Today, we are proud to host the 275th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers, here at Northwest 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
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?
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.
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
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.)
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.
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
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.
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
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.
At some community radio stations in Portland, Ore. the bar seems to be set very low for what constitutes “expert analysis.” Recently, one such station welcomed anti-nuke-for-hire Arnie Gundersen to talk about Columbia Generating Station.
Columbia, a 1,170-megawatt boiling water reactor located near Richland, Wash., recently finished a long, breaker-to-breaker run of 683 days, and then had a refueling outage (one of our safest ever). After the outage, Columbia’s return to full power was delayed by a stuck, non-safety related, isolation valve in one of its reactor feedwater loops, limiting Columbia to 65 percent power until that valve was fixed.
Gundersen didn’t even know that much information.
Yet he manages to speak for four minutes on the outage and the causes of the delay in attaining full power.
When you need an anti-nuke who can claim to have a nuclear engineering degree, Arnie is the go-to-guy, ready at a moment’s notice to offer “expert analysis.” He offers analysis whether or not he knows any actual facts. Here’s his opening line on the radio show: “…it’s hard to tell what’s going on because Columbia has not released much information…”
That line would be a tip-off to most interviewers that the person being interviewed may not know what they are talking about. Also, Columbia is run by a public entity, Energy Northwest. The agency has informed local news media, regional trade press and members of the region’s Public Power Council about Columbia’s work to fix the stuck valve. Furthermore, when the community radio station called us to inquire why Columbia was at 65 percent power, they were told. Only Gundersen seemed to be out of the loop on what happened.
Rod Adams of the Atomic Insights blog has written extensively about Gundersen’s history and credentials. It’s not flattering. Meredith Angwin, who often blogs here, debated Gundersen at the University of Vermont, and wrote a blog post about his statements about fish. Gundersen claimed that there were only 16 shad in the Connecticut River, and that this precipitous decline in the shad population was caused by the operation of Vermont Yankee. The Connecticut River shad runs have been declining due to overfishing, yet the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated 244,000 American Shad at Holyoke Dam in 2011. That’s a long way from “16 fish.”
Back to the interview
Gundersen misspeaks (to be kind). He said Columbia had not started up. Not true, of course. Then he speculated that “deferred maintenance” was to blame for not reaching full power. Remember, that he is describing a “deferred maintenance” issue for a piece of equipment whose existence is unknown to him.
The valve in question is a non-safety related motor-operated isolation valve. There is a preventative maintenance program for the valve motor – and there are no issues with that program. However, the valve internals are handled on a condition-based maintenance regime. This is an industry-wide practice for such valves at thermal plants (nuclear, coal, gas combined cycle). One doesn’t just go about opening up 12,000 lb. valves, especially valves that are only operated twice every two years (closed for refueling; opened for operating). These valves are opened up for maintenance only when there is a reason to believe they need maintenance. On the other hand, the motor that drives them is maintained regularly.
Without any knowledge of the situation, Gundersen doubled-down on his guess-work, claiming repairs should have been done to a piece of equipment that he still hasn’t named. He then begins a wandering analogy about car tires.
His conclusion is that “Columbia isn’t making any money….” Well, this is another place he shows his ignorance of the facts on the ground. Gundersen seems unaware that Energy Northwest is a public power agency that sells all of the power its produces at Columbia, and its other assets, at cost.
Then he goes on to say that Bonneville Power Administration, which buys all of the at-cost power from Columbia, is “not doing the needed repairs at Columbia in a timely fashion…” He might have noticed that Columbia’s capacity factor and reliability have steadily increased over the past five years: not a sign of “not doing repairs.” Three straight annual generation records! Columbia availability last year: 100 percent!
Once again, his statements are complete hogwash – particularly when he makes those statements just after Columbia completed a refueling and maintenance outage that had a $100 million budget. And the outage began, as noted before, after the best and longest continuous run in Columbia Generating Station’s history.
Seems to be his MO
As we have noted in previous posts, anti-nuclear energy activists appear to have created a bubble of anti-science, anti-fact existence. Gundersen, through his family business (their tagline is “moving energy education forward”), even tweeted that his interview was available on line. Why would you tell the world (or a very small fraction thereof) that it can listen to you talk about something you know nothing about?
This was the case following Fukushima. He has made a cottage industry of scare stories about Fukushima. For example, before Tokyo Electric Power began the work to remove spent nuclear fuel rods from spent fuel pool #4, Gundersen made these bold statements:
“I suspect come November, December, January we’re going to hear that the building’s been evacuated, they’ve broke a fuel rod, the fuel rod is off-gassing.” (Never happened).
“I suspect we’ll have more airborne releases as they try to pull the fuel out.” (Never happened).
“I think the racks have been distorted, the fuel has overheated — the pool boiled – and the net effect is that it’s likely some of the fuel will be stuck in there for a long, long time.” (Nope. All the fuel has been removed. Safely.)
As long as people like Gundersen remain on the fringe, perhaps it won’t matter that their “expert analysis” is all wrong.
(Posted by John Dobken)
Post by Meredith Angwin
Washington state is going to be looking at the best places to site a small modular reactor. According to the recent budget agreement signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council is allocated $176,000 to conduct a study of the siting of SMRs. (The state’s Nuclear Energy Task Force also received funding to continue its work).
The siting study is due to the legislature and governor by Dec. 1. The language also provides the opportunity for EFSEC to hire consultants for the purpose of performing this study.
It is clear from the bi-partisan support for this measure, and other nuclear energy related bills, that there is much support for Washington state as a center for small modular reactor construction. Washington is the home of many nuclear research facilities (in the Tri-Cities area) and the home of Boeing Aircraft. (Boeing builds an important and complex modular product. See our earlier post).
Washington state is well qualified to be the state that builds modular reactors.
- NuScale’s reactor design is based on a concept pioneered at Oregon State University.
- NuScale has funding from the Department of Energy and from Fluor.
- NuScale has an agreement with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems to build a set of reactors somewhere in the West, quite possibly within the Idaho National Laboratory complex.
- Energy Northwest will operate the NuScale reactors, once they are built.
NuScale and licensing
Developing a new type of small reactor is only part of the battle. There are many small reactors on naval ships, all over the world. Most people would say that the hard part of SMR development is getting a design certification and operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The NRC is famously conservative. Receiving a license for a new type of reactor is not a trivial matter.
However, the NuScale reactor is based on well-understood Pressurized Water Reactor designs, but smaller and with passive-safety features.
This will ensure a safe, practical and economic reactor. This blend of old and new should also aid in the licensing process.
NuScale recently released its planned licensing schedule:
- Design certification application to the NRC by the end of 2016
- Combined Operating and Licensing application to the NRC by the end of the first quarter of 2018
Clearly, NuScale has an aggressive but achievable schedule for getting the applications to the NRC. But what happens after they submit the applications? When can NuScale reasonably expect the NRC to act on the license?
I learned more about this at a recent meeting in Boston.
Bloomberg and Nuclear Matters and NuScale
Bloomberg BNA (part of the huge business-information group) and Nuclear Matters (a pro-nuclear advocacy group) have teamed up to give a series of events called Nuclear Going Forward. These events cover the issues and the promises for current and planned reactors.
I personally love this unified approach, and I am so glad to see these two institutions doing whole-industry seminars. In my experience, people who operate existing reactors can be scornful of new types of reactors (“paper reactors”) while people developing new types of reactors can speak of well-functioning older reactors with equal scorn. In a blog post several years ago, I suggested that the two groups might actually consider talking to each other (and listening to each other) instead of jumping to conclusions.
The latest Nuclear Going Forward meeting was in Boston in late June, and I was happy to attend. You can see videos of the entire meeting at this website.
The Boston meeting and NuScale
Jay Surina of NuScale was one of the speakers at the Boston meeting, and I recommend you watch the video of the second panel at the Boston meeting.
Licensing was a main subject of the discussion.
In a way, the panelists ranged from “innovative, but not that different from current reactors” to “really different from current reactors” (molten salt, or natural-gas-nuclear-reactor hybrids.) Briefly:
- Lightbridge proposes a new, metallic fuel for existing reactors or new reactors
- NuScale proposes a SMR based on existing light water reactor technology
- Terrestrial Energy proposes a reactor based on Molten Salt technology
- MIT Nuclear Fuel Cycle project proposes a natural-gas-hybrid reactor
Licensing the reactors
Each of these companies assessed their coming interactions with the NRC, and how likely they were to be licensed in a timely fashion.
Lightbridge is confident of being approved by the NRC in a relatively short time frame: They are making a safer, more efficient type of fuel that can be used in existing reactors. They are working with several utilities that would like to use their fuel.
NuScale technology is also similar to existing technologies, and they are also working with two utilities (Energy Northwest and UAMPS). They expect reasonably fast licensing, with a first plant to come on-line in the 2023-24 time frame.
Terrestrial Energy considers its technology “too different” to be worth attempting an NRC license. They plan to be licensed through the Canadian regulatory system, which is principled-based rather than rules-based (36 minutes into the video).
Similarly, MIT considers that NRC is only set up to license light-water reactors. Their own reactor is at such an early stage of development that it not clear what path they will choose for licensing it.
NuScale for the future
When I left the Nuclear Going Forward meeting, I had concluded that NuScale was indeed in a sweet spot for obtaining its license. The reactor is innovative, but not TOO different from existing reactors. The company has strong backing from its parent (Fluor) and the Department of Energy, as well as initial agreements with utilities.
In other words, with the NuScale plans for reactors in the West, it is reasonable that the Washington legislature may well encourage building SMRs in Washington state. Broad state support could sweeten the sweet spot in new reactor design, and bring the manufacturing to Washington state.
Extra reading: Two blog posts on the Nuclear Going Forward meeting:
Read the best of the blogs about nuclear energy…
This post represents the latest link in an unbroken chain of more than four years of the weekly summaries of the best of the pro-nuclear blogs.
With the recent updated assessment by the IPCC of the outlook for climate change, the leveraging the nuclear energy to mitigate future growth of CO2 emissions comes even more prominently into the public eye.
Want to know what’s going on? Read all about it here. Previous editions of the Carnival have been posted at the blogs cited below and elsewhere.
See the “Blogs We Read” sidebar at the ANS Nuclear Café for a complete list. It is published by the American Nuclear Society. A great site for the industry perspective is the blog and the dynamic blog roll at NEI Nuclear Notes. It cites new blog posts from around the nation as they are published.
For day-to-day breaking news and updates, check out…
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In opposing nuclear energy environmental groups draw on a wealth of imagery and deeply ingrained fears. There is no better demonstration of this than simply uttering the words Chernobyl and Fukushima. We all know these words and the fear they instill. Rigorous scientific analysis may show that the dangers from burning coal are vastly greater than those of nuclear energy; but can you can name a single coal power plant?
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Blog post by Mark Reddemann, CEO
Today, Columbia Generating Station begins its biennial refueling and maintenance outage. We do so after operating the plant for 683 consecutive days, which is a record for Columbia. During that stretch, Columbia sent nearly 18 million megawatt hours of electricity to the Northwest power grid. Our capacity factor was greater than 98 percent.
More importantly, we’ve achieved these generation numbers safely. Looking at our industrial safety record, employees and contractors have now worked more than 950 days without a lost-time accident, equivalent to nearly 10 million hours worked.
I can’t tell you how proud I am of the Energy Northwest team for those accomplishments. When I first came to Energy Northwest in 2010, I made a commitment to the organization and the region that performance excellence would be the goal, and we would work hard every day to meet that goal. More importantly, we would be able to sustain that goal over the long term.
Columbia Generating Station has never run better in its 30 year history. The key to that success is our people. Our Maintenance department, Operations, our engineers and many, many others who work hard every day to help the organization achieve and sustain excellence. It has truly been a team effort.
Excellence is a word we use a lot
Energy Northwest employees implemented the Excellence in Performance initiative agency wide in July 2011 in direct response to Columbia Generating Station’s poor performance compared to the nuclear industry. The goal was (and is) to reach and sustain nuclear industry first-quartile plant performance within five years, and top performance, compared to energy industry peers, at our other generation projects.
Excellence in Performance is the relentless pursuit of the highest performance expectations through continuous improvement, zero tolerance for deviation from standards, and dedication to fostering an environment of teamwork. The initiative uses the Excellence Model, with supporting information and decision-making tools, to improve accountability at the individual, department and division levels.
The model is built upon the premise that behaviors plus results equal organizational performance. Originally developed by the Nuclear Management Company and adapted to Energy Northwest, the model is proven in the nuclear industry as effective in changing and sustaining workforce behaviors.
As a result of the Excellence in Performance initiative, Columbia broke its third consecutive annual generation record in 2014, generating nearly 9.5 million MWhrs.
We are equally focused on providing value to Northwest ratepayers. We’ve worked hard to increase Columbia’s generation, which has had a large impact in reducing costs. In parallel, we’ve also kept our capital costs in-line with our long-range plan. Our production costs, which includes operation and maintenance, and fuel costs, have decreased since fiscal 2009, on average, by $3.49 per megawatt each year, or 4.4 percent annually. (In fiscal 16 dollars, so we’ve adjusted for inflation).
With the combination of Columbia’s cost-of-power reductions and regional debt cooperation initiatives with Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Northwest will contribute more than $1.3 billion in total BPA rate case savings between 2012 and 2021.
The road ahead
Now – we are focused on successfully completing the refueling and maintenance outage. There are some major projects, important ones, that will improve our equipment reliability and our generation output when we are back up and running in June. As with our day-to-day operation, the key to outage success will be safety, and then predictably meeting our schedule.
As the third largest generation resource in the state of Washington, Columbia is a key part of the state (and regional) generation mix. Not only do we provide carbon-free, cost-effective electricity, but we deliver fuel diversity to an energy mix dominated by hydroelectric power.
We are looking forward to continuing to serve Northwest ratepayers with clean, reliable, cost-effective power. That is our commitment.
The consequences of losing nuclear energy resources… great piece by Andrew Benson via The Actinide Age.
Guest article: A eulogy for San Onofre
Andrew Benson works as an Energy Analyst for the California Energy Commission. The above was written in his capacity as a private citizen and represents his personal opinion. It does not purport to represent the opinion of the California Energy Commission or the State of California.
The author’s father is a 30-plus year reactor operator and nuclear engineer of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.
You can follow the author on Twitter at @A_G_Benson. He blogs at www.atoms4ca.tumblr.com
California has a global reputation for its environmental policy. Most notably, the state was first in the US to enact comprehensive legislation regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The law, known simply as AB 32, set a statewide goal of returning to 1990 levels of emissions by 2020 and 80% below that by 2050. Unfortunately, California’s ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants in California…
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Two Energy Northwest executive board members will receive awards next month at the Northwest Public Power Association annual conference in Anchorage, Alaska.
Former congressman and Washington state Secretary of Transportation Sid Morrison will receive the Paul J. Raver community service award. The award is given to individuals and organizations that show superior leadership in the betterment of cities, locales, states or regions.
“Sid sets the bar quite high with more than 50 years of community service,” said Mark Reddemann, Energy Northwest CEO. “His diplomacy and grassroots-style leadership has helped Energy Northwest strive for the highest standards of excellence.”
Morrison joined the executive board in 2001 and has been the chair since 2006. During his tenure, EN has completed and expanded the Nine Canyon Wind Project and the White Bluffs Solar Station. Morrison was also instrumental in securing the 20-year license renewal for Columbia Generating Station.
Morrison’s accomplishments also include record generation or availability at all EN projects as well as agency-wide safety records, and developing the Excellence in Governance model, which has since been adopted by several state utilities.
As chairman, Morrison has teamed with other companies to promote a commercial, small modular reactor project in the western United States.
Morrison’s service record extends beyond Energy Northwest. He serves as gubernatorial appointee to the Central Washington University Board of Trustees and sits on the Central Washington State Fair Board. He served as Washington state Secretary of Transportation from 1993-2001 and the Washington state House of Representatives form 1967-1974. He served in the state Senate from 1975 to 1980.
EN executive board member Sen. Tim Sheldon will receive NWPPA’s John M. George public service award. The award recognizes policymaking officers of member systems that have demonstrated remarkable service to public power.
“Tim has been a longtime friend and strong advocate of Washington state’s public utilities and has been intricately involved in the public power community during the last several decades,” said Reddemann.
“Tim personifies the ideal candidate that has outstanding industry and personal achievements during his career and involvement with NWPPA and the public power community,” said Karl Denison, Mason County Public Utility District 1 board president. “He is a great ally and friend of PUD 1, Energy Northwest and public power.”
The Energy Northwest board of directors appointed Sheldon to the executive board in 2003. He has been the committee chair of the Administrative, Energy and Members Services committee since 2006. Sheldon also served as a PUD commissioner at Mason County PUD 1 from 1999 to 2002.
Energy Northwest nominated Morrison. Mason PUD 1 and Energy Northwest co-nominated Sheldon.
(Posted by Kevin Shaub)
It’s no joke – nuclear energy blog Atomic Insights is 20 years old and still going strong.
Our congratulations to Rod Adams for continuing to produce a high-quality, informative blog about nuclear energy.
Read his anniversary post here.
Love this snippet from his very first post, featured at the above link:
“One pound of uranium contains as much energy as 2 million pounds of oil. Releasing that energy from the uranium results in less than one pound of waste material that can be stored in a simple container for decades with no effect on the environment.”
(Posted by John Dobken)