UPDATE: Alvarez Part II

If you read our Nov. 20 post “Why Do They Listen to Alvarez” (here) you know we had some disagreement with the report Robert Alvarez undertook regarding spent nuclear fuel management at Columbia Generating Station. One of the criticisms we voiced in the media was that Mr. Alvarez failed to contact us – ever – before publishing the report at the behest of the anti-nuclear energy group Physicians for Social Responsibility.

On Page 7 of the report, Alvarez writes:


The spent fuel pool at Columbia Generating Station.

“Because Energy Northwest currently has not revealed the burnup history and radiological contents of the spent fuel in the CGS pool, this report provides a range of estimated radioactivity based on generic calculations developed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission…” (Italics added).

The report was released Nov. 19.

After publicly stating we were never asked for this information, but would be happy to provide it, on Dec. 1, we received a public records request from Physicians for Social Responsibility asking for the very information Energy Northwest “has not revealed” about the burnup history of our spent fuel. It has since been provided to PSR and, presumably, Mr. Alvarez.

What it revealed was that Mr. Alvarez was off a bit in his guesstimating – by as much as nearly 100,000,000 curies regarding the radioactivity of Columbia’s spent fuel. (His guess was on the high side, as you might imagine).

As for his discussion of Columbia’s burnup rate of spent fuel assemblies:

Alvarez guess: 40,000 to 50,000 MWD/t

Columbia verified average: ~35,000 MWD/t

(From the NRC: “Burnup” is a way to measure the uranium burned in the reactor. It is expressed in gigawatt-days per metric ton of uranium (GWd/MTU). Burnup depends on how long the fuel is in the core and the power level it reaches. The burnup level affects the fuel’s temperature, radioactivity and physical makeup. See here for more on high burnup spent fuel from the NRC. High burnup spent fuel is defined as 45 GWd/MTU. Note: Alvarez uses megawatt days instead of gigawatt days, which gives a higher visual number.)

Alvarez puts himself forward as a “senior scholar.” Well.

(Posted by John Dobken)

5 thoughts on “UPDATE: Alvarez Part II

  1. A “Senior Scholar”, eh? What kind of “scholarship” does he engage in, weedology or something? Didn’t he lose his DoE credentials (and job) for being busted for growing marijuana in his home? He was also a failed music student in college (failed in the sense of didn’t graduate). Doesn’t sound terribly scholarly to me.


  2. Pingback: Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers 243 | Neutron Bytes

  3. The operations efficiencies above 95%, and burnup rates ~35,000 MWD/t are metrics of excellent operations and management at Columbia Generating Station. The report by PSR was been soundly debunked, also in public testimony with the Washington State Legislature Nuclear Energy Task Force.


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