Saturday, July 23, 2011

62nd Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The heat is on across the U.S. The nation’s 104 nuclear reactors are providing electricity to keep people cool without warming the planet.

heatwaveThis is the collective voice of the best pro-nuclear blogs in North America. 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, ANS Nuclear Cafe, NuclearGreen, Atomic Power Review,and CoolHandNuke, as well as 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.

This week’s entries

Canadian Energy Issues – Steve Aplin says the heat in on in Ontario.

On the days when power demand is highest, such as during the current heat wave in central-east North America, how do the non-hydro renewable sources perform? As Steve Aplin shows, not well. This further begs the question: why are we being forced, through FIT programs, to pay top dollar for these poor performers?

Nuclear Green – Charles Barton adds that the heat is on in Dallas too.

This summer will not break most of the heat wave records established in 1980, but there is a hint this summer that it will not be many more summers before the 1980 records start to fall. Greenpeace knows this, yet in its energy plan, , Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable U.S.A. Energy Outlook.Greenpeace anticipates far more electrical reduction through efficiency than the 10% to 20% improvement in air conditioning efficiency that the hydrocarbon technology it advocates would lead too. None of the electricity will be generated by low carbon nuclear power plants. Instead Greenpeace plans to rely on carbon emitting natural gas power plants to bridge the gap.

Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcus, a former president of the American Nuclear Society, has some observations about the history of cover-ups at Monju, Fukushima, and other nuclear power facilities in Japan. She lived in Japan while working in the nuclear industry so this constitutes first hand observations rather than warmed over media speculations.

She writes . . .

“ . . . the response of the Japanese nuclear establishment should be to follow some of the examples outside Japan, where people are trained in the importance of not hiding problems, and there is a concerted effort to foster an environment where people are not punished for admitting errors.”

Marcus also writes that the technical profile of the nuclear regulatory agency in Japan is very different than in the U.S. which may indicate the government has a long way to go in terms of "independence" for its oversight functions.

"One area that has been somewhat neglected in the discussions of regulatory independence in Japan is the role of the technical capability of the regulatory staff. In the long run, this factor is probably as important as the other factors that have been discussed, including the organizational independence and and deserves more attention."

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams writes that a little radiation can delay cancer until after you are dead anyway.

Dr. Otto Raabe published an article titled “Toward Improved Ionizing Radiation Safety Standards” from the July 2011 issue of Health Physics, a peer-reviewed journal about radiation safety.

The article explains in clear, but scientific terms, how radiation at low average levels can result in increasing the latency period of cancer development past the end of a natural lifespan. We all have the potential for developing cancer, but we also have finite lives. Dr. Raabe’s research has led him to the conclusion that low average doses of radiation that might add up to a substantial cumulative dose do not kill off cancer cells, but they delay the ability of those cells to do any real damage until after their host organism is dead from other causes already.

4 Factor Consulting – Margaret Harding s taking a walk through the nuclear landscape using a business analysis technique called PESTEL. This first of a series is starting with "P" for Politics. She's looking for comments and feedback to get that landscape right. Check her blog for more information.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang has three entries this week.

Update on China and Russian work on fast neutron reactors. China's experimental fast neutron reactor has been connected to the electricity grid. Two Russian BN-800 reactors are to start construction in August 2011, probably at a coastal site

India's Tumalapalli uranium mine near the state capital Hyderabad is scheduled to begin operating by late 2011, could provide up to 150,000 tons of uranium. This will solve India's uranium supply issues for 10-20 years.

Nuclear fission is one of ten ways to have a big impact on green house gas and black carbon emissions.

Yes Vermont Yankee – Meredith Angwin wonders if the glass is half full or half empty for the Vermont Yankee reactor.

In this post at Yes Vermont Yankee, an optimist (Half-Full) and a pessimist (Half-Empty) debate whether Entergy will buy fuel for the October outage. Recently, a federal judge refused to grant Entergy an injunction that would have kept them running while their lawsuit proceeds. Without the injunction, Half-Full thinks Entergy will order fuel and take the risk. Half-Empty thinks Entergy will shut down the plant in October

ANS Nuclear Cafe – Dan Yurman examines the question of whether India’s nuclear new build will be impacted by its own supplier liability law.

Domestic liability laws and international issues may put limits on the country’s ambitious plans to build new reactors. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in India this week to pressure India to open its nuclear energy markets by changing its domestic supplier liability laws.

If she is successful, it would give American vendors hunting licenses to bid for massive nuclear reactor contracts said to be worth $150 billion over the next several decades.

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Are India's nuclear deals going south?

Domestic liability laws and international issues may be putting limits on the country's ambitious plans to build new reactors

Clinton KrisnaSecretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in India this week to pressure India to open its nuclear energy markets by changing its domestic supplier liability laws. If she is successful, it would give American vendors hunting licenses to bid for massive nuclear reactor contracts said to be worth $150 billion over the next several decades.

In a joint news conference July 26 with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, (right) Clinton said differences over trade and nuclear legislation must be resolved if the benefits of U.S. support for India's civilian nuclear program three years ago is to accrue to U.S. companies.

Reaping the rewards of U.S. support for India?

Under then President George Bush, the U.S. successfully pushed for India to be allowed to buy uranium for its civil nuclear program. In return, India pledged in return to open its markets to U.S. vendors.

However, political opposition forces in the Indian parliament saw an opportunity to give Prime Minister Monahan Singh a black eye and imposed a draconian supplier liability law on nuclear energy projects. It has locked out American firms, but not French and Russian state owned nuclear agencies who now have significant commitments for the bulk of foreign supplied reactors,

Clinton was characteristically straightforward in her remarks. She said,

"We need to resolve those issues that still remain so that we can reap the rewards of the extraordinary work that both of our governments have done," she said.

Read the full details about this issue exclusively at ANS Nuclear Cafe online now.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Japan & U.S. pursue spent fuel disposal in Mongolia

Japan Times says non-denial denials won’t wash

mongolia_uranium_mapThe Japan Times has again reported that the U.S. and Japan are in negotiations with Mongolia to draft an agreement to create a facility there for management and disposal of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear fuel production.

In short, it could be a place where spent fuel is taken for storage and reprocessing. The most likely use of the facility is as an international fuel bank.

This is the second time the English language newspaper has reported it has copies of documents outlining the scope of the proposed agreement. [See Idaho Samizdat May 10, 2011Will US Spent Fuel Find a Home in Mongolia?”

The Japan Times reports July 20 that the draft statement calls for “comprehensive fuel services” in which Mongolia exports uranium and nuclear fuel to other countries and receives spent fuel for disposal and/or reprocessing. According to the documents cited by the newspaper, both Japan and the U.S. could be involved in shipping their spent fuel there and in mining and processing uranium for export as nuclear fuel for commercial light water reactors.

According to the World Nuclear Organization, in a country profile of Mongolia;

  • Uranium was produced from the Dornod deposit in Mongolia by Russian interests to 1995.
  • Mongolia has substantial known uranium resources and geological prospects for more.
  • Since 2008 Russia has re-established its position in developing Mongolian uranium.
  • According to the 2009 Red Book, Mongolia has 49,000 tU in Reasonably Assured Resources.

The draft agreement also calls for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to provide technical support in the development of spent fuel storage facilities. The IAEA would also be involved in inspections assuming uranium enrichment facilities are built there.

One of the objectives of the planned agreement is to make Mongolia the host country for an international fuel bank that would provide reliable fuel services to countries that forgo uranium enrichment as part of the development of their civilian nuclear energy programs.

Toshiba lobbying effort

The Manicihi news reports that Japanese nuclear giant Toshiba is lobbying senior U.S. government officials to promote a nuclear fuel storage and fuel production facility in Mongolia. The newspaper, which is has an English language edition, based its report on a July 1 Japanese language report in the Kyodo News.

Daniel PonemanAccording to the Kyodo News report, that newspaper has obtained a copy of a letter dated May 12, 2011 sent from Westinghouse (owned by Toshiba) to U.S. Undersecretary of Energy Daniel Poneman (right).

The letter, reportedly signed by Tobshia President Norio Sasaki, calls for a program called ‘Comprehensive Fuel Supply (CFS).’

It lays out the need for a public relations campaign to counter opposition to the plan for the site in Mongolia. According to the newspaper, Toshiba and U.S. government sources confirmed the existence of the letter. In earlier statements, Poneman had denied that active negotiations were taking place.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

“We must recognize that the CFS project has been publicized [globally]. . . Toshiba finds value in CFS because it adds value to Mongolia’s natural resources and will contribute to the country’s economic growth, while the interim storage solution will bring greater meaning to an international nonproliferation regime.”

It adds that Toshiba wants both countries to continue to pursue CFS despite the concerns emerging from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Presumably, Toshiba is not deterred by recent statements by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan who said his personal views were that nuclear energy should be phased out in Japan.

Skeptics weigh in

The Kyodo News and Manichi newspaper reports also note the views of anonymous critics of the planned nuclear spent fuel storage facility. Among the objections are whether China and Russia would agree to the plan.

trans_siberian_railroad_mapThe Trans-siberian railroad crosses Mongolia from Irkutsk, Russia to Beijing, China. Mongolia is landlocked so the only way to get the uranium out or the spent fuel in is via rail through one or both of these countries.

  • Map of China segment of Trans Siberian railway (right)

Also, the question was raised whether this program would produce a change in Japan’s spent fuel reprocessing and fast reactor programs.

In an possibly related development, Japanese Prime Minister Kan told Kyodo News July 20 that his government is reviewing Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling policy. He told a parliamentary budget committee the future of the 280 MW Monju fast breeder reactor prototype was under review.

The reactor when operational is expected to extract plutonium for use in MOX fuel to get more value out of spent fuel from commercial light water reactors.

The project has had a series of technical setbacks including a piece of an overhead crane that fell into the reactor. It took months to get it out safely resulting in new startup delays.

According to a June 23 Reuters report, Japan has invested over $11 billion in the project since its inception in the 1980s.

Demand for nuclear fuel in Asia & Middle East

The question becomes who are the potential customers for reliable fuel services in Asia? China has its own facilities for the complete nuclear fuel cycle. However, Russia is building the first of eight planned nuclear reactors in Vietnam and other developing nations are considering small modular reactors to boost their energy supplies.

Tatsuro IshizukaAn interesting development is that Japanese nuclear giant Hitachi told Kyodo News that the firm will keep to its goals for developing new nuclear reactor business in Asia despite fears the Fukushima crisis might deter some nations from going in this direction.

The business plan was drawn up prior to the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The company says it sees no reason to change it.

Tatsuro Ishizuka, VP for Business Development, (right) told the news service July 20 that it hopes to get orders for 20 new reactors in Asia and the Middle East.

“We will give priorities to negotiations with India, Vietnam, the U.S., and other countries with growing energy demand,” he said.

In the Middle East Saudi Arabia is reported to be planning to build 16 nuclear reactors by 2030 with the first two operational by 2021. According to wire service reports, it plans to have 20% of its electricity come from nuclear reactors. Forgoing uranium enrichment to fuel them would help with the Middle East's volatile politics by preventing the massive nuclear new build from setting off an arms race with other countries.

Hitachi is also involved in the work to stabilize and eventually decommission the six reactors at Fukushima. Ishizuka told Kyodo News his firm is working to develop medium and long-term measures to stabilize the power station.

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mayor Bloomberg draws the line against closing Indian Point

Governor Andrew Cuomo won't give up on his obsessive quest

NY Mayor BloombergAn unstoppable force has crashed into an immovable barrier in New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg (right) in late June went public with blistering criticism that rivals the city's summer heat that can fry eggs on the sidewalk.

He told anyone in the news media who cared to listen, "If you close Indian Point today, we'd have enormous blackouts." The twin nuclear reactors supply about 25% of the electricity used in the metro area.

Mayor Bloomberg added as far as he can see "there is no alternative to the amount of energy we get from Indian Point." He added that closing the reactors when their licenses expire "would be detrimental to New York."

Yet, a week later an aide to Gov. Andrew Cumo told the New York Times that the Mayor's views, and a report by Charles Rivers Associates that supports them, would not deter plans to seek closure of the reactors a in 2013 and 2015.

Not a partisan political battle

While Bloomberg is a republican and Cuomo is a democrat, this is not a partisan fight. What it is about is a mayor who looks at the reality of the situation and a governor who's near obsessive focus on closing the reactors defies rational explanation.

Gov Andrew Cuomo In mid-June executives from Entergy, the publically-traded utility that owns and operates Indian Point, met with aides to Gov. Cumo (left). They thought that the long-sought sit down represented an opportunity to make peace with the state's highest elected officials. Instead, they were shocked right down to their socks by an assertion, and in no uncertain terms, that the state was determined to find any method that would work to close the plants.

Mayor Bloomberg's statements telling Gov. Cuomo to back off aren't just so much political hot air. A report by Charles River Associates, leaked to the New York Times in the first week of July, concludes there is no easy way to replace the more than 2,000 MW of power provided by the reactors at least in the short term.

The report points out New York does not have the transmission lines to provide replacement power and efforts to build new grid infrastructure is likely to generate as much political opposition as the reactors themselves.

Less juice and paying more for what’s left

Ed Kee, a consultant for NERA Associates, commented to the New York Times July 13.

"The answer is pretty simple: [electricity] prices will be higher and reliability will be lower."

In round numbers, if Indian Point is closed, wholesale electricity prices could rise by 12%. Nuclear energy is the lowest cost source of electricity in New York. Eliminating the reactors defaults to higher priced coal and natural gas based electricity generation. It will also lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions.

wind farmWind turbines, which are touted by organization like Riverkeeper, which supports Cuomo's drive to close the reactors, cannot deliver their power to New York city from their upstate locations because the grid is already at capacity.

The result will be more power failures, and not just brownouts, but total blackouts. Industry experts told the New York Times the path to building new power grids could take more than five years.

Mayor Bloomberg hasn't said what he'll do next to defend the interests of his city against the hare brained power politics coming out of Albany.

One thing is sure. A man with the demonstrated determination to make a billion dollars in the private sector and to then run the nation's largest city isn't likely to let Gov. Cumo pull the plug on its electricity supply.

Video

Ultimately, this comes down to an issue of political will and determination. So here's a video that shows what "determination" looks like when playing Sgt. Early's Dream, a traditional Irish reel.

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