Saturday, September 29, 2012

U.S. nuclear outages higher than last year, for now

(Reuters) - U.S. nuclear power outages over the last few months have been averaging well above last year and the five-year average primarily due to the continued shutdown of four reactors for major, long-term maintenance, according to Reuters data.
Natural gas traders follow the nuclear outages closely because plants burning gas usually make up much of the missing nuclear generation, especially during periods of high demand.

It takes about 200 million cubic feet (mcf) of natural gas per day to generate about 1,000 MW of electricity.

Thomson Reuters Analytics estimated that nuclear outages last week boosted gas demand by about 500 mcf per day, or nearly 1 percent of estimated gas demand this month.

There were about 16,500 MW of nuclear capacity out on Friday versus about 11,700 MW out at the same time in 2011 and a five-year average out of 13,200 MW. [ID:nL4E8KS55B]

But by the middle of October as reactors return to service, available nuclear capacity should climb above both last year and the seasonal average, according to Reuters data.

The number of outages in 2012 has remained higher than 2011 since June, and also above the five-year average since May.

The reactors currently shut for long-term outages were the two units at Southern California Edison's (SCE) 2,150-MW San Onofre in California, Progress Energy Florida's 860-MW Crystal River in Florida and Omaha Public Power District's 478-MW Fort Calhoun in Oklahoma.

But the loss of the four units alone does not explain why there are more nuclear megawatts down now than in the past since there were also four reactors out for long-term work this time last year - Crystal River and Fort Calhoun, which are still shut, and the two reactors at Virginia power company Dominion's 1,863-MW North Anna in Virginia.

The North Anna units shut in August 2011 following an earthquake near the plant and returned in November 2011.

There are more outages now in part because there are also 10 units already shut for planned refueling versus only seven at the same time in 2011.


Friday, September 28, 2012

The Nuclear Renaissance Is Back, Industry Panel Says

Encouraged by a new poll showing public support, industry leaders predicted Wednesday that nuclear power will resume the “renaissance” it was enjoying before the Fukushima accident roiled the industry 18 months ago.
“The future of nuclear is looking pretty good,” said Jack Grobe, the executive director of Exelon Nuclear Partners, striking a much more positive tone than former  Exelon CEO John Rowe.
Grobe was among five industry leaders who lauded “The Future of Nuclear” Wednesday at the Great Lakes Symposium on Smart Grid and the New Energy Economy, held at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
The panelists’ confidence stems in part from the nation’s fleet of aging coal plants, which are not expected to survive increasingly stringent environmental regulations.
“We will retire these old fossil fuel plants and have to replace them with something,” said Scott Bond of Ameren Missouri, the utility that operates the Callaway Nuclear Generating Station. “The question is, what do you replace them with?”
One obvious answer is a power plant that burns natural gas, which, thanks to fracking, is now so cheap and plentiful that Rowe said in March that it doesn’t make sense for new nuclear plants to compete.
Wednesday’s panel touted the stable price of nuclear fuel as insurance against the vagaries of most other fuel prices including, over the long term, natural gas.
“It’s not just an economic question,” said Exelon’s Jack Grobe. “It’s an energy diversity question.”
“There’s a lot of focus on gas right now,” Bond said. But “fuel diversity is the only safe place to be for a utility.”
Nuclear power may have stable fuel prices, but it faces an unstable regulatory environment subject to public doubts and political winds.
That’s why the Nuclear Energy Institute is touting the results of a poll it released this week.
“We just did a survey, and we had a strong majority of Americans–81 percent–who believe that nuclear energy is important for the nation’s future energy needs,” said Alex Marion, NEI’s vice president for nuclear operations.
“Eighty-two percent believe the U.S. should continue to develop nuclear energy to meet growing electricity demand, and about the same percentage support the idea of renewing operating plant licenses, as long as they meet NRC regulatory requirements.
“And 74 percent believe the nuclear power plants operating in the U.S. are safe and secure. So there is public support.”


United Kingdom: Cumbria needs new nuclear power plant - and no more wind turbines

County council leader Eddie Martin demanded action from the government at a special meeting in London.
He believes a replacement for Sellafield would spare the county from being saturated with turbines.

A committed opponent of windfarms, Mr Martin says Cumbria has “more than its fair share” and is not prepared to accept any more.

Mr Martin and the leaders of Allerdale and Copeland councils travelled to Westminster for a meeting with Baroness Verma, junior minister at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, to discuss nuclear power and waste disposal in the county.

He said: “We need nuclear power at Sellafield now, not in five or eight or 10 years’ time.

“If the government were to encourage, persuade and cajole the private sector to build a new power station, we could dispose of all these windfarms.

“A nuclear power station is not as destructive as an avalanche of windfarms.”


New vice president named to oversee daily operations at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

PG&E has appointed a new site vice president to oversee daily operations of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, the utility announced today.

Barry Allen, who since 2008 has worked as site vice president of Davis-Besse nuclear power station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, will provide leadership over Diablo Canyon’s maintenance and security functions, as well as lead the periodic refueling of both reactor units.

Allen has more than 30 years of experience in the nuclear power industry, according to a news release. He joined FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Co. in 2003 as plant manager at the Davis-Besse.

He later served as site operations director at Perry nuclear generating station in North Perry, Ohio, and became site vice president of that plant before moving back to Davis-Besse.

Allen has a bachelor’s degree in architecture structures and a master’s degree in civil engineering from Texas Tech University.


India: Kudankulam nuclear power plant is safe: NDMA

In the midst of ongoing protests against Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, the National Disaster Management Authority today said all nuclear installations in the country were safe and there was no need for any worry for the people living in the surrounding areas.

"There is no need for any concern for any of the plants," NDMA vice-chairman M Shashidhar Reddy said at a press conference here.

Reddy said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, senior government officials and experts have repeatedly said there would be no compromise on the safety standard of any of nuclear plants.

"Not only Kudankulam but Kalpakkam Atomic Power Station, which too is located in Tamil Nadu, is also safe. Government has taken several safety measures and it would continue to do so. I think there is need for some awareness," he said after a day-long session on various aspects of disaster management organised on the occasion of 8th foundation day of NDMA.

Reddy said government has already announced a Rs 500 crore development project for the surrounding areas of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

"We have asked all states, which have nuclear plant, to prepare development plan for people living in areas near the plant. Karnataka is preparing one and other states will also come up. Fund is not an issue," he said.
The NDMA vice-chairman said drills were carried out in six states which host nuclear plants to aware people how to deal with any disaster.


FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company Announces Management Changes at Davis-Besse, Beaver Valley

AKRON, Ohio, Sept. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company (FENOC), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), announced today several management changes at its Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, and Beaver Valley Power Station in Shippingport, Pa.

Raymond A. Lieb, currently director of Site Operations at Beaver Valley, has been promoted to site vice president of Davis-Besse, effective October 8, 2012.  Lieb replaces Barry Allen, who has accepted a position at Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Diablo Canyon Power Plant in San Luis Obispo County, Calif.  Richard D. Bologna, currently director of Engineering at Beaver Valley, succeeds Lieb as director of Site Operations.  Beaver Valley Design Engineering Manager Carmen Mancuso will serve as acting director of Engineering at the site until a permanent replacement is named. 

"Ray brings to Davis-Besse extensive knowledge and experience in the nuclear industry and strong leadership skills that will ensure the site continues to deliver safe, reliable performance.  His extensive engineering background and solid understanding of plant operations are a benefit to the organization," said FENOC President and Chief Operating Officer Pete Sena.  "Barry's leadership has been an asset to Davis-Beese as the site strengthened its performance to achieve industry excellence, and we wish him the best in his new endeavors."

Following his service in the nuclear navy, Lieb began his career at Tennessee Valley Authority's Sequoyah Nuclear Plant in Operations.  He joined Beaver Valley's Operations group in 1996 as an assistant nuclear shift supervisor and later served as shift manager.  He has also held leadership roles in Engineering and Outage and Work Management and served as a loaned employee from FENOC to the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO).  

Japan: 1-J-Power to resume nuclear plant construction

TOKYO, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Japan's Electric Power Development (J-Power) is set to resume construction of the Ohma nuclear power plant in northern Japan by the end of the year, Japanese media reported on Friday.

A company spokesman said J-Power may send an executive to meet officials of communities hosting its unfinished Ohma atomic plant on Oct. 1, the first such visit after the government announced a policy plan to shift away from nuclear power.

But he declined to comment further on whether it will resume construction. The company has said it would make a decision after consultation with local communities.

Japan's government this month decided to aim to end reliance on nuclear power by the 2030s, but under pressure from business lobbies quickly wavered on what would be a major shift from goals set before last year's Fukushima atomic disaster.

A 2010 plan had aimed to boost nuclear power to over 50 per cent of electricity needs by 2030, up from nearly 30 percent before Fukushima.

Yukio Edano, who as trade minister oversees energy policy, has since said that utilities could go ahead building plants whose construction had already been approved, such as the 1,383-megawatt Ohma plant, but any decision on whether they would keep operating beyond the 2030s would be taken later.

The Ohma plant was about 40 percent completed when construction was suspended after the massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that devastated the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Japan’s Cabinet backpedals on totally phasing out nuclear energy

TOKYO — Japan’s Cabinet stopped short of a commitment Wednesday to phase out nuclear power by 2040, backtracking from an advisory panel’s recommendation in the face of opposition from pro-nuclear businesses and groups.

The decision came on the same day that Japan launched a new nuclear regulatory body to replace an agency whose links to the nuclear industry reportedly contributed to last year’s disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.


India: Foundation stone of Haryana's nuclear power plant to be laid in January next

Chandigarh: The foundation stone of a nuclear power plant to be set up in a village in Haryana's Fatehabad district will be laid in January next, Congress MP Ashok Tanwar said on Sunday.

The technical survey for the plant to be set up in Gorakhpur village is in progress, he said.

The MP from Sirsa thanked farmers for giving their land for the nuclear power plant which, he said, will not only be safe but also environment-friendly.


Three Mile Island unit back after shutdown

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. - A unit at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania has been returned to service following an automatic shutdown triggered by a malfunctioning pump.

Exelon Generation officials told The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News that the plant's Unit 1 was returned to service Saturday when operators connected the turbine generator to the regional power grid.  Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan said once the reactor has cooled, workers will be able to access the containment building and try to solve the problem.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Japan retreats from nuclear power phase-out

Japan's cabinet on Sept. 19 failed to approve recommendations of a special government-appointed panel to phase out nuclear power by 2040, in a move openly portrayed in the country's media as a capitulation to pro-nuclear businesses interests. The panel had called for a 40-year limit on the lifespan of nuclear power plants, no new plant construction, and no expansion of existing nuclear power facilities. The cabinet decision came on the same day that Japan launched a new body to oversee the industry, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which replaces the existing Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. But critics say the new agency lacks any greater powers than the old one, and protest that its head, Shunichi Tanaka, who oversaw decontamination efforts at Fukushima, is a nuclear industry insider.


Iowa Looking At Nuclear Power

MidAmerican Energy Co. is holding meetings with landowners and residents in two locations in Iowa as part of a nuclear energy assessment study.

About 40 residents in Fremont County in western Iowa and a similar number in Muscatine County in eastern Iowa received invitations.

MidAmerican will discuss the purpose of soil samples the company is gathering for the study to assess the viability of nuclear generation in Iowa.

Spokeswoman Tina Potthoff says the company is taking five soil borings of nearly 100 feet deep in both locations. She says no decisions have been made to build a nuclear plant.

The Legislature in 2010 passed a bill allowing MidAmerican to recover up to $15 million in study costs from Iowa electric customers.


EDF starts planning for second new UK nuclear plant

(Reuters) - EDF Energy, the UK arm of France's state-owned utility, on Friday started planning procedures to build a second new nuclear plant in Britain, despite searching for a partner to help finance its first new UK nuclear plant in Somerset.

The company, already Britain's biggest nuclear power producer, announced on Friday its intention to start public consultation, the first step of planning procedures, for the new project at Sizewell in Suffolk at the end of November.

"We are very pleased to signal the start of our formal consultation for Sizewell C. It demonstrates our clear intent to progress our role at the forefront of the UK's nuclear renaissance," said Richard Mayson, director of planning and external affairs for EDF Energy's new build division.

A spokeswoman said it was too early to give a start-up date for the Sizewell project but EDF, together with French nuclear reactor designer Areva, plans to build four of Areva's European Pressurised water Reactors (EPRs) in Britain by 2025, a programme British utility Centrica also owns a 20 percent stake in.

The partners' first project at Hinkley Point C in Somerset had been expected to start operating in 2018, but planning delays following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan have delayed the start-up.

EDF also said it was considering taking further partners on board to help finance its UK new build projects.


Three Mile Island nuclear reactor shuts down unexpectedly

A reactor at Three Mile Island, the site of the nation’s worst nuclear accident, shut down unexpectedly on Thursday afternoon when a coolant pump tripped and steam was released, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told NBC News.

The system tripped when "the pump stopped operating and created a power/flow imbalance," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

The plant responded as designed and is stable with no impact on public health or safety, added NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci.

If any radiation was in the released steam, Screnci said, it would be below detectable levels.
Exelon, the plant operator, said in a statement that "during the shutdown, steam was released into the atmosphere, creating a loud noise heard by nearby residents."


Emirates, Saudis drive for nuclear power

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Sept. 21 (UPI) -- The United Arab Emirates, one of the top oil exporters, is leading the race to develop nuclear power in the Arab world and has awarded contracts worth $2 billion to provide, convert and enrich uranium.

For now, only the Emirates and Saudi Arabia have the political clout and the financial reserves to achieve nuclear power programs that will transform their economies. They also have the backing of the United States for this strategic geopolitical transition in return for pledges not to militarize their nuclear programs.
All three countries are bitterly opposed to Iran's nuclear drive. Tehran swears it's purely for peaceful purposes but the Islamic Republic's adversaries insist it masks a clandestine effort to develop nuclear weapons.

The Saudis' program, costing $100 billion, is by far the most ambitious, with 16 nuclear reactors planned by 2030, the first scheduled to start producing electricity by 2019.

But it's trailing the Emirates, which launched its program in 2009 and plans to build four 1,400-megawatt reactors. The first is scheduled to deliver electricity by 2017, with the other three coming on stream at a rate of one a year until 2020.

The uranium fuel contracts were signed by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Persian Gulf federation and its economic powerhouse, with six companies Aug. 15.

They are ConverDyn of the United States, Uranium One of Canada, Urenco and Rio Tinto of Britain, Russia's Tenex and French energy giant Areva, and indicate the Emirates is spreading its supply of nuclear fuel among the world's main suppliers as a hedge against future geopolitical changes.

"It's a good balanced move," observed Robin Mills, an energy economist with Manaar Consulting of Dubai, the Emirates' financial hub.

ENEC, the state nuclear agency, signed a $20 billion contract to build the first reactor to a consortium led by a South Korean enterprise, Korea Electric Power Corp., which beat out more seasoned nuclear power producers in the United States, France and Japan.

The U.S. Import-Export Bank authorized a $2 billion direct loan to the Emirates' Barakah One Co. to purchase U.S. equipment and construction services to build the initial Emirates' reactor, which will be the first nuclear power plant built on the Arabian Peninsula.

The reactors will all be built along the sparsely populated Barakah region of the gulf coast about 140 miles from Abu Dhabi near the Saudi border. Between them they will produce 5,600 megawatts gross electricity.
By comparison, Saudi Arabia's 20 reactors should produce 41GW within 20 years, with geothermal and waste-to-energy systems providing another 4GW.


India: Enriched uranium fuel loading begins at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project

NEW DELHI: India's nuclear operator has started loading enriched uranium fuel in the first reactor of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project after getting the final clearance from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) on Tuesday.

"The fuel loading has started on Wednesday," a senior official in the nuclear estalishment said.

The Kudankulam nuclear plant had run into a rash of protests following concern in the local communities on safety issues in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in March last year.

The official said the AERB had granted its final clearance to start loading of 163 fuel bundles late evening on Tuesday after the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) fulfilled the conditions set by the regulator.

The loading of fuel is expected to take about 10 days, officials said.

The NPCIL is setting up two 1,000 MW nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam with Russian collaboration.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nuclear Power Part I: The Science

I’ve written quite a few columns about electricity generation, but until this week have left nuclear power out of the conversation.  Given that nuclear power currently generates 14% of the world’s electricity, I thought it was about time for a Common Science review of this fascinating, yet controversial, technology.

With the exception of solar power, electricity is generated through the use of various methods to spin a turbine.  (For an explanation of why spinning a turbine generates electricity, see my previous column Electricity Generation 101.)  The turbine can be spun directly, with wind or falling water, or indirectly, by directing steam from boiling water through it.  Traditional power plants burn coal or natural gas to make steam, while nuclear power plants use the heat from the fission of uranium atoms.

Before exploring fission, let’s start with a quick review of atomic structure.  Atoms are made of an equal number of positively-charged protons and negatively-charged electrons, as well as a number of neutrons.  Neutrons serve as spacers in the nucleus to keep the protons from getting too close to each other.  If protons get too close together, they repel each other in a manner analogous to placing the positive ends of two magnets near one another.

The atomic number of an atom corresponds to the number protons and electrons it has.  The atomic mass of an atom is the combined number of protons and neutrons.  (We ignore the electrons in this calculation because their mass is negligible.)  A complicating factor when discussing atomic mass is that not all atoms of the same element have the same number of neutrons.  I’ll use uranium as an example.  All uranium atoms have 92 protons.  The vast majority of uranium atoms have 146 neutrons, giving them an atomic mass of 238 (92+146).  A small fraction of uranium atoms have only 143 neutrons, resulting in an atomic mass of 235.  Atoms of the same element with differing numbers of neutrons are called isotopes and referenced by their atomic masses.  The two isotopes of uranium are called U-235 and U-238.  Since U-235 has fewer neutrons than U-238, its positively-charged protons reside in closer proximity to one another than those in U-238.  This makes the nucleus of U-235 somewhat unstable.  The relative instability of U-235 is what makes it useful as nuclear fuel.

Uranium deposits contain approximately 99.3% U-238 and 0.7% U-235 and are recovered with standard mining techniques.  In order to produce useful nuclear fuel, the U-235 must be separated from the U-238.  The purification of U-235 occurs in two steps, both of which have received quite a bit of press over the past decade.  First the ore is crushed and treated with acid to recover a uranium-enriched solid known as yellowcake.  Yellowcake should sound familiar.  In his 2003 State of the Union address, then president Bush announced that the British had determined that Saddam Hussein had been negotiating to purchase yellowcake from Niger.  This turned out not to be true.

The next step in the enrichment process is to react the yellowcake with fluorine to make uranium hexafluoride gas.  If you run uranium hexafluoride through a centrifuge, you can separate the molecules which have U-235 from those which have U-238 based on the difference in mass.  Since the mass difference is extraordinarily small, the centrifuges required are very sophisticated and are considered the most critical piece of equipment in uranium enrichment.  Concerns over potential atomic weapons development in Iran often center on centrifuge capability.  Once you have separated out the U-235 containing uranium hexafluoride molecules, you can strip the fluorides back off to provide you with nearly pure U-235.

At this point we need a quick Einstein tangent.  Everyone knows the equation E = mc2, in which E is energy, m is change in mass and c is the speed of light. When you break an atom apart into smaller pieces, the sum total of the mass of the pieces formed is less than what you started with.  If you then multiply the loss in mass by the speed of light squared, you can calculate the energy liberated when splitting the atom.  Thinking about the interchangeability of mass and energy sort of hurts my head, so I encourage you to adopt my approach, and just accept it.

OK, let’s get back to our nuclear power story.  To generate heat from U-235 you need to break it into smaller pieces.  The process begins by firing a neutron at a U-235 nucleus at mind-bogglingly high speed.  The neutron is temporarily incorporated into the uranium nucleus creating a new, short lived U-236 isotope.  U-236 is unstable and, almost instantly, breaks apart into two smaller atoms, and two or three free neutrons.  As discussed in the paragraph above, the combined masses of the pieces created when breaking the U-235 are less than what you started with.  The energy liberated corresponds to the change in mass times the speed of light squared and is used generate steam.

If you were reading closely you will have noted that using one neutron to split the U-235 nucleus created 2 or 3 free neutrons.  These free neutrons have sufficient energy to break nearby U-235 nuclei.  If this process is left unchecked you get a chain reaction, with each fission event initiating 2 or 3 more, which is the mechanism which generates the explosion in an atom bomb.  Nuclear reactors, when functioning properly, regulate the rate of fission through the use of control rods.  Control rods are made of a variety of metals which are efficient in capturing neutrons without themselves undergoing fission.

The appeal of nuclear power has two origins.  First, uranium is a fairly common element on earth so there is an abundant supply.  Second, the process does not release green house gases into the air. The number of nuclear reactors around the world grew steadily from the 1960s through 1986 to the current global number of around 450....

...

California grid plans alternate source for lost nuclear capacity

(Reuters) - The California Independent System Operator Corp (CAISO)said it will convert two power plants to compensate for electricity lost by the shut down of the San Onofre nuclear power plant in a bid to ensure enough power generation next summer.

Edison International's Southern California Edison (SCE)'s 2,150-megawatt San Onofre nuclear power station, or SONGS, has not produced electricity since Jan. 31 after a radiation leak was found in one of the two units.

It had supplied the state with some 8 percent of its power.

The grid operator will convert AES Corp 's Huntington Beach natural gas-fired units 3 and 4 into synchronous condensers, which act "somewhat like spinning flywheels, adjust to grid conditions by providing the voltage support, normally supplied by the nuclear plant", CAISO said in a statement.

The units had been taken out of retirement and restarted in May to offset power lost from San Onofre.
Those units would produce "megavars, instead of megawatts" and would "push megawatts through the grid, much like water pressure helps push water through a hose."

The units would have low environmental impact.


Nuclear energy can help abate global climate change

According to’s Aug. 26 update on the Arctic sea ice, “We noted earlier that the Arctic sea-ice is approaching a record minimum. The record is now broken, almost a month before the annual sea-ice minima usually is observed, and there is probably more melting in store before it reaches the minimum for 2012 — before the autumn sea-ice starts to form.”

The past 12 months have been the hottest ever in recorded history, nationwide and worldwide. Ice reflects a lot more sunlight back into space than open water does. The melting speeds up global warming.

The change in sea ice causes the jet streams to become wilder, causing more radical weather down here. For agriculture, it means it rains at the wrong time, and there is less food.


Palisades nuclear power plant inspection to begin this week

A critical two week federal inspection of the Palisades nuclear power plant begins Monday.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission inspectors want to determine if Palisades’ owners have addressed problems that have raised questions about the nuclear plant’s “culture of safety”.

The problems have resulted in four unscheduled reactor shutdowns.

“It’s a very important inspection for us,” says Anthony Vitale, the plant’s site vice president,  “And it will give us a very good scrub as to where we are. We expect to come out of that with very good ratings.”

If Palisades doesn’t get very good ratings from the NRC inspectors, the west Michigan nuclear plant will be subject to a much more intensive inspection that could take 18 months.

Chuck Casto is the NRC’s regional administrator.   He says Palisades’ owners claim to have made progress to improve the plant’s “culture of safety”.  Casto says this inspection will determine if those claims are true.


Using a Fusion Fission Hybrid Reactor to Burn Nuclear Waste

In the aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown, widespread superstition and primal fear regarding nuclear energy has gripped the hearts and minds of politicians, pundits, and faux environmentalists across the planet. But while tens of thousands were killed by the massive earthquakes and tsunamis in Northern Japan, no one was killed or seriously hurt by radiation from the Fukushima reactors. Of course, no one ever said that human beings were rational.

Nuclear power is actually the safest form of power generation in existence, including all forms of renewables and hydrocarbons. Scientists and engineers, meanwhile, are working hard to make nuclear energy even safer than it already is.

he innovation, which will not be tested for at least a couple more years, could lead to the efficient incineration of [nuclear] waste and a safer way to generate nuclear-powered electricity.

The problem of radioactive waste, along with safety anxieties among the public, has long vexed the nuclear industry. The United States has wavered on whether to set up a long-term repository for long-lasting waste in remote spots such as Yucca Mountain, Nev.

The UT scientists received a patent in August for technology that allows the pairing of nuclear fusion and fission to incinerate nuclear waste. Fusion produces energy by fusing atomic nuclei, and fission produces energy by splitting atomic nuclei.


FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant Achieves Record Performance

LYCOMING, N.Y. – Early this morning (Sept. 16), control room operators removed Entergy’s James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant from service to begin its 20th refueling and maintenance outage after generating electricity safely for 700 consecutive days.

This marks the second consecutive time FitzPatrick has operated “breaker-to-breaker” (operating from one refueling outage to the next without needing to take the plant offline in between).

That means the plant has been on line every day for the past four years with the exception of two required outages to refuel and perform maintenance.

Since completing its last refueling and maintenance outage in October 2010, the plant produced more than 14 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity over its 700-day run. During the previous operating cycle, FitzPatrick achieved a site record by operating continuously for 702 days.

“Breaker-to-breaker operation is a significant accomplishment for any plant, but achieving it back-to-back over two consecutive operating cycles is truly a noteworthy accomplishment,” said Mike Colomb, Entergy’s site vice president at FitzPatrick.

“This achievement is the direct result of our workforce being committed to the safe and reliable operation of FitzPatrick through a focus on standards of excellence, equipment reliability, maintenance and continuous improvement and training.”

The upcoming work during the refueling and maintenance outage will be performed by FitzPatrick’s staff supplemented by Entergy employees from its other nuclear plants and contract workers, including pipefitters, boilermakers, electricians, laborers, valve technicians, engineers and radiation protection technicians.


Belarus to Go Nuclear as It Allies With China and Russia

Europe’s last dictatorship may soon go nuclear as it announces major construction of its first nuclear power plant while at the same time it is apparently aiding Communist China with its mobile launchers for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

On Thursday, September 13, the Russian-based engineering company Atomenergoproyekt told the Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BelTA) that it will commence major construction on Belarus’s first and only nuclear power plant on June 15, 2013.

On Wednesday, a day before the announcement, a meeting of the sixth operational group on the nuclear power plant project was held and led by Belarus’s First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko.
Additional representatives of the “Belarusian government, NPP construction directorate (customer), the united company NIAEP-Atomstroyexport (the general designer of the power plant and the general contractor), Belarusian subcontractors, and the Grodno Oblast administration,” were also present at the meeting, according to BelTA.

The construction site of the proposed power plant was examined by officials prior to their meeting. Excavation and work on the foundation is already well under way. Builders are scheduled to have the bed drainage completed by November 20. This drainage will “simultaneously protect the bottom part of the excavation pit from frost penetration,” according to BelTA.


Piling up spent nuclear fuel presents future disposal challenge

Even were the Energy Department to resume this year licensing efforts for Yucca Mountain as a permanent nuclear power waste disposal facility, it would still be 15 years before the site could start accepting spent fuel, says the Government Accountability Office.

By then, about 50,000 metric tons of spent fuel stored roughly equally in wet and dry storage will have accumulated, assuming that no new nuclear power plants open in the interim, according to Nuclear Energy Institute estimates cited by the GAO in an Aug. 15 report (.pdf) not posted online until Sept. 14.

The Yucca Mountain facility in Nevada was to have accepted its first delivery of spent fuel in 1998, but the Energy Department instead announced in 2009 it planned to terminate licensing work. Last year, Nuclear Regulatory Commission commissioners directed the licensing board to suspend work by Sept. 30, 2011.
"Currently, it remains uncertain whether NRC will have to resume its license review efforts and whether a repository at Yucca Mountain will be built," auditors say. Licensing an alternate disposal facility would likely take about 40 years, the GAO estimates--by when close to 140,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel will have accumulated.

Nuclear power plant operators have increasingly turned to dry cask storage to store spent fuel rods as pools for the wet storage of spent fuel rods have become more crowded. Spent fuel rods must stay inside pools of water for at least 5 years in order to cool down sufficiently to be stored in a dry cask, where passive air flow is sufficient to keep the spent fuel from heating to dangerous level.

Delays in a centralized nuclear waste disposal facility mean that reactor operators face uncertainty in selecting the type of metal canister spent fuel rods should be placed in for dry cask storage, auditors say. The Energy Department did publish canister specifications for waste destined for Yucca Mountain, but the canister never went into production.

They also warn that in the decades it will take to open a disposal facility--or even an interim centralized storage facility where spent fuel could be consolidated--spent fuel will pile up onsite at nuclear power plants. Most American reactors will reach the final end of their license by about 2030 and will siphon off the pools by about 2040.

UPDATE 2-EDF denies seeking $2.6 bln for Fessenheim closure

PARIS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - French power group EDF denied it had requested compensation from the government over its decision to close the state-controlled energy company's Fessenheim nuclear power plant.

The comment followed an unsourced report in the newspaper Journal du Dimanche claiming EDF had asked for more 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) to cover its loss of profit from the closure as well as the cost of investments made to prolong the life of the plant.

"EDF has made no request," a spokeswoman for the company told Reuters on Sunday.

French President Francois Hollande, who took office in May, announced on Friday he would shut Fessenheim in Alsace, near the German border, by the end of 2016, sticking to his election pledge to halt its operations by the end of his mandate in 2017.

The facility, which went into service in 1977, is France's oldest nuclear power plant and has been a frequent focus of safety concerns since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan that triggered the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Last week environmental groups called for its early closure after a steam leak at the plant triggered a brief fire alert.

France derives 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear production, more than any other country, and the issue of its nuclear dependency has become particularly sensitive in the wake of last year's Fukushima disaster.

Hollande on Friday confirmed his campaign pledge to cut the country's share of nuclear power in the energy mix to 50 percent.

Meanwhile, Fessenheim has been under particular scrutiny due both to its age and location, in an area at risk from both seismic activity and flooding.

Hollande's announcement on the early closure has dealt a blow to the nuclear industry, and drawn criticism from unions which are worried about job losses.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Murkowski presses Obama official on late nuclear waste plan

[COMMENTARY:  This article and Senator Murkowski's statement illustrates further the anti-Nulcear Power position the Barack Obama Administration holds.  While penalizing nuclear plants like San Onofre for their nuclear waste, the administration simultaneously does not release a nuclear waste plan by set deadlines.]

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) pressed an Energy Department (DOE) official Wednesday for answers on why the Obama administration missed a summer deadline for finalizing a nuclear waste storage plan.

“The government’s failure to address our nuclear waste issues is damaging to the development of future nuclear power and simultaneously worsening our nation’s financial situation,” Murkowski said during opening remarks at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. “We need to act, and we need to act soon.”

The administration did not meet a scheduled July 31 deadline to complete its nuclear waste storage plan.
Peter Lyons, DOE assistant secretary for nuclear energy, told the Senate committee the administration is uncertain when the plan will be ready.

That plan is supposed to design a way to implement recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, a group formed by President Obama in 2009 to evaluate the nation’s handling of nuclear waste.

“That work does continue and is nearing, I think, a conclusion,” Lyons said. “The matter is very much ongoing.”

When Murkowski asked Lyons to clarify whether a plan would be ready in a month, six months or a year, Lyons said he did not have enough specifics to comment.

The topic of nuclear waste became more highly politicized when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), under former chairman Gregory Jaczko, stopped reviews of the Yucca Mountain disposal site in Nevada.

The NRC said it lacked the money to continue reviewing the site. Republicans, however, charged that shutting Yucca down was a political decision led by the administration and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

A bill discussed at Wednesday’s hearing recalled that dispute.

The bill (S. 3469), introduced by committee chairman Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), largely adopts the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations.

It would encourage moving nuclear waste currently stored at nuclear reactors to consolidated interim sites until Congress approves a long-term repository. It also would open up more potential permanent repository sites for consideration beyond Yucca.

But Murkowski said the bill would prohibit interim storage until the NRC receives a formal application for a permanent site. That could get the process ensnarled in legal and political battles much like Yucca, she said.
Bingaman said such a provision was necessary to ensure interim sites do not become de facto permanent sites.

That contention is what will prevent the bill from going forward this year, Bingaman and Murkowski said, adding they largely agreed on many of the bill’s other provisions.


2 TVA nuclear plants shut down unplanned in August

Both of TVA's nuclear power plants in Tennessee had unplanned reactor outages of two days each in August.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press ( ) reported Unit 2 at the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant tripped on Aug. 16 when an electrical short occurred in one of the four nuclear coolant pumps.

The Watts Bar Nuclear Plant's only operating reactor shut down Aug. 28. TVA spokesman Ray Golden said human error caused the outage when an incorrectly calibrated testing device was plugged in.


Read more here:

Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant sues over new state tax

MONTPELIER, Vt. — The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the state over taxes on the plant that the Legislature passed this year.

Vermont Yankee had already won a round in federal court over the state's efforts to close the reactor in Vernon, 120 miles south of Montpelier. That case is now on appeal at the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

The new lawsuit, by New Orleans-based plant owner Entergy Corp., targets taxes that increase the reactor's annual state tax levy from about $5 million to about $12.8 million, according to a statement released by Entergy.

Supporters of the new taxes said they were designed to replace money the plant paid the state under agreements in 2003 and 2005 that saw the state drop its opposition to the plant boosting its power output by 20 percent and to the plant's plan for storage of more highly radioactive nuclear waste on its grounds.

Those agreements lasted until March 21, the end of the plant's initial 40-year operating license. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a 20-year license extension last year.

Rep. Tony Klein, D-East Montpelier and chairman of the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee, said Tuesday the state's intent was for Vermont Yankee to shut down.

But Entergy, after winning its new federal license last year, sued the state in a bid to stay open, which the plant has succeeded in doing.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Garvan Murtha ruled in January that federal law pre-empted the state from trying to shut its lone reactor down, located in the southeast corner of the state, near Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which both receive power from it. Lawmakers responded by issuing the new tax to make up for the revenue lost when the earlier agreements expired in March.

"If they are continuing to operate then they ought to operate under the same conditions that they operated under before," Klein said Tuesday.

Vermont Yankee, in the lawsuit, argued that it had fulfilled its obligations under the power boost and waste storage agreements and should be free to operate without paying more to the state.


Quebec to shut down its only nuclear reactor

Quebec's new government has confirmed it won't proceed with the multibillion-dollar refurbishment of the province's lone nuclear reactor and will instead shut it down.

A spokesman for incoming premier Pauline Marois gave the confirmation Tuesday, one day after the first public screening of a new film on the reactor that raises questions about its safety for people living nearby.

The government of outgoing Premier Jean Charest decided in 2008 to rebuild the Gentilly-2 nuclear plant at a cost of about $2 billion, but stopped work after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Regulatory Report Meeting (Baltimore - September 25th)

Knowledge Relay is conducting the next conference in the series for Nuclear Power Operators looking to automate their data and reporting needs to satisfy AP-928(tm) guidelines.  This meeting has no affiliation with INPO(tm), but is conducted solely by Knowledge Relay.  The results so far have been automated templates for the following reports:

  • Scope Stability
  • Schedule Adherence
  • Resource Loading
  • Weekly Resource Adherence
  • Scope Survivability
These templates along with corresponding data jobs are currently being installed at multiple U.S. nuclear operators and the results will be shared in Baltimore. (September 25).

The reports will show full 16+ week history, they will have complete drill downs, they will be automated from data to report distribution, and are designed to meet the regulatory requirements.

Expected attendees will come from:
  • Arizona Public Service
  • Duke Energy
  • Entergy
  • Exelon
  • First Energy
  • Florida Power & Light
  • Pacific Gas & Electric
  • PSEG
  • Southern California Edison
Discussion will range form reviewing the current completed reports to next creating solutions for AP-913(tm).

If you are interested in automating your AP-928(tm) data and reporting processes and are from a nuclear operator, please contact Mary Owings at:  (714) 761-6760 or

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Navy and nuclear industry sign deal to fight workers shortage

The nuclear industry long has drawn employees from the U.S. Navy, so it makes sense that companies would look to the Navy again as the industry faces an impending shortage of skilled workers.

The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, which operates a large fleet of nuclear-powered submarines and ships, and more than 30 civilian nuclear energy companies recently signed an agreement that will assist in the recruitment of Navy veterans qualified to work in the field.

The Nuclear Energy Institute trade group has estimated that the industry will have to hire 25,000 more workers over the next four years to replace retirees and find new workers to staff plants now under construction in the southeast.

Under the agreement, nuclear-trained Navy personnel ending their active-duty commitment have the option of having their contact information forwarded to industry recruiters for companies participating in the program. And Navy recruiters will have access to the names of those enrolled in industry-training programs at about 40 community colleges across the nation.

"The beauty of this agreement is that it provides multi-avenue flow for training the next generation of nuclear workers, who can gain the skills and experience needed through formal education in or out of the military, on-the-job training or both that ensures a bright future in a growing industry," said Tony Pietrangelo, NEI senior vice president and chief nuclear officer.

Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp., which owns and operates the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station in Shippingport, is one of the companies participating in the program.

FirstEnergy's Jennifer Young said the average age of the approximately 1,000 workers at the Shippingport plant is 49. Nuclear industry employees can retire as young as 55.


Wyoming nuclear task force hears thorium reactor plan

Kirk Sorensen claims a person can literally hold a lifetime’s supply of power in his or her hand.
Presenting to the Wyoming Task Force for Nuclear Energy Production via phone late last week, Sorensen touted the benefits of thorium — a possible competitor for uranium — in energy production.

“Thorium energy is much easier,” he said. “It can present a great advantage if we can use it.”

Sorensen, president and chief technologist of Huntsville, Ala.-based Flibe Energy, told the task force Thursday that his company is looking to establish a liquid fluoride thorium reactor in the United States within the next decade, with Wyoming a possible location.

Among the advantages of using liquid fluoride thorium reactors rather than uranium reactors, he said, are the element’s abundance in the United States, including Wyoming, the reactor’s ability to produce in remote areas and high efficiency.

He said the naturally occurring element and common byproduct of rare earths mining is three times as abundant as the uranium used to fuel modern nuclear power plants and 200 times more efficient. He added that thorium reactors

consume nearly all the thorium used to create energy — uranium-powered reactors consume less than one percent — and thereby create less waste.

Sorensen co-founded Flibe Energy about a year ago with a mission to establish a reactor in the United States. Similar technology is being pursued in China and India, and he told the Wyoming task force that the U.S. can’t afford to lose the thorium race.

“This is too important a technology to yield to another nation,” he said. “They’re running and we’re sitting on the bench.”

The reactor, as proposed by Sorensen, carries another major advantage that could make it a realistic option for Wyoming — the ability to operate in remote areas.

Most nuclear plants require large supplies of water for cooling. But a thorium reactor, he said, could run using a gas-to-air heat exchanger instead, making arid Wyoming a possible fit.

“It relieves you of the burden of having to be next to water,” he said. “Areas that are rather remote are possible.”


KGHM, 3 utilities to share cost of 1st Polish nuclear project

Poland wants to develop nuclear power to reduce its dependence on highly polluting coal, but top utility PGE , which is managing the project, cannot support the entire cost on its own.

All four companies planning to sign a letter of intent on the nuclear plant are state-controlled. The huge costs and long lead times before the first power is sold make it difficult for nuclear power projects to attract private companies.

"The agreement will be signed on Wednesday, at 1600 (local time)," PGE Chief Executive Krzysztof Kilian said on Tuesday in an interview.

Executives of Tauron, Poland's second-biggest utility; Enea, the third-biggest; and miner KGHM told Reuters their companies would participate in the agreement.

It was not clear whether other companies will join in.

"The letter of intent will be a very general document, which will allow us to set up working groups dedicated to the nuclear power project. Issues concerning financing will be discussed later," Enea Chief Financial Officer Hubert Rozpedek said.

European Union member Poland aims to launch a 3 gigawatt nuclear plant by 2023 and double that capacity by 2030 in a bid to reduce reliance on coal and supply energy to its expanding economy.


Indy car driver talks to students about nuclear power

Indy car driver Simona de Silvestro was surprised by the lack of knowledge about nuclear power in the United States when she moved to this country to pursue her racing career.

“I grew up with it,” the native of Switzerland said. “When I came to theU.S., I was actually shocked that so few people knew about it.”

In Switzerland, she said, about 40 percent of energy is nuclear.

In theU.S., it’s 20 percent.

Hoping to raise awareness about nuclear energy, de Silvestro, who is about to start her third season driving the nuclear clean air energy car, spoke to about 50 students from the Central Virginia Governor’s School and Lynchburg City Schools Tuesday morning at AREVA’s Old Forest Road location.


Monday, September 3, 2012


Kolkata, Sept. 3 -- Ending the long legal and socio-political battle, the Kudankulam Nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu is all set to start generating power from next month, opening a new vista in the country's nuclear safety regulations.

This was announced here today by well-known nuclear scientist and former Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission as well as the Planning Commission M R Srinivasan while addressing an international seminar on 'Frontiers of Sciences' and later speaking to reporters on the sidelines.

Dr Srinivasan, who is now a member of the AEC, said following a recent Chennai High Court order dismissing a Public Interest Litigation(PIL) filed by the Peoples' Movement Against Nuclear Energy(PMANE), a self-styled Human Rights Organisation, the Kudankulam Plant authority under the guidence of the Nuclear Corporation of India (NPCI) was now gearing itself to start loading the nuclear fuel to generators from as early as next week.

" As a result generation of nuclear power by the plant in all likelihood would start from next month(October)itself," Dr Srinivasan said in support of his observation, adding that initially about 350 mw of power would be generated from its two reactors.

Referring to the safety measures undertaken by the plant authority, costing over Rs 500 crores over the past few years, the AEC member assured the audience that all possible measures had been in place to ensure maximum safety to the plant by all international standards.

The two major nuclear accidents at Chernobyl in Russia in the year 2000 and one at Fukushima plant in Japan last year had opened the eyes of every nuclear scientists in case of accidents and natural disasters.
" These unfortunate incidents forced all reactors in every nuclear plant across the globe to adopt the most stringest safety norms without any compromise at any point to prevent any Chernobyl or Fukushima like disasters in future," he emphasised.

Underscoring the need for more and more countries, particularly India,to opt for nuclear power generation to meet their rising energy demand,Dr Srinivasan claimed that without nuclear power India could no longer have cheap and abundant source of electricity to ensure over seven per cent annual GDP growth.


Calvert Cliffs nuclear power project facing 60-day deadline

Once promoted as the vanguard of a "nuclear renaissance," a proposed new reactor at the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant in Southern Maryland now faces a major new roadblock, with federal regulators threatening to shelve the troubled $9.6 billion project unless the French-controlled developer comes up with a U.S. partner in the next two months.

The ruling Thursday by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board was not unexpected, as the board's parent Nuclear Regulatory Commission had warned Unistar Nuclear Energy more than a year ago that it could not get a license for the Maryland reactor without a U.S. partner. Federal law prohibits foreign ownership or control of a U.S. nuclear plant, and Unistar is owned by the French energy group EDF.


Japan Aug nuclear plant usage 5.1 pct vs July 2.9 pct

Japan's nuclear power plant utilisation rate rose to 5.1 percent in August from 2.9 percent in July, a Reuters calculation based on trade ministry data showed on Monday.

With only two reactors in operation, the run rate marks a sharp fall from 26.4 percent in August 2011.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has suggested no more reactors will be allowed to restart until a new nuclear regulator takes over from existing watchdogs, due this month. It is expected to take several months for the new regulator to announce its own safety July,

Kansai Electric Power Co resumed operations of two reactors at its Ohi plant after receiving approval from Noda and three other key ministers to avert potential blackouts in Osaka and surrounding areas of western Japan over the summer peak demand period.

They were the first restarts since last year's earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis, which by early May this year had resulted in all of the country's 50 reactors being kept offline for safety checks.

Nine Japanese utilities and a non-utility electricity wholesaler, Japan Atomic Power Co, have 50 nuclear power generators for commercial use, with a total generating capacity of 46,148 MW.

Before Fukushima, Japan had 54 reactors that supplied about 30 percent of the nation's electricity needs.


TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's sole operational nuclear power reactor has reached full capacity, a senior official said Saturday. Iran's deputy nuclear chief, Mohammad Ahmadian, said the reactor at the Bushehr power plant was brought to its "full capacity of 1,000 megawatts" Friday evening. The reactor went into operation for the first time last year at minimum capacity. The Islamic Republic built the nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port city with Russian help. The facility is a cornerstone of Iran's drive to become a technological leader among Muslim nations, with efforts such as an ambitious space program and long-range missile development. Iran also runs smaller research reactors and is building another power reactor.

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's sole operational nuclear power reactor has reached full capacity, a senior official said Saturday.

Iran's deputy nuclear chief, Mohammad Ahmadian, said the reactor at the Bushehr power plant was brought to its "full capacity of 1,000 megawatts" Friday evening. The reactor went into operation for the first time last year at minimum capacity.

The Islamic Republic built the nuclear power plant in the southern Iranian port city with Russian help. The facility is a cornerstone of Iran's drive to become a technological leader among Muslim nations, with efforts such as an ambitious space program and long-range missile development. Iran also runs smaller research reactors and is building another power reactor.