Friday, July 26, 2013

California power prices up 59% after San Onofre Nuclear shutdown

The nuclear shutdown at San Onofre is partially to blame for a 59 percent increase in wholesale electricity prices for California in the first half of the year, the Energy Information Administration said Tuesday.

The statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Energy found that wholesale electricity prices rose across the country during the first six months of 2013 over the same period last year.

Prices in New England were the highest largely because of pipeline constraints that limited the delivery of natural gas.

In California, the "increase was largely the result of the continued outage of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station," according to the agency's Today in Energy briefing. "This factor also caused a large and unusual separation in power prices between the northern and southern parts of the state's electric system."

M. Tyson Brown, a statistician at the Energy Information Administration, clarified that a modest rebound in historically low natural gas prices has been the main driver of the overall increase in wholesale electricity in California. Natural gas generation is California's principal source of electricity.

Since the San Onofre outage began in January 2012, however, there has been a persistent spread between wholesale power prices in Northern and Southern California, Brown explained.

"The Southern California prices have been a good deal higher than the Northern California prices," he noted.

The Climate Case for Nuclear Energy

I encourage you to watch this short video interview with climate scientist and campaigner James E. Hansen, posted by the folks who brought you “Pandora’s Promise,” the flawed but valuable film arguing for a substantial role for nuclear energy in sustaining human progress without disrupting the climate.

Those preferring text can read a few transcribed excerpts below. Hansen proves himself, as always, somewhat inconvenient for almost everyone.

To me, for example, Hansen’s far too confident about the scale at which nuclear power, particularly the new technologies that he prefers, could be deployed by the middle of this century.

But his statements pose a particularly tough challenge for those who embrace his take on the dangers attending an unabated greenhouse-gas buildup but see a fast transition to solar, wind and other renewable energy sources as the solution. Here he reprises the points he made in a 2011 essay, “Baby Lauren and the Kool-Aid“:
Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.
Here are some excerpts, starting with a basic endorsement of nuclear power plants:
I think the only hope we have of phasing down emissions and getting to the middle of the century with a much lower level of fossil fuel emissions — which is what we will have to do if we want young people to have a future — we’re going to have to have alternatives and at this time nuclear seems to be the best candidate.


Tentative Agreement Reached on First Polish Nuclear Plant

A tentative agreement reached by a group of Polish companies this week will move the country a step closer to building its first nuclear plant.

Polish news agency PAP quoted unnamed sources as saying negotiations among utilities Polska Grupa Energetyczna, Tauron and Enea, as well as mining company KGHM Polsaka Miedz, have reached a point where a contract on joint ownership of the plant could emerge as early as September. The agreement would come a year after the companies signed an initial letter of intent to buy into a joint company tasked with building the plant, according to the Warsaw Voice. Operation of the first unit is envisioned in 2024.

With the largest reserves in the European Union, Poland currently generates about 90 percent of its power from coal.

Read More Here...

Time-Lapse Video Shows Four Years of Work on New Plant Vogtle

Watch the Video Here:


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nuclear Power Has Saved The Lives Of Many More People Than It Has Killed

I’m sure that all of us informed and reasonable people already knew this: that nuclear power has saved many more lives than nuclear power has killed. However, it’s nice to have the calculations done properly, in a peer reviewed paper, and from NASA itself so no one can start arguing that it’s all a plot by the nuclear industry to confuse us.

The idea strikes me as being obviously conceptually true anyway: nuclear power plants, yes including the disasters like Chernobyl, actually release into the environment much less radioactivity than the coal burning industry does (yes, this really is true, collectively there’s a lot of uranium and thorium in the fly ash from coal burning). Therefore, even if low levels of radiation really does murder us all in our beds then we should all be dying from the coal burning and lives would be being saved by the nuclear power.

What James Hansen (yes, that James Hansen) and his colleague Karecha have done is look at something slightly different. They’ve looked at the air pollution that comes from coal burning and calculated (or, rather, looked up in the scientific literature) the number of people who die from that. Then they’ve looked at the number that have been killed by civilian nuclear power and we find that, very clearly, nuclear, by displacing coal fired generation, saves lives, not takes them.

The paper is here:


IAEA leaders highlight importance of nuclear power

At the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ministerial Conference in St. Petersburg, IAEA Director-General Yukia Amano said the world needs to utilize nuclear power to meet growing energy demands.

"Overall demand for energy is growing steadily as the world population increases," he said. "In order to meet that growing demand, we need to tap all available sources of energy. Nuclear power is a tried and tested technology. It provides electricity at a stable cost."

He added that uranium - the material used to create nuclear fuel - can last thousands of years if used in fast reactors. However, fossil fuels, will likely run out in a few hundred years.

Amamo compared nuclear power to renewable energy, in that nuclear can "deliver the steady supply of baseload electricity to power a modern economy," RTT News reported.

Read More....

Japanese Utility to Seek to Restart Two Nuclear Reactors

TOKYO — The operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Tuesday that it would ask regulators to allow it to restart two reactors at a separate site in eastern Japan.....

The request by the operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, is expected to be among a flurry of such appeals from utilities seeking to restart reactors now that the government has approved tougher safety guidelines. The government hopes the regulations will help it overcome deep public concerns about nuclear power and government oversight, allowing it to get additional plants back online more than two years after the Fukushima crisis. 


Monday, July 1, 2013

Thorium nuclear reactor trial begins, could provide cleaner, safer, almost-waste-free energy

At a test site in Norway, Thor Energy has successfully created a thorium nuclear reactor — but not in the sense that most people think of when they hear the word thorium. The Norwegians haven’t solved the energy crisis and global warming in one fell swoop — they haven’t created a cold fusion thorium reactor. What they have done, though, which is still very cool, is use thorium instead of uranium in a conventional nuclear reactor. In one fell swoop, thorium fuel, which is safer, less messy to clean up, and not prone to nuclear weapons proliferation, could quench the complaints of nuclear power critics everywhere.

In a conventional nuclear reactor, enriched uranium fuel is converted into plutonium and small amounts of other transuranic compounds. There are ways to recycle plutonium, but for many countries, such as the USA, it is simply a waste product of nuclear power — a waste product that will be dangerously radioactive for thousands of years. While the safety of nuclear power plants is hotly contested, no one is arguing the nastiness of plutonium. Any technological development that could reduce the production of plutonium, or consume our massive stocks of plutonium waste, would be a huge boon for the Earth’s (and humanity’s) continued well-being. 

Enter thorium. Natural thorium, which is fairly cheap and abundant (more so than uranium), doesn’t contain enough fissile material (thorium-231) to sustain a nuclear chain reaction. By mixing thorium oxide with 10% plutonium oxide, however, criticality is achieved. This fuel, which is called thorium-MOX (mixed-oxide), can then be formed into rods and used in conventional nuclear reactors. Not only does this mean that we can do away with uranium, which is expensive to enrich, dangerous, and leads to nuclear proliferation, but it also means that we finally have an easy way of recycling plutonium. Furthermore, the thorium-MOX fuel cycle produces no new plutonium; it actually reduces the world’s stock of plutonium. Oh, thorium-MOX makes for safer nuclear reactors, too, due to a higher melting point and thermal conductivity.


St Petersburg hosts international conference on nuclear power

The international ministerial conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century has come to an end in St Petersburg. Delegates including energy ministers and senior officials from around the world discussed the future of nuclear energy and measures required to ensure its safety and sustainability.

Participants agreed that atomic energy contributes to environmental safety and helps reduce CO2 emissions. They said, nuclear power sector is highly innovative and can be used in science, education and technologies around the world.

The conference was the first international gathering on nuclear power since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan in March 2011. Safety was one of the key issues discussed at the three-day conference.

Atom Expo forum was also held on the sidelines of the conference. Heads of leading companies from more than 42 countries showcased their businesses and potential.


Without San Onofre Nuclear Plant, Southern Calfiornia Realized First Black Out of the Summer

The first real heat of the summer arrived last Friday, June 28, 2013.  As the citizens of Southern California arrived home they received their first real notice that San Onofre Nuclear Power plant was closed.  All traffic lights, businesses, and homes were dark from 6:00 p.m. until approximately 8:40 p.m. from the Cypress, CA area to the La Mirada, CA area.  Well over 100,000 homes were affected.

There was no news reporting the issue.  But, the residence experienced what could the beginning of a dark summer.