275th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

Today, we are proud to host the 275th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, here at Carnival Featured ImageNorthwest Clean Energy. The Carnival is a compendium of nuclear blogs that rotates from blog site to blog site. This is Northwest Clean Energy’s first time hosting the Carnival. It is a pleasure and an honor to host it.

Why We Need Nuclear Power: Blog posts from near and far

Sweden Better Not Close Its Nuclear Power Plants – It Gets Really Cold There
James Conca at Forbes

Nuclear power provides over 40% of Sweden’s electricity, has avoided over 2 billion tons of CO2 emissions, and has saved tens of thousands of lives by not burning fossil fuel. Sweden is a net exporter of low-carbon electricity to other parts of Europe. Sweden basically cannot import power during extreme weather conditions. If Sweden shut down nuclear power, what would be the effects?

All of the Above: A Matter of Common Sense
Gail Marcus at Nuke Power Talk

At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus discusses an article that helps rebut the argument that we can meet all our energy needs with solar and wind power. One important point that she raises: there is a big difference between what we can do and what we should do.

Anything but what works: why atmospheric carbon is as high as it is, and what we must do about it
Steve Aplin at Canadian Energy Issues

An objective observer of the current public debate over how to power society without dumping carbon into the air would wonder why we spend so much time discussing everything–except what works.

Looking Toward the Future: Blog posts on new initiatives

Atomic Show #241 – Rachel Pritzker, philanthropic problem solver
Rod Adams at Atomic Show Podcast

Rachel Pritzker is a philanthropist who aims to solve problems, even if the solutions require rethinking long held notions. She is the founder and chairman of the Pritzker Innovation Fund, and the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Breakthrough Institute. She played a role in the production of Pandora’s Promise, and she is one of 18 authors of the recently released Ecomodernist Manifesto.

In this podcast, Pritzker and Rod Adams talked about the importance of nuclear energy as a tool for improving human prosperity and environmental cleanliness. (Podcast is slightly more than one hour long.)

Seven Amazing Takeaways from the NuScale Expo
John Dobken at Northwest Clean Energy

NuScale Power has developed a small modular reactor, based on PWR technology, and with passive safety features. NuScale plans for these reactors to be deployed in the Pacific Northwest (Idaho and possibly Washington state), as early as 2024. Featured Image

Recently, NuScale staged its first NuScale Expo at the Oregon State University campus at Corvallis. John Dobken reports on presentations including the humanitarian need for small reactors, the business potential for SMR development, and the importance of nuclear energy to the Pacific Northwest.

Money: Market reforms good for nuclear, government reports raise financial doubts

GAO Report details challenges ahead for advanced nuclear reactors
Dan Yurman at Neutron BytesMoney Stacks

The US General Accounting Office has published a major report about the prospects for advanced reactors being developed for commercial customers in the US. The outlook is not especially hopeful. In summary, the government watchdog agency found that:

Reactor designers told GAO they face challenges associated with the up to $1 billion to $2 billion cost of developing and certifying a design. Even with a reactor design ready to submit to NRC, the licensing and construction can take nearly a decade or more before a reactor is operational. The time that the NRC would take to evaluate a design is also a barrier.

Pay For Performance Rewards Reliability and Nuclear
Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee

Meredith Angwin reviews the Pennsylvania/Midwest grid operator’s (PJM) recent rule changes for capacity auctions. PJM has instituted “Pay for Performance” rules. The new rules favor reliable plants, including nuclear plants.

MOX plant called out on costs
Dan Yurman at Neutron Bytes

An NGO opposed to completing the MOx facility has leaked a DOE red team report to the news media. The findings in the report cast doubt on whether completing the MOX facility is cost effective compared to alternatives for disposing of 34 tonnes of weapons grade plutonium.

Fighting the FUD: A few blog posts on combating Fear Uncertainty and Doubt spread by nuclear opponents

NIRS firing flak at “pro-nuclear fanatics”
Rod Adams at Atomic Insights

The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a reliably anti-nuclear organization, is worried about some new petitions for rulemaking. These petitions ask the NRC to stop using the linear, no-threshold model as the basis for radiation protection regulations. One of NIRS objections is that changing the regulations might make it cost less to operate nuclear power plants.

The horror.

Seven Amazing Takeaways from the NuScale Expo

NuScale Power staged its first-ever NuScale Expo Thursday and Friday on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, Ore. NuEx Event

The event, attended by more than 230 people, included a variety of knowledgeable speakers from government and the power industry, as well as tours of the local NuScale testing facilities.

If the intent was to create enthusiasm about how the NuScale small modular technology has the potential to change the energy world, it was a job well done.

To catch-up the uninitiated on NuScale’s plans, from their website:

NuScale Power has developed a small, scalable pressurized water reactor technology, engineered with passive safety features. The 50 MWe NuScale Power Module provides power in increments that can be scaled to 600 MWe (gross) in a single facility.
The small size and design simplicity allows the NuScale Power Module™ to be factory-built off-site. This makes NuScale plants faster to construct, and less expensive to build and operate. The NuScale Power SMR provides Clients with economical, reliable, and carbon-free generation source.

Here are my seven takeaways from the two-day event.

1. “It’s not a paper tiger.”

NuScale CEO John Hopkins made that statement in his opening remarks. And it resonated. Hopkins spent nearly 25 years with Fluor in a variety of posts before becoming chairman and CEO of NuScale in 2012. He also serves as vice-chair of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. One immediately gets the impression that this is a man interested in seeing things built and built right.

I mentioned creating enthusiasm earlier, but Mr. Hopkins’ main thrust seemed to be inevitability, which is equally important. The path to 2024, the date when the first NuScale facility could begin producing carbon-free power, is a difficult one, yes, but manageable with the tenacity and passion on display from the NuScale leadership. Look at any breakthrough technology or development of the past 150 years and you will find those two attributes in spades.

2. “NuScale has the potential to be larger than Fluor is today.”

Fluor CFO Biggs Porter delivered a big dose of inevitability with his presentation explaining why Fluor took a strong interest in NuScale in 2011 – and put its money where its interest was, to the tune of $170 million and counting. As Mr. Porter made clear, the market potential for NuScale is estimated at 1,500 deployed modules by 2035, leading to the statement quoted above. Fluor is #136 on the Fortune 500 with 43,000 employees and revenue of $21.5 billion.

The applications for the NuScale SMR are varied, from balancing renewables to powering desalination plants. In fact, eight NuScale modules could power a desalination plant providing enough drinking water for a city of 300,000 people. Hello, California?

3. Idaho is just fine with being known for potatoes – and nuclear energy.

This blog has a natural predilection for Washington-grown potatoes, but acknowledges that Idaho really put the potato on the map, as it were. And Idaho is ready to do the same for small modular reactors. With Washington state’s help.

Currently, the plan is to build a NuScale SMR in Idaho. Energy Northwest, based in Richland, Wash., has right of first refusal to be the operator. The power would go to member utilities of UAMPS, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, based in Salt Lake City.


Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann.

During NuEx, Energy Northwest CEO Mark Reddemann explained EN’s role in developing the licensing and training programs for operation and maintenance of that first NuScale SMR. There are long lead times involved and work is beginning in earnest to ensure the licensing and operator training programs are in place well before initial criticality (consider procedures need to be drafted; the trainers who will train the operators need to be trained and so forth).

That’s why recent criticism that SMR activity in Washington state, such as siting work, is “premature” is simply misplaced. Why not be prepared?

The Idaho team at NuEx impressed me with the state’s desire to support the location of NuScale’s first SMR, targeted for the Idaho National Lab on Department of Energy land, near Idaho Falls.

Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper and Idaho Department of Commerce Director Jeffery Sayer, who also spoke passionately about his state, played up the “nimble” and “collaborative” nature of Idaho (and its politics) when it comes to welcoming and developing business partnerships. In other words, they can make it happen.

“Idaho is ready to provide the leadership. This is leadership that NuScale needs, that nuclear needs. And we want to bring this project across the finish line,” Mayor Casper told the NuEx audience.

Mayor Casper is a big fan of nuclear energy and that’s why she’s on board. But also, as it should be with all mayors, her community comes first – and she sees a brighter future in partnering with NuScale so she’s creating the environment for hosting the SMR and perhaps the manufacturing plant to build them.

Could Washington state be home to the second NuScale SMR? As Mr. Reddemann pointed out in an interview, 63 percent of Washington residents support nuclear energy and that number jumps to more than 90 percent in the Richland-area, home to Columbia Generating Station.

“This is the exact opposite of NIMBY. When (electricity) demand recovers, we’d love to be able to build a set of NuScale small modular reactors right next to Columbia,” Reddemann said.

4. NuScale started with an empty room and a $4,000 grant.


NuScale co-founder Dr. Jose Reyes in a NuScale test facility.

New technologies need evangelists and NuScale has a great one in Dr. Jose Reyes, co-founder of the company and its current chief technology officer. One is hard-pressed not to join in his excitement as he explains certain technical aspects of the project’s design, because it appears no matter how many times he relays the information (and it has to be a lot), it still sounds fresh, his eyes still gleam.

In this digital age, recent examples of evangelists are Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Imagine Apple without Jobs. Would there even be an Apple as we know it with its innovations in technology and design?

Dr. Reyes brings heart and soul to nuclear energy in a vital way for a new technology. When things get difficult, when there are setbacks (as is inevitable), who’s driving the team by reminding them that the heartaches and setbacks are worth it because, after all, we’re changing lives and the world? The evangelist. And the team pushes on and finds a way to succeed because they know it’s important that they do. They know their place in the world and what their success can mean for future generations. That’s what an evangelist can do for you.

From a $4,000 grant to potentially $21.5 billion in revenue? It takes more than a good idea to make that happen.

5. Nuclear energy is safer than Sunday brunch.

Yes, it’s true. Scientist and Forbes blogger Jim Conca was on hand to put the safety of nuclear energy into perspective – in the accessible way he always approaches complex scientific and technical issues.

One of the data points for increased deployment of nuclear energy is its awesome safety record. Mr. Conca utilizes a series of slides to demonstrate just how safe nuclear energy is compared to all the relatively normal activities out there that are actually harming us. The leading category for trouble is iatrogenic illness, what Mr. Conca calls “medicine gone wrong.” You go in for treatment and end up dying. That’s number one. Others include smoking, alcohol, car accidents. There are many things that can do us harm – nuclear energy just isn’t one of them.

Nuclear energy is at the bottom of this list, with a relative danger index of 0.0000001. Eating, or food poisoning, has an index of 0.00008. In the U.S., 25,000 people a year are still killed by food poisoning. None by nuclear energy.

Which is one reason, among forms of energy generation, nuclear, on a per trillion kilowatt-hour basis, is better than all other forms of energy. That’s a fact.

6. “When people are scared, facts don’t matter.”

Dr. Scott Tinker’s presentation laid out the world energy picture now and into the future (with the appropriate caveats about predictions, of course). (Find out more about his documentary “Switch”).

But while all signs pointed to nuclear energy as a necessary, vital part of our energy future, there was also the cautionary statement about the “big lift.” What is it? Public education and acceptance, or as Dr. Tinker put it, “the social right to operate” a nuclear power plant.

Take this exchange recently on social media. Nuclear Comment

With some people, no rational argument will work. Still, engagement is necessary because there are many others for whom it will work, we just haven’t reached them yet.

Going beyond facts is an ongoing and necessary discussion in the nuclear energy universe, because, as Jim Conca explained, during the Cold War we were very good at scaring people about nuclear weapons. Nuclear energy suffered (undeserved) collateral damage.

Just recognizing this communication deficiency is the first step to change, and there are many efforts underway, through blogs, through social media (the team at the Nuclear Energy Institute has been superb), to begin to show the human-side of nuclear energy and that while nuclear weapons are about taking lives, nuclear energy is about improving and saving lives.


Michael Shellenberger of The Breakthrough Institute.

This is the point where Michael Shellenberger and The Breakthrough Institute have been invaluable in beginning to help people understand the true power of nuclear energy to save the environment. Yes, nuclear energy can save the environment!


Shellenberger explained during his talk that nuclear energy uses the smallest amount of resources to produce the largest amount of energy with little environmental impact and leaves the smallest amount of waste. As the planet grows more energy intensive – and it will – nuclear needs to be front and center to lift millions and millions of people out of poverty. More energy means less poverty and more productive lives. Oh, and cleaner air if we get that energy from nuclear.

7. This is the right thing to do.

On so many levels, this is an endeavor that legions of people can embrace. The caliber of people joining the mission is impressive. For instance, NuScale has 17 PhD’s from Oregon State University working for them now. You don’t think they want to play a role in changing the world?

Jobs. Clean air energy. Reliable and affordable electricity. Abundant water through desalination. More renewables through firming. And the safest form of electricity generation made safer.

For those attending the NuEx conference, 2024 can’t come soon enough.

(Posted by John Dobken)

Pain from Closing Vermont Yankee Lingers

On Aug. 27, 2013, Entergy announced it was not ordering fuel for Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, and it would close at the end of 2014. The plant went off-line permanently on Dec. 29, 2014.

Now, in August 2015, it is two years since the announcement, and seven months since the plant shut down. What are the consequences, so far?

The environment and the grid

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

The Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

Opponents of Vermont Yankee were fond of saying that Vermont Yankee had to be shut down “so we could build renewables.” Others, more quietly, extolled the virtues of natural gas. The natural gas proponents were pretty subdued (“it’s a bridge fuel to renewables and we don’t need much of it because we’re a small state” etc.). Natural gas advocates had to be subdued. Vermont has active opposition to new gas pipelines. Vermont is the home of Bill McKibben, one of the main founders of 350.org, a climate policy group. He leads anti-fossil fuel protests all over the country.

So, did Vermont get renewables?

Not really, Vermont has big plans for renewables, but the renewables aren’t available yet. And Vermont Yankee is shut down, right now. Vermont basically did three things: Bought more from the grid (largely fossil fuels including natural gas); tried to buy more from HydroQuebec (but it would take new transmission lines to carry the power), and is buying more from Seabrook Nuclear Station in neighboring New Hampshire.

When the local utilities asked the Public Service Board for permission to buy more from Seabrook, it caused some uproar. Guy Page of Vermont Energy Partnership wrote a short report on Vermont utility plans. As he said: this report hit a nerve. Many articles raised the important question: How green is Vermont, really?

The Seabrook purchase

Let’s look a little closer at that Seabrook purchase. Vermont utilities buying from Seabrook is great for Seabrook: the plant gets a good, long-term power purchase agreement. But it doesn’t change Seabrook’s actual electricity output. The Seabrook purchase is basically a piece of paper. Vermont Yankee no longer makes electricity. Where is the actual replacement electricity going to come from?

The simple answer is natural gas. In other states (not Vermont!) natural gas plants are being built to make up for the closing of Vermont Yankee and coal plants.

Invenergy will build this 900-MW gas plant in Rhode Island.

Invenergy will build a 900-MW gas plant in Rhode Island.

The latest announcement is for a 900 mega-watt natural gas plant, to be built in Rhode Island. The headline in a utility trade newsletter describes the situation: Newly planned 900 MW gas plant will help meet grid operator capacity concerns.

So, as we saw in California with the closing of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, the environmental result of closing a nuclear plant is increased carbon emissions. (In its study on Columbia Generating Station, IHS CERA found that Columbia prevents 3.6 million metric tons in annual carbon emissions. Columbia will keep doing that year after year for another 30 years. That’s not an insignificant contribution to cleaner air.)

Well, that’s about pollution and the grid and so forth. What about the people of Vermont Yankee and the area?

The people and the economy

When pressing for Vermont Yankee to be closed, Gov. Shumlin described the possibility of closing the plant as giving a “billion dollar bonanza” to Vermont. What on earth was he thinking? There’s no billion-dollar bonanza. There’s a drop-off in employment, a killing of the local towns, and general misery.

Let’s look at the VY timeline. Entergy kept the plant at full employment until about a month after shutdown. In late 2014, there were 550 employees (down from over 600 earlier in the year). In January, a month after the plant went off-line, 234 people were laid off. This left 316 people at the plant. At that time, the end of January, all fuel was in the spent fuel pools (or on the existing fuel pads).

When the plant closure was announced, Entergy also announced that most of the 316 people remaining in 2015 would be laid off in April 2016. At the end of April, staffing will drop to 127 people. At that point there will be almost no activity except security and some monitoring.

Sometime around 2020, there will be another burst of activity at the plant as the fuel in the fuel pool is transferred to dry casks. (I suspect that little of this activity will be done by people who used to work at the plant. Contractors usually do this type of crane work.) Then the plant will be in SAFSTOR for many years before finally being dismantled. (Read more here).

Yes, I wrote about this jobs-dropoff way back in 2011, when Shumlin was talking up his jobs-bonanza.
Also here.

I wasn’t alone in this. Lots of people knew that there was no “jobs bonanza.” In 2010, there were economic reports done by the legislature and by IBEW (the main Vermont Yankee union). The blog posts above link to these reports. The reports showed that over 1000 jobs would be lost near the plant: (plant jobs and multiplier-effect jobs). Not that it mattered to plant opponents.

The plant closed, and people paid attention

As the plant closed, people actually began to pay attention to the lack of jobs and the depressing effect of the closure on the local economy. A tri-state group did a study of the effects of the closure on the Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts area in which plant staff mostly live. They released the report as a news dump on Christmas Eve last year. This report has been described as “stark.” True enough.

This report showed that the plant closure would lead to the loss of over 1000 jobs in the region. Well, a very predictable report. Many people did economic analyses in 2010 and predicted this outcome. Sheer misery. The anti-nuclear energy ideologues perpetuate a myth that there are more jobs in decommissioning than actually running the plant. Another point on which they are catastrophically wrong.

Entergy tries to help

Entergy has been amazingly pro-active in trying to help the community.

First off, they made a deal with the state of Vermont to give $2 million a year for economic development, for five years, $10 million total. The state has received $4 million to date, but only disbursed about $800,000. The state keeps revamping its guidelines for receiving grants from this money. Gov. Shumlin has the final say on how the Entergy money is disbursed.

Entergy has also made soft-landing deals for the taxes it pays to the school district in town, and recently announced a new grant of $350,000 for nearby towns in New Hampshire.

Nothing helps enough

Let’s be blunt. Entergy is very public-spirited, but its resources for Vermont are limited. It can’t put back the over $60 million dollar payroll that ended when the plant shut down.

Vermont Yankee is not generating any revenue. By the NRC rules for decommissioning funds, these funds cannot be used to pay taxes or for charity. Such funds are only for physical decommissioning of the plant. In other words, whatever Entergy pays to help the Vermont area comes directly out of Entergy’s ability to help support operating plants.

Vermont Yankee is closed, and that area of the country is forever the worse for it. More carbon dioxide in the air, fewer jobs in the area. Perhaps Seabrook and the new natural gas plant are winners, but it isn’t a very nice victory.

I am going to end this with a quote from an anonymous comment on my blog: it’s from a VY employee who got a new job quickly and supposedly had a “soft landing.” I think his comment sums up part of the human side of the story.

Yes, I relocated. No it was not easy. Selling a house, buying another one, moving, finding a new house with the right schools. Moving away from grown kids. Moving away from grandkids. My wife had to leave a job that she loved. The lying antis don’t care about any of this so long as they get their way…
Vermont deserves everything that is going to happen when the southeast corner of the state collapses from the economic impact.

(Posted by Meredith Angwin)


The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting this week’s edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. Actually, it covers the past two weeks of blogs. This time, we have postings by Dr. Gail Marcus, John Dobken, Meredith Angwin, Rod Adams, and Brian Wang.

Click the link below for access to all the postings: