Young voices lifting up the pro-nuclear movement

The audience was surprised.

The young man who came to talk to them about advocacy for nuclear energy was standing before them belting out an operatic version of “The Impossible Dream” from “Man from La Mancha.” As far as utility conferences go, one could call this a departure from the norm.

Eric Meyer

Eric Meyer of Generation Atomic speaking at the Northwest Public Power Association annual meeting.

But Eric Meyer is a man of many talents, opera being but one (B.A. in Vocal Music). Grassroots advocacy is another, hence his founding of Generation Atomic. His talk to the Northwest Public Power Association in Sunriver, Ore., this spring showed how direct outreach to people is helping build support for nuclear energy in the places it is needed most – currently Ohio. There, two nuclear energy plants are facing difficult times due to deregulated energy markets that don’t adequately value reliable and carbon-free electricity.

“We deregulated the energy markets thinking the only thing that mattered was price to consumers,” Meyer told me. “Then we realized that wasn’t the whole story. We care about clean energy. We care about reliable energy.”

Getting started

Meyer hadn’t thought much about nuclear energy growing up and admits he probably had a vague disrespect for it because of watching The Simpsons. But in 2009, a friend sent Meyer a video on molten salt reactors.

“(I)n that video they talked about other reactor designs and how with nuclear you can do things that you can’t do with other energy sources, like make carbon-neutral synthetic fuels, desalinate water and, just in general, have reliable electricity that doesn’t harm the environment.”

That opened his mind to the concept of nuclear energy being a good thing. So he changed his education focus to public policy and advocacy and a year ago jumped into nuclear advocacy with both feet.

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Courtesy: March for Environmental Hope

“(Pro-nuclear environmentalist) Michael Shellenberger invited me to come out to Berkeley and help organize a pro-nuclear climate march, the March for Environmental Hope. We had three big events and were able to build some momentum,” Meyer said.

Meyer felt more could be done on a grassroots level – and that more should be done to begin building the base of nuclear energy support. So Meyer started Generation Atomic with Tay Stevenson using campaign-style tactics that had worked for them before, such as in Minnesota building support for gay marriage legislation.

“There’s always been a small contingent of pro-nuclear people, people who work at the plants, or your enthusiasts, who haven’t had an opportunity to go into communities before,” Meyer explained. “There’s never been a door-to-door operation for nuclear. There’s been these efforts for clean water, renewables. You go back 30 years and the public wasn’t calling their legislators demanding renewables standards or subsidies. That took a grassroots effort.”

Generation Atomic is so grassroots that for the Ohio campaign, six people shared a Sandusky duplex and slept on air mattresses. “I don’t think we could have made it more clear how grassroots we were.”

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While the accommodations weren’t fancy, Generation Atomic is running a sophisticated operation. Volunteers go door-to-door with a smart phone app that allows potential supporters to find their own path to why favoring nuclear energy is a good thing. And it works. Nearly 60 percent of residents they speak with sign on to the cause, according to Generation Atomic, and nearly 54 percent will take action.

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Screen shots from the smartphone app Generation Atomic developed for volunteers.

“The plant workers get it. The enthusiasts get it. The climate scientists get it. But the public at-large is either not thinking about it or has their perception colored by the media in general,” Meyer said. “The general message (for canvassers) is, ‘nuclear is good for your community in these different ways.’ What’s most important to you?”

Those ways may be jobs, school funding or environmental benefits. “People don’t understand they like nuclear until they understand the implications of losing it.”

Generation Atomic is benefiting from, well, a generation of Americans who see nuclear through a different lens. It’s not about a missile crisis, fall-out shelters or doomsday clocks. They understand technology and how it can help society; it’s comfortable. The only doomsday clock they worry about relates to the climate. For them, nuclear energy is a solution. A good one.

Students4Nuclear
Good examples of that mindset can be found in Emma Redfoot and Kelley Verner, the University of Idaho graduate students behind Students For Nuclear, a group for students “who have decided that developing and supporting nuclear energy is an important and meaningful way to spend their lives.”

Each came to nuclear energy along different paths. We had a chance to speak to Emma and Kelley during a recent visit to Columbia Generating Station. Watch these short videos to learn more about how they decided to support nuclear energy.

 

 

Learn more about Students for Nuclear by visiting their website.

Unrelenting advocacy
After earning a bachelor’s in nuclear engineering at Texas A&M, Jean Lim found himself in Seattle, not exactly a hotbed of nuclear advocacy. Not yet.

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Jean Lim, Friends of Fission

“People outside the field of study don’t get many opportunities to be in positive conversations about nuclear,” Lim says. “They don’t get a chance to understand what nuclear energy can do for the environment, and really, themselves.”

Lim began his nuclear energy journey while still in high school, wondering what he would choose as a major. Nuclear’s carbon-free generation caught his attention and that’s the direction he ultimately chose. Now he’s working toward a Master’s degree and one day he hopes to work on Generation IV nuclear technology.

“The people I encountered within school and industry were driven and passionate individuals that believed in a science that can better mankind, and I still want to be a part of that. It may have been less romantic in their minds, but that was what I saw,” Lim said.

Lim’s passion for nuclear energy brought him closer to a fledgling group of nuclear energy advocates in the Seattle area, now known as the Friends of Fission.

“After moving here, I took some classes at a local community college to keep up with my technical skills and studies. I also started working with a work counselor and she urged me to continue creating nuclear Industry connections,” Lim said.

One of her suggestions was checking out Ada’s Technical Books and Cafe, as they were hosting a radiation talk that week. The talk happened to be organized by the founders of Friends of Fission, and affiliated with Cascadia Climate Action. Lim found out they wanted to do more talks focused on nuclear energy. “At that point I felt I had a way to continue advocating for nuclear power at a new place, so I started to work with them.”

Lim has helped the group with organizing events and designing graphics to promote them. The positive message of nuclear energy helping the planet with reliable electricity and clean air motivates him.

“We break away from the doom and gloom other environmentalists preach, and try to showcase a piece of the puzzle that can drastically improve our fight against climate change,” Lim told me.

With clear eyes

What I take away from these conversations is that this generation is more fact-based in its focus on solving the big issues, such as climate change, almost linear, in fact. If climate change is devastating to people and the planet, and low-carbon electricity helps reduce climate change, then nuclear energy is a good thing and we should have more of it. They look at arguments such as “what about the waste?” and see answers based in science and opportunities for new technology, not roadblocks or fear. In short, it’s hope shining through.

Yes, there’s something happening here. Make sure you take time to stop and look around.

Then join in. After all, this is the Summer of Nuclear.

SoN-Haight-Carbon-Cover

(Posted by John Dobken)

Earth Day Q & A with Dr. Jim Conca

As an environmentalist and a keen watcher of the global energy picture, we asked Dr. Jim Conca to talk to us about energy and the environment as we mark Earth Day 2016.

Dr Jim Conca edit

Dr. Jim Conca

Over the last 30 years, Conca has been Director of the Center for Laboratory Sciences, Director of the New Mexico State University Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, Team Leader at Los Alamos National Laboratory, faculty at Washington State University, a scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Coordinator of Shuttle Activities over the Poles at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Conca obtained a Ph.D. in Geochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1985; a Masters in Planetary Science in 1981; and a Bachelors in Geology and Biochemistry from Brown University in 1979.


Earth Day 2016 is upon us, what is the most pressing environmental issue facing the U.S.?

I have to say the continued use of oil and coal in America, because they affect so much of the environment. The release of carbon is the most voluminous, but the adverse environmental effects of drilling and mining, oil spills and pipeline leaks, strip and mountain top mining, coal impoundment failures, the non-carbon emissions such as sulfur and nitrogen compounds and particulates that pollute not just the environment, but contribute to the unnecessary deaths of about 15,000 Americans every year, these are huge issues that dwarf almost all others.

When did you realize you were an environmentalist?

When I was growing up during the advent of the environmental movement in the 1960s and 70s in New England. The creation of the EPA when I was in high school was dramatic, and there were many ads on TV about air pollution, especially in Los Angeles.

As an environmentalist, what would you most like to change about that movement/community?

It seems to have adopted a rather strong ideological tone, as opposed to a grassroots tone based on science that it used to have. There does not seem to be any room for discussion of options. And, of course, the vehement anti-nuclear stand, even in the face of all scientific and historic data, plus (the criticism of) a few key people like James Hansen, who understand that our environmental goals will not be met without significant nuclear and hydroelectric power.

When did you first realize nuclear energy is a good thing?

When I started working at NASA in 1985, seeing its use in the space program, and especially after I started working on nuclear waste in the next few years. I had always been told that nuclear had problems and was dangerous, and kept looking for the reasons behind those claims. After a while I saw they were incorrect, and then kept working within the nuclear field and accumulated so much direct experience, and came to know so many lifelong nuclear colleagues that it became clear the myths that arose from the Cold War years were just that – myths.

Jim Conca

Jim Conca featured in a public service announcement about the need for carbon-free nuclear energy. The spots can be viewed here and here.

What is the biggest obstacle, as you see it, to wider acceptance of nuclear energy?

Political and ideological anti-nuclear stands that prevent media from pursuing objective reporting and that prevent public schools and normal outlets for information from providing the scientific truth about nuclear energy, especially in perspective with other energy sources. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, and people need to know all the issues surrounding energy in order for us, as a nation, to pursue a reasonable and environmentally safe energy future.

Much is made about nuclear waste, or spent nuclear fuel. What should people know about nuclear waste?

First, there just isn’t much of it. All of the nuclear waste from all sources would fit in one good-sized landfill, although that landfill should be a deep geologic repository in the correct rock. We know what that rock is and how to do it. We just aren’t allowed to do it.

Second, most of the waste is old bomb waste from the Cold War, completely different from used fuel from power reactors. The former really is waste and should be disposed of as soon as possible. The latter is not really waste at all, but can be burned in future reactors that can get 10 times as much energy out of it as present ones. One of Bill Gates’ projects, TerraPower, is actually designing just such a reactor, called a fast reactor. So put used fuel aside in dry cask storage for decades until we burn it all. Then that waste would go into a deep geologic repository like the bomb waste. In fact, since there still won’t be much volume to it all, it could go into the same repository decades later.

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Dry cask storage containers at Columbia Generating Station. Each cask weighs 180 tons and can safely store used nuclear fuel for 100 years.

From a global perspective, how important is it that nuclear energy technology continues to advance?

Absolutely critical! We cannot provide the 30-plus trillion kilowatt hours per year to eradicate global poverty and handle the environmental effects of past fossil fuel use without expanding nuclear. Almost all the present reactors in the world will be retired by mid-century or so and need to be replaced with new designs, which we already have and are building. Even with as much renewables as we can produce over the next 50 years, if nuclear fails to double or triple, then coal use will continue to grow in the world. Coal is still the fastest-growing energy source in the world, contrary to public opinion in America.

China is firmly committed to nuclear energy. Bill Gates is supporting a company that is looking to operate a new type of reactor in China. Can the U.S. hold on to its nuclear technology leadership? What will it mean if we lose it?

Yes, China is the country with the fastest growing nuclear energy program. They break ground on a new reactor almost every three weeks. And yes, while Bill Gates and Chinese President Xi Jinping looked on in Seattle, TerraPower signed an agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation allowing the two companies to collaborate on advanced nuclear technologies that address safety, environmental and cost issues, just this fast reactor technology we need. Of course, it’s sad this didn’t happen in America, but the ideological anti-nuke sentiment is preventing our government from maintaining our lead in nuclear power. We still do lead, but if we don’t get moving again quickly, China will overtake us in as little as 15 years, both in number and technology.

NuScale and its small modular reactor design have a real opportunity to become an American success story. If that happens, what does it mean for the U.S. economy and the environment?

It will be wonderful, because NuScale is firmly on track to build the first SMR in America, and it is truly a revolutionary design. All of the environmental issues we worry about have been solved and it is truly walk-away safe – can’t melt down. Since the cost is about the same as coal plants, and the design is modular, able to be sized for any application and location, together with larger new designs, it could replace coal by mid-century.

Many states have renewable portfolio standards. Should states reconsider and switch to clean energy standards?

Indeed! The most foolish decision in the recent history of energy legislation was to exclude nuclear from low-carbon energy sources able to meet the new portfolio standards. Making the standards clean energy, or low carbon, instead of just renewable, would actually make headway in our attempts to decrease fossil fuel use in America. Switching from coal to natural gas will only get you so far. Also, since we’ll be getting uranium out of seawater soon, nuclear will even become renewable, since uranium will be replaced in seawater as long as the winds will blow on Earth.

Thank you and happy Earth Day to you.

And to all of us.


You can read more of Jim Conca’s analysis and thoughts on energy and the environment at Forbes, where he blogs.

(Posted by John Dobken)

Talking Nuclear Energy from Washington State to Washington D.C.

This fall, two important meetings moved the Pacific Northwest and the nation closer to the eventuality of Small Modular Reactors on the grid, and to building those SMRs in new manufacturing facilities. One meeting took place in Washington state and the other in Washington D.C. The NuScale Power SMR, born of Oregon State University, was featured at both meetings.

Energy Northwest is part of the SMR initiative: The first commercial NuScale reactors are scheduled to be installed in Idaho with the power going to the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (based in Salt Lake City), and Energy Northwest acting as the first operator. Hopefully, this will be the first of many SMRs to be installed throughout the country.

Now to the meetings…

The White House Summit on Nuclear Energy: Nov. 6, 2015

The White House organized the Washington D.C. meeting and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to nuclear energy. The fact sheet for the White House Summit is titled: Obama Administration Announces Actions to Ensure that Nuclear Energy Remains a Vibrant Component of the United States’ Clean Energy Strategy.

Why? The fact sheet makes clear what some are still reluctant to understand:

Nuclear power, which in 2014 generated about 60 percent of carbon-free electricity in the United States, continues to play a major role in efforts to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

As America leads the global transition to a low-carbon economy, the continued development of new and advanced nuclear technologies along with support for currently operating nuclear power plants is an important component of our clean energy strategy.

To summarize, nuclear provides clean air energy and jobs. We need both.

Of particular interest to Washington state, the Summit announced many new initiatives for bringing SMRs to market, and to the grid. One major initiative is…

Simulation Support:

The Department of Energy Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors is signing an agreement with NuScale to develop modeling and simulation tools. In this cost-shared venture, CASL will install simulation tools on NuScale systems, and NuScale will simulate performance using the CASL tools.

And after simulation comes…

Licensing Support:

The Department of Energy is investing $452 million dollars, over a six-year span, beginning in 2012. This money supports the engineering expenses at NRC that will be associated with first-of-a-kind licensing for SMRs. This is also another cost-share agreement with private industry. Without this type of industry-government cooperation, the cost of obtaining a first-of-a-kind license would be prohibitive. Estimates for a first-of-a-kind license run to over one billion dollars.

You can watch the entire White House Summit on Nuclear Energy at this link.

Dr. Jose Reyes of NuScale is a member of the Innovation Panel, which discusses new types of reactors. This panel begins at 3:05  (three hours and five minutes) into the program. During his portion, Dr. Reyes explains the worldwide potential demand for small nuclear reactors.

We’ve provided a video clip of a portion of his presentation below:

 

The Washington State Task Force

The Washington State Legislature’s Joint Select Task Force on Nuclear Energy focuses on encouraging the possible role of Washington state as a base for the manufacture of SMRs. As you can see in the Final Report from last year (issued in December) some of the members of the Task Force toured NuScale Power in November 2014.

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Rep. Terry Nealey speaking during the Washington state Task Force meeting Oct. 29 in Kennewick, Wash.

The Washington State Task Force is an on-going effort, and far more focused than the Washington D.C. Summit Meeting, which seems to have been a one-time event.  The DC meeting was a very nice one-time event, because of the support shown for SMRs, but without the virtues of a task force.

In the document above, you can see that the Washington State Task Force reviews many aspects of developing SMRs, both technical aspects and the possible benefits of new manufacturing in Washington state.

The Washington D.C. meeting did not include any written presentations, viewgraphs or visual aids. In contrast, the Washington State Task force has an abundance of information in presentations.  The 2014 presentations are here. I especially recommend the DOE presentation on  SMR market perspective, and the presentation by Energy Northwest, and NuScale Power.

The meeting notes for 2015 are not yet posted, but they are even more informative. In 2015, NuScale shows a slide in which the components necessary for a NuScale reactor are shown in black type, while the components necessary for a full-scale reactor are shown in light-gray type.

 

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This is a very dramatic slide, despite being all words in black and white!  It shows that SMRs are not just shrunken versions of full-scale reactors: They are truly re-engineered and simplified. Passive safety design can actually be a simpler design.

D.C. and Washington State: Both playing their best roles

I would say that if you really want to know about how SMRs are going to be built and deployed, the ongoing task force of the Washington State legislature has solid information and readable documents. However, I hope that the Nuclear Energy Summit in Washington D.C. will also be helpful to the future of nuclear energy and the future of Washington state.  In that meeting, DOE in Washington D.C. announced it would also play its best role: helping nuclear entrepreneurs access the National Labs, and helping new reactors get licensed.

Washington D.C. and Washington state cooperating on Small Modular Reactors: that would be a win-win for everyone.

(Post by Meredith Angwin)

Energy Northwest Celebrates Nuclear Science Week

Nuclear Science Week, an annual, week-long celebration of all aspects of nuclear science, including nuclear energy, begins today and runs through Friday. Energy Northwest owns and operates the Northwest’s only commercial nuclear energy facility, the third largest generator of electricity in Washington state.

Governor Jay Inslee issued a proclamation declaring this week Nuclear Science WeekNuclear-Science-Week-2015-Proclamation in Washington. The proclamation reads in part, “…nuclear energy in our state and nation is helping to reduce carbon emissions and plays a vital part in the state’s diverse mix of environmentally responsible energy generating resources…” The proclamation also notes Columbia’s longest continuous operating run, 683 days, which came to an end on May 9 when the plant powered down for refueling.

“I want to thank Gov. Inslee for recognizing the performance of our team in providing safe, clean  energy to the Northwest,” said Mark Reddemann, Energy Northwest CEO. “Our region is leading the way in the next generation of nuclear energy and we are proud to be part of that effort.”

Energy Northwest, NuScale Power of Corvallis, Ore. and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, based in Salt Lake City, are teaming to operate NuScale’s first small modular reactor.

Energy Northwest employees who are members of the local chapters of North American Young Generation in Nuclear and Women in Nuclear will visit Enterprise Middle School in West Richland, Wash. for presentations to eighth-grade students about nuclear energy.

“We always get a great response and a lot of interest from the students when we explain the science behind nuclear energy,” said Jamie Dunn, an engineer at Energy Northwest.

The presentations take place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the middle school.

For more on Nuclear Science Week, visit www.NuclearScienceWeek.org.

Read the full proclamation here: Nuclear Science Week 2015

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.

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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.

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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.

Shellenberger

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!

How?

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)

Speaking in support of nuclear energy in Oregon

(Following last week’s hearing on a nuclear energy task force in the Oregon legislature, we asked Sam Goodrich, a PhD student at Oregon State University, if he would write a blog post about his experience testifying before the committee.)

Sam Goodrich, PhD student at Oregon State University

Sam Goodrich, PhD student at Oregon State University

Last week I had the opportunity to offer testimony to the Oregon House Committee on Energy and Environment regarding House Bill 3445, which would have established a task force “to study and report on matters related to use of nuclear power.” The bill had expired by passing a legislative deadline and would not move forward this session but a courtesy hearing was held anyway. For my invited remarks I wasn’t given any prompts beyond “testimony regarding HB 3445” so I kind of just started calculating things to see if I could make an interesting point, and some interesting conclusions of these calculations can be found in my submitted testimony. It wasn’t the first time I’ve used research and my own calculations to draw conclusions.

In the beginning

When I was a sophomore in high school I chose to write a science report on the “evils” of nuclear power. There wasn’t a specific source of influence that I can remember which caused me to passively form a negative perception of nuclear energy, but at that point in my life, having never researched the topic for myself, the only information I had to go on was nuance, pop culture, and the viewpoints of others. If I had been asked to play the word association game about nuclear power I would have likely written “toxic,” “green slime” and some version of “leaking barrels with the yellow and black radiation symbol on the side.” When I began to do research for the report, the first thing that struck me was the significance of energy density and how it relates to various fuels. I found that coal, oil, natural gas and other typical combustion fuels had roughly similar energy contents by mass, but nuclear was in a category all its own.

Me in the LIFT lab at Oregon State University using an apparatus I designed to study natural convection flows using Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV) to collect velocity field data.

Sam in the LIFT lab at OSU using an apparatus he designed to study natural convection flows using Particle Image Velocimetry to collect velocity field data.

Additionally, I could find no data to support the claims of environmental damage (think three-eyed fish from The Simpsons), widespread health effects, and the calamitous flooding of the earth with nuclear waste as broadcast by those vocally opposed to nuclear power. What I mostly found was a power source that could produce as much electricity from a truckload of Uranium as could be produced from a literal mountain of coal. I found that 40 years of nuclear power in the U.S. had generated enough nuclear waste to cover – a single football field. I also found that this so-called waste could be almost entirely re-used in another reactor, a practice the United States eschewed supposedly for non-proliferation reasons and continued for reasons of simple inertia. I found that those emissions highlighted in photos of nuclear cooling towers (which were often placed next to pictures of smoke stacks as though they were analogous) were plain old water vapor. Not clouds of toxic gas, not acid rain precursor, just plain, fluffy clouds made of the same thing as those produced in nature. The potential of such an energy source was so apparent to me at the time that I had to change the topic of my paper and wonder “why all the bad press for nuclear power?”

Making my case

At the hearing, there were some passionate individuals present to testify on the bill, myself included. Some of those in opposition to HB3445 raised the issue of Oregon ballot Measure 7 from the 1980 election, which reads “nuclear plant licensing requires voter approval” and the “existence of (a) federally licensed permanent nuclear waste disposal facility.” What Measure 7 does not prohibit is further discussion of an issue that passed with just 53% of the vote, 35 years ago.

Sam Goodrich testifying.

Sam Goodrich testifying.

The establishment of a task force to take a look at how nuclear power has changed in the last 35 years and how nuclear power could potentially fit into Oregon’s carbon-free energy mix does not directly or indirectly violate Measure 7. The main sticking point seemed to be the unchanged absence of a federal waste spent fuel disposal storage facility. The lack of such a facility, while inconvenient, does not prohibit safe operation of nuclear power plants (remember the 40 years’ worth of used fuel on one football field) since the current arrangement has led to nuclear plants storing used fuel on-site for decades without any issues. The only seemingly insurmountable hurdles to safely and responsibly dealing with spent nuclear fuel at a federal level up to this point appear to be political in nature, not technical, economical, or ethical.

Beyond the discussion of Measure 7, there was limited data, research, calculations or scientific evidence presented by those in opposition to HB3445. Recalling Aristotle’s modes of persuasion, it seems that pathos, or emotional appeal, is too often the method of choice used in energy policy discussions such as these. Perhaps it is because the alternatives, ethos (deriving from authority in a field) and logos (deriving from logic) are, well, hard. Calculations on energy are hard; analysis of decades of data is hard; understanding current technological capabilities and costs are hard; earning credentials to speak authoritatively on nuclear energy is hard. Energy policy decisions require hard work and they require logos (the persuasion based on logic) because energy policy is a technical endeavor that requires facts and scientific expertise. Honest pursuit of factual information allows for impartial comparison of various options, which can then be leveraged to make informed and optimal decisions.

Personally, when I came to the topic of nuclear power, I had a vague notion but only after research, data analysis, and calculations I was able to properly form my opinions regarding nuclear energy, not the other way around. Unfortunately, too often some form an opinion first, then only data and analysis supporting that opinion is judged to have merit.

The only option left standing

In order to determine the best of a field of choices, certain metrics need to be identified by which to judge the options. Common metrics for power sources include cost, CO2 emissions, reliability, fuel availability and environmental impact. If one were to create an energy source decision tree using these metrics, the path would inevitably lead to nuclear power. The sun deposits a finite amount of energy into earth’s energy budget, which is then harvested for our use in many ways including photovoltaic panels, wind farms, hydroelectric dams and even food crops. It seems like science fiction, but the energy demands of human civilization on earth will exceed the energy the sun deposits on earth someday soon, at which point we will need to find an energy source that doesn’t trace back to the sun, namely nuclear power. In the near future, nuclear power is attractive because of its energy density, fuel availability, and lack of CO2 emissions but slightly further into the future, it may be the only option that can power humanity.

In the arena

I wanted to give my testimony at the hearing because I believe nuclear energy and a rational approach to energy policy are absolutely essential in order for our state and nation to prosper in the near and far future. I couldn’t justly complain about current energy policy if I wasn’t willing to do what I could to spread what I see are good ideas to those who make the decisions.

Oregon state House Committee on Environment and Energy hearing.

Oregon state House Committee on Energy and Environment hearing.

Most of those who testified in opposition to nuclear energy seemed upset about the amount of time that representatives from NuScale took to present their invited testimony. At the outset, it appeared as though there was indeed a point to be made about the minor injustice of the hearing regarding how the time was allotted. However, on further reflection I realized that there was nothing unjust about the meeting at all. The House Committee on Energy and Environment is tasked with finding the truth about energy options and how they impact Oregon and its environment. The representatives from NuScale took less than 9 minutes each to present their technology as the only nuclear energy company in Oregon and one of the more innovative nuclear companies in the country. The following 25 minutes was taken up by questions from various representatives on the committee and the answers from Dr. Jose Reyes and Dale Atkinson of NuScale. Perhaps the committee felt no need to ask questions of those opposed to the bill because they offered no objective, quantifiable information to support their testimonies.

I enjoyed my experience giving testimony in this hearing and hope to do so again. The committee was respectful, interested and professional. For debate in the technical field of energy policy, logos is king, ethos is helpful and pathos is just noise. I can only hope that the Oregon legislature and the federal government agree.

-Sam Goodrich, Corvallis, Ore.

Sam Goodrich grew up on a farm in Bend, Ore. where he graduated high school. He earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering at BYU and a M.S. in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University. He is currently pursuing a PhD in nuclear engineering at OSU, an endeavor which his wife and three young children support him in. Sam has worked at Idaho National Laboratory, a fuel cell company, and various other research jobs. He’s worked in experimental research in the areas of combustion, pyrolysis, hydrogen fuel cells, steam reforming, and thermal hydraulics, among others. He currently works for TerraPower part-time as part of an initiative to look at alternative uses for nuclear heat beyond making electricity, such as to drive chemical processes and create fuel. His dissertation research is focused on characterizing criteria for determining laminar-to-turbulent regime transition for natural convection boundary layer flows adjacent to vertical heated cylinders.

A pretty remarkable moment in Salem

Last week, the Oregon House Energy and Environment Committee held a public hearing on HB 3445, a bill that would establish a nuclear energy task force to:

• Study and report on the methods used to procure nuclear energy, including methods that have been developed since the closure of the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant;
• Analyze and report on a variety of available technologies used to procure nuclear energy;
• Analyze and report on the costs and benefits of using nuclear energy to provide for this state’s energy needs; and,
• Recommend a strategy for the contribution of nuclear power to the provision of continued abundant, inexpensive and environmentally sound energy for this state.

The bill had no chance of moving forward as it was brought to a hearing past a key legislative deadline. So why the hearing?

From the hearing itself, one gets the sense it was an admirable show of bi-partisanship by the committee chair, Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson of Portland (the bill’s chief sponsor is a republican), and that, well, small modular reactor technology is cool and there is a budding major success story in the form of homegrown NuScale Power worth hearing more about.

There is also a glaring disconnect in the state of Oregon.

“We have one of the leading nuclear engineering programs at Oregon State University. But these world-renown nuclear engineers must leave Oregon to pursue their careers. These students take their skills and expertise elsewhere,” Rep. Jim Weidner, the bill’s chief sponsor, testified.

While there are no operating nuclear plants in Oregon (Trojan shut down in 1993), the state’s voters passed a ballot initiative in 1980 that essentially prohibits any new nuclear energy reactors from being built. Much has changed since 1980, except in some minds. More on that later.

NuScale representatives Dr. Jose Reyes, chief technical officer, and Dale Atkinson, chief operating officer, walked the committee members through the NuScale story. It was the kind of inspiring testimony that fueled a previous blog post here.

Dr. Jose Reyes testifies at the committee hearing in Salem, Ore.

Dr. Jose Reyes testifies at the committee hearing in Salem, Ore.

Dr. Reyes talked about starting the company at Oregon State University with a $4,000 grant and a dream to create a new style of light-water reactor with passive safety features, meaning no operator action or additional cooling water or even additional power needed in the event of an emergency. On top of those safety features, the NuScale reactor delivers the same baseload, carbon-free energy we’ve all come to expect from nuclear. A two-fer and then some.

“Fluor invested in NuScale after Fukushima. So that’s very telling,” Dr. Reyes told the committee.

OSU PhD. student Sam Goodrich testified on nuclear energy’s carbon-free benefits. Goodrich pointed out that Oregon’s current energy mix, though dominated by hydro-electricity, still produces about 10 million metric tons of CO2 every year (from 1.8 gigawatts of generation). Goodrich said Oregon’s two million passenger cars emit about nine million tons of CO2 a year. “You could take every single passenger car off the road and it would have less impact than installing one large nuclear power plant in Oregon,” Goodrich testified.

The Oregon legislature recently looked at a bill that would ban so-called “coal-by-wire” to the state (as well as most new carbon-emitting forms of generation, such as large natural gas plants). Oregon is also a leader where wind power is concerned. But wind power is intermittent.

The Oregonian’s Ted Sickinger summed up the situation thusly:

Yet replacing even 1,000 megawatts of coal with the cheapest renewable available – wind energy – could prove impractical. It would require utilities to build some 3,000 megawatts of capacity, as wind turbines typically produce only about a third of their capacity.

That’s an enormous addition to the current wind fleet, and most of the best wind sites in Oregon are already taken. The intermittent nature of the resource could also create reliability issues, transmission logjams, and exacerbate oversupply issues in the spring and summer, when wind and hydroelectric dams already produce more electricity than the region can absorb. The Bonneville Power Administration says it has already tapped out its ability to integrate more wind energy in the region, which is typically accomplished by cycling the output of the federal dams up and down.

So how to supply baseload energy that doesn’t emit carbon and could also be used to balance the ups-and-downs of wind? And bring family-wage jobs to the state? Nuclear energy, particularly an SMR such as NuScale’s, can do all that.

Dale Atkinson, NuScale chief operating officer.

Dale Atkinson, NuScale chief operating officer.

“There’s a very large number of young (NuScale) employees who are so enthusiastic about what they’re bringing to the world to really change both nuclear, but more importantly, the quality of life and a solution to some really tough problems for the world and for Oregon,” NuScale’s Dale Atkinson told the hearing.

The other side

The Energy and Environment Committee also heard from those opposed to nuclear energy, including long-time Portland activist Lloyd Marbet, unsuccessful in three ballot initiatives to close the Trojan nuclear plant (Portland General Electric ended up doing that on its own).

Marbet focused on the used fuel that is still stored at the Trojan site, “just above the Columbia River.”

Trojan used fuel

The used nuclear fuel storage area at the closed Trojan nuclear plant.

But if the audience anticipated finally learning about the “dangers” of used nuclear fuel storage, they would be left wanting. (Facts here). Apart from mentioning the juxtaposition to the river, there was no testimony of any actual environmental harm from used nuclear fuel storage. By any of the anti-nuclear activists. There was plenty of talk about Yucca Mountain not being open, which is one of the main points of Measure 7 (no new nukes until a national repository is licensed and operating). However, we know quite a bit more about used nuclear fuel storage management than we did in 1980 – including that long-term temporary storage, though not ideal, is not such a bad thing.

In 1980, so soon after Three Mile Island and Hollywood’s China Syndrome, Measure 7 passed with just a little over 53 percent of the vote. A win, but a close one.

In written comments, a member of the Hanford Advisory Board, which focuses on defense waste clean-up in Washington state, said this: “The dangers and costs associated with spent nuclear fuel have not changed at all since 1980.” Hyperbole to be sure, but there follows no evidence to support that claim. He then added: “The fuel from the closed Trojan nuclear power plant remains in dry cask storage at the Trojan site…” Surely if there was an environmental impact from spent nuclear fuel, the evidence would have been brought forward.

The “live” testimony from the Physicians for Social Responsibility rep centered on the un-viability of the NuScale design (so unviable that Fluor has invested a quarter-of-a-billion dollars in it thus far). This is the same rep who said Columbia Generating Station’s spent fuel pool wasn’t designed for earthquakes because the engineers were too focused on the reactor – and forgot. He also cited a 2003 MIT study to talk about the challenges to developing new nuclear energy facilities. An update to that 2003 study, published in 2009, makes it clear that, again, times have changed:

In sum, compared to 2003, the motivation to make more use of nuclear power is greater, and more rapid progress is needed in enabling the option of nuclear power expansion to play a role in meeting the global warming challenge.

Knowledge is still power

What is clear from the anti-nuclear activist testimony is that conversations such as the one that took place last week in Salem, shouldn’t. That more knowledge where nuclear energy is concerned is a bad thing. That science and technology have not made any progress since 1980.

A Sony Walkman 2, with its battery case, circa 1982.

A Sony Walkman 2, with its battery case, circa 1982.

It was like watching the Sony Walkman crowd talking down this new-fangled iPod thingy. The Washington state legislature has a nuclear energy task force that held meetings across the state last year and even visited the NuScale facility in Corvallis, Ore. The sky didn’t fall. (The same people didn’t want those discussions to happen either.)

Remember, knowledge is power. In this case, it could (eventually) be nuclear power.

(Posted by John Dobken. In 2013, Energy Northwest joined a teaming arrangement with NuScale Power and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems as part of the Western Initiative for Nuclear Project collaboration to promote a commercial, small modular reactor project in the western U.S. Energy Northwest holds first right of offer to operate the project. By doing so, Energy Northwest will become one of the first industry experts for small modular reactor operation.)

New poll reveals Washington state opinions on nuclear energy

New public opinion polling of Washington state residents by Bisconti Research/Quest Global Research found that a large majority favor the use of nuclear energy as part of the U.S. energy mix. (Find the Nuclear Energy Institute national numbers here).

According to Bisconti, the survey was conducted through telephone interviews Feb. 19 – March 4, with a sample of 504 people from Benton, Clark, Franklin, King, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, and Whatcom counties, proportional to population, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

If you aren’t familiar with Washington geography, Benton is the home county of Columbia Generating Station and Franklin County is next door. King County is home to Seattle. Snohomish County is adjacent to King. Tacoma is in Pierce County.

Overall Results

On the question of general favorability to nuclear energy, respondents were asked if they strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose the use of SupportNuclearEnergynuclear energy as one of the ways to provide electricity in the United States? Sixty-three percent strongly favor or somewhat favor the use of nuclear energy. (See bottom of post for more details).

That support number jumps when residents are asked if utilities should prepare now so that new nuclear power plants could be built if needed in the next decade: 69 percent strongly agree or somewhat agree. Fifty-three percent agree we should definitely build more nuclear power plants in the future.

Attributes

When asked what attributes they associate with nuclear power (a lot, a little or not at all), the list from most to least is:

  • Advanced technology
  • Reliable electricity
  • Efficiency
  • Clean air
  • Electricity source of the future
  • Energy security
  • Affordable electricity
  • Economic growth
  • Job creation
  • Climate change solution (also the largest “not at all” response)

For safety, on a scale of 1 – 7 (7 being very high safety), 49 percent gave nuclear energy a high safety rating (5-7); 16 percent a middle rating (4); and, 34 percent a low safety rating (1-3).

Who was Surveyed?

Of the people who were surveyed, 64 percent consider themselves environmentalists and 72 percent had never visited a nuclear energy facility. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed had a bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree. Ninety-three percent are registered voters. The survey reached out to both land-line and cell phone users.


On the overall favorability index score, which includes nine measures, including some mentioned above, the Washington state score (53.2) comes in below both the Western U.S. (57.5) score and the national score (60.8).

This tells us we have more work to do to educate the public and our stakeholders about the benefits of clean, reliable and safe nuclear energy.

Survey1

(Posted by John Dobken)

The next generation… and nuclear energy

Recently we had a chance to visit the nuclear programs at Washington State University in Pullman, Wash. and Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore. Both universities are home to TRIGA research nuclear reactors. And some pretty amazing students.

We wanted to talk to the students in these programs about nuclear energy, what drew them to it, what did they think about it, and why they thought nuclear energy is important to the future energy mix. We compiled their answers into three short video clips you can find on our YouTube page.

Some of the students are considering a future career working at a nuclear energy facility. But others were looking at careers in medical research, academia, nuclear regulation or other fields. They are bright, sharp, in short, very impressive.

Jackson is a nuclear engineering student at Oregon State University.

Jackson is a nuclear engineering student at Oregon State University.

Jackson, for instance, is at Oregon State University and is pursuing a PhD. in nuclear engineering. It’s quite a change from his past life: a chef at restaurants in Portland and San Francisco. He explained his research and it sounded suitably complicated. But he’s fascinated with nuclear energy and the benefits it can bring society as a carbon-free source of energy.

Katie studied biology at Washington State University and on the side became a reactor operator for the one megawatt TRIGA research reactor. TRIGA stands for Teaching Research Isotope production General Atomics. These small reactors were installed at universities around the country as part of President Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace program.

Katie operates the research reactor at Washington State University.

Katie operates the research reactor at Washington State University.

Like many of the other students, she fielded the inevitable questions/comments about working in a nuclear facility (many involving the color green), but once the conversation moved beyond that, she says there is a genuine interest in the work she does – and in nuclear energy.

“I think a lot of my peers have a positive outlook about nuclear energy,” she told us. “We’re very concerned about the environment and climate change and we’re starting to look more toward nuclear energy as something that can combat climate change.”

Sophia is a nuclear engineering major at Oregon State. She grew up traveling the world in a military family and told us her first nuclear energy experiences came from learning

Sophia studies nuclear engineering at Oregon State University.

Sophia studies nuclear engineering at Oregon State University.

about the reactors that power aircraft carriers and submarines. Her future interest is perhaps working for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


If you would like to find out more about each nuclear research facility, visit their websites:

Washington State University

Oregon State University

As some may be aware, Oregon State is the birthplace of NuScale Power, the company at the forefront of small modular reactor development.

This experience showcased STEM education in action. Serious students in pursuit of knowledge – not just how things work, but how life can be made better through learning and applied research.


In this season of college basketball madness, a nuclear reactor pulse is as close as you can come to the thrill of a buzzer-beater off the court.

An iPhone was floated in a Plexiglas container in OSU's TRIGA Reactor to film a pulse -- a rapid insertion of reactivity, bumping the power from 15W to about 400MW and then back in a fraction of a second. (Courtesy OSU)

An iPhone was floated in a Plexiglas container in OSU’s TRIGA Reactor to film a pulse — a rapid insertion of reactivity, bumping the power from 15W to about 400MW and then back in a fraction of a second. (Courtesy OSU)

A sincere thank you to both schools for allowing us to talk to their students and visit their facilities.

(Posted by John Dobken)