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

Monday, March 31, 2014

STURGIS to be decommissioned, dismantled

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nuclear Power Plant "Sturgis" enters the Panama Canal(1968). Records of the Army Signal Corps, RG 111; National Archives and Records Administration - College Park, Md. (Photo by Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration)

The announcement has been made today that the US Army Corps of Engineers selected CB&I Federal Services to dismantle the nuclear barge STURGIS, the first floating nuclear power plant ever built.   A number of highly informative links follow.

Click here to see the page with today's announcement.

Unlike Navy nuclear ships, the Sturgis will be completely dismantled and the nuclear plant taken apart piece by piece, in a process not unlike that performed at commercial nuclear plants.  This information and much more is available here in the Final Environmental Assessment of the decommissioning of the Sturgis and its Martin-Marietta MH-1A nuclear power plant.

This Army Corps of Engineers page has more data.. and Sturgis videos!

3:00 PM Eastern 3/31/2014

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nuclear Energy Carnival 200

Believe it or not, it's time for the TWO HUNDREDTH Carnival of Nuclear Energy!  It seems like only yesterday that Carnival 100 was posted.  Since then, we've had additions to the roll of regular contributors as well as losses, but the quality of content has remained top notch.

You'll get to see that quality for yourself after you play the usual game here at Atomic Power Review when there's a Carnival ... you have to guess "What is this?"

You can tell me what this facility is, or else who owned and operated it, or maybe even just where it is.  Or should I say "was"... because this facility is completely decommissioned now and there's no trace of it.  I probably don't need to tell you that this facility does indeed contain a reactor, and it's not just the run of the mill test reactor developing only a few watts of power.  Answer after the Carnival!


ANS Nuclear Cafe - submitted by Paul Bowersox

"Fukushima Three Years Later" by Will Davis

An overview of the situation and developments at Fukushima Daiichi, three years after the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.  Ongoing recovery efforts in and around the site, safety enhancements for existing reactor fleets, prospects for restarting reactors in Japan.

"Three years of available lessons from Fukushima" by Rod Adams

The events 3 years ago at Fukushima Daiichi offer challenging but necessary lessons about the commercial use of nuclear energy.  A conversation to document some of the lessons from the accident.


The Hiroshima Syndrome - Les Corrice

Fukushima Third Anniversary - The Positive and the Negative.  Les Corrice takes a look at reporting on the third anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, with an emphasis on who has reported in a positive and in a negative vein.  Corrice examines the common negative themes in reporting; he also notes that there was positive reporting this year whereas last year there was none.


Atomic Insights - Rod Adams

Healthy Doses of Radiation

Doses of radiation that are lower than about 700 mGy/yr are more likely to reduce cancer incidence and increase life span than to decrease it. In other words, moderate radiation doses are good for you in the same way as moderate exercise is good for you.

The basis for this economy-altering assertion is documented in Dr. Jerry Cuttler’s recent paper titled Remedy for Radiation fear — discard the Politicized sciencewhich is available as a pre=press article from Dose Response.

Nader's Nuclear Blind Spot

A Democracy Now segment featuring Ralph Nader and starting with a discussion on climate change rapidly turned into an antinuclear rant. Rod does some fact checking to point out several misinformed statements.


Yes Vermont Yankee - Meredith Angwin

Earthquake Anniversary: Updated and Unplugged

Activists planned to remember the Fukushima meltdowns by "unplugging" nuclear power from the grid.  Actually, they unplugged themselves by turning off lights and not playing video games--for a day.

The Fuel Pools: Opponents Say the Darndest Things!

Local nuclear opponents want all of Vermont Yankee's spent fuel moved to dry cask storage as soon as possible.  However, they said they will sue Entergy if the company uses decommissioning fund money to move fuel from the fuel pool.


4Factor Consulting - Margaret Harding

NRC RIC - Part 1

Margaret attended the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Regulatory Information Conference (RIC) in Washington D.C., and reports here on the speeches of the NRC Chairman and two of its commissioners. 


Next Big Future - Brian Wang

China is back to raising its nuclear energy targets for 2020. Perhaps heading to 70-80GW instead of 58 GW

Japan might restart up to 10 reactors per year. About 35 reactors operational in 2019

Canada's nuclear regulators are performance based instead of the US NRC rules based. The US NRC is based on rules for light water reactors of the late 1960s. Canada could allow the new Terrestrial Energy Molten salt reactor to be operational by 2020.


Canadian Energy Issues - Steve Aplin

Fighting carbon with electricity: bringing the Third Electrification to Ontario

While Paris France chokes on automobile exhaust, Steve Aplin of Canadian Energy Issues wonders how quickly the worldwide automobile fleet could be replaced with all- or partially-electric cars. The quicker that happens, the quicker mankind can shift to a truly sustainable economy. That shift, which Steve calls The Third Electrification, would be as profound and revolutionary as the advent of the electricity grid was in the Twentieth Century.


Nuke Power Talk - Gail Marcus

Technology Risk:  The More Things Change....

Gail Marcus goes down memory lane this week, with a report on Nuke Power Talk on some things that have changed and some things that have stayed the same in the field of risk assessment.


Forbes - Jim Conca

Radioactive Fukushima Waters Arrive At West Coast Of America

Presenters at the annual Ocean Sciences Meeting in Honolulu recently said ocean water containing dissolved radionuclides from Fukushima’s crippled nuclear reactors has reached the west coast of North America. However, levels of radioactivity are so low by the time they leave Japan that there is no concern whatsoever that radioactivity from Fukushima could ever harm America.


The Economics of Nuclear -- a new website by Rick Maltese

The prevailing view by the anti-nuclear crowd is that no energy source sucks up the billions of dollars like the building of nuclear plants. The problem is that intermittent energy sources like wind and solar should not be compared to baseload energy sources like nuclear. Nuclear energy runs 24/7 daily uninterrupted for years at a time. The bright side of nuclear needs to be categorized in a class by itself. 

Non-emitting baseload energy, which of course eliminates coal and natural gas, is becoming more scarce in the US and other countries that favor an "all of the above" energy strategy that inevitably alienates nuclear energy because it supposedly is too expensive. 

The benefits to the environment surpass that of wind and solar by virtue of it's ability to replace dirty baseload energy sources like coal and natural gas. Besides, nuclear plants provide a steady profit after the first ten years especially when competing energy sources are on an equal playing field.


That's it for this week's entries.  All that's left is to tell you what's shown in that photo above.

What you see in the photo is what used to be the NASA Plum Brook Reactor Facility, which was located in Ohio on a reservation about three miles south of Sandusky.  The main feature of the facility was the test reactor, which carried AEC license TR-3, and which was located inside the containment seen near the center of the photo surrounded by various support and administration buildings.  The facility also contained the MUR or Mock Up Reactor, a small zero-power test reactor.

NASA has published an excellent monograph volume on this facility which covers complete history of the site from its days long before nuclear energy, through the reactor facility days in the early 1960's, through early decommissioning activities in 2004.  This is called "NASA's Nuclear Frontier:  The Plum Brook Reactor Facility," by Mark D. Bowles and Robert S. Arrighi, and which was published by NASA as its "Monographs in Aerospace History No. 33" in August 2004 with publication number SP-2004-4533.  The book gives great detail of the test facilities - if anyone interested in test reactors wishes only one book on his or her shelf about test reactors, this would be a top choice.  The photo you saw is from the back cover of this well written book.

The Plum Brook reactor was, quite unusually, entirely designed by staff working for NASA; the company did not purchase an "off the shelf" design of test reactor, nor did it contract to an established vendor for test reactors (such as Westinghouse, ACF, American Standard, etc.)   The reactor had an exceedingly high output for test reactors of the day -- 60 MW -- and required, according to the official NASA monograph a million gallons of water a day which was pumped in from Lake Erie through underground piping.  The vessel for this reactor was shipped in by rail and was manufactured by Struthers-Wells (now a part of Babcock Power) in Pennsylvania.  The fuel, which could be described as generally of MTR type (which is plate type fuel arranged in a stack, with water channel spacing between plates and surrounded by a box structure), and which was enriched to 93% was fabricated by Sylvania-Corning Nuclear Corporation.  According to SYLCOR records in my collection, the company supplied to NASA 270 actual and 27 dummy fuel elements; the material was uranium-aluminum fuel with aluminum clad, with 18 plates per element.  The elements measured 3 inches by 3 inches by 42 inches.

(Interestingly, SYLCOR at this time was offering two kinds of completely standard nuclear fuel in 18 plate 3 by 3 inch design, with either curved or flat fuel plates but with a length of 34-3/8 inches.  The model for the flat design was A-1891-F, while that for the curved was A-1891-C, according to the SYLCOR Standard Fuel guide.  However, SYLCOR frequently manufactured fuel similar to these designs but customized in either element length, or enrichment percentage, or both.  SYLCOR proudly advertised itself as "The World's First Nuclear Fuel Company" and was the first to offer to the trade a line of standard reactor fuel elements.)

The facility was shut down for good and defueled in 1973; decommissioning took many years after this.  Here are some interesting links:

NASA Plum Brook decommissioning plan 1999, from NRC site

NASA Aerospace Frontiers newsletter featuring Plum Brook decommissioning

So Ohio has actually hosted a couple of historic reactors from the early days of nuclear energy - the organic cooled and moderated power reactor at Piqua Ohio, and the Plum Brook reactor we've seen and discussed briefly here.  Let me know in the comments if you guessed what the photo was!

6:30 PM 3/16/2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014

More Nuclear Energy for Mexico?

While keeping up on developments in South Korea, I happened to notice an interesting article in the Korea Times detailing Korea Electric Power Company's desire to expand business in Latin America.  Well down in that article is the following passage:

"... the Mexican government is seeking to build additional nuclear power plants, according to the statement."

The article goes on to note that Mexico's single nuclear plant -- which is a two-unit GE BWR plant known as Laguna Verde (pictured above) generated 3.4 percent of Mexico's total energy in 2012.  According to the KEPCO statement on which the Korea Times article is based, Mexico is studying plans to increase that percentage generated by nuclear to either 12 percent or 28 percent by the 2025-2028 time frame.

The World Nuclear Association page on Mexico notes studies to build gigawatt-class commercial plants, including expansion of the Laguna Verde plant through addition of another two units. 

According to KEPCO, the company has not been presented with any "detailed plans," and therefore is not making any serious efforts itself as yet regarding a future Mexican nuclear build-out.

The two plants at Laguna Verde were all that resulted from an early wide interest in nuclear energy in Mexico; these plants were begun in 1976 and entered service, according to WNA, in 1989 (Unit 1) and 1994 (Unit 2.)  Both have completed extended power uprates; the units were built rated 654 MWe but are today producing 800 MWe net.  An interest in use of nuclear energy for desalination in Mexico began very early, particularly in schemes to prevent use of water from below Mexico City which has resulted in the continuous slow collapse of portions of the city and which was detailed quite well in the book "Water Production Using Nuclear Energy," Roy G. Post and Robert L. Seale, Editors, University of Arizona Press Tucson 1966.  The Texoco Project saw a plan to divert the water supply for Mexico City away from water under the city, to water derived by nuclear powered desalting which was taken from the old dry Lake Texoco in order to prevent the continued and disastrous subsidence of portions of the whole of Mexico City due to removal of the water below it.  It is obvious that the nuclear plant was never built, but water production even today (as evidenced by the WNA article) remains a key considered use for fission energy's concentrated power output and reliability in Mexico.

I will keep my eye open for further developments along these lines.  Clearly, KEPCO and KHNP would like nothing better than another solid export and construction contract beyond that arranged and presently being executed in the UAE, and Mexico would, under the plans being considered, be a major addition.

(Both photos show Central Nuclear Laguna Verde, courtesy CNSNS.)

4:00 PM  3/9/2014