Showing posts with label new power plants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new power plants. Show all posts

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nuclear Blog Carnival #132 at Hiroshima Syndrome

The Nuclear Blog Carnival #132 is now posted at Hiroshima Syndrome, Les Corrice's blog.  This blog usually posts Fukushima updates,  but today is hosting the Carnival.

The Carnival starts with good news about nuclear facilities in Russian, China and the United States, thanks to Brian Wang of Next Big Future.  We then move on to Yes Vermont Yankee: the Carnival features the guest posts by Cheryl and Evan Twarog about the importance of Vermont Yankee to everyday life in Vermont.  Rod Adams at Atomic Insights talks about risky technologies, risk assessment, and emotion. On a number of emotional measures, nuclear energy is superior to other forms of energy.  (We knew it was superior on non-emotional measures...this is a good balancing post and I love the comment stream.)

Following Rod's post, Les Corrice describes how the anti-nuclear movement is Japan is losing steam as people in Japan focus on their economy, the millions of tons of tsunami debris that is still not dealt with, the people living as evacuees from tsunami-damaged areas (not power plants) and other huge problems. The next blog post, Things Worse Than Nuclear, by Caroline (an engineering graduate student), describes the horrific natural gas explosions that have leveled parts of cities (including one fairly close to me, Springfield, MA).   I mean, natural gas explosions this week.  She wonders why these "everyday explosions" don't lead to any anti-natural-gas outcry.

And finally, for Thanksgiving, Gail Marcus of Nuke Power Talk gives thanks for this year's good news about nuclear energy, including new builds and the long-awaited awards of Small Modular Reactor cost-sharing.

It's a great Carnival.

Thank you, Les Corrice!

More thanks.

As I have mentioned before, I am a member of an email list of pro-nuclear bloggers. I have gotten to know so many bloggers: what they post, what they question, what they say. Nuclear bloggers are a sincere, thoughtful, well-informed, and helpful group.  I am thankful to be one of this group.

I am grateful for every person who reads my blog, and for every person who comments.  I am grateful that I am to contribute to education, prosperity, and environment by blogging.

I am grateful for family, friends, health, warmth, food and electricity.

I am grateful to G-d for every aspect of my life.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

127th Carnival of Nuclear Energy at ANS Nuclear Cafe

The 127th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers is hosted this week at ANS Nuclear Cafe.   The Carnival links to many of the best pro-nuclear blog posts of the week and is well worth reading.  It's sort of like following nuclear subjects on twitter, but with faster references to the best material.

This week, there's lots of good news.  Two posts explain how recent data shows there is probably no melt-through of the reactor pressure vessel at Fukushima Daiichi number 1.  In Canada, the major (750 MW) power upgrade of Bruce nuclear station is near completion.  That's more upgraded power than all of the power from Vermont Yankee!  I am impressed!   More stories describe the new generation of nuclear vendors in Britain, and twelve new nuclear plants (world-wide) starting up in 2012. There's a great new video from Idaho National Labs, and a guest post at Yes Vermont Yankee about the non-safety problems of the San Onofre steam generators. The role of radiation in cancer treatment is explored and hailed.  Another post describes waste processing...for solar panels.  Not an easy job!

In politics, the news is not nearly so cheerful.  We have the technology, but...there's taxes and lawsuits in Vermont, a description of why the current administration is not actively pro-nuclear, and a question about nuclear energy and its political constituency (does it have one?)

Well, you can always read the technology posts!

Get an overview of the entire  world of nuclear energy! Visit the Carnival!

Monday, June 11, 2012

108th Carnival of Nuclear Energy at Next Big Future

The 108th Carnival of Nuclear Energy is up at Next Big Future.  It's a rich carnival, including blogs about the possible new NRC Commissioner, the possible issues with the soon-to-be-former NRC Commissioner, and what actually makes a good NRC Commissioner.  Other blogs discuss the recent court ruling on nuclear waste.  World-wide nuclear reports include South Africa, Jordan, and Turkey.  These countries are building or restarting reactors.

It's a great Carnival featuring quite a variety of voices!  Come and enjoy it!

Saturday, December 31, 2011

85th Carnival Of Nuclear Energy Bloggers: Right Here at Yes Vermont Yankee!

Looking to the Future: World-Wide

The 85th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is being hosted by Yes Vermont Yankee. The Carnival is right here, right now. When I signed up to host the Carnival, I promised to post it this weekend. However, I wasn't sure whether I would post it this year or next year.

In a small burst of ambition, I'm putting the Carnival in place in 2011.

Fearless Predictions: Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat offers his annual "fearless predictions" for the global nuclear energy industry in 2012. His post, Predictions, Speculations and Raw Random Ideas for 2012, starts with a description of the future for Japan (of course). Until 2011, Japan and France were two stalwarts of the nuclear field. Now they face new challenges. China and India will move ahead, and the U.K. maintains progress for its new build.

The two big new deals in 2012 are the Czech Republic's Temelin project for up to five new reactors worth $28 billion and an expected tender by Saudi Arabia for up to 16 new reactors worth $112 billion.

New Directions: While she wouldn't quite characterize it as a New Year's projection, Gail Marcus of Nuke Power Talk considers New Directions in her post. She speculates that the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident in Japan may increase the pressure to continue the development of advanced reactor technologies, including some of the SMR designs, that hold the promise of being more robust in the event of a "Fukushima-type" accident. This would be any scenario that can lead to a prolonged loss of cooling water or backup power. However, she cautions people to heed the words of Admiral Rickover, who famously enumerated the differences between a "paper reactor" and a real reactor.

Moving Forward in the U.S. Margie Jepson blogs at Nuclear Clean Air Energy as part of Entergy's Nuclear Clean Air Energy education initiative. In The 2011 Year: So Long! Jepson looks back at the Year of Fukushima. Then she looks forward to the ways that 2012 will expand many of the excellent trends of 2011 in this country. Reactors are being built, capacity uprates have been granted by the NRC, and the uranium enrichment facility (planned for eastern Idaho) now has an NRC license.

Nuclear Plants to Fight Climate Change: At Canadian Energy Issues, Steve Aplin writes Extreme heat, electrical load, and political stability: the connection and the solution. 2011 was a year of record extreme weather in North America. The extreme episodes were fueled by the higher temperatures in the earth’s atmosphere, which gave extra energy to the heat waves and wind storms that ravaged the continent. It is an alarming trend. One upshot is that there will be huge demand for electricity for summer air conditioning. Aplin argues that this demand must be met by CO2-free nuclear plants, not by CO2-belching natural gas-fired ones.

By the way, I like the energy tracker on Aplin's blog, displaying real-time electricity data for Ontario. I include a screen shot of the tracker. Double-click to enlarge the graphic.

Fusion Power Moves Closer: Brian Wang of Next Big Future truly looks to the future with a blog post on how fusion power moves closer, due to results from a lab in Germany. A gamma ray laser and a Bose-Einstein Condensate could help make it happen.

Fire Put Out: Wang also reports on a Russian submarine which caught fire. The fire was successfully extinguished. (To me, this is the scariest story of the bunch. The Russians do say the ICBM's were not on the ship at the time of the fire.)

Students are the Future: What questions do young people have about nuclear power? Recently, Howard Shaffer and Meredith Angwin had opportunities to hear their questions. Meredith Angwin discusses the questions as well as the answers, and the implications for nuclear education. The post, Young People and Nuclear Power, is at ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Fukushima Update and Japanese Nuclear Future: For many people within the nuclear industry and outside of it, 2011 will be remembered as the Year of Fukushima. Will Davis of Atomic Power Review posts Fukushima Tepco Update for December 28. This post provides a set of updates on situations relative to Fukushima Daiichi: An announcement by Fukushima Prefecture with wide implications; a report by TEPCO on core, pressure vessel, and containment damage; and TEPCO's announcement of an attempt to "scope" No. 2 containment. In this post, Davis has provided his own illustrations to explain the information from TEPCO. I believe his excellent use of graphics is one of the reasons that Atomic Power Review is so widely read.

Scientists Punch Holes in the Linear Non Threshold Theory. Leading researchers at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, including a leading cancer researcher, designed an innovative experiment in which they could see cells repairing themselves after irradiation. As you might expect (but they showed) repair was much quicker and better after low doses of radiation. Another hole in the LNT theory. I blogged about it in the controversial post Will a Little Bit of Radiation Hurt You? Berkeley Scientist Break the Hold of Linear Non Threshold Reasoning.

Here's to a great 2012, for the Nuclear Industry and for the entire world!

To all my friends, and to everyone who reads this blog:

Have a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!


Update: Happy New Year! On this morning of January 1, 2012, I also want to say "Happy Birthday to Yes Vermont Yankee." I started this blog as a New Year's resolution on January 1, 2010.

Photo from Wikipedia of New Years fireworks in London

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 78 at Next Big Future

The 78th blog Carnival of Nuclear Energy is posted at Next Big Future. Once again, Brian Wang has assembled a great collection of thought-provoking posts.

Let's start with morals. Rod Adams of Atomic Insights described The "Moral Imperative to Build More Nuclear Power Stations" to increase prosperity for the growing world population. Meanwhile, Cool Hand Nuke reports on the Dalai Lama endorsing nuclear power at a press conference in Tokyo, directly after touring the tsunami-devastated areas of Fukushima. On the darker side of morals, Gail Marcus at Nuke Power Talk discusses a Japanese article about "sloppy inspection" of Japanese nuclear power plants, and compares Japanese practices with the better practices of the NRC. Most discouragingly, the difference between Japanese practices and U S practices have been known for years, in Japan and elsewhere. Marcus lived in Japan and worked with their regulators in the past. She knows whereof she writes.

From morals, it's a quick leap to misconceptions about nuclear and renewables. Gail Marcus summarizes a recent study showing that using wind turbines could add to global warming, because ramping up gas turbines to provide back-up power is inefficient. Using gas turbines as backup produces more carbon dioxide per kWh than using the gas turbines on a steady basis. Wind will not solve global warming problems. NEI Nuclear Notes has two posts about misleading articles and statements: "CNN's Erin Burnett Hoodwinked by Erin Brokovich," and Entergy's response to irresponsible statements by Edward Markey about strontium in fish. Steve Skutnik of Neutron Economy dismisses some misconception about nuclear as he analyzes nuclear regulation, deregulation, and John Rowe's statements in favor of natural gas.

Well, on to the good news! Economics. Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdate shows that cash is flowing into new nuclear build projects. In another piece of cheerful news, NEI Nuclear Notes describes how France is sticking with nuclear power, in this age of austerity. Brian Wang of Next Big Future lists the new builds of nuclear plants. The Carnival includes his list of nuclear plants under construction and planned, based on the EAI energy outlook and the NEI nuclear update. 65 plants, totally 65,000 MW, are currently under construction, with 127 more plants in the planning stage.

Okay, I know, I get encouraged and discouraged at the same time. Only one new build is happening in the U.S; the other 64 nuclear plants are in other countries. However, I remind myself the fact we're becoming a global back-water in nuclear (and a global leader in fossil fuel consumption) is old news. Overall, the list of new plants is very cheerful.

Finally, we turn to the personal view of nuclear for a few more cheerful posts. At Yes Vermont Yankee, Evan Twarog writes a "Teen's View of Vermont Yankee" showing how plant workers support the town with their daily work and their volunteer work. Moving to events in Japan, Wang describes advances in worker safety at Fukushima in his Next Big Future blog. The Japanese workers are being assisted with robots originally developed to help the elderly.

It's a great Carnival, and you will enjoy reading it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Nuclear Safety Paradox: Guest Post by Jeff Schmidt

This is a guest post by Jeff Schmidt on an important subject: The Nuclear Safety Paradox. Schmidt's previous guest post was Flawed Analogies, describing common but misleading ways of describing nuclear plants.

Over the past several months, a thought has been at the back of my mind about nuclear safety. I feel is important to enter this issue into the ongoing discussion about Nuclear Power in our country.

There are many people who are opposed to new nuclear. They look at the events that have unfolded over in Japan, and worry that the same can happen here, unless we quickly move away from nuclear power. To that end, they actively seek to slow or block the certification of new designs, and the construction of new power plants.

Rod Adams of the Atomic Insights Blog has recently posted an example: "Friends of the Earth" seeking to stall certification of the AP1000 design . The AP1000, for folks who are not familiar with it, is a new design by Westinghouse Electric (a subsidiary of Toshiba), which adds an emergency passive cooling system to the Light Water Reactor. This cooling would operate in the case of a complete loss of electric power for active cooling, as was the case in Fukushima.

A passive cooling system uses basic physics to work. Passive cooling systems do not require any outside intervention, like electric power, fuel, or other inputs. They work automatically, and always work because those principles of physics never change. Examples of passive cooling techniques include convection in the cooling fluid, air cooling, gravity-fed water cooling, etc). Such passive cooling will keep cooling the reactor from melting down for an extended period of time, when no outside power is available for pumping cooling water.

This is, objectively, a good safety improvement over previous designs, such as those at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, or any of the reactors currently in use in the U.S. (I would add that GE-Hitachi Nuclear also has a new design for the BWR which adds passive emergency cooling, which they are trying to put into the market, and I believe other companies and researchers have other ideas for passive cooling systems in new designs).

So, why don't we have any of these new, safer designs in the U.S.? Largely because we can't get any new designs certified or built.

The Paradox

I have come to believe that in the U.S., we have a Nuclear Safety Paradox - namely, that because of our concern for safety, we are keeping older, less safe designs in active service longer, because new designs have not, and are not, being certified and built. I realize that many of the people who are opposed to nuclear, and are attempting to block forward progress, truly feel that no nuke is good, no nuke can be safe.

In contrast, I believe that most Americans, like myself, do have faith that engineers can create safer designs, in time. I also believe that, while there is probably some good opportunities to put solar and wind power to use in our country, we are not at the necessary technology level to try to deploy Wind and Solar on the scale necessary to completely replace nuclear. We may get there some day, or we may not, but we need much bigger advances in technology to get to a total renewable solution, compared to building safer nuclear reactors.

Now, I don't think the older designs present a large safety threat - after all, there has only been one meltdown in U.S. reactor history, Three Mile Island, and that was, in the end, from a safety perspective, a non-event. But there is still a risk that certain circumstances, very rare, but not impossible, can come in and cause loss of cooling to the old reactors, and that in some circumstances, they might not handle the loss of cooling as gracefully as a reactor which has a passive cooling system. None of us want to face the prospect of having to evacuate a 10 or 20 mile zone around a nuclear plant for 6 months, or a year, or potentially longer. None of us want to see a situation where one natural disaster is followed by a nuclear incident that makes cleanup and repair of the damage from the natural disaster be delayed for long periods.

In particular, I don't think Vermont Yankee presents a big threat to Vermont, as I think Meredith has made many good arguments over the past several years about the safety of even the "old" generation of nuclear plants. Nuclear plants here in the U.S., including Vermont Yankee, have added some additional safety features to, e.g. prevent building up hydrogen gas and resulting hydrogen explosions - safety features apparently lacking at the FD reactors in Japan. We have already made upgrades, well BEFORE the Fukushima reactor meltdowns and explosions, to address some of the exact scenarios that the Japanese ran into. That tells me that to a large extent, our engineering and regulatory systems are very actively working to prevent such a disaster.

The Missing Conversation

However, I suspect that we'd be having a much different conversation if there were plans to be building new nuclear power plants around the country, and in Vermont. Nuclear Power currently provides about 20% of the electricity generation in the United States. To take that offline, we need something to replace it. We could build natural gas (and, in fact, that is happening), but natural gas is not without its problems, either - environmental damage, deaths from gas explosions , and supply which, while ample in the short term, does not promise long term security.The Natural Gas marketers themselves only claim a 100 year supply , and that is including speculative, undiscovered resources. Also, that 100 years is only if we don't increase exports and domestic consumption. We can't expect "cheap" natural gas to last forever. Wind and Solar may someday be able to supplant nuclear power, but there are enormous technical and financial challenges, larger than even for Nuclear, in trying to do a truly massive build-out of Wind and Solar.

I've heard some people compare Fukushima Daiichi (and before that, Chernobyl) to the Titanic. They like to say that "The Titanic was a New, Safer Design - until it sank on it's maiden voyage." But we didn't stop designing or building ships because of the Titanic, and I think everyone would agree that large commercial ships have gotten much, much safer - both as a result of improved design, as well as improved operational practice, over the years. I truly believe that with iteration (that is, the design and construction of new generations of technology after learning lessons with previous generations), all technology gets better with time.

This is almost surely to be true of Solar and Wind as well, but today nuclear reactor technology is better positioned to provide that power than Solar and Wind. As well, I'd rather see the market pick winners and losers than a system that hamstrings one solution (nuclear), while pushing forward another solution, based upon an inflated sense of risk and fear.

I've had the privilege of growing up in a period of extreme technological advancement in nearly every field of engineering, but perhaps none is more illustrative of the power of iterative improvement as computers and electronics. Since the 1970s, we've probably had close to 40 generations of computer technology (about one generation per year). Computers have gotten staggeringly faster, with more storage space, better reliability, more RAM, amazing graphics, very high speed networked communications, high quality sound, much smaller physically, and all at orders of magnitude lower cost. This is the result of lots of iterative improvement.

Where are the Iterations? Where are the New Nuclear Plants?

If there had been built, in the last 10 or 20 years, a gigawatt or two of new, safer nuclear power plants in Vermont, I bet Meredith, nor anyone else, would be trying to keep Vermont Yankee running, because there would be something better in place already, and it would just be time to retire that particular plant. The most natural way to get rid of old nuclear power plants is to build new, improved nuclear power plants to replace them. Without replacement, the result is (and we are seeing this all over the country) that we keep older plants online longer (however, those older plants are upgraded and updated with new safety features, new pipes, new turbines, etc, to keep them as safe as possible).

The most natural way to make nuclear safer is to increase the rate of iteration of generations of the technology. Of course, we need to go at a slow enough pace that we aren't risking disasters, but I think we can do better than 30 years per generation. I think the key is what standard we hold the NRC to: we can enable iterative improvement not by giving it a mandate to ensure 'perfect' safety, because they really can't ensure perfect safety, but rather, our standard should be, "Are the new designs being considered at least AS SAFE OR SAFER than any current designs".

That is how you achieve progress in any field of engineering - not, "Is it perfect, right now", but "Is it better than what we already have". Perfection is a goal we are always chasing, never achieving. This is why computers can keep getting better and better and better, and why nuclear reactors could keep getting better, and better, and better.

Ending the Paradox

Let's end the nuclear safety paradox by getting new, safer reactors built to replace the older reactors, and by giving the NRC the resources, people, and mandate to improve and speed up the certification process. We should enable a fairly rapid iteration of improved generations of nuclear reactor technology. As with other technologies, new improved generations will fairly quickly replace the old generations, leading to ever safer nuclear reactor designs.

AP 1000 illustration courtesy of Westinghouse through Wikipedia
Vermont Yankee photo also Wikipedia.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Vermont and World Nuclear

In Vermont, it becomes very easy to think that the whole world is anti-nuclear energy. Except for the people in Vernon who work at the plant, of course. The anti-nukes make a lot of noise, some of it not very rational. Senator Shumlin asserts we have abundant solar resources in Vermont (making me wonder whether he lives here). The same old crowd in Brattleboro keeps making the same old shut-it-down statements. And so forth.

Today I will do a compare-and-contrast post. I am going to examine two places in which one would think that nuclear would be not-an-option. Instead, new nuclear plants are being built.


The Olkiluoto 3 reactor currently being built in Finland has become a poster-child for anti-nuke activists. The project has had major cost overruns of perhaps 1.5 billion Euros and is seriously behind schedule. (Similar reactors being built in China are within budget and on schedule.) The construction problems in Finland make the local crowd in Brattleboro extremely happy, as their worst economic assumptions seem to be proved true. Naturally, Vermont anti-nukes expect Finland will swear off nuclear forever.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As Dan Yurman (and others) report, the Finnish government is granting permits for two more reactors. Finland gets 1/3 of its electricity from nuclear now, and plans to increase that to more than half from nuclear. The Environmental Minister Anni Sinnemaeki objected that the new reactors would be “dangerous” because they are “based on foreign technology.” Okay. Whatever.

Perhaps the Finns are building nuclear plants because they are desperate. They have very few other energy choices. Their major non-nuclear option is buying gas from Russia; these purchases place Finland in energy fealty to their old enemy. Not even Shumlin would claim that Finland has abundant solar in the winter.

Perhaps poor old Finland has no choice.

So let's look at another country. Let's look at the United Arab Emirates.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have a lot of oil. They have abundant solar year-round. Being near the equator, they can count on solar for many hours a day, even in winter. And they don't have a lot of clouds, either.

They are building four nuclear reactors. They plan to save their oil, use solar as appropriate, and build nuclear. It makes sense.

First of all, we are at peak oil, and oil will become more expensive in real terms as the century goes forward. Why should the people of the UAE burn their oil to make electricity? It is far better to sell it. The UAE have plans for solar, but even in a desert, people still need baseload. Also, they plan to use some of that nuclear power to desalinate water.

According to Wikipedia, the UAE population has grown from about 200,000 in 1968 to five and a half million today. Clearly, they need a new energy path for the future.

Thanks to Dan Yurman for the article about the reactors, and thanks to Rod Adams for this excellent video clip, straight from the Emirates. Watch the reasons for this decision in their own words. Unfortunately, not all the Arabic is translated.

If you have difficulty reading the subtitles, note that double-clicking on the video will open it in YouTube, in a bigger format.


North or South, resource-poor or resource-rich, nuclear is an important option. An essential part of the energy mix.

The same is true in Vermont.