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Monday, May 18, 2015

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 261

We've had to repost this Carnival because of  HTML errors that crept into the first post while it was being made.  

The Carnival is a rotating feature hosted among the top English language pro-nuclear blogs, and appears each week displaying the top selected posts as designated by either the authors or the publishers.

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Next Big Future - Brian Wang

Supercritical Water Cooled Reactors part of Gen-IV Options:  China has announced that it is building a SCWR, with a rating of 1000 MWe and which is designated SCR-1000.  Euratom is collaborating on the fuel design.

X-energy developments;  X-energy recently convened a panel of nuclear energy experts to discuss the design of its pebble (bed) type fuel.  The company plans to utilize this fuel in its pebble bed reactor sometime in the mid-2020's.

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Yes Vermont Yankee - Meredith Angwin

Celebrating, Traveling, and a book on Advocacy:  Meredith Angwin will be reducing her activities at her blog, taking some time off to travel.  However, she announces a new book is in the works that will reflect her wide nuclear advocacy experience.

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Northwest Clean Energy - John Dobken

Too Much News from Few Facts:  Recently, some pipe flaw indications at Columbia Generating Station have made the news.  While the operator takes these indications seriously, the press has more seriously overblown the issue.  The post contains important data and graphics.

Update:  This second post provides updates to the first on the pipe flaw indications, with more data and graphics.  Readers will be able to have a good handle on the situation between these two posts.

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Hiroshima Syndrome - Les Corrice

Gundersen 14 Meltdown Myth:  Arnie Gundersen may well have told the biggest whopper of his career when he asserted recently that Japan missed - by "luck" - having 14 reactor meltdowns after the Great East Japan / Tohoku quake and tsunami.  Les Corrice sets him straight.

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Nuke Power Talk - Gail Marcus

The Future of Nuclear Beyond Gen-IV:  Recently Dr. Marcus was asked what the future of nuclear energy might hold, and might look like, beyond the presently considered "Gen-IV" reactors.  Taken by surprise by this question, she looks at the scope of future applications and asks readers to begin to imagine, guided by some suggestions, that very future.

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Energy Reality Project - Rick Maltese

Guest author Michael Mann provides a look at R. E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant, and gives a number of valid reasons why the plant's future is important to, and inextricably tied with, the future of the whole surrounding region.  The plant's performance, and focus on quality and safety, are particularly brought into view by veteran plant employee Mann.

Alex Cannara provides a letter to the California Energy Commission, and Rick Maltese talks about California energy, lobbyists, activists, and in particular the prospect of pro-nuclear advocacy by people who are knowledgeable.. and who are regular people too, just like us.  Well worth a look.

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Forbes - Jim Conca

Why don't nuclear scientists get respect?  Jim Conca wonders (not to himself, fortunately for us) why it is that environmental scientists are, as an example, consulted by media on environment matters but why then, on nuclear matters, nuclear experts are not.  Instead, we are forced to sit through dissertations by pop-science talking heads who have never set foot in a nuclear plant.  Conca's article provides a sobering look at who we look to, societally, as "experts."

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That's it for this week's Carnival!  All the entries are great, and I thank the authors and publishers.



Monday, May 11, 2015

Physical versus Political Realities and Nuclear Plants - Indian Point

Over the weekend, an output transformer at Indian Point Energy Center in New York failed in a somewhat spectacular manner, as is fairly often the case with oil filled transformers at any power plant or electric substation -- it leaked, burned and exploded and required water and then firefighting foam to extinguish.  This event would have been fairly unremarkable except for the fact that some of the oil, whose volume was added to by firefighting water and foam, went into the Hudson River.  Even that would have been something likely contained to local news services and stations, but because the event occurred at a nuclear power plant, and because politicians are adept at capitalizing on problems to turn them into crises, we now face some 600 news stories on the event world wide.

"Public perception (of nuclear energy) is hindered by the symbiosis of the anti-nuclear lobby (who need public exposure to survive) and the public media (who need controversy to entertain)," said Sir Walter Marshall in a speech to the Atomic Industrial Forum in 1985.  His remarks could be amended to say that anti-nuclear politicians, who also require public exposure and a following to keep their jobs, are tied inextricably to the media -- a media that in this country is largely biased to the left.  And on that left politically is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who missed none of the opportunity to show up at Indian Point's gate for the press.

Cuomo has long been an opponent of having (clean, reliable, carbon free, around the clock) Indian Point operating in his state; the record is quite clear on this fact.  He kept that vein when he issued some of his typically deeply insightful analysis of the plant's situation, as reported by the AP.

When asked about environmental impact of the oil that reached the river, he said "obviously it's not good."  Well, the fact is that Entergy Nuclear's environmental contractors were on site the same day and this morning's report from Indian Point is that the oil is mostly contained to an area set up by floating booms and that very little has entered the larger waterway.  So Cuomo, without any real knowledge of the spread or the impact (which he could have had none of at the early hour he made the quote) steps out on a limb of credibility -- a limb which none of the media will shake or test.

Cuomo is quoted as having uttered this gem:  "Luckily, this was not a major situation.  But the emergency protocols are very important.  I take nothing lightly when it comes to this plant specifically."

"This plant specifically?"  Well, naturally - you're against the nuclear plant itself.  You'd like to drive up energy prices, drive down grid reliability, and drive up carbon emissions overall by shutting it down -- which panders to your environmentalist base.  The problem is that the plant's operating experience shows it to be safe and reliable. This is why Cuomo must by needs speak in such vague terms. Vague accusations are the stock in trade of the anti-nuclear politician.  They are carried instantly and breathlessly by the compliant media who needs such fabricated controversy to sell advertising spa-- sorry, I mean to sell news stories.

So the situation boils down to this:  Unit 3 at Indian Point was forced to shut down immediately as a result of the failure, and because most folks don't have transformers this big just sitting around and because even if you do they take time to put in, the unit might be down several weeks.  The impact of the oil and extinguishing measures was mitigated and contained as rapidly as possible... probably FAR more rapidly than if it had occurred at some unmanned remote substation.  There was no impact to the public at large at any time.  However, hundreds of news items (many of which are just the same AP piece reprinted over and over) are carrying the klaxon alarm of Cuomo, who vows to get to the bottom of the event.

A transformer failed.  Some oil got in the water, but its impact is minimal.  The plant is all right; the nuclear portion is safe, and stable.  Return to your home, Governor Cuomo - there really is nothing to see here except you, grandstanding for votes.

Will Davis  - May 11, 2015