Friday, May 16, 2008

Nuclear blog roundup for April ~ May 2008

A fast forward look at what other nuclear blogs are saying roundup

This is third installment in a continuing series. Every four weeks or so I'll take a look at what other nuclear energy blogs are talking about and provide some pointers here.

At Atomic Insights Rod Adams takes a look at the rapidly escalating costs of new nuclear plants and asks whether smaller nukes might make more sense. He writes,

"When nuclear development does get back into high-level production in this country, it will likely be in smaller plants. There are people that are working on the fact that the large plants proposed by the traditional reactor vendors are so expensive that they are difficult to finance by even the largest utility companies in the United States."

NEI's blogging team is also worried about rising costs for new nuclear plants and publishes an insightful critique of the Wall Street Journal story on the subject. The WSJ article, by reporter Rebecca Smith, is a must read for anyone interested in the future of the "nuclear renaissance." In response NEI's team fanned out to various policy forums in the Washington, DC, area and posted video of one of the sessions that explains the costs of nuclear power.

Robert Hargraves notes at his blog Pebblebedreactor that mainstream technical societies are looking more closely at nuclear energy. He points us to an article in Mechanical Engineering, published by ASME which gives an overview of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor.

At EnergyfromThorium published by Kirk Sorenson you can check out the discussion forums on Liquid Fluoride Reactors. Recent topics include reactor designs, power conversion systems, and forums on Thorium fuel concepts and applications by country including Canada, Norway, France, India, and the U.S., among others.

At NuclearAustralia the blogging team asks where Australia is headed with coal and nuclear energy.& The country has no commercial nuclear power plants despite being a major exporter of uranium to countries who do. Electricity is generated at coal-fired power plants. Despite the government's consideration of carbon offset taxes and trading schemes,our blogger writes, "Considering all the constraints there is a less promising future for nuclear in the near term under the Labor government."

At Physical Insights Luke Weston offers readers a perspective on what's going on with Kansas which also has a large commitment to coal, but which is now considering nuclear energy as an option in the mix. Shortly after this post appeared, Forbes reported that legislation allowing utilities to recover the cost of planning for a nuclear generating facility from ratepayers has been sent to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

At NuclearGreen Charles Barton takes a break from his deep dive into the history of nuclear R&D at Oak Ridge and describes the procurement supply train for Westinghouse's two new AP1000s being built in China. The nuclear industry clearly has a global sourcing ecosystem with components being manufactured in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

In the realm of nonproliferation Sovietologist pokes into the assumptions that support a major article published last month in Scientific American on nuclear fuel recycling. This is not something you should try at home because the article was written by Frank von Hippel. Our blogger concludes that some of the concerns about taking plutonium from spent nuclear fuel are overblown.

"Of course, there is also the question of whether such "reactor-grade plutonium" can really be built into bombs. Much ink has been spilled over this issue, including by Amory Lovins and von Hippel himself. I feel that most of the writing on this issue obscures the real issues and performs its analyses in complete isolation from the realities of nuclear weapons design. In particular, they tend to ignore the fact that even though it's quite possible to build nuclear weapons out of non-weapons grade plutonium, the stuff produced in LWRs is probably unsalvageable. While it could be used in bombs by sophisticated states with a fairly advanced knowledge of nuclear weapons design, it would be very difficult for rogue states or terrorists to fashion it into working devices."

Where do nuclear bloggers get their news?

Some people have asked "where do you find all this stuff about nuclear energy?" In this segment I'll point out some useful and free sources of online news about nuclear energy.

World Nuclear News publishes a daily email alert and a weekly review. Topix is a aggregator of nuclear news. It also hosts discussion forums. 1 Nuclear Place also collects news clips and publishes them via Yahoo Groups. The IAEA publishes a news roundup a couple of times a week and offers a free email subscription to the feed.

Two journalists who cover the nuclear industry have blogs. They are Frank Munger in Knoxville and John Fleck in Albuquerque. If you know of others please post their information in a comment.

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