describes the Connecticut River Watershed Council. This advocacy group claims that the shad in the Connecticut River are decimated by hot water from Vermont Yankee. One of their soundbytes: “A bad neighbor bakes your wildlife.”

The River, the Shad and the Water Permits describes the record shad run on the Connecticut River this year (one million fish!). The post includes a video clip of Arnie Gundersen saying that there are only 16 shad in the river.

Plant Cooling a Stumbling Block? At the ANS Nuclear Cafe, Howard Shaffer writes that several nuclear power plants are facing challenges concerning water discharge temperatures and the potential for effects on aquatic life.

At Vermont Yankee, as at several other plants, heat rejection includes cooling towers, as well as a river. Opponents use the plant’s thermal discharge as a way to attempt to shut down the plant, or alternately, to harass the plant into unnecessary and expensive use of its cooling towers in all weather. Howard Shaffer considers water issues at Vermont Yankee, and how they are distorted by the plant opponents.

 

Nothing to see here… no, really

No Need to Fret About UT-Austin’s TRIGA Reactor, No Matter What Drudge Might Point To

Eric McErlain at NEI Nuclear Notes wrote on Friday that, in spite of a screaming headline at the Drudge Report about a nuclear reactor evacuation (actually, the UT research reactor is securely located over 10 miles north of campus)… there really was… “nothing to see here.”

 

Climate Change and Nuclear Energy

Is climate change a business opportunity for the nuclear industry?

Suzy Hobbs Baker at the ANS Nuclear Cafe notes that climate science has very important implications for nuclear science.

She writes that the nuclear industry has an opportunity to expand its business by helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support sustainable growth, and create high paying jobs — or as innovative billionaire Sir Richard Branson says, “Doing good is good for business.”

Likewise, she argues that showing lukewarm concern for climate change is bad for the planet, and bad for the nuclear business.

 

World Nuclear Association and Nuclear Energy Institute

A New Head for the World Nuclear Association

Gail Marcus’ at Nuke Power Talk discusses the recent appointment of Agneta Rising as the new Director-General of the World Nuclear Association (WNA). She is to replace John Ritch in this position as of January 1, 2013. Gail notes the critical role that John Ritch played in making the WNA the important and influential force it is today in the global nuclear community, and summarizes the outstanding background that Agneta Rising brings to the position. Although Gail considers John’s performance a tough act to follow, she concludes that Agneta has the capability to continue and further develop the important work of the WNA.

The Need for Multifaceted Energy

Also at Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus covers a recent opinion piece by Marvin Fertel, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute. Now, you might think that someone from NEI would be focusing only on nuclear power, but Fertel points out the need for a multi-faceted energy strategy that includes conservation, efficiency, and a spectrum of energy technologies ranging from fossil to nuclear and renewable energy sources. Gail endorses this position and applauds the head of NEI for taking it.

 

Fukushima

Fukushima Accident Updates

Leslie Corrice at The Hiroshima Syndrome compiles the Internet’s top source of Fukushima accident updates.

September 15: “Fukushima’s waste water decontamination system is a success story”

Fukushima Daiichi’s “makeshift” waste water decontamination system gets critical news coverage every time it has problem. However, there have been no Japanese news stories about the system’s overall unquestionable success. The waste waters remaining in the plant basements are 20 times less radioactive than a year ago. For a “makeshift” technology… it’s doing a great job.

September 10: “America’s Gundersen profits on Japan’s fears”

For the past several weeks, America’s preeminent prophet of nuclear energy doom has been touring Japan. Arnie Gundersen says that Fukushima Daiichi is an accident still-in-progress, with the greatest potential for disaster being the spent fuel pool (SFP) of unit #4. Gundersen’s prolific panderings have precious little real-world evidence to support them, but the Japanese Press and many politicians treat him as an expert voice to be reckoned with. Preaching that Nuclear Judgment Day is an ongoing possibility has become a lucrative endeavor.

 

Asian Tiger

South Korea’s Nuclear Energy Program

Will Davis at Atomic Power Review presents an entirely fresh discussion on the essentials of South Korea’s nuclear energy program. Using materials from the Korean nuclear industry and from Korean press, he fills in the details on the important entities, dates and events in the development of PWR technology in South Korea. If you’ve wondered how this nation so quickly progressed to the point where it can beat all bidders in the UAE’s Barakah nuclear plant program, this article is for you.

 

Nuclear Waste Disposal

Nuclear Waste Disposal in the Permian Basin

Robert Hayes at Science and Technology writes that the Permian Basin (comprising southeast New Mexico and West Texas) is having something of a revival in nuclear technology — from the uranium enrichment plant in Eunice NM, to the soon to come International Isotopes facility, and possibly a monitored retrievable storage site to be built west of Hobbs, New Mexico.

Nuclear waste disposal is one industry already found in the area, including the disposal portions of Waste Control Specialists and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

 

New Technology

Brayton Cycle Supercritical Engine

Brian Wang at Next Big Future writes that Sandia National Laboratories is seeking an industry partner to market a turbine system that could substantially improve energy efficiency in small modular nuclear reactors.

A supercritical CO2 Brayton-cycle system can reach 50 percent conversion efficiency. Typically, one only gets 30 percent conversion with an [air-based] steam engine. The system is much less expensive to build because it’s very compact, says Sandia’s Gary Rochau. Given its size, it can’t be used in large power plants like coal-fired generators. But it’s well-suited for tiny plants, such as small modular nuclear reactors. A molten salt test pump was recently installed.

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

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

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

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

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

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Plant cooling a stumbling block?

By Howard Shaffer

When the heat released by nuclear fission is used in a steam plant to produce mechanical power, the second law of thermodynamics dictates that a large part of the heat must be rejected to the environment. Most land-based nuclear plants reject heat by using cooling water from a river or ocean.

The environmental effect of rejected heat is a legitimate concern that has been addressed in the design process for all nuclear plants. Environmental monitoring begins with a preconstruction baseline survey and continues throughout the plant’s lifetime, per regulations.

Environmental science continues to advance, and these advances must be taken into account when considering plant cooling.

Vermont Yankee’s design

The Vermont Yankee plant design began in the 1960s, and operation began in 1972. The plant is located on the Connecticut River in Vernon, Vermont, in the southeast corner of the state. The Connecticut River borders Vermont and New Hampshire, flows south through Massachusetts to Connecticut, and then empties into Long Island Sound. The Vermont Yankee plant is built just upstream from the Vernon Dam, and the dam’s large “pond” provides the plant’s cooling water.

The Vermont Yankee design included cooling towers, recently required by the Clean Water Act. Tower use is required only in warm months. River temperature requirements are specified in the plant’s Discharge Permit, and have been adjusted during plant life.

Permit issues

Vermont Yankee’s Discharge Permit is issued by the State of Vermont, under the authority of the Federal Clean Water Act. As the plant’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission relicensing date approached, the plant also applied for an extended permit from the state. The state review has been underway for several years.

Meanwhile, the NRC issued a 20-year renewal of the Vermont Yankee license, and the plant then sued Vermont for trying to nullify this license through state law. The plant won in federal district court and the case is being appealed.

Then, interveners sued the NRC claiming that the license renewal is illegal because the plant does not have a valid Discharge Permit from the state. The federal court dismissed this suit on procedural grounds, saying that the state and interveners had not used every available step in the administrative process, as must be done before going to court.

A detailed blog post on these rulings is available at Yes Vermont Yankee.

Protecting the river

The Connecticut River Watershed Council is an environmental group that monitors the river’s health and acts to ensure its protection and continued cleanup. Prior to the Clean Water Act of 1972, the local lore called the river “the world’s most beautifully landscaped sewer” because it was used that way by every city, town, and factory that had access. The river is far cleaner now.

However, the Watershed Council is now reporting that its studies have shown that one of the river’s fish, the shad, has essentially disappeared for a distance downstream from the plant. They claim that their studies show that water temperature increases due to the Vermont Yankee plant can be measured miles downstream. The council advocates the use of Vermont Yankee’s cooling towers for a longer part of the year, or even all year. Meanwhile, the state is waiting for its scientific review to be completed.

One law professor called for shutting down the plant until the Discharge Permit process is resolved. The responsible state official replied that the process must be fair and defensible in court!

A complication?

About 10 miles downstream of Vermont Yankee, the Northfield Mountain Pumped Storage plant also uses the Connecticut River. It pumps water up to a reservoir at night, and releases it as needed during the day to generate power. This reservoir is on a mountain top and open to the sun, so it gains heat.

There has been no mention of this heat gain by the Watershed Council. A Massachusetts environmental professor detailed severe effects on aquatic life that were probably caused by this plant. He pointed out that many species recovered when the pump storage plant was off-line. In addition, there are reports of heavy shad fishing at the river’s mouth. Will these concerns appear in the council’s report? They should.

Opposition activity

The SAGE Alliance plans a September 15th Flotilla at Vermont Yankee. Supporters are encouraged to launch any kind of craft, and also be on the river banks. Banners opposing the plant will be displayed. They will symbolically dump some ice in the river for cooling. There has not been much to keep the plant in the news this summer, so this seems to be a publicity stunt, and an effort to keep supporters energized.

Possible outcome

It seems possible that scientific findings may eventually dictate that the Vermont Yankee plant reduce its temperature impact on the river for more months than it does now. The plant’s cooling towers would have to be used more. However, tower operation reduces the net power the plant delivers to the grid. Winter operation of these wooden frame towers is problematic at best, due to potential ice damage, and probably not possible.

Likewise, the findings may also dictate changes to protect fish from the effect of the pumped storage plant. There are fish ladders around the dams, but there may need to be a long canal installed to allow fish to bypass the pumped storage intake.

The future

Several other nuclear power plants (Oyster Creek and Indian Point, among others) also are facing challenges about discharge temperatures. The sciences of aquatic life are advancing. It may be that practices once believed acceptable will need to be changed. Nuclear scientists and engineers believe primarily in science and the scientific method. We will go where it leads us (that is why we are so passionate about publicizing correct information about radiation safety).

In terms of aquatic life, we need to accept valid, peer-reviewed findings substantiated by the evidence, even if conclusions turn out to be uncomfortable for us. However, the important point is to accept comprehensive, peer-reviewed scientific studies that look at the whole river, dams, pumped storage and all, and do what is best for the ecosystem.

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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.

ANS Man vs. the Anti-Nuclear Zombie Plague

Adventures of the Charismatic ANS Man

 

 

 

 

By Dave Pointer

I grew up in the green rolling hills of east Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee.

University of Tennessee-Knoxville

Photo by Wade Rackley/Tennessee Journalist
Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tnjn/4110732198/
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/deed.en
Modified by Dave Pointer

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I moved north to the great city of Chicago to work as a nuclear engineer.

Dave Pointer in Chicago

 Photo by Nimesh Madhavan.
Link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nimeshm/3012399375/
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en
Modified by Dave Pointer

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But it wasn’t long before I started hearing strange reports from home. Unsettling rumors—almost too strange to believe—of the dead returning to life and congregating in the streets of Chattanooga.

Zombies in Chattanooga TN

 Photo by Just Shooting Memories.
Link: http://justshootingmemories.com/2011/10/11/chattanooga-skyline
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Original zombie art by Dave Pointer

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Their sole purpose—to oppose the use of nuclear science and technology, especially for the generation of electricity.

Zombies with chainsaws

 Photo by Richard Webb
Link: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2445748
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Chainsaw clipart: http://openclipart.org
Original zombie art by Dave Pointer

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As the cooler temperatures of autumn approached, we learned that the zombie plague had spread: the zombies were closing in on the public hearing on the Surplus Plutonium Disposition Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), scheduled for 5:30pm–8:00pm on September 11, 2012, at the Chattanooga Convention Center!

Zombies in a conference room

  Photo by Dries Buyaert
Link: http://buytaert.net/album/drupalcon-chicago-2011/conference-room-for-3000-people
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Original zombie art by Dave Pointer

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I knew that I must act—and ANS Man was born!

ANS Man is every ANS member and no ANS member—a mystery figure armed with a PASSION for nuclear energy and the FACTS about nuclear science and technology.

A Nuclear Superhero is born!

 Original ANS Man art by Dave Pointer

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Faster than a speeding neutron, ANS Man traveled to Chattanooga and registered his intention to address the zombie crowd. He also stopped by the ANS Member Hospitality Room in MEETING ROOM ONE for a delicious cookie.

ANS Man arrives at the Chattanooga Convention Center

 Photo by Dries Buyaert
Link: http://buytaert.net/album/drupalcon-chicago-2011/conference-room-for-3000-people
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
Original ANS Man and Cookie art by Dave Pointer

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When it was his turn to take the microphone in hand, ANS Man spoke eloquently and passionately about the benefits of nuclear science and technology and the safety of mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.

  • Nuclear science and technology improves our lives in many ways and in many different areas: generates over 20 percent of U.S. electricity; makes our food safer; improves the quality of our tools, gauges, and machines; helps diagnose injuries and illnesses; treats cancers; and powers our exploration of the solar system.
  • MOX fuel has been proven to be a safe and reliable fuel source over many reactor years of operation. The safety and performance record of MOX fuel is comparable to that of low-enriched uranium fuel.
  • MOX fuel has been produced in five countries and is widely used in many reactors all over the world. Many nations view MOX as an essential part of their energy and fuel cycle management policies.
  • The concept of using MOX fuel to dispose of surplus plutonium has received broad national and international support from scientific organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences, the US-Russian Independent Scientific Commission on Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium, Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, and the Non-Proliferation Project of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Eloquent Nuclear Super Hero

 Original ANS Man art by Dave Pointer
Podium clipart from http://openclipart.org

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The zombies were overwhelmed by his presentation, and, as they filled with new facts, new brains began to grow inside their zombie skulls.

The zombie plague was cured!

ANS Man cures zombies!

Original ANS Man art by Dave Pointer
Brain clipart from http://openclipart.org

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Hopefully, this was entertaining. Unfortunately, there are people who will stop at nothing to reduce the use of nuclear energy, regardless of the consequences.

By opposing the safe and responsible use of MOX fuel technologies to reduce or eliminate excess weapons-grade plutonium stockpiles, the anti-nuclear zombies really do pose a threat: they make our world a much more dangerous place.  As a nuclear engineer, I know that we can and should advance nuclear science and technology for the benefit of society. And we can do so safely and responsibly.

This issue is so important that the ANS Position Statement on Utilization of Surplus Weapons Plutonium As Mixed Oxide Fuel (ANS-47-2009) takes the unusual step of including a call to action—asking professional organizations to help inform the public about the nonproliferation benefits of the MOX fuel program and the safe and successful track record of manufacturing and using MOX fuel.

Don’t wait for ANS Man to act on your behalf. Plan to attend and give your statement at the SEIS public hearing on September 11, 2012!

Capes are optional.

ANS Member Hospitality Room

The ANS Member Hospitality Room will open at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, September 11, 2012, in Meeting Room One of the Chattanooga Convention Center.

ANS Annual Meeting Dresden Station technical tour

by Will Davis

When I was registering for the various events scheduled to take place during the ANS Annual Meeting this past June, I was quite excited to see that one of the three technical tours would be at Exelon’s Dresden Nuclear Station, not too far from downtown Chicago where the meeting was taking place. Luckily, I made the cut for attendance and was issued a ticket for the tour when I checked in at the meeting desk.

The transportation for the tour was a comfortable, air-conditioned motor coach—which was good, because Illinois was in the midst of a heat wave. The ride to Dresden was quicker than I’d expected, given the distance. Those of us who hadn’t been there before were looking out of the windows all the time to see the first hint of the tall stacks, or perhaps the spherical containment for the now shut down Dresden Unit 1.

Permit a digression at this point; the aforementioned structure, which is a steel sphere 180 feet in diameter, is one of those “nuclear relics” of some note that we have in this industry. Spherical containment didn’t last too long in commercial nuclear plant construction before giving way to far easier to build (and less expensive) cylindrical containment buildings. Seeing a photo or drawing of a spherical containment building immediately brings to mind the early days of nuclear energy; structures like this are the pyramids of our field. (Note: They are less permanent, though—a number of them have been completely dismantled and removed at other sites.) This would be my chance to check off No. 2 on my list of viewing such containment buildings; I say No. 2 because I formerly walked daily past the only larger one, at the Kesselring Site in New York. Not far below this in rank in terms of “nuclear archaeology,” if you will, is the fact that Dresden-1 was the nation’s first privately financed commercial nuclear plant. All of these reasons make Dresden Station a top priority for those of us with an interest in preserving a record of our nuclear history. In fact, the American Nuclear Society has designated Dresden Unit 1 as a Nuclear Historic Landmark.

Dresden Unit 1 under construction, April 1958

When the bus arrived at the station, I noticed something immediately that I had not noticed before in photos:  The newer Dresden 2 and 3 units were built immediately adjacent to the Dresden-1 turbine building—and in fact the buildings abut and connect. Dresden-2 and -3 are later model GE boiling water reactor/3 reactors in Mark I containment buildings. The sight of the plant is thus a mixture of the old, or should I say original, and the more modern at once. Both units 2 and 3 were running at full power that day; the load on the grid from the heat wave was making the news.

After an orientation and welcome, along with issuance of dosimetry and a few questions, we were divided into groups of not more than five persons each; each group would have one or two escorts for security purposes who also doubled as our tour guides. My “group” as it were had only two members; our escort was Marisa Seloover, a young electrical engineer who acts as the plant’s systems engineer for compressor equipment. Marisa immediately showed her enthusiasm for her job, and was extremely informative and helpful at all times. In fact, everyone at the plant was extremely willing to tell us information and describe operations at the plant, as well as explain equipment.

The tour overall had to be cut a bit short, because the time was cramped and also because the temperature outside was about 102 °F that day. We toured a good portion of the operating plants, although since this was a BWR plant, close access to the turbine generators wasn’t allowed. We looked at control rod drive equipment, the access doors to the drywells, various pumps, and various labyrinthine spaces around the reactor buildings. We got a chance to stand on the refueling floor and look right down into the spent-fuel pool for Unit 3; yellow-clad workers were up on a ladder in the distance. The volume of the space was more impressive than I’d pictured it; the refueling floor level spans both reactors.

A fun moment of the tour occurred when we stopped next to one of the feed pump rooms. One of the escorts managed to yell to us over the din that the pump room held three electric feed pumps, each of roughly 7000 horsepower, and that much of the noise we’d heard outside the plant was actually the cooling air for these pump motors. He indicated that hearing was practically impossible if the access door were open; then he opened the door. He was correct. And yes, of course, we were wearing hearing protection, hard hats, and safety glasses issued by Exelon before leaving the training building outside the plants.

I myself had reserved a special enthusiasm for seeing Dresden-1, and we walked through the turbine hall of Unit 2 to an access door and immediately were in the turbine building of Unit 1. The turbine generator and associated equipment are long gone; the building is now used primarily for tool storage and maintenance work. As we walked along a level that would originally have been well above the turbine generator, I looked down and thought of the old photos I’d seen of when the plant was operating.

Dresden Nuclear Power Station dedication ceremony, October 12, 1960

Then, we went through a door and into the spherical containment itself. One of our escorts immediately yelled—and the echo, which he knew he would get, made all of us laugh. We were on a level above that of the steam generators, which he said were below the flooring (remember that Dresden-1 was a dual-cycle BWR with both direct steam to the turbine generator and four steam generators that fed steam to it as well.) The height of the concrete structure rising block-like in front of us, which formerly contained the steam and water piping and on top of which was the central steam separator drum, was quite impressive. We walked around to our left and could see the opening in the center of this structure that essentially amounted to the refueling space—below the steam drum, and between the steam risers. I quickly imagined that this would have been entirely an exclusion zone when the reactor was operating. The emptiness of the rest of the structure, with few signs of equipment, made the area feel less like a nuclear power plant and more like some sort of test mockup, which of course it was not. As we left the sphere, I recalled that the original design plan included not only the turbine generator but the control room as well inside the sphere; GE and Bechtel eventually changed their minds about that.

After we returned to the training center, we were given water to drink because of the heat (we’d skipped the tour of the dry cask storage areas because of that factor) and got the chance to talk to our guides for a few moments. Marisa noted that Unit 2 had been upgraded over the years, and was rated about 960 MWe—although on that day, because of ambient temperatures being so high, the plant was limited to about 950 MWe. Unit 3 was at its full rated power of about 912 MWe; it had not received all of the upgrades yet that Unit 2 had (main generator rewind, new low pressure turbines and turbine casings, new and much more modern recirculation pump drives) but would receive the last of them during the next refueling.

She explained how tight the limits were on water that the plant can discharge to the rivers, and how the plant uses a combination of river water, cooling lake, and added cooling towers to meet thermal discharge limit requirements. Her descriptions of practice drills and events for the plant were very helpful and informative. She, and others like her, struck me as the bright hope for the future in the nuclear energy industry.

After this, it was time to complete the day’s events with brief tours of the control room simulator, and a presentation on the plant, its history, and its operation given by Work Management Director Joe Sipek. The control room tour was extremely informative; the personnel there answered all of our questions fully and clearly. The tour was very thorough, even including the alley behind the main panels and descriptions of how the simulator functions, as well as how the staff rotates through.

After Mr. Sipek’s presentation and some souvenir Dresden Station pens were handed out, it was time to get on the bus and leave for Chicago and our comfortable hotel. This was the final event for the whole annual meeting for me; I’d be flying home the next day. On the way in, I’d looked at the site and wondered about very many things—mostly about what I’d find inside, what I’d see. On the way out, I thought mainly about the people I’d met and how well they’d impressed me. Of course it goes without saying that any plant is primarily its people, and Exelon left this writer with an impression of a well-motivated, well-engaged, dedicated workforce.

All in all, as the bus made the journey down the access road out of the plant, I knew that my lasting impression would be not of things like structures that would someday be dismantled, but instead would be of the people who work and pass their knowledge on to others. It’s no overstatement to say that the time invested in the trip paid me great dividends.

I’d like to thank the following people from Exelon who helped make the trip possible: Natalie Zaczek, Paul Bembnister, Scott Ackerman, Joe Sipek, Marisa Seloover, Dan Murphy, Tom Mohr, Kyle Cook, Samantha Cosenza, Nick Oudin, and Marie Frese. Also, thanks to Robert Osgood of Exelon who handled pre-trip security and communications. Any omissions from this list are my error and I offer my apologies for any such.

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Davis

Will Davis is the author of the nuclear energy blog “Atomic Power Review,” and is a member of the American Nuclear Society.  A former US Navy reactor operator, Davis finds his calling to be presenting the public with information about nuclear energy technology and its history.

Nuclear-powered Mars rover Curiosity lands safely

An image sent by NASA’s Curiosity rover shortly after landing

The nuclear-powered roving robotic laboratory Curiosity touched down early on August 6, and is beaming back images while undergoing system checks. The Curiosity landing has generated worldwide interest, including interest in its plutonium power source.

A short internet news roundup highlighting Curiosity‘s use of nuclear technology for its source of power:

Steve Aplin at the Canadian Energy Issues blog, in “This educational moment brought to you by plutonium, and the end of the Cold War,” provides an excellent overview of Curiosity‘s radioisotope thermoelectric generator and its origins — in the end of the Cold War — and explains how Curiosity‘s successful landing is a triumph of cooperation between two former enemies.

Matt Wald at the New York Times Green BlogNuclear Pack Powers Rover on Mars” provides a succinct overview of the reasoning behind using a plutonium power source for Curiosity instead of solar.

At the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Nuclear Notes,A Nuclear-Powered Space Rover Lands on Mars, Brings New Hope for Space Exploration” covers some of the far-reaching implications Curiosity’s mission has for the nuclear energy field — especially in space exploration.

Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat inNASA Mars vehicle uses nuclear power source interviewed Stephen Johnson, director of Idaho National Laboratorys Space Nuclear Systems and Technology Division, about Curiosity shortly after launch.

From the mainstream press Los Angeles Times today, “Mars rover draws on nuclear power for trek around Red Planet” outlines the role of Curiosity‘s radioisotope thermal generator, developed by engineers at Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy.

Readers are referred to ANS Nuclear Cafe’s recent “Mars Rover Curiosity, A Nuclear Powered Mobile Laboratory” containing a NASA video featuring Ashwin Vasavada, deputy project scientist for the Mars Science Laboratory, explaining Curiosity‘s Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator.

ANS contributor Wes Deason in “Plutonium in Space: Why and How?” delves into the advantages of using plutonium in radioisotope generators for space missions.

Shannon Bragg-Sitton of INL discusses nuclear space applications” and speaks at length about the Curiosity rover in this ANS Nuclear Cafe video shortly after the launch of the mission. Dr. Bragg-Sitton served as chair of the 2012 ANS Nuclear and Emerging Technologies for Space conference.

The Jet Propulsion Lab Mars Science Laboratory website provides Mars Science Laboratory mission background information and breaking news.

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Wind power to nuclear power infographic comparison

By Jason Correia

This article is the first in a series of info-graphic presentations about nuclear energy. This graphic compares the energy density of nuclear to that of wind power.

Please click to see a full-sized PDF of this info-graphic poster

Wind power is dilute and variable so some may argue this isn’t a fair comparison. Yet, we often read in news stories about a wind turbine being built that “can supply energy for 300 homes”. This limited information creates a misleading impression that one turbine will produce that power continuously.

If wind power is compared to a yearly megawatt hour (MWh) figure that a nuclear plant can produce, the impression of what wind can power dramatically shifts. The numbers cannot be fully appreciated until they are fully visualized.

Wind generators, or wind turbines, have become a popular symbol of clean carbon free electricity. Unlike other sources of renewable energy such as hydro-electricity or geothermal, wind and solar power are variable producers of electricity. Since the wind does not always blow nor the sun always shine, any given wind turbine will never produce its full capacity rating for an extended period of time.

Capacity factor

The ratio of electricity produced to the quantity it could produce over a year if it was running at full capacity is known as the capacity factor. For wind power, the average capacity factor is 25 percent, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Capacity factor is the feature highlight of this info-graphic poster. To make a graphic representation of how this compares to one nuclear power plant rated at 1154 megawatts (MW), this shows the full count of all 2077 2-MW wind turbines in a 24”x36” poster. This is what would be required to match the nuclear power plant output even if this array of turbines could hypothetically run continuously at only 25 percent of its rated capacity.

The nuclear power plant can run at least at 90 percent of its capacity factor over a year. In fact, it probably could run at 100 percent of its capacity factor for up to 18 months—and this has been done by many nuclear power plants. The 9,000,000+ MWhs it produces could power a city of almost a million people.

To achieve the same result with wind turbines, simply adding more turbines will not necessarily result in a greater amount of electric power or level it out to a continuous flow. Sometimes the wind is slow, non-existent, or even too fast for the turbines to use safely. Thus, this graphic shows a representation of how average wind-power performance could achieve the same amount of power as a nuclear power plant. Unlike a nuclear power plant, however, the output of wind is too variable to power a city. Like most electrical generators, the power output from nuclear and wind are integrated throughout the grid, although wind as a variable source does present some challenges for grid operators.

Placement of wind turbines

Wind turbines on wind farms would not be packed closely together as shown in this graphic. Optimally, wind turbines should be placed at least 7-15 diameter widths apart. Given that one 2-MW turbine can be taller than the Statue of Liberty, this can cover an enormous amount of land area with extremely tall structures. With this imaginary wind farm array, a minimum amount of land area required would be about 318 square miles and could include more for access roads, ground leveling, and tree removals. Wind farms are typically built in groups where the name-plate capacity can be 30-50 MW by 10-30 or more turbines. Thus, we will never see a group of 2077 2-MW (4154 MW name-plate capacity) wind turbines.

The 1154-MW nuclear power plant can typically occupy about 50 acres of land, often with a buffer space of land area of at least 1 square mile. The nuclear plant in this graphic is shown without an optional cooling tower, which can be up to 200 meters high.

The purpose of this graphic is to show a visual comparison of wind power to nuclear power with respect to capacity factors. Although there are many other factors to compare, capacity factor is a straightforward data-driven comparison that is an easy concept to understand—but often overlooked.
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Correia

Jason Correia is an independent graphic artist and web designer who has worked on projects with PopAtomic Studios and Atomic Insights. He is dedicated to producing innovative and creative graphics and presentations to promote nuclear energy education and awareness. He has a BA in Industrial Design from San Francisco State.