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Showing posts from May, 2011

Closing Up Shop in Germany

Here’s one way of looking at Germany’s decision to accelerate the retirement of nuclear energy facilities:Shares in German power utilities E.ON and RWE AG fell sharply Monday after the government last night said it will accelerate the gradual phase-out of all nuclear power production by 2022 and keep a tax on nuclear fuel rods. Though a drastic u-turn from a previous German policy settled in 2010, the 2022 phase-out was largely expected given the strong anti-nuclear shift in German politics after Fukushima. However, the decision to keep the nuclear tax in place and not give relief to the utilities was noteworthy after comments last week from some politicians that suggested the Germany might withdraw the tax. Especially as the tax was considered an exchange for not closing the nuclear facilities early. But if there is a loss, there is a gain:Meanwhile, shares in solar energy and wind power equipment makers gained sharply as investors anticipated the accelerated nuclear phase-out will …

Tuesday Update

From NEI’s Japan earthquake launch page:Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the use of remote controlled machinery is believed to have caused an oxygen cylinder to explode near reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The explosion occurred outside of the building that houses reactors at the facility and did not change conditions at the site, the company said.Workers reported the explosion at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday local time in Japan. TEPCO said workers were using unmanned heavy machinery to remove debris at the site when the machinery damaged the cylinder, causing it to burst. There were no changes in radiation levels within the plant site and no injuries were reported.

Friday Update

From NEI’s Japan earthquake launch page:Plant Status
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) continues working toward a solution for managing radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility. The company has suspended transferring water from the reactor turbine buildings to a centralized radiation waste treatment facility because that complex has reached its capacity. The company also reported a leak in the water treatment facility that must be fixed before the transfer of water from the turbine buildings can continue. A new water treatment facility is expected to begin service June 15 at the plant. TEPCO began spraying a synthetic resin dust inhibitor onto the walls and roof of the reactor 1 turbine building and other areas at the site as one way of reducing the release of radioactive material. Plans are to spray the resin onto the reactor and turbine buildings of reactors 1-4. A minor electrical fire in the basement of a building at Fukushima Daini reactor 1 was quick…

Detailed Charts and Pics from TEPCO on Fukushima-Daiichi

Earlier this week TEPCO provided an 87 page document (huge pdf) full of stats, pictures and analysis on Fukushima-Daiichi. Below are a few notable shots. Slide 17 shows in blue how far the tsunami came in and affected the plant.As well, to watch the tsunami happen in almost real-time, flip through slides 18-35. Funny enough, on slide 48, there’s a picture of a shark washed up at the Fukushima-Daini plant.Of course, the document (pdf) isn’t all about the tsunami, there’s definitely more in the slides worth checking out. The first half has some great pictures and a general overview, the second half gets much much more technical.

Wednesday Update

From NEI’s Japan earthquake launch page:Plant Status• Tokyo Electric Power Co. continues to deal with water management issues at the Fukushima Daiichi site. The company is plugging concrete enclosures at the plant to retain contaminated water and is studying the feasibility of building a system to purify seawater. The Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has ordered TEPCO to complete a plan for storing and treating contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi site by June 1.• TEPCO has begun to build a concrete structure to provide additional support to the used fuel storage pool for reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi facility. Work is planned for completion by the end of July.Industry/Regulatory/Political Issues• The Japanese government announced plans to appoint a panel to investigate the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The head of the committee will be Yotaro Hatamura, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo.• A delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency has…

Replacing the Foot You Shot Yourself In

Vermont is bound and determined to close the Vermont Yankee nuclear energy facility over a leakage of tritium last year that harmed no one - at all. While the leak should not have occurred, the cause of it was located and sealed and no one inside or outside the plant was harmed by it. More about tritium here

But the Vermont legislature saw it as an opportunity to close the plant, an action that Vermont  Yankee's owner, Entergy, has filed suit over. The NRC has issued a license allowing the facility to operate an additional 20 years and Entergy would like to do that. We'll see if Entergy's suit prevails - I'm not a lawyer and have no special intelligence on it. You can read more about the suit here.

So let's leave that all on the side of the road and focus on the possibility of Vermont Yankee closing. Care to guess how much of Vermont's electricity is generated by nuclear energy?

72 percent. Let that sink in - clearly, the Vermont legislature hasn't - and it…

Tuesday Update

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake launch page:Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said today that fuel damage likely occurred in reactors 2 and 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility in the first few days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Both reactors are now reported to be stable and at relatively low temperatures. The extent of the fuel damage is unknown. If the water gauges inside the two reactors are accurate, there was sufficient water in the reactors to prevent damage to all the fuel, the company said. Most of the fuel damage that occurred in reactor 2 is believed to have taken place within 100 hours of the earthquake. TEPCO believes fuel was damaged in reactor 3 within 60 hours. The company previously confirmed that fuel was damaged in reactor 1.TEPCO plans to install two heat exchangers today to lower the temperature of the used reactor fuel at reactor 2.We’re increasing the number of Japan updates to keep you better informed of developments at Fukushima Daiichi. …

“Beliebing” in Japan

This happened earlier this month:Justin Bieber’s stage crew is refusing to go to Japan for two concerts scheduled later this month over fears of radiation from the recent nuclear disaster.That comes from Gossip Cop. Now, let’s let E! Online answer the important question:What's this about Justin Bieber's crew refusing to tour Japan? Are their fears about radiation justified?
—Clara, Switzerland, via the inboxThe Answer B!tch answers thusly:No, at least, not on the radiation front.In Tokyo and other major cities, "the radiation exposure is no different from where it was a year ago," says Dr. David Brenner, professor of radiation biophysics at the Center for Radiological Research at the Columbia University Medical Center. "There was an increase in radiation in March, but now it's down to normal levels again."And that goes for water and air. As for food, "the government every day is modifying their list of what can be sold and where it can be sold,…

Dialing Down the Alarm; Bulgarian Rectitude

It’s interesting that the NRC, when it wants to make a point, will use the direst language it can think of:"When training requirements vary among staff, compromised oversight of (spent fuel storage) safety inspections can occur," said the report, released by the NRC."Specifically, there is an increased potential that inspections will overlook discrepancies, resulting in an increased risk to public health and safety."Has there been such an increase? No. But there could be. As a recommendation to train NRC inspectors to do more thorough inspections of dry cask storage containers, it’s exactly right and the language makes the point as clear as it can be. Of course, it also allows news ledes like this:U.S. citizens may be at risk from radioactive waste stored near nuclear plants as better training for federal safety inspectors and more on-site checks are needed, an internal government report showed on Friday.Well, maybe it’s not that bad if it spurs this training. But…

Of Valves and Venting

The New York Times starts the story of the valves this way:After the venting failed at the Fukushima plant, the hydrogen gas fueled explosions that spewed radioactive materials into the atmosphere, reaching levels about 10 percent of estimated emissions at Chernobyl, according to Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency.It’s a very interesting story and at least feels like the start of the narrative of what happened at Fukushima Daiichi. But the discussion of valves and venting careens off in very odd ways.American officials had said early on that reactors in the United States would be safe from such disasters because they were equipped with new, stronger venting systems. But Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, now says that Fukushima Daiichi had installed the same vents years ago.Gulp! Did anyone ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or perhaps a utility here in the states about this? Nope.Tokyo Electric has said the valves did not work at Fukushima Daiichi after the power …

Weekly Update

From NEI’s Japan Earthquake launch page:UPDATE AS OF 1:30 P.M. EDT, FRIDAY, MAY 20:
Below is a round-up of noteworthy news that happened this week with regard to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the U.S. nuclear industry's response.
Plant Status
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) workers entered reactor buildings 2 and 3 Wednesday for the first time since explosions at the facility. Radiation levels in building 2 peaked at 5 rem per hour. Facing high heat and humidity, the workers remained in the building for only 15 minutes. In reactor 3, radiation peaked at 17 rem per hour near a pipe connected to the reactor. TEPCO employees first entered the reactor 1 building on May 5. TEPCO is looking at how to begin nitrogen injection into reactors 2 and 3 to further stabilize them. The company has been injecting nitrogen into reactor 1 for several weeks. High humidity in building 2 is hampering operations. In building 3, high radiation levels must be reduced before workers can begi…

GAO Cites Missteps in DOE's Hasty Termination of Yucca Mountain Project

A report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the Department of Energy’s expedited termination of the Yucca Mountain repository project “did not consistently follow federal policy and guidance for planning or assessing the risks of the shutdown” and showed lax attention to government procedures for disposing of federal property.

The report was requested by Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Joe Barton (R-Texas), Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who asked GAO to determine, among other things, the basis of DOE’s action. Here’s what GAO found:
DOE’s decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain repository program was made for policy reasons, not technical or safety reasons.The acting principal deputy director of the [Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management] explained Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s thinking this way:
[He said] that the secretary’s decision was based on a proposed change of department policy. … He did not, however, cite any technical conc…

Eleven Bloggers Share Advice to the Blue Ribbon Commission on How to Manage Used Nuclear Fuel

The ANS Nuclear Cafe has put together short and sweet recommendations to the Blue Ribbon Commission from 11 pro-nuclear bloggers. One would think that there would be a consensus on a few issues but there are actually quite a diverse mix of opinions. Below are a few notable nuggets:… We must think beyond just temporary storage and permanent disposal—recycling is an essential part of building a more sustainable fuel cycle. Interim storage facilities are only part of the solution. Without a complete strategy for managing the nation’s used fuel, we are only “kicking the can down the road.” - Jarret Adamshttp://us.arevablog.com/… I am a lifelong procrastinator who lives by the motto, “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow and never do at all what you can put off indefinitely.” I am thus happy to see that the BRC has apparently reached the conclusion that America does not have a nuclear waste crisis. Instead, we have a used nuclear fuel resource opportunity. - Rod Adams http://…

All Around Us, In Us, Emitted from Us

Last week, the House Committee on Science Space and Technology took a look at various issues related to nuclear risk management, obviously in the shadow of Fukushima. The hearing was okay – we’ll see if any policy prescriptions come out of it - though that’ll probably be down the legislative road a bit – but I was especially impressed with the testimony of John Boice, Scientific Director at the International Epidemiology Institute (in Maryland – it’s associated with Vanderbilt University.) He has a good amount of knowledge on radiation issues and provided House members – and us - with a lot of useful information. In his testimony, he covered the following bullet points:Fukushima is not Chernobyl.The health consequences for Japanese workers and public appear to be minor.The health consequences for United States citizens are negligible to nonexistent.We live in a radioactive world.There is a pressing need to learn more about the health consequences of radiation in humans when exposures…

Video and Status of Activities at Fukushima-Daiichi – 5/17

TEPCO has a number of links and updates available showing the activities going on at Fukushima-Daiichi. Below is a 13 minute video provided by the company and uploaded to YouTube by Daniel Garcia who we mentioned last month. There are quite a few good scenes of the work being done as well as the work still yet to be done. One of the more interesting parts was at about the 11th minute where you can see the workers busy changing shifts in their suits. On top of the video, TEPCO has a simple 19 page pdf with pictures describing all of the countermeasures being taken to resolve the issues. Pages 1-5 describe the actions needed to cool units 1-3; pages 6-8 discuss actions being taken on unit four’s spent fuel pool; and the rest of the pages discuss mitigation steps to decontaminate and monitor the environment, plans for the installation of a temporary tide barrier in case of other tsunamis, and radiation monitoring data. Many of the pictures in the pdf and video above can be found here.Als…

Through Natural Disasters

While we expect to see some articles gleefully bid adieu to nuclear energy in favor of its renewable cousins – or natural gas, which for all its positive qualities, still generates greenhouse gasses – what tends to happen is that writers nudge the facts to fit the desired conclusion. For example, this story from NPR is fairly unremarkable in tracing nuclear’s long goodbye, but I was struck by its conclusion:Fukushima shows that there will always be some risk from nuclear reactors. For Philip Sharp at Resources for the Future, that presents the public with a big question: "To what degree [are] we as a people ... to accept that some of these things are high risk, and how far are we willing to go to tolerate those high risks?"I would not care to downplay the seriousness of the accident, but I would stress that the above paragraph is written in the context of an earthquake and tsunami now believed to have killed 27,000 people, a fair number of them in the vicinity of Fukushima …

NRC’s Blog on Fire Protection at US Nuclear Plants

There’s been a lot of confusion and misinterpretation over the past week in the media about how US nuclear plants meet fire protection regulations. NRC’s Director of Public Affairs, Eliot Brenner, posted a piece over the weekend clearing it up:Let’s start with the bottom line — every U.S. nuclear power plant complies with the relevant NRC requirements for protecting its reactor from fire hazards. There may be confusion over the “exemptions” sometimes issued to some plants under the NRC’s least flexible fire protection approach, called Appendix R.Appendix R is effectively a one-size-fits-all approach for plants that are in fact custom-built projects. Newer plants tend to be built closer to Appendix R requirements, while older plants are more likely to have difficulty meeting the goals.The NRC knew from the start that the appendix wouldn’t apply to every part of every plant, so plants were going to apply for exemptions where Appendix R didn’t make sense. The NRC has a well-established p…

NEI Weekly Update on Fukushima Daiichi – 5/13/11

From NEI’s Japan launch page.Plant StatusJapan's nuclear safety agency has suggested that significant damage to fuel at Fukushima Daiichi 1 means that filling the reactor containment vessel with water may be meaningless. The agency’s Hidehiko Nishiyama said on Friday that melted fuel rods at the bottom of reactor 1 are being cooled by a small amount of water. He said he doubts that it is necessary to flood the containment vessel entirely, as workers have been trying to do. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said on Thursday that most of the fuel rods in the reactor are believed to be damaged and are at the bottom of the reactor's pressure vessel. Based on the temperature of the reactor vessel surface temperature, the company said the fuel apparently has cooled. TEPCO announced this week delays in its schedule to contain the reactors. The company noted that while its work to restore reactor 1 is in progress, it had not begun these measures at the other reactors at the sites. It said that…

For Every Action…

Duke Energy got a motley crew of protestors at its annual shareholder meeting, with environmentalist upset with coal and nuclear and the local tea party upset that Duke apparently helped bring the Democratic National Convention to Charlotte."We need to move away from coal," said Kim Jackson, an activist. "Yet they continue to embrace it. And nuclear isn't much better. Look what happened in Japan. Does nuclear look safe to you?"Not to understate the seriousness of the accident in Japan, but to date the death toll from the plant is zero.Jane Bilelle of the Asheville, N.C., Tea Party said [Duke chief executive Jim] Rogers should be ashamed of himself for giving "shareholders' money to the Democratic Party.""That's theft of shareholder's money," she said.If she’s a Duke shareholder, she should complain; otherwise, it’s just words on the wind.Duke spokesman Tom Williams said the utility has long supported economic development in the …

At the Nuclear Energy Assembly

NEI hosted its annual Nuclear Energy Assembly in Washington DC Tuesday and Wednesday with a solid lineup of speakers and plenty of opportunities for attendees to catch up with colleagues and industry pals. Let’s consider the latter analog social media and leave it at that. The speakers represented a topflight assemblage of industry, government and regulatory figures. Happily, none tried “the future is bright for nuclear energy” approach you might reasonably expect at an industry meeting. Everyone looked at the year and years ahead through clear eyes. Here’s a bit of what they had to say:NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko expressed the continued confidence of his agency in the safety of U.S. nuclear energy facilities.“The commission remains confident in the programs of the NRC and in the safety of the nation’s nuclear power plants,” he said, noting that in 2010 “there were no statistically significant adverse trends in industry performance.”Still, Jaczko warned the gathered nuclear energy ex…

Three Nuclear Plants Along the Mississippi River Prepare for Rising Waters

The NRC’s blog has a timely piece on how Grand Gulf, River Bend and Waterford are preparing for the rising floodwaters from the Mississippi River. Here’s what Grand Gulf is up to:NRC’s resident inspectors at Grand Gulf have been monitoring preparations by Entergy workers. According to projections by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the plant should be able to keep operating safely even as river levels rise. The plant is located 132.5 feet above mean sea level and the river is expected to crest at 95 feet on May 19. No safety-related equipment is expected to be affected by the flooding. But as a preventive measure, plant personnel are sandbagging and applying waterproof sealants to buildings and non-safety related equipment.Emergency diesel generators have been checked and re-checked as have emergency batteries that would be relied on in the unlikely event the diesels fail. Unlike at Fukushima, the diesels are located in water-proof buildings.Be sure to stop by to see what the other t…

NEI Top Industry Practice Awards for 2011

Every year, nuclear utilities and vendors submit to NEI new and innovative practices they’ve developed to achieve better operations. NEI and a few industry folks analyze the submissions and hand out awards for the best new practices. The awards recognize industry employees in 14 categories—four vendor awards, nine process awards for innovation to improve safety, efficiency and nuclear plant performance, and one award for vision and leadership. This year there are a number of excellent innovations highlighted below. The full list of awards and descriptions can be found here.Real-Time Method to Prevent Fuel Rod DefectsTennessee Valley Authority (TVA) employees at the Browns Ferry nuclear energy facility in Alabama have been honored with the B. Ralph Sylvia “Best of the Best” Award for developing a state-of-the-art method to prevent reactor fuel rod defects. Using real-time stress monitoring of the sealed tubes that hold the uranium fuel pellets, a new methodology called XEDOR has proven…

FPL Finds New Nuclear Units at Turkey Point Still Economical

Last week, Florida Power & Light, subsidiary of NextEra Energy, submitted their annual filings on the need for two more nuclear units at its Turkey Point station. The units are projected to come online in 2022 and 2023. Below are a few highlights from one of the filings (pdf), p. 4:assuming the same medium fuel cost, “Environmental II” scenario, FPL expects that Turkey Point 6 & 7 will:Provide estimated fuel cost savings for FPL’s customers of approximately $1.07 billion (nominal) in the first full year of operation;Provide estimated fuel cost savings for FPL’s customers over the life of the project of approximately $75 billion (nominal);Diversify FPL’s fuel sources by decreasing reliance on natural gas by approximately 13% beginning in the first full year of operation;Reduce annual fossil fuel usage by the equivalent of 28 million barrels of oil or 177 million mmBTU of natural gas; andReduce C02 emissions by an estimated 287 million tons over the life of the project, which is…