Friday, October 31, 2014

Nuclear Energy: The Once and Future Power Source

By Brandon Ott (RCP) - To say the nuclear industry has had highs and lows in the last 35 years is an understatement. The “atoms for peace” that were intended to wean Planet Earth off fossil fuels, make Western nations energy independent, and provide a clean environment all but screeched to a halt after the disasters at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986.  Add in 20 years of weapons of mass destruction talk and sensational sci-fi movie explosions -- all before a tsunami overwhelmed a reactor on the coast of Japan -- and nuclear energy was on the verge of going full dodo.

In the United States, nearly all of the currently active nuclear power plants were built 40 years ago or more. We’d gone almost 30 years without seeing any new ones built. Now, five reactors are under construction, with one close to coming online, and many more are receiving licenses to operate for another 20 years. After four plant closures since 2013, the United States has 100 working reactors with clear support from the American public.

Yet growth has been sluggish, for several reasons. First, the revolution in hydraulic fracturing technology dramatically expanded the supply of oil and natural gas while driving the price of natural gas to historic lows.  Utility companies looking to build new power plants are looking at a third the cost per kilowatt-hour if they employ “nat-gas.”


DOE invests in more efficient nuclear power plants

The Obama administration is looking to develop more efficient nuclear power facilities.

Next generation nuclear reactors would not only save energy, but they would also be safer to operate, the Department of Energy (DOE) said Friday as it announced new investments in the sector.

As part of the Obama administration's climate action plan, the Energy Department announced it will provide tens of millions of dollars to support companies involved in key nuclear energy research.

The companies, including AREVA Federal Services, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, General Atomics, NGNP Industry Alliance, and Westinghouse Electric Company, are looking to build advanced reactor technologies.

These companies will receive $13 million in cost-share agreements with the Energy Department that will help them address design, construction and operation issues associated with next generation nuclear reactors.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Research shows urgent need to address instability of world's power supplies by Elizabeth Mitchell - A new study reveals the urgent need to address instabilities in the supply of electrical power to counteract an increase in the frequency and severity of urban blackouts.

Research by Hugh Byrd, Professor of Architecture at the University of Lincoln, UK, and Steve Matthewman, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, highlights the insecurities of power systems and weakening electrical infrastructure across the globe, particularly in built-up urban areas.

The work builds on previous studies which examined a sharp increase in electrical usage over recent years, and warned the world to prepare for the prospect of coping without electricity as instances of complete power failure become increasingly common.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Nuclear Gap In Obama's Clean Power Plan

By Michael Krancer for Forbes - If we want to arrest climate change, all we need are more renewables like wind and solar, right? Not exactly, according to a newly published Canadian report on life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions (“GHG”). In fact, the report, which is based on 246 studies covering various power generation scenarios and constraints, concluded that nuclear power beats wind and natural gas on an ‘apples-to-apples’ basis for battling climate change.
How is possible that nukes have a smaller carbon footprint than the wind-natural gas duet? Well, wind power is intermittent and needs back-up from natural gas-fired electricity. Nuclear is a 24/7/365 power generation with zero carbon emissions. This is no back-of-the-envelope calculation. The methodology used by Hatch was in conformance with ISO 14040, the international standard governing lifecycle assessments. You can read more about the solid methodology on pages 2 and 3 of the report.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

California ISO: Challenging 2014 summer but reliability held firm

By Editors of Electric Light & Power/ POWERGRID International 

The California Independent System Operator Corporation grid operators managed reliable electricity delivery this summer through major wildfires, historic drought conditions and heat waves.

This summer’s highest level of demand reached 45,090 MW at 4:53 p.m. on September 15, 2014. This compares to 45,097 MW set on June 28, 2013 and 46,846 MW on August 13, 2012. The ISO’s highest peak on record is 50,270 MW on July 24, 2006.

On a local level, southern California set new demand records that underscore the impact from above normal — hot — temperatures recorded during the summer, especially along the coast. San Diego Gas & Electric area experienced record use on Monday, September 15 and then topped that on September 16 with an all-time record demand of 4,895 MW. The standing record peak was 4,684 MW set on September 27, 2010.

Southern California Edison area also experienced heavy loads reaching 23,266 MW on September 15. This was just shy of the area’s all-time peak of 23,388 MW set on September 7, 2011.

Meanwhile, one of the California ISO’s newest participating transmission owners, Valley Electric Association of Pahrump, Nevada, which serves a 6,800 square mile area south of Las Vegas and a sliver of California, set a new demand record of 120 MW on July 1, 2014.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Rising cost of electricity fuels debate over need for Tennessee Gas Pipeline

By RICHIE DAVIS - Recorder Staff

When National Grid announced recently that it will increase electricity prices this winter, that was enough to raise some eyebrows.
Not only will its Massachusetts Electric customers have their bills jump by more than one-third beginning next month because of rising fuel costs to generate that power, but competing Western Massachusetts Electric Co. said it will likely also be raising its prices for the six months beginning in January.

This comes as the Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. moves forward with controversial plans for its Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline, which the company says is needed for New England to power its electric grid and lower energy costs to compete with other regions.

“Limited natural gas transportation infrastructure ... has led to extremely high electricity prices in the Northeast U.S., and threatens the reliability of the region’s electric grid,” Tennessee Gas reported last month in its request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the pipeline across Massachusetts. “As a result of the fact that current natural gas transportation infrastructure is inadequate to meet the growing demand in the New England region, gas prices in New England are the highest in the United States.”

It quoted an industry association study as predicting that 6 billion cubic feet a day of new natural gas pipeline capacity will be needed in the Northeast by 2020, and 10.1 billion cubic feet per day of capacity will be needed by 2035.

NRC OKs Yucca Mountain Repository Plan After Closure

The repository has been a political bone of contention for years and is far from even opening. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ordered completion of the NRC Yucca Mountain review in August 2013 after Congress had cut off funding for the evaluation.

The NRC report released Thursday, called Volume 3, covers one million years past closure of the repository.  The agency still has to complete Volume 2, which is to cover repository safety before permanent closure, Volume 4, covering administrative concerns, and Volume 5, addressing licensing issues. It published Volume 1, which dealt with general information, in August 2010. The final three volumes are expected to be completed by January 2015.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Researchers explore power of thorium for improved nuclear design

The UK is playing a key role in an international project to develop a radical new type of nuclear power station that is safer, more cost-effective, compact, quicker and less disruptive to build than any previously constructed.

Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), as part of the RCUK Energy Programme, a team at the University of Cambridge is exploring whether the element thorium could help to meet the new design's fuel needs. As well as being three to four times more abundant than uranium, thorium could potentially produce electricity more fuel efficiently and therefore more cheaply.

The aim of the overall project, initiated by the US Department of Energy and led by Georgia Institute of Technology, is to design a power plant whose size would be reduced and safety enhanced by breaking with convention and integrating the main heat exchangers inside the secure pressure vessel where the nuclear reactions take place. This innovation gives the design its name: Integral Inherently Safe Light Water Reactor (I2S-LWR).


Nuclear power's future focus of Purdue workshop

Chris Morisse Vizza,

Purdue University is gearing for a two-day workshop on campus this week that will draw, among others, a top official from the U.S. Department of Energy.

At 7 p.m. Thursday in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse, Sal Golub, associate deputy secretary for nuclear technologies, will present the Discovery Lecture. It is free and open to the public.

Nuclear power provides carbon-free energy but poses challenges in terms of safety, proliferation and environmental impact, said event organizer Anter El-Azab, a Purdue nuclear engineering professor.

"This Purdue workshop devoted to nuclear power and related research will attempt to put all those issues on the table to a lively discussion on where we can go from here," El-Azab said.

The workshop will include a brainstorming session geared toward creating partnerships between Purdue and external institutions, national research laboratories, industry and other universities.


Monday, October 13, 2014

FACTBOX: Six concepts for the future of nuclear power

(Reuters) - The Generation IV International Forum (GIF) was created in 2000 to perform research on new types of nuclear reactors to replace the water-cooled models that make up the majority of today's global nuclear fleet. 

The group, which consists mainly of public nuclear research agencies, selected the following six systems on which to focus its research efforts.

A former EPA director is pushing for wider use of nuclear power in the US

Friday, October 10, 2014

Deadline extension averts costly shutdown at Wolf Creek nuclear power plant

Federal officials gave the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corp. an extra eight hours to fix a backup generator that was damaged in a fire early this week, averting a shutdown of the nuclear power plant near Burlington, officials said Thursday.

“We’re totally good,” plant spokesman Terry Young said Thursday evening, shortly after the damaged generator was certified as repaired. “We’re running full-steam ahead.”

The actual repairs to the damaged generator were completed Wednesday afternoon, but the unit had to be tested and then run for 24 hours without incident before it could be certified as being back in service. The plant continued in full-power operating mode while the repairs were done and no radiation was released in the incident, officials said.

The deadline extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was good news for customers of the three utility companies that own the plant. Shutdowns cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a day as the power companies have to burn more fuel at their coal and gas plants or buy power from other systems, or both. Those costs eventually show up in consumers’ bills.

Read more here:


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

E.U. Approves Plan for New Nuclear Power Station in Britain

LONDON — The European authorities on Wednesday approved construction of Britain’s first nuclear power station since the mid-1990s, in a ruling that could clear the way for other European countries to plan nuclear plants as part of their energy future.

The decision, by the European Union’s competition regulator, removes one of the final obstacles for the plant, at Hinkley Point in southwest England, which would produce about 7 percent of Britain’s current power supply but would not start operating before 2023.

Although the British government had already approved the power station, Brussels needed to sign off to make sure the financing plan did not constitute unfair state aid.

The plant would be built by EDF Energy, the British subsidiary of the French state-controlled utility, which already operates nearly all the nuclear power plants in Britain. EDF said the plants would cost 16 billion pounds, or $25.7 billion, at 2012 prices.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Expansion Gives Colorado Highlands Wind Project A 24 MW Boost

The Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association recently announced that a 24 MW expansion of the Colorado Highlands Wind project is complete.

The wind farm originally came online in December 2012, with 42 1.6-MW GE turbines able to produce 67 MW of power. The expansion - which was announced in April and began construction in July - consists of an additional 14 1.7-MW GE turbines,  increasing the facility's total current capacity to 91 MW.


Monday, October 6, 2014

As feds set carbon rules, a renewed interest in nuclear power

Exelon Corporation Three Mile Island

The Three Mile Island power plant has a conspicuous place near the Pennsylvania Turnpike and in the history of the world's nuclear power industry.

Drive east over the Susquehanna River in Dauphin County and you'll see steam emanating from only two of TMI's four cooling towers. That's because one of its reactors partially melted down in 1979. It was the worst nuclear accident in United States history.

Unit 1 is still operational. It's run by Exelon Corporation.

Before we can go inside, company spokesman Ralph DeSantis takes us to a security checkpoint where we meet heavily armed guards. They check our names, social security numbers, and birthdates. We pass through a metal turnstile and reach more security. It looks a bit like an airport, with a metal detector, x-ray machine, and an explosive detector.

Once we make it through, DeSantis takes us to TMI's Unit 1 reactor.

"This is the reactor building," he says, pointing to a wall of concrete that's four feet thick. "Right on the other side of this wall is where the reactor is. That's where the chain reaction is occurring."

At full capacity, the plant generates enough electricity for 800,000 homes.

It's one of five nuclear power plants in Pennsylvania — together they account for about 35 percent of the state's electric generation. Only Illinois has more nuclear capacity.


UK wind power bests nuclear power – for a few symbolic minutes

TheGuardian - by Chris Goodall

Stormy weather helped wind power briefly overtake nuclear power in electricity generation on 6 October Photograph: Global Warming Images/REX/Global Warming Images/REXIt only has symbolic significance, but at half past nine this morning wind was supplying more electricity to the national grid than nuclear.

For a few minutes, the gusts over the western side of the United Kingdom supplied more than 6 gigawatts and a temporary slight dip in nuclear output meant that wind was more important for electricity supply than the UK’s ageing nuclear fleet.

The new record came a few hours after stories about new cracks in the graphite blocks of one of the reactor at EDF’s Hunsterston plant. We’ll see more and more days when wind power beats the geriatric nuclear fleet.


Nuclear Power: Florida PSC credits $54MM to Duke Energy customers

PennEnergy - By PennEnergy Editorial Staff

The three-member panel of the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) has ordered that a credit be given to Duke Energy Florida (NYSE: DUK) customers for $54 million dollars in equipment that was never received for the defunct Levy Nuclear Project. In 2013, Duke Energy terminated the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) agreement for the proposed 1,100 MW nuclear power plant, as part of a settlement with PSC.

Commissioner Julie I. Brown stated "We need to pause here and reflect on what is fair, just and in the public interest. $3.45 per month may not seem like a lot to some people, but it means everything to Duke's customers. Customers shouldn't have to pay for something that was never delivered on."


Emission-free nuclear industry blasts EPA plan

Washington Examiner - By

The nuclear power industry says it’s getting a raw deal under President Obama’s proposal to limit carbon emissions from power plants.

States and energy utilities say the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan would penalize nuclear energy generation, which produces no greenhouse gases. The contentious issue has emerged prominently during the comment period that began after the rule was proposed in June.
The rule is intended to produce a 30 percent cut in power-sector emissions below 2005 levels by 2030, but industry has two big concerns.

One is an EPA policy designed as an incentive for states to keep operating reactors “at risk” of shutting down because of market pressure or expensive safety upgrades. Industry officials say the incentive is not enough and won’t work as intended.

The other issue concerns five nuclear reactors that are under construction. When it wrote its emissions proposal, the EPA counted these projects, in Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, as completed. The states say this makes their emission targets difficult because they are not allowed to count these cleaner plants’ lower emissions toward their mandated cuts.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Why Doesn't U.S. Recycle Nuclear Fuel?

Post written byWilliam F. Shughart II (as Opinion at
Research director of The Independent Institute in Oakland, California.

The chattering class’s call for action on “climate change” overlooks a crucial point: to succeed, we need to increase reliance on nuclear power, the cleanest technology available, despite the vocal opposition from those who fear another Three-Mile Island or a more-serious disaster like Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Compared to electric generating plants fueled by coal and other fossil fuels, nuclear plants have a very light “carbon footprint.” Current public policy, however, favors solar, wind and other “green” energy sources, largely because used nuclear fuel remains radioactive, and policy-makers can’t decide what to do with it.

What we ought to do is what other countries do: recycle it. Doing so would provide a huge amount of zero-carbon energy that would help us reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.


Report: Nuclear Energy Essential To Illinois' Economy, Environment

NEI - Nuclear Energy Institute
Study Shows Severe Consequences if Three Illinois Nuclear Plants Close

 WASHINGTON, Oct. 1, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Illinois' six nuclear energy facilities deliver enormous economic, environmental and electric reliability benefits to the state, according to a new analysis from the Nuclear Energy Institute. The benefits include nearly $9 billion of annual economic stimulus and almost 28,000 direct and secondary jobs across the state. The highly efficient power stations generated 90 percent of Illinois' carbon-free electricity.

The NEI study is entitled "The Impact of Exelon's Nuclear Fleet on the Illinois Economy."

"Illinois is fortunate to have such a workhorse for the state's economy, environment and energy reliability," said Richard Myers, NEI's vice president for policy development. "These nuclear assets have been delivering value to Illinois consumers for decades and they should never be taken for granted."

The report includes an analysis of the consequences if three Illinois nuclear plants were to retire prematurely because many key attributes of the facilities are not properly valued in the electricity market. It shows that the consequences for the state's economy and environment would be dire.


Watts Bar Nuclear Plant shows it can perform under pressure

TimesFreePress - by Dave Flessner

Four decades after workers began construction of the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, TVA successfully passed a critical test this week toward finally completing a second reactor at the Spring City, Tenn., power plant.

TVA workers and contractors on Tuesday successfully completed a cold hydro-static pressure test to ensure that key reactor equipment and systems did not leak or fail under pressure in the Unit 2 reactor under construction at Watts Bar.

"This is a significant milestone and success for Watts Bar yesterday to ensure that the workmanship used to construct the reactor coolant system and other associated systems were constructed in the right manner," said Ray Hruby, general manager for Watts Bar Unit 2 construction services.