When I was in the nuclear power industry, I was a specialist in preventing corrosion in steam generators in pressurized water reactors. Recently, replacement steam generators at San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) showed unusual wear, and Arnie Gundersen wrote that this was because the replacement generators weren't just like the old steam generators. They even used a new alloy!
This assertion steamed me a bit (pardon the pun) because the whole point of the research we did at the steam generator project office at EPRI was to improve steam generators. Replacement steam generators aren't supposed to be just like the old steam generators, they are supposed to be better.
In April, Will Davis of Atomic Power Review asked me to write a guest post about steam generator research and improvements. I did, and the post got a lot of hits.
Writing the post for Atomic Power Review also meant I get some invitations and phone calls based on my steam generator knowledge. Recently, the NRC has issued various reports about the San Onofre steam generators, and I received an invitation to a conference call yesterday.
I was invited to a Southern California Edison conference call about the steam generators. This call was very informative, and Dan Yurman of Idaho Samizdat has written a clear, well-researched post about the NRC reports, San Onofre, and what we learned at the conference call. It is going to take a lot of work to figure out the next steps at San Onofre, but nobody is in danger, and (I believe) SONGS will be back on line in a few months. Yurman's well-referenced post, A Long Hot Summer Ahead for SONGS does not underestimate the problems SONGS faces. However, Yurman's post is a good antidote to overblown negative predictions.
Arnie Gundersen has been supported by Friends of the Earth to write reports on San Onofre. It should surprise nobody that his reports put the worst possible spin on the San Onofre steam generator problems.
Gundersen and Vermont Yankee
On the conference call, someone from Southern California said that Gundersen supports continued operation of Vermont Yankee.
"What what what what what?" I sputtered. Gundersen supporting VY was news to me! After all, I debated Gundersen about 18 months ago. I took the "Keep Vermont Yankee Running" side of the debate, and Gundersen took the side of "Shut Vermont Yankee Down." Here's a link to a blog post with a video of the debate. If you watch even a little of this debate, you would hardly think that Gundersen supports the continued operation of Vermont Yankee. What on earth were these people talking about?
Well, they were talking about what Gundersen said on a radio show in California. To listen to his words, you have to go to this KPBS web page, then go to the KPBS Midday Edition, and then move the cursor to the 8 minute mark (more or less). Alternatively, I will simply transcribe the section for you, below.
Interviewer: Arnie, I introduced you as a nuclear consultant, but just to be clear. Tell us, are you also an anti-nuclear activist?
Gundersen: No, you know, I have a bachelors and masters in nuclear and was a senior VP. Two..three years ago, consulting for the state of Vermont, I signed a report saying that Vermont Yankee, our nuclear plant here in Vermont, could run for another twenty years. So, I don't know many nuclear activists who sign reports authorizing nuclear plants to continue to operate.
The Public Oversight Panel report
Gundersen is telling the truth here. He did sign a report (Public Oversight Panel report, March 2009) that concluded that Vermont Yankee could continue to operate. Actually, it said that operation of the plant is possible if the recommendations of the panel report were put in place by Entergy and carefully verified by strengthened government institutions, etc. Read the report for yourself, especially page v, "Panel's Overall Conclusions." It isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the plant or anybody who supervises it, including the NRC.
The Public Oversight Panel report was a joint effort. There were usually four people on the panel. My understanding of Gundersen's views on Vermont Yankee lead me to believe that he probably fought against every positive word in that report. However, I wasn't there when the report was written, so that statement is just my opinion. I formed that opinion by debating Gundersen and from other things he has said.
Gundersen's radio statement on California radio may have convinced some people that he is a nuclear consultant, not an anti-nuclear activist. After all, he signed a report recommending continued operation of Vermont Yankee.
Maybe. I encourage people to read the report and draw their own conclusions. Personally, I still see Gundersen as an anti-nuclear activist, and that remains my opinion.
I also don't know why Gundersen is making such a point of not being called "an anti-nuclear activist." On this blog, my profile has always stated: "I am a pro-nuclear activist and a writer." I don't have any issue with stating that, being introduced as a pro-nuclear activist, or whatever. Of course, I also want people to know that I have an educational and career background in nuclear energy, and I understand why Gundersen makes the same point about himself. But why does he object to being called an "anti-nuclear activist"? Just wondering...