Special edition with a focus on Japan’s nuclear energy crisis
Dedicated to nuclear reactor workers everywhere who's prayers are for their colleagues at Fukushima
The Carnival is a weekly round-up of the best blog posts from the leading U.S. nuclear bloggers. If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.
Past editions have been hosted at NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Canadian Energy Issues, Yes Vermont Yankee, and at Cool Hand Nuke, in addition to several other popular nuclear energy blogs.
If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog, and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact Brian Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.
This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.
Carnival begins here
ANS Nuclear Cafe The official blog of the American Nuclear Society continues twice daily new media updates seven days a week about the Fukushima nuclear crisis and a Twitter feed at @ans_org. See the blog for a list of information resources about Fukushima.
Gail Marcus, a former president of the American Nuclear Society, writes on her own blog that it is truly inspirational to think of the bravery of those who have, and still are, been fighting to get the power station under control, all the while knowing they face possible death or disease.
Second, it was a little surprising to me how much misinformation circulated about the unfolding events. It seems that our advanced communications technology spreads disinformation ever more efficiently.
Third, public concerns raised by the accident were only heightened when overly optimistic predictions made by some experts repeatedly proved wrong. While well-meaning, when reassuring predictions turn out to be false, they tend to undermine the credibility of the entire profession. (Image: Symbol of Fukushima via Wikipedia)
Fourth, it was somewhat disappointing to observe how some traditional nuclear opponents used the accident as a chance to further their agendas, claiming it as "proof" of their claims about nuclear power, regardless of whether the plant or the circumstances were really relevant to their viewpoints at all.
The Areva blog cites an article in the Wall Street Journal on the ‘Band of Brothers’ at Calvert Cliffs. See a moving photo slideshow about plant workers at the cited link. It will knock your socks off.
Workers throughout the plant say it has helped that they have had town-hall meetings led by plant vice president George Gellrich, who passed along information from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NEI and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations about Fukushima.
This is the heart of the industry. “Nuclear energy is special and unique,” says Kent Mills, 51, from his perch overlooking the control room where crews monitor the reactors. “You should not be afraid of the technology but you should respect it to the utmost degree.”
“There are 60,000 employees at 104 nuclear plants in the U.S., according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group. Many of them, like the workers here at this Constellation Energy Nuclear Group LLC facility on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay southeast of Washington, are likely watching events in Japan while asking and fielding questions of their own.” WSJ
Barry Brook, a scientist in Australia, has a superb blog that has been updating daily on the crisis in Japan. Here are some highlights from his blog post of March 26.
There has been concern about salt accumulation in reactor vessels 1-3 (as steam evaporates the injected sea water, the salt is left behind, and if concentrations build to beyond the saturation point, it will begin to deposit and potentially insulate the fuel assemblies).
TEPCO Workers laying cables in the turbine hall of unit 3 stood in ankle-deep stagnant water and their feet were irradiated with beta rays (~180 mSv dose), with shallow burns, after ignoring their dosiometer warnings. They have since been hospitalized. Details in the reports below. 17 personnel have now received doses of >100 mSv, but none >250 mSv — the dose allowed by authorities in the current situation.
Water spraying continues on spent fuel ponds 2, 3 and 4, to ensure the uranium fuel rods remain covered. The temperature in unit 2 pool was recently measured at 52 C.
On radiation: levels around the plant perimeter are relatively low and steadily decreasing. Levels of I-131 in drinking water supplies in Tokyo are now below regulated limits and restrictions have been lifted. The IAEA radiation monitoring data, at a distance of 34 to 62 km from Fukushima Daiichi, showed very low levels.
Cheryl Rofer asks so where is the radioactive water coming from?
We simply don’t know. There are enough radionuclide in the outflow to the sea and in the water in the plant that it looks like a leak is possible, but there are too many other things that we don’t know. If there is a leak, it is not a big one.
It’s not a big one, because reactor #3 has been pressurized. If you try to blow up a balloon with a big leak, nothing happens. You can blow up a balloon with a pinhole leak, though. The steel reactor containment vessel is equipped with pressure gauges to measure the pressure. With a big enough leak, the pressure wouldn’t rise, but it has been rising as water is pumped in and turns to steam.
Michele, who has long professional experience with the nuclear world, cites an important article in Foreign Affairs: Preventing the Next Nuclear Meltdown – by Victor Gilinsky
As Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis shows, older reactors are the most vulnerable to failure. Aging nuclear plants pose a risk in the United States as well, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must enforce up-to-date safety standards more forcefully -- or risk the possibility of a disaster.
Gilinsky is a physicist and an energy consultant. He served on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from 1975 to 1979 and was the senior commissioner in charge during the first day of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.
Rod Adams writes "It has become increasingly apparent during the past week that my view from afar was not as clear as I would have hoped. I was overly optimistic about the final consequences of the events at Fukushima Daiichi.
Shaken, flooded, stressed by power outages, Fukushima Daiichi moves into second place. On the catastrophic scale of nuclear accidents, where Three Mile Island or Windscale were in second place and Chernobyl was the clear leader, Fukushima Daiichi has moved into second. It is likely that it will end up to be far closer to Chernobyl than to Three Mile Island in overall economic, public health and geographic consequences.
What this event has taught me is that I need to retreat a bit. I remain firm in my belief that human society needs nuclear energy and that there is no other alternative to fossil fuels that has a chance of meeting needs for reliable power. The importance of reducing fossil fuel consumption should be apparent to anyone who is following the current events in the Middle East and North Africa, whose community is a new host to gas extraction, whose mountains are being blown up, or who is concerned about the effects of dumping 20 billion tons of waste gases into our common atmosphere.
Margaret Harding – Four Factor Consulting
Events at the power plants in Japan, have been unfolding for ten days and counting and so far, no member of the public has died, or even been hurt. In our modern, fast paced age, we want our events to happen in quick sound bites, not long novels. When things take more than that requisite few hours, we turn it into a disaster movie.
An optimist and a pessimist both look at a situation. The pessimist says: “It is going to fail. A terrible tragedy. People will die.” The optimist says: “It’s OK, it will work. No one will die.” Events unfold. Things neither one predicted happen. The situation resolves and all can see the result.
Pop Atomic Studios
Suzy Hobbs writes I want to challenge everyone in the nuclear industry to take special interest in working together and cooperating in creative ways. I have been deeply inspired both by the Japanese citizens effected by Fukushima, and a small hand full of nuclear professionals who have taken time off work and stood up at a time when the rest of the industry was silent.
Charles Barton argues that during the 1960's the Washington Nuclear establishment discounted the potential for light water reactor accidents/ The establishment regarded nuclear accident research as a waste of money and, shut down accident research at AEC Laboratories.
The consequences were a split between the nuclear establishment and the scientific researchers which gave credibility to the opponents of nuclear power. However, by conventional industrial standards reactors are highly safe, and even safer reactors are possible. However, whether the facts will satisfy a fearful public is open to question, but it is also possible to better educate the public.
Yes Vermont Yankee
Meredith Angwin points out that American plants are probably better protected against hydrogen explosions than Japanese plants are, but that we don't know very much yet.
The NRC is therefore keeping the horse (facts) firmly in front of the cart (possible new regulations).
Editorial boards around the country continue to ruminate about nuclear energy in this country in the wake of event in Japan.
How are our major newspapers reporting on the situation in Japan today? The New York Times still has it at the front of its site, but Libya and Syria have the lead positions. The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post also lead with radiation in sea water.
Steve Aplin writes "How will the Fukushima nuclear emergency affect elections in other nuclear countries? Canada could be the first country to answer that question. This country will likely have a federal election in May; Ontario will definitely have an election in October. Nuclear energy was a major issue at both levels even before Fukushima: now that situation has introduced a wildcard into all contending parties’ electoral calculus."
The nuclear crisis in Japan has sparked questions about the construction of nuclear plants in the U.S. Unlike energy-starved developing nations like China and India, which have national imperatives to build new reactors, the U.S. currently has an abundance of coal and natural gas to keep its economy going for hundreds of years.
That is, of course, if you assume the other national imperative to reduce greenhouse gases, can safely be ignored for that period of time and that green politics will not force other, less-effective energy choices on utilities.
On March 14, 2011, White House spokesman Jim Carney said President Obama continues to support nuclear energy and that the administration would incorporate lessons learned from Japan into U.S. regulation.
In budget hearings before two committees of the House this March 16, 2011, Energy Secretary Steven Chu also testified that the Obama Administration believed the U.S. must “rely on a diverse set of energy sources, including…nuclear power.” His budget request included up to $36 billion in loan guarantee authority for nuclear reactors.
Still, some anti-nuclear House Democrats, including Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, demanded a freeze on all new nuclear reactor construction, plus a rescission of NRC’s recent decision to re-license Entergy’s Vermont Yankee reactor. On March 21, 2011, the agency formally issued the license extension despites congressional angst.
But Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said he was not going to allow any nuclear new-build witch-hunts based on events in Japan. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) defended the safety record of the U.S. fleet and suggested that despite the current crisis, Japan will remain a leader in nuclear technology, while the U.S. has fallen behind.
Next Big Future – Brian Wang
China suspension of new nuclear reactor licensing does not impact already approved nuclear reactors. In an exclusive interview with the China Business News, Mu Zhanying, president of China Nuclear Engineering Group (CNEG) Co., said construction of the Rongcheng plant would begin by the end of March or early April. The Rongcheng Shidaowan Nuclear Power Plant is China's first high temperature gas-cooled pebble bed reactor power plant.
“This fourth-generation reactor will make cooling totally independent of external power sources, making it much more safer,” said Jerzy Grynblat, nuclear business director at Sundbyberg, Sweden-based consultant Scandpower AB, said in Singapore today. “Developing new technologies where safety will be increased is very significant after what happened in Japan and countries re-looking their nuclear future.”
The 10MW pilot plant was shown to be walkaway safe. Cooling was shutoff and the reactor safely cooled off by itself without further action.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk Wednesday rejected a German call on Poland to cancel the planned construction of nuclear power plants, saying the Polish public supports the project.
“We can’t succumb to hysteria about it,” Mr. Tusk said in remarks from northwestern Poland, near the border with Germany. “The reason for radiological risks in Japan isn’t an accident at the nuclear plant, but an earthquake and tsunami.
Warren Buffett's nuclear bet in Iowa
There’s no threat of a tsunami in the cornfields
Berkshire-Hathaway CEO and billionaire Warren Buffett is rolling the dice for the third time on a potential investment in nuclear energy. His first two efforts did not produce any winnings. Now Buffett is looking at the possibility of building small modular reactors through MidAmerican Nuclear Energy.
William Fehrman, MidAmercan's CEO, is asking the Iowa state legislature to pass a bill that would allow the utility to recover the costs of building a new reactor while it was under construction. Critics have attacked the proposed legislation with renewed energy following the crisis in Fukushima Japan and on the grounds it would cost too much.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said March 21 it “makes sense” for state lawmakers to move ahead with the legislation. Branstad said he did not have a problem with legislators taking up the nuclear power issue this session because the MidAmerican proposal is a long-term project that would take eight to nine years to complete
“We have a problem because of most of the power in Iowa is generated by coal and EPA rules now are really very restrictive on coal-fired plants,” the governor said during an Iowa Public Radio interview.
“So we’re either going to have to shut those plants down or do major expenses on retrofitting them or replace them with something that’s going to have the environmental problems that we have with coal.”
# # #