APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fort Calhoun - Event Clear

All of the doomsayers --- you remember, all the folks who were blabbering around the internet that an accident was in progress at Fort Calhoun station, where the pictures of flooding were quite well published --- really look bad now.

Fort Calhoun has exited the notification status. Text to the NRC from OPPD on August 29:

"At 1342 CDT on 08/29/11, FCS [Fort Calhoun Station] terminated the Notification of Unusual Event for flooding. Missouri river level receded to less than entry criteria and is currently 1003.56 ft MSL."

The licensee has notified the State of Nebraska, Harrison County, Washington County, and Pottawattamie County of the termination."

Photos show the ground around the station clearing of water. Click to enlarge.

As with the recent doomsaying about Hurricane Irene, this doomsaying also now looks very "over the top" in retrospect. Which, by the way, we told you would be the case a long time ago.

11:50 AM Eastern Wednesday August 31, 2011

Friday, August 26, 2011

ANS Nuclear Cafe - Hurricane Irene update

The American Nuclear Society's blog, the ANS Nuclear Cafe, has a very good update on the situation regarding preparations for Hurricane Irene. They've requested the wide circulation of the following link, which after having read the article I can say I'd have circulated anyway even without the request because it contains good solid information.


5:00 PM Eastern Friday August 26, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene approaching Eastern U.S.

Probably no one at this point could do better than Brian Wheeler did at POWER ENGINEERING with the following article (link below) concerning the preparations for Hurricane Irene at US nuclear power plants...

Power Engineering: Nuclear Power Plants Preparing for Irene

The size and power of the storm would at this point imply of course that some nuclear plant sites might experience Loss Of Offsite Power ("LOOP", which our long time readers know all about) but quickly we realize after reading the above article that not only are the sites of all owner-operators aware of the approach of this storm, they're taking action and some will shut down long in advance of the approach of any damaging weather forces.

Keep in mind that such things as LOOP do require notification to the NRC of an Unusual Event. We saw this exact thing this week with the seismically related events declared, and then cleared at many plants. So keep in mind that a simple NOUE due to LOOP is not in itself going to be any sort of surprise for this large weather related event.

Naturally all of us in the pro-nuclear web community are closely monitoring and actively discussing the situation and you can be assured of finding the FACTS on this blog and the fine blogs and sites linked in APR's link list and auto-updating blog roll. I may consider adding more utility-run blogs to the blog roll temporarily if the storm takes a more inland path since these might be expected to provide good, rapid updates. We will see.

More to come later.

5:10 PM Eastern Thursday August 25, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Visible progress at Fukushima Daiichi

Up until now, the only evidence of the construction of the external enclosure for the No. 1 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi in terms of the live 24-hour camera has been the sight of large crane booms and/or lift cables and rigs. However, now the first large horizontal section of permanent framework is in place which is visible on the live camera. See the link below for the Fukuichi Live Camera:


4:15 PM Eastern Wednesday August 24,2011

ALERT at North Anna ended

Dominion has announced the end of the alert status at North Anna after having started one reactor coolant pump at each of the two nuclear plants at that site.

1:45 PM Eastern Wednesday August 24, 2011

US Nuclear Plant SITREP

Here I will provide, as completely as possible, the situation at the US nuclear plants affected by yesterday's earthquake. I should say "affected," in quotes, because only North Anna had any effect whatsoever so far as is now known.

The reporting earlier on this site vis a vis North Anna holds; the two reactor plants are safely shut down, offsite power has been restored and the site is still in Alert status -- second lowest of the NRC notification levels. No evacuations occurred.

There are a slew of NRC notifications, exactly as I had indicated yesterday. I will summarize these below.

University of Maryland - TRIGA reactor - NOUE due to seismic event, and later the licensee exited the event.

NC State University - PULSTAR reactor - NOUE due to seismic event. Licensee terminated event status simultaneous with notification of NRC.

Peach Bottom 2 / Peach Bottom 3 - GE BWR/4 - Delta, Pennsylvania - NOUE due to seismic event. Declared at 1401 and cleared at 1750. NOUE data indicates receipt of .01G acceleration alarm which is short of the .05G operating basis earthquake alarm. Both units remain at power as before; no other trips or actions occurred.

Calvert Cliffs 1 / Calvert Cliffs 2 - CE PWR - Lusby, Maryland - NOUE due to seismic event. Both units maintained full power. Event cleared at 0005 hours.

Limerick 1 / Limerick 2 - GE BWR/4 - Limerick, Pennsylvania - NOUE due to seismic event. Both plants remain at 100% power. Event terminated at 1819 hours. No plant actions / trips occurred.

Susquehanna 1 / Susquehanna 2 - GE BWR/4 - Berwick, Pennsylvania - NOUE due to seismic event. Licensee terminated event at 2110 hours. No plant actions / trips occurred.

Palisades - CE PWR - Covert, Michigan - NOUE due to seismic event. Event status terminated at 1825 hours. No trips or actions.

Oyster Creek - GE BWR/2 - Forked River, New Jersey - NOUE due to seismic event. Event status terminated at 1801 hours. No trips or actions.

Surry 1 / Surry 2 - WE 3-loop PWR - Surry, Virginia - NOUE due to seismic event. Both units at 100% power, no trips or actions. Event terminated at 1752 hours.

Three Mile Island 1 - B&W PWR - Middletown, Pennsylvania - NOUE due to seismic event. Terminated at 1730 hours, with Unit 1 at 100% power with no trips or actions. Licensee also reported this for No. 2 plant, which is essentially in permanent SAFSTOR mode since the 1979 accident, is defueled and inoperative.

Salem 1 / Salem 2 - WE 4-loop PWR - Hancock Bridge, New Jersey - NOUE due to seismic event. No trips or effects; event cleared at 1941 hours. Licensee declared this event and the event for the following plant as the SAME NOUE event and cleared all at the same time:

Hope Creek - GE BWR/4 - Hancock Bridge, New Jersey (see above.)

Shearon Harris - WE 3-loop PWR - New Hill, North Carolina NOUE due to seismic event. Event cleared at 1757 hours with no plant effects or trips.

Cook 1 / Cook 2 - WE 4-loop PWR - Stevensville, Michigan - NOUE due to seismic event. Event cleared at 1723 hours. No plant effects or trips.


The first two in the listing here are University training reactors, for those not familiar while the rest are power reactors from all four major reactor vendors. As noted yesterday, all have declared Notification Of Unusual Events and then cleared them except for North Anna.

Here is the text of the notification for North Anna, which does NOT include any relief valve lifting. While not particularly important, this is good from the standpoint that anti-nuclear folks like Michio Kaku have less to get hold of and misinterpret. The report:


At 1403 hrs. EDT, North Anna Power Station declared an Alert due to significant seismic activity onsite. The Alert was declared under EAL HA6.1. Both units experienced automatic reactor trips from 100 % power and are currently stable in Mode 3. All offsite electrical power to the site was lost. All four emergency diesel generators (EDG) automatically started and loaded and provided power to the emergency buses.

While operating, the 2H EDG developed a coolant leak and was shutdown. As a result, the licensee added EAL SA1.1 to their declaration.

All control rods inserted into the core. Decay heat is being removed via the steam dumps to atmosphere. No personnel injuries were reported.

More details will be posted if necessary on earthquake related events. The nuclear industry will now be gearing up to face any effects of the approaching hurricane Irene heading for the east coast of the United States.

We might note the total non-event status which finally resulted from the flooding affecting Fort Calhoun and Cooper nuclear stations in the middle of the nation, and add to that a number of other non-events (tornado touchdown recently at Surry, and another in the switchyard at Browns Ferry, or perhaps the direct hit of Hurricane Andrew some time back on Turkey Point) which various sources predicted would be disasters but were not. It is in this light we look toward the approach of another hurricane, not ignoring the effects but knowing that the plants and operators stand prepared.

10:45 AM Eastern Wednesday August 24, 2011

US Earthquake Update: 4:40 AM Wednesday

Offsite power at North Anna Station has been restored, according to the Wall Street Journal site.

According to the report, the diesel generator that failed was shut down because of a coolant leak - but another was started, keeping four running at all times. This is in contrast to earlier reports. Thus, the plant never had three running at one time for very long at all.

The plant remains shut down and in alert status.

It might be interesting to note that Dominion's Bear Garden power station also shut down due to the quake -- and this is a conventional station. See here.

4:47 AM Eastern Wednesday August 24, 2011

UPDATE: The WSJ story is taken from Dominion's press release, seen HERE.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

TEPCO to modifiy cooling at No. 3 reactor

Tokyo Electric Power will be adding another route of feedwater to the reactor at No. 3 plant at the Fukushima Daiichi site, it has been reported by TEPCO and by various Japanese media.

Readers here already know that No. 3 plant has kept hotter than the others, and we've speculated here (and in comments on posts) a number of times about why this might be. TEPCO feels the same way and has decided that a double feed approach, using the core spray line and the normal feedwater line, is a good way to ensure water flow both above and below the core.

Below we see a section of a TEPCO press release package showing the routing of the systems that will be used.

And below we see a much more technically complete and accurate view of the GE BWR/3 - BWR/4 reactor construction, from APRA files (and which readers here have seen before as well,) this time marked with green to show the location of the core spray header connection to the pressure vessel, and then the location of the actual spray rings ("spargers") that distribute this water on top of the active core region.

Work is already underway to make the alterations seen in the TEPCO drawing; the major work is scheduled for the 25th with full operation of the new arrangement on the 26th. TEPCO will slowly adjust flow rates between the two systems to optimize the temperature drop and system performance; we will report on the effects as the results become available.

10:50 PM Eastern Tuesday August 23, 2011

More Virginia Earthquake information

At this moment, we do not have any actual operational details from the North Anna Power Station other than that which we have reported. Briefly, those details can be consolidated as the following:

-Both reactors are shut down safely.
-Both reactors shut down when offsite power was lost.
-Offsite power was apparently lost as a result of an on-site switchyard fault.
-North Anna station is presently on diesel power.
-All four site diesels started normally. One stopped later on at some point.

We will likely have some better details from press releases and from reporting to the NRC tomorrow. For the moment, all we can do is speculate. Several further things are fairly clear;

-There will be a report to the NRC of an unusual event; the quake, and LOOP. The stoppage of one diesel may be a further event.
-Although not reported, hinted at, or speculated anywhere else, it should be noted in a prophylactic mode only that there may have been a lifting of either a primary or a secondary relief valve if the plants tripped from at or near full rated power. This is a common occurrence -- and by that we might just go ahead and say that we mean BOTH full reactor scrams and turbine trips from full rated power, and very brief lifting and reseating of relief valves when this happens on pressurized water plants. Many plants each year suffer turbine trips (a full load reject) from 100% power when inclement weather takes out the electrical network; for example, Surry had this exact thing happen this year and so did a number of others.

We report these two things here only because either or both would / will get press coverage and we want our readers to EXPECT them to be reported.

We might also at this point note that we're already aware of the declaration of an Unusual Event at at least six other nuclear plant sites. This is required to be declared as a result of the earthquake; this declaration is an acknowledgement of the earthquake being detected at the site or in the vicinity, and is NOT a declaration that anything unusual or problematic has occurred at the site. With the sole exception of North Anna, all of the plants that today declared UE's as a result of this earthquake have, as we understand it, cleared the conditional declaration. In point of fact none of the plants altered operation one bit, again except for North Anna.

One of the plant sites we understand declared, and then cleared, Unusual Event status is the Three Mile Island (Unit 1.) Do not be surprised when these UE reports hit the press tomorrow after appearing at the NRC site or in owner-operator press releases and then get legs.

Now, getting back to North Anna; I have some preliminary findings here, and some good solid data from the ANS Social Media List, on just what kind of quake the plants at North Anna are designed against and as soon as the USGS puts out some data in some form that people can understand (in other words, accelerations by location and not effects in Modified Mercalli scale, which is practically useless in comparing plant design data that's given in both accelerations in fractions or multiples of "g" or else in the old Richter scale) I will report on the comparison of those data here. For now, I might say it is too early to determine just what the acutal accelerations experienced on site were although it does appear that the plant was within seven to nine miles of the epicenter of a fairly shallow 5.9 Richter / VII Modified Mercalli quake. (Note that the VII region of damage as indicated graphically by the USGS for this quake is quite small, and on the latest USGS "Cities affected" list there is only one city/township in the VII range at all, the rest being less... but which oddly enough is the city North Anna Station is located in.)

Once some hard data comes in from the site's owner-operator we can make some further commentary on plant actions and conditions, but at this moment no news is good news and considering the plant capabilities (Westinghouse PWR) heat removal should be no problem. I will report again with any news, or any NRC posts, or owner-operator releases for the press as soon as I'm aware of them.

10:25 PM Eastern Tuesday August 23, 2011

US Earthquake information

According to the wires, and good inside information, there was only one nuclear power plant affected by today's earthquake: North Anna station, which comprises two nuclear power plants. No unsafe condition exists. The plants were shut down quickly and safely.

ANS NUCLEAR CAFE has a good update of the information regarding the quake.

Both reactors at North Anna, operated by Dominion Power and located about 40 miles northwest of Richmond, Virginia, are Westinghouse three-loop pressurized water reactors. Their construction was begun in 1971. The plants are shut down safely and are being supplied power by three of the four onsite diesels.


More details as they're available; note the range of nuclear blog links on this site for further information. However, let's post this: NO severe situation exists at the plant at this time.

Below, both of North Anna's reactor containment buildings are visible in this shot provided by Dominion.

7:10 PM Eastern Tuesday August 23, 2011

UPDATE: {8:50 PM Eastern Tuesday} Thanks to Dan Yurman, we are now aware that the shutdown at North Anna was automatic, due to LOOP (Loss Of Offsite Power) due to some problem in the electrical switchyard at the plant. Loss of external power triggers an automatic shutdown. At this time, approaching two hours after the first post and many since the quake, there are still no reports of any serious matters at the plant. Many of us are monitoring the situation and reports will appear here and at the fine sites linked at the right of this blog.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New TEPCO video at APR YouTube Channel

The best onsite TEPCO press release video yet made is now available on the APR YouTube Channel. We can only hope that TEPCO continues this kind of reporting. This is a must-see for anyone even vaguely interested in the events at Fukushima Daiichi.


12:15 PM Eastern Wednesday August 17, 2011

Nuclear Energy in Japan: August 17, 2011

We have a number of situational updates today concerning both the overall nuclear energy situation, such as it is, in Japan and the operations at Fukushima Daiichi.

Perhaps most interesting is the report by Kyodo that the No. 3 plant at Tomari Station in Hokkaido is operating at 100% rated power generating electricity - but has not officially been returned to service. Under the complicated Japanese system, this reactor has been undergoing its final post-inspection operational evaluation for months - as reported on this site at least twice - but has not been given the approval by the prefectural government for commercial operation. As we understand it now, the plant is operating at full rated load supplying power to the grid, but for accounting purposes is not being assessed as providing power - it's essentially free while the plant is in post-inspection evaluation, but pre-commercial operation approval status. This equates to limbo, and there is no reason why this plant (and many others) should not be returned to service immediately, commercially. The governor of Hokkaido wants the prefectural government body to immediately approve the commercial operation of the plant.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the continuing tendency of government bodies in Japan not to allow restarts of reactor plants (and now this is worse with the IAEA stress test regime) we see reports that the costs of fossil fuels for the various utility companies in Japan have risen anywhere between 28% and 50% as compared to the same time last year, as reported by NHK. One can only hope that the stress tests are completed extremely rapidly and that the idled nuclear plants which are found safe (and that, frankly, will be most or all of them, we suspect) will be started back up. The last thing Japan's economy needs now is a major spike in fuel costs.. which has already started, as reported.


We are now beginning to get exact details about events which occurred during what we might term as the inception phase of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. NHK has reported today that the shutdown of the cooling system at No. 1 plant was manually performed by a worker who did not receive orders to do so, and who shut down the system (Isolation Condenser) because it "appeared to be boiling." This is exactly the kind of human error we saw at Three Mile Island, when an operator shut off cavitating reactor coolant pumps to protect the pumps. In both cases, operation of equipment was required to protect the core, with the condition of the equipment being used to do this considered secondary. For example, in the situation at TMI (which I will not fully detail here) once a cavitating pump fails, it would be shut off and another started to get water flow through the core. In the case of Fukushima Daiichi No. 1 plant, the IC system should have been kept operating and any consideration to stop it should have come from the plant management - who says that they were not aware that the system was secured this early, and did not give any such order to do so.

It cannot be overemphasized that reactor plant casualty operation must always focus on the condition and safety of the reactor core. At no time should any consideration about other equipment supersede a consideration about reactor safety. In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, it was plainly obvious to everyone within fifty miles that a massive tsunami had come on shore and it was plainly obvious to everyone at the plant that the situation would be grave from the outset. It is this kind of consideration that requires the immediate judgement to NOT shut down such a system, given the fact that no electrical power was likely to be available at all soon.

Now, before I begin to make TEPCO look completely incompetent (and they are not,) I would like to add that another report today states that TEPCO's people did not consider any possibility of hydrogen explosions at the plants with massive external effects such as occurred at Fukushima Daiichi. Surprisingly, NHK has said that the failure to expect an explosion external to a containment vessel "exposes the utility's underestimation of the potential dangers at the plant." This goes just a bit too far; according to present testimony, TEPCO was very concerned about the condition of the cores and primary containments (dry well, suppression chamber) and never expected an explosion of hydrogen gas outside of this (not that they expected one INSIDE, either) because the plant design is supposed to prevent this by the design of vents. Unfortunately, it does appear that the venting system at No. 1 plant was an add-on later on to the plant's normally installed offgas system and was not effective. TEPCO believed, then, what everyone else believed pre-Fukushima, which is that any chance of a hydrogen explosion was INSIDE the containment, normally inerted, and was naturally prevented by either this inert atmosphere or by venting of the containment. It is possible to be too critical of the owner-operator; the truth about TEPCO's real operational ability will be somewhere between the extremes being reported frequently these days.

Once TEPCO experienced the explosion at No. 1 plant, it did try (according to NHK and other sources) to rush to prevent such occurrences at the other plants but the radiation and environment prevented this from being possible; this led to another externalized hydrogen explosion at No. 3 plant - and it does appear that hydrogen from this plant leaked through common piping into No. 4 plant causing the explosion there (which was much less powerful.) The "blast" reported inside the dry well or suppression chamber at No. 2 plant is presently assumed to have been an internal hydrogen burn, although there is still the chance (reported at that time on this blog) that it was a steam quench of part of the failed core, or even possibly a partial melt-out. Only direct inspection will tell in this case.

Taking all of this into consideration, we are finding EXACTLY the same kind of things we saw from Three Mile Island - which is, that a very convoluted combination of personnel errors and equipment problems (both design problems and failures due to the tsunami) led to the accidents at the plants. We are finding - as mentioned here very early, and now echoed by NEI, the NRC and others - that multiple accidents at the same site CAN be exacerbated by one initial accident, and that interference between plants is easily possible in accident scenarios, and that plant interrelations can occur even through something as seemingly unimportant as common vent piping. Just exactly as I've indicated here before, there will be many volumes of "lessons learned" from this accident - even if they tell us nothing we didn't already either know or suspect.

Getting to operational details at present on-site... TEPCO is testing a separate, supplementary and entirely Japanese-made decontamination system at the site to supplement or replace the existing failure-prone system. Results of the test will be made public.

TEPCO will begin operations soon to directly process the atmosphere inside the dry wells at the three plants with installed reactor cores, in order to filter out radionuclides that are still being vented to atmosphere. In addition to this, TEPCO will also begin using truck-mounted equipment to remove salt from the water in the spent fuel pools on site.

There are more tecnical details which we will report shortly in another post.

11:45 AM Eastern Wednesday August 17, 2011


Friday, August 12, 2011

The effect of big media: A real conversation

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine that interestingly turned nuclear. She's married, mother of one beautiful nine month old girl, in her late 20's and intelligent enough to have a degree in business. She has no nuclear energy involvement in any way and never has had - and we usually never talk about it specifically at all.

Recently she and her husband took a brief three-day trip up to one of the islands in Lake Erie for a short getaway. For those unfamiliar, the islands are far enough out that you must either take the ferry, one of the "Jet Express" high-speed ferries, or fly. Anyway, we were having a discussion about the trip when... let's call her "J" .. says the following.

J: "You know, we saw that nuclear plant over in Toledo from the boat. I thought about you."

Will: "Really? Did you get me a picture?"

J: "No, it was too far away. It was too small in the viewfinder."

There was some more general discussion about cameras, but I had mentioned having to write something for my blog and she told me I should write something about the plant she'd seen (which is Davis-Besse.) I had an idea at that point.

Will: "You know, when you were seeing that nuclear plant, did that bug you at all?"

J: "Yeah, it kind of flipped me out a little bit."

Will: "Why? Why did it bother you?"

J: "Because, it was close enough to f@#k me up, you know?!"

Let's pause here for a moment. The plant was far enough away that it was not possible to get any kind of photo of it even with a new digital camera with zoom.

She then offered that she'd been to the islands a few times before but it never bothered her those times... well, maybe she didn't really know what it was back then, she says.

Will: "So what happened in Japan really made you take notice now, anytime you know you're near a nuclear plant, is that it?"

J: "Yeah, before Japan I wouldn't have cared at all but now, you know, it's something you think about."

Will: "What if I told you that there are over a hundred nuclear plants all over the United States, some of them as old as the ones in Japan (I didn't go into detail on purpose here) and you never hear about them? They haven't had any accidents since TMI and no one gives them any thought most of the time."

J: "The ones in Japan didn't have any accidents either until now."

She said that like she'd just proved a point, or made one. But what it turns out she was really doing was expressing the best opinion she could based on her knowledge of the situation, which stems ENTIRELY from mainstream media.

At this point I suggested that these questions and her answers were going to be a blog post on APR. She was fine with that. I told her that one of the things we're trying to figure out is the general public's opinion on nuclear energy, and that she was a great example of the kind of demographic that's probably most misinformed. J has the TV or radio on lots, but only for background. Watches some news in and around baby care, house work, her job, time with her husband and extended family and so on. Not a TV junkie by any stretch, and oddly enough almost totally internet illiterate. In other words, as I let her know, a good candidate.

I asked her if she knew what really happened in Japan. She told me a convoluted story about the earthquake making the plant lose its air conditioning and then overheating and blowing up. There were other details, and events and so forth in her timeline which really was just kind of a hodge podge of real and purported events. She asked if that was right; I told her that her story was about 25% realistic if not perfectly factual and the rest was garbage. But I also immediately told her that I and many others of similar persuasion were really trying to get a handle on what the mainstream media had done to perception, so that her description (as best she could give it) was just what the doctor ordered.

I told her about certain "experts" who go on TV all the time, and make reports to unimportant scientific groups which always get reported on TV as well. She had no idea that such people were doing any of these things, if not all of them, for large consulting fees. I found that interesting.

Turns out she thought that the whole accident was a result of the earthquake. I told her "No, the plants got through the quake as well as could be expected; the real event that triggered this accident was the tsunami" and after a moment of trying to express essentially "well, duh" to me she did get to see that these are two different events, even if the one caused the other. My point that the earthquake was survivable by the plants while the tsunami was not did actually get across.

I asked her what could make her less scared of nuclear plants. She said she didn't know, but then added that she's not "freaked out" about it. She didn't realize there were so many more of them. She said that knowing a lot more about them may or may not help a whole lot in reality. Now here's the best part.

She told me she's far more scared at the corner gas station than she was seeing the plant from the boat, or on the islands. That's right! The gas station. "Sometimes you get a whiff of gas, you know..." she says. I add in "and you're standing right on top of all those big gas tanks underground, too!" to which she says "Exactly! I wonder about that when I have my baby in the car and I have to pull in there and you can smell gas and that's a lot more scary than some nuclear plant somewhere else."

J is not anti-nuclear. She's really not pro or anti anything in terms of policy or politics. She's open to new ideas but is most open to the truth. I think there are a lot of people like her out there... people who trust that the mainstream media will report what they need to know in a level of detail they can understand. I think she was a tiny bit surprised that there is so much money to be made on the anti-nuclear side by "consultants" who will denigrate nuclear energy.

Regardless of the proximity of the Davis-Besse plant, J plans to take her family back to the islands next year for another trip, and she intends to renew her wedding vows at a little gazebo she showed me a picture of. It looks like a really nice place. She can't wait to go back, either.

Looks like by the end of our visit the fear was gone. "Out of sight, out of mind" is perhaps a good thing for nuclear energy in some ways after all.

3:30 PM Eastern Friday August 12, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nuclear Energy in Japan: August 10, 2011

We find ourselves at another noteworthy point in the recovery from the Fukushima Daiichi accident, although none of the media in Japan have made note of it. This point is that point at which the media totally ceases daily, or even every-other day, coverage of an event and instead turns to the future implications.

In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, the operations at the site are progressing slowly but are going essentially as expected, giving the major news media nothing newsworthy to report. It is almost as if many of them had assigned reporters full time to the story in order that something be reported every day, whether it was of consequence or not, and it is also almost as if they've moved these reporters to other lines of duty considering the total shutoff of specific, plant related or accident recovery related news on the majority of Japanese media of all kinds.

Meanwhile, what the Japanese media are really reporting on is the really big question all of us have, which is of course at this point unanswerable and essentially unpredictable; this question being "What is the future of nuclear energy in Japan?"

Prime Minister Naoto Kan, after having twice reversed his position, has now indicated he will resign - perhaps taking his very recently reinstated political plan for a non-nuclear Japan out of the running. Elsewhere, various officials and experts are floating plans for a non-nuclear Japan while others are pointing out the problems that the loss of a great amount of generating capacity will bring.

Perhaps most important to point out is the new austerity movement, I'll call it, where people are essentially saying "We're fine living right now with reduced electricity usage, switching to unplugging equipment in standby, using fluorescent lights, driving less" and so forth which brings up, then, the position that even with a large number of nuclear plants down for inspection and not being allowed to start back up, the Japanese public is "fine." Whether or not this can be maintained with Japanese industry back humming at its full potential producing the many varied heavy industrial products and machines it did just prior to the earthquake and tsunami remains to be seen. One would imagine it cannot.

This sense of self-sacrifice for the greater common good is not peculiarly Japanese; the Germans have gone far beyond it, and others as reported here and elsewhere are sure to follow. However it must be pointed out that it is always the most radical view, leading to the most radical changes if pursued, that gets the press and frankly this author cannot help but believe that nuclear energy will continue to play a part in Japan for the foreseeable future. It seems clear now that the movement to reduce Japan's dependence on nuclear will gain footing, but it seems clearer that Japan's economic future is tied to its industrial production base's need for reliable and inexpensive electricity. It seems clear that Japan will reduce its participation overall as a nation in the worldwide construction of nuclear plants, as a result of the decision not to take part in the program in Turkey, but it is also clear that some export of this technology will continue as shown by the statement that work with Vietnam to construct nuclear plants will continue. Thus, the nature of the whole nuclear-industrial complex and that of the utilities as well is in a state of flux.

What is most fortunate for advocates of nuclear energy - and also fortunately probably true - is the growing perception that the "troubles" and "danger" of nuclear energy in Japan are almost entirely political. The public sentiment in Japan seems to be shifting towards two beliefs: First, that the cozy yet muddled regulatory system and utility system led to laxness that may have made several contributions to the accident, and second, that the only way forward with nuclear energy in Japan is to fix the political and regulatory systems so that safety is ensured. One cannot help but support this kind of thinking, even if only in part, no matter his affiliation or disposition toward nuclear energy.

A growing trend, thanks in part to Professor Ino, is to blame the damage at Fukushima and thus the inherent risk of other plants simply on the age of the plants. The Japanese public in some measure is riding along the rising slope of misinformation being spewed by the anti-nuclear forces and carried by any media that will run it. (Thankfully that sort of thing has ended in this country already.) What the informed person will find out that it is not simply one number - age in years - that leads to any intelligent assessment of risk. But, like the catch phrase "hot particles," age is a simple enough identity to get hold of and instigate fear with.

Long-term readers of this blog are fully aware of its campaign against a lack of education in terms of nuclear energy and thus are immune to such simplistic attacks. In point of fact, they do no one any service whatsoever. The topic (and the technology, more importantly) is too complex to be explained or explained away with a few buzz words. Or two-digit numbers.

We will end here with our updating of the overall political situation regarding nuclear energy in Japan. The situation is fluid, and it seems that even after Kan's resignation there will not be a clear way ahead for some time. You can be sure that continued updates on this evolving situation will continue to appear here.

Now, for a few technical details at FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI.

-The steel framing for the reactor building enclosure at No. 1 plant's reactor building is being placed as of now. TEPCO has released a photo of the first corner structure being lifted into place on-site.

-Cooling flow to the reactors at all three plants (No. 1, 2, 3) continues to be stable even with TEPCO starting and stopping the cleanup system. The additional components as shown previously on this site are being placed in service, and TEPCO continues to make adjustments and modifications to the system as needed. As I've written before, while the process seems nagging and trouble-prone, it is progressing slowly toward stable operation.

-TEPCO has released some photos taken at Fukushima Daiichi on the day of the tsunami. Below is a photo of the seawater pumps outside either No. 5 or No. 6 plant on March 11, 2011.

Below is a submersible water pump (electrically operated) being lowered into the water outside No. 5 / No. 6 plants on March 17, 2011 to restore seawater for cooling these plants.

Below is the control room of Unit 5 at Fukushima Daiichi station after the tsunami. The other half of this room, controlling No. 6, looked identical at the same time but had its overhead lights on. I am going to play the usual press trick and show the more dramatic photograph.

-As of August 10, TEPCO has increased the amount of water being injected to the core of No. 3 plant at Fukushima Daiichi. No. 3 core has remained hotter than the other two for much of the duration of the recovery, and one wonders what differences in the demolished core geometry or in the feed piping or RPV failures are driving, or at least assisting, this differential. However, having said that, the temperatures at all three plants are essentially where they have been for some time and the increased injection will drive No. 3 plant back down from the last reported 116C feed nozzle temp / 105 lower RPV temp by all indications.

-A reliable temperature indication is finally available for No. 1 plant's spent fuel pool, with circulating cooling at this plant now operable from 11:22 AM Tokyo time August 10. The temperature is 47C, which is only a few degrees out of line with No. 4 plant's spent fuel pool and not alarmingly above the others which are in the mid-to high 30's.

-Gas samples have been taken from No. 1 and No. 2 dry wells, and we will report on either NISA or TEPCO analysis of the figures (the measured amounts of varied isotopes are out) when either is available. It should be noted that English translations of the various documents are becoming less available slowly over time.

That concludes today's update. Keep looking back for further coverage and some exciting new features we're working on!

10:20 AM Eastern Wednesday August 10, 2011

Friday, August 5, 2011

Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers at APR


Atomic Power Review is proud to again host the rotating Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. This feature appears weekly on a varied roster of distinguished pro-nuclear blogs and showcases absolutely the best work that the pro-nuclear blogosphere has to offer.

In keeping with the popular theme APR used the first time it hosted the Carnival, I offer the following photograph with the question: "What is this?"

This photo was taken today. I am holding this object in my own hand. It is very very light weight, and pretty reflective. It is fabricated from several parts. That's all the information I'll give for now - the answer and a little background follows our parade of Carnival participants. Speaking of which... here we go!



Areva sailing uncharted waters

Areva is sailing in uncharted waters. New CEO says it is too soon to assess the full consequences of the Fukushima disaster on its long term strategy. The uncertainty has affected the firm’s shares and reduced investor confidence in the organization’s future. Some of these assessments may be premature since most of the rest of the global nuclear energy industry is in the same boat.



Rod Adams would like to point out to everyone that it's very important to remain informed about nuclear energy's safety record and remain wary of those who constantly peddle doom and gloom - which is referred to by Rod as the FUD approach. You'll understand once you read his article.

Spreading Calm, Certainty and Reassurance about Nuclear Energy.



The third in my series on analyzing the nuclear industry. This is the final post on political assessments in the nuclear industry.


In this post, Margaret explores the international political environment for nuclear power.

“There are reasons BEYOND economics or environment for nuclear energy to be a part of this nation’s energy program. It is clear that many nations in the world are going to continue to use nuclear energy as a fundamental part of their energy portfolios. If the United States does not participate in the development of new technologies, in the design of new reactors, in the building of new nuclear facilities, and chooses to end its leadership in this technology, we will no longer be at the table with the rest of the world in determining the best, safest, and most accountable operations of these facilities.”



-APR NOTE: We are not sure why APR doesn't have a link to Gail's site, but we'll be fixing that right after the Carnival posts. For those regular readers here who have not seen her site, it is surely worth a read.-


Gail Marcus discusses the fact that what is done in one country cannot necessarily be copied directly into another country with a different culture, legal system, and history. She provides some examples from her previous blogs on aspects of the Japanese system that may need changing, and points out where US and other models may or may not work.



Kirk Sorensen now has a regular Forbes Blog - The Future of Energy

Kirk Sorensen has been running the Energy from Thorium site and discussion forum on thorium

Kirk has started a thorium power company Flibe Energy.

Kirk points out that the energy content in fissile material means that it is worth six times its weight in gold.
He also discusses how a new reactor could digest the nuclear waste from existing reactors.

Next Big Future has two entries this week. Here is the second..

South Korea is making good progress APR1400 builds and China with the AP1000.

India is pushing ahead with uranium exploration and development. India's nuclear generation has been constrained
because of a lack of uranium. They will be able to operate their reactors at full power.



Fred Moore of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant industry alliance explains why the High-Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor will be a game-changer for nuclear energy -- and US & European energy policy

Fred Moore on the HTGR.




NEI’s Communications VP Scott Peterson takes a shot at MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) for their fundraising event in California to promote safe non-nuclear energy. From Peterson: “Expecting rational energy policy from MUSE is like looking to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for the next Billboard hit. In advance of this weekend’s show, there’s other news out of California. A new study shows that increased efficiency at America’s 104 commercial reactors has saved consumers $2.5 billion annually and decreased carbon dioxide emissions by almost 40 million metric tons each year.”



Meredith has two offerings this week.

That Strontium Fish in the Connecticut: Vermont Yankee, Shumlin and the Facts

In this post at Yes Vermont Yankee, Meredith Angwin chronicles Governer Shumlin of Vermont talking about a fish in the Connecticut River that shows low levels (probably background levels) of strontium-90. It might not be SCIENCE to avoid eating that fish, the governor says, but it is COMMON SENSE. This is Shumlin's way of attacking Vermont Yankee without getting involved in all that Science stuff.. And you thought the Know-Nothing Party was dead?

Power Purchases in Vermont. Not Really Replacing Vermont Yankee But Adding Greenhouse Gases

Angwin shows that recent Vermont power purchases, announced with much hoopla, do not make up for the power that will be lost if Vermont Yankee goes off-line.


That does it for this week's selection of nuclear energy blogs. APR is proud to be able to host such a distinguished lineup of authors on a regular basis, and is signed up for a further Carnival next month and will be hosting continuing regular Carnivals for the forseeable future.

---Now, the answer to "What is this?" ------

The object you saw me holding in my hand was acquired very recently as part of a VERY large collection of papers and books once owned by the late James Vadeboncoeur, whose long and distinguished career in industrial manufacturing included a stint in the nuclear field. During most of the 1950's he worked for Westinghouse, at the Bettis Plant, and was deeply involved in core manufacturing and material procurement and control. He also visited many potential subcontractors' facilities and gave reports to his superiors on their ability to produce many kinds of materials and to perform many kinds of jobs.

Mr. Vadeboncoeur had a much shorter, much less successful stint with Sylvania-Corning Nuclear in the period 1958-1960 when he became that company's Western Region Sales Manager. The company shut its office in California and relieved Mr. Vadeboncoeur of his duties just before Christmas of 1959, with his official termination date in January - six days before he was eligible to enter the company's retirement program.

Enough background... this odd looking object was found in the side of one of SIX bankers' boxes packed totally full of books, manuals, records and paperwork. It was the only object (as opposed to book) of any import in the collection, and it took a couple of days for this author to nail down what it really is. I had a feeling it was some sort of a spacer for fuel elements - after all, this man's career took place "entirely in-core" as it were, so it was not likely to be anything from, say, a steam plant. What was really odd was how LIGHT it was.

Sales manuals for Sylvania-Corning fuel elements began to give indications when I finally dug down to them in the course of the first initial search of the cases. This cover illustration leads down the path to identity for our object:

While it is very similar in its end view, it does not match perfectly. The discovery of a pile of identical sales manuals from a bit later on pointed out what this object matches. Here is the relevant illustration from one of these later manuals:

As we see the object matches all pertinent construction features of the Brookhaven National Laboratory fuel element shown here, although it is very much shorter. Obviously this was some kind of display model. Or I hoped it was. (Don't worry - it doesn't give off a click.) Astoundingly, I found the following receipt folded up in a totally separate box, with other papers. Note the arrow I've placed on the illustration for reference.

So now we see that Mr. Vadeboncoeur had a kit of shorter-than-standard display samples of various Sylvania-Corning fuel element products that he could show potential customers .. or potential suppliers, and this remarkable receipt survives to prove it.

This design of fuel element was perhaps Sylcor's most widely heralded achievement in a spotty and not too successful run. The Brookhaven Research Reactor was refueled with this new-style highly enriched fuel element developed by Sylcor, which allowed both a much higher neutron flux and a significantly lower thermal output (for our non-nuclear friends, this test reactor was used to bombard test items with neutrons, and was not a power reactor, so that the heat developed was waste energy. This reactor was air cooled.) The plates of this style fuel element were 2.25 inches in width, 24 inches long, and 0.060 inches thick. Each plate contained roughly 5 grams of U235 dispersed in an aluminum matrix, with an aluminum clad applied. As you can see, the plates received bends to form the shapes seen here - on a 1/8 inch radius, resulting in a 60 degree angle at each of the three bends on each fuel plate (one center, one near each side.) The plates were then assembled in groups of three welded to aluminum end rings to form a fuel element; eight such elements were placed in each fuel channel of the Brookhaven Research Reactor.

Now we know what that odd object in my hand is! It certainly makes an interesting conversation piece on a desk.

7:30 PM Eastern Friday August 5, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Fukushima Daiichi update on high rad levels

As I had suspected and had indicated in the previous post, TEPCO has given us both a location map and robot video footage of just where the high radiation level was found inside the No. 1 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi.

Below is the TEPCO press release illustration of the location. Note the line drawing of the turbine generator at top; only part of the reactor building is shown. Click to enlarge.

The TEPCO robot video, unfortunately without gamma camera, is available right now at the APR YouTube Channel.


The link for this channel is always on the right bar of Atomic Power Review in red. The newest video is always made the featured video at this channel.

More details as they're made available.

11:45 AM Eastern Wednesday August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Nuclear Energy in Japan: August 2, 2011



-1000 R/hr reading on No. 1 / No. 2 exhaust stack piping

-No. 4 spent fuel pool temperature cut in half by system operation

-Support structure of No. 4 plant spent fuel pool completed

-New systems in operation for contaminated water

-TEPCO to construct new outer barrier outside plant water inlets



Not too surprisingly, the continued investigations on site .. and surveys .. are finding some very high radiation levels. We say "not too surprisingly" because, for example, during the Three Mile Island accident a level as high as 800 R/hr was detected at the containment building. Much higher has been seen in other, much more severe accidents. It is for this reason that the discovery of radiation levels such as we're about to detail is perhaps disconcerting but NOT particularly surprising given the damage to three installed reactor cores.

Here are the known facts. First, a level of about 1000 R/hr has been found coming from one or two areas in the common exhaust stack connecting piping that serves No. 1 and No. 2 reactor buildings. Second, various areas outside the plants have been found to have scattered, focused high radiation readings from debris (which is actually nothing new.) Third, a radiation level has been detected on the second floor of the No. 1 reactor building that is about 500 R/hr.

Both of these very high readings just quoted are concerned with vent piping. The material in the vent piping could have accumulated there at any point, perhaps at the time of the explosion although this is by no means certain. TEPCO has provided a couple of photos.

First, a shot of a man using a radiac at the general location of the vent piping high rad readings.

Next a shot with one of TEPCO's Gamma Cameras. The location of the hot spots is clearly visible. (This camera indicates γ-ray intensity. TEPCO appears to not only have these on robots but hand-held units as well.) Photo taken 4 PM July 31, 2011.

TEPCO has indicated that this area is now off limits. It will perform additional surveys and is considering the application of shielding. No specific data about the high rad point inside No. 1 building has yet been given, in terms of response.


TEPCO's full operation of the cooling system at No. 4 plant has cut the spent fuel pool temperature reading down to half of what it has been for weeks. The latest official data shows a reading of 44C. This is only about ten degrees above the fuel pools at No. 2 and No. 3 plants.


The support structure for the spent fuel pool at No. 4 plant is now complete. The steel girder support structure has been filled in with concrete, as seen in the photos below.

Above, the steel girder structure under the spent fuel pool before any concrete was poured into the space. Below, the form wall is in place and concrete is being pumped in.

Below we see the completed support structure as it appears now.

Below we see a TEPCO illustration showing the operations we've seen above in cutaway view, for clearer understanding.


TEPCO has shipped in and installed new water handling equipment from Toshiba and Areva. These new pieces of equipment are at the end of the water treatment chain and assist in desalination. Two pictures; first the Toshiba equipment, and then below that the Areva equipment.


TEPCO is going to construct a further barrier outside the circulating system water inlets at the area of No. 1 through No. 4 plants at Fukushima Daiichi. This will be outside the present silt fences and barriers, but inside the harbor/breakwall area. This fence, to be driven much deeper, will prevent seepage of contaminated ground water into the harbor area and thus to sea. Construction of this wall is planned for the next or "second" period of the timeline - we would have to guess this would be given a moderately high priority given that the tendency at the site still is for the contaminated water volume to still be slightly on the rise. Below, an illustration from TEPCO showing the basic details. Note also the blue line showing the barrier to be constructed around the plant on the land side as well, also down to the impermeable layer.


A new case of possible interference with the operation of a public forum by both an electric power company and NISA has surfaced. This symposium, over five years ago, was concerning MOX fuel usage by Shikoku Electric Power. The story is the same as we've been seeing- an official from NISA now admits to having requested Shikoku to ensure proper questions were asked and opinions expressed at the government symposium. The official simply says however that the intent was not to make it appear as if public opinion were different than it really was, but rather to prevent a duplication of an earlier event in which no real pro-nuclear opinions could be expressed due to control by anti-nuclear representatives. This attempt to level the playing field was the result.

In general the stories about the truth of these interferences are beginning to sound less like a sort of illegal activity than they first did. The problem is that the incidents are starting to pile up, and they don't just affect one power company or one prefecture. While a PR campaign is not a problem, staffing up public symposiums without telling everyone you are is a problem because it smacks of dishonesty at the very least. But I've said that before. One thing seems clear - now, probably any and every such event remotely like this will come out and all of these kinds of operations will be laid bare.

10:30 AM Eastern Tuesday August 2, 2011

Update 12:10 PM Tuesday August 2, 2011:
Kyodo news is now reporting that the rad level discovered inside No. 1 reactor building may exceed 500R/hr because the detector in use at the moment has this reading as its maximum; as such, this reading was reported by TEPCO but the actual reading is probably higher.