Sunday, April 10, 2016

Nuclear Blogger Carnival #304, at Yes Vermont Yankee

Once again, we are proud to host the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, right here at Yes Vermont Yankee. The Carnival is a compendium of nuclear blogs that rotates from blog site to blog site, and it is always a pleasure and an honor to host it.

Let's start by looking into the future with nuclear energy.

Expanding the Definition of Renewable

At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus discusses how words like “renewable” come to be associated with specific technologies, but looking at the bigger picture.  For example, solar and wind, usually regarded as renewable, use non-renewable materials to extract the “renewable” energy.  On the other hand, we may well be able to extract uranium from seawater in the future. This could could make nuclear energy as renewable as solar and wind power.

Progress Report on HTGR reactors in China and U.S.

At Neutron Bytes, Dan Yurman describes newly-achieved milestones in the development of the  high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR).  The HTGR concept has more than three decades of history behind it.  Both the U.S. and China are developing this type of reactor, and it has had several new breakout milestones in both countries.

Is Duke Still Banking on Lee?

At Neutron Bytes, Dan Yurman looks at the prospects for the new Lee plant.  Duke will complete the NRC licensing process, but the answer to the question whether or when it will build the nuclear power station comes in several parts spread over two states.

Sometime later this year the NRC will issue a combined operating license (COL) to the William States Lee III nuclear power plant which references twin Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000 nuclear reactors. Duke CEO Lynn Good says that once the utility gets the license from the NRC, it will still have to decide “how and whether it makes sense to build nuclear.” Even if Duke started this year, it could take six-to-ten years before either unit entered revenue service.

“There are all kinds of considerations,” Good says. The utility, as a publicly traded firm, has to take into account a “prudent investor.” With a market capitalization of $55 billion, the estimated $12 billion the two units could cost would be just over 20% of the total value of the giant utility. That’s pretty close to a “bet the company” decision which makes prudence a key factor in assessing the need for the project.

Now, let's look at why we need nuclear energy!

Illinois’ Nuclear Dilemma Embroils Famed Climate Scientist James Hansen

At Forbes, James Conca writes that Illinois faces a peculiar dilemma in planning its clean energy future. Unless something is done, the state is going to lose its most important low-carbon energy source: nuclear energy. On Monday, a coalition of scientists and conservationists, including famed climate scientist James Hansen, sent an open letter to Illinois legislators. The scientists asked the legislators to stop nuclear closures from happening. (This post has an excellent graphic, which shows that nuclear might require a 0.3 cent per kWh surcharge to keep the plants running, while solar subsidies in Illinois are 21.9 cents per kWh.)

The Worth-It Threshold – When gas or gas + renewables is as bad for climate as a coal plant

At Atomic Insights a guest post by Mike Conley & Tim Maloney basically asks whether burning natural gas is truly better than coal for the climate.  Burning methane for energy produces about half the CO2 of coal, which is a good thing. But fugitive methane – the gas that leaks before it can be burned – is a powerful greenhouse gas, with 84X the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of CO2.

The big idea behind wind and solar farms is to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gases. But since most of a farm’s power is actually generated by gas, the rationale for a massive build-out of utility-scale wind and solar hinges on the issue of fugitive methane.

That rationale just had a major meltdown at Porter Ranch.

Fallout From The Nuclear Security Summit

At Forbes, James Conca reports on the Nuclear Security Summit last week in Washington, D.C. The Summit showcased significant progress in reducing global nuclear weapons and nuclear material stockpiles, and increased security on nuclear facilities. A dozen countries are now free of weapons-grade materials.

There is a lot of good news: a newly-amended nuclear protection treaty was signed by over 100 countries. The historic nuclear deal with Iran has, so far, gone as planned. However, China is the country that is expanding most in nuclear power and weapons.

Looking backward a bit, and learning from history

Chernobyl through the mist of decades

At ANS Nuclear Cafe, Will Davis looks at Chernobyl: what happened, and what people said happened.  The fog of three decades has obscured the memory of the Chernobyl accident. Many incorrect sources were written after the accident, and have have misled those in search of the facts.  Will Davis uses historic documents and accounts of those directly involved during and after the accident.  With the keen eye of a historian, Davis clarifies our perception of what really happened before, during and after.

State Control of Decommissioning Funds is a Bad Idea

At Yes Vermont Yankee, guest blogger Richard January describes the state of Vermont's attempts to "have input" on the decommissioning process.  Vermont and Massachusetts are lobbying the NRC for "tighter rule-making" on decommissioning. As January points out, the state of Vermont is strapped for cash, and it is not clear that state decisions would be driven solely by safety, and not by the desire for another infusion of Vermont Yankee cash.  NRC oversight of decommissioning is a far better idea.

Once again, pro-nuclear bloggers have covered many aspects of energy: nuclear energy, new types of plants, gas emissions, funding issues.   Click on the posts and read more!

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