Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
Senator John McCain said Wednesday that he wanted 45 new nuclear reactors built in the United States by 2030, a course he called “as difficult as it is necessary.” In his third straight day of campaign speechmaking about energy and $4-a-gallon gasoline, Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, told the crowd at a town-hall-style meeting at Missouri State University that he saw nuclear power as a clean, safe alternative to traditional sources of energy that emit greenhouse gases. He said his ultimate goal was 100 new nuclear plants.New York Times
Monday, June 16, 2008
A nuclear power station in Sweden has been sealed off after a worker was stopped at the entrance with a plastic bag containing traces of explosives. Investigators took the man, a welder who was scheduled to do work at the Oskarshamn plant, in for questioning. They later arrested a second man because "there is some uncertainty about who owns the bag", a spokesman said. Plant operator OKG downplayed the incident, saying there was no threat to the safety of the plant, about 150 miles south of Stockholm.Sky News
TVA releases billions of gallons of heated water into the Tennessee River each year, and the electricity-producer is on a path to release more, but the state-issued permit that allows the agency's Watts Bar nuclear plant to dump warmed water back into the river expired two years ago. TVA has asked the state to renew the plant's permit, but state environmental officials said last week they want more information about the water temperature there before they sign off on it. Water that is too hot could hurt the fish and other aquatic life in the river. Watts Bar, which is between Knoxville and Chattanooga, is where TVA plans to build another nuclear reactor. The one unit already in operation there sucks in 150,000 gallons of river water a minute, on average.WBIR.com
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a reactor inspector to Kansas State University Thursday after a tornado damaged the building housing the university’s research reactor. The reactor was not operating at the time, and initial surveys by the licensee showed no radiation leak and no apparent damage to the reactor.U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
A federal court judge dismissed on Monday a petition to review water usage increases at the Susquehanna nuclear power station because it had been filed a day too late.
Eric Epstein, who heads the Harrisburg-based nuclear-watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, had petitioned the court to decide whether the Susquehanna River Basin Commission erred when it ruled in September 2007 that the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station could withdraw more water for a power increase at the station. The station is in Salem Township.
"It's time to look to the French," New York Times columnist Roger Cohen wrote in January. "They've got their heads in the right place, with nuclear power enjoying a 70 percent approval rating." Similarly, presumptive Republican presidential candidate John McCain has wondered, "If France can produce 80 percent of its electricity with nuclear power, why can't we?" Even Southern Republicans are becoming Francophiles, with Georgia State Rep. Amos Amerson, chairman of the Georgia House Science and Technology Committee, asking how the French system might help the United States in its "efforts to obtain cleaner, cheaper, more stable energy." France is known as the country where nuclear power works. It operates 59 nuclear reactors, which provided 78 percent of its electricity in 2007. Now, the French government has decided to bring the "revival" of nuclear power to the world. The Sarkozy administration has made multiple nuclear cooperation agreements with other nations and the president himself has traveled the world as a nuclear salesman. "The requests by countries that wish to profit from that clean and cheap source of energy are legitimate," says French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. New bilateral nuclear trade agreements have been negotiated with Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates. In addition, France has pledged to assist China, India, and Brazil in expanding their nuclear power programs.Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The Energy Department's safety plan for handling containers of radioactive waste before they are buried at the proposed Yucca Mountain dump has become a "fool's errand," according to a major nuclear equipment supplier. Under current plans, the casks of nuclear waste material awaiting burial at Yucca Mountain could be sent into a "chaotic melee of bouncing and rolling juggernauts" in an earthquake, according to Holtec International, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of nuclear waste storage systems. The blistering critique of safety standards is in a newsletter that Holtec sent last week to its customers and suppliers, warning that the project has become a "doomed undertaking." Holtec supplies storage casks to power plants around the country.Los Angeles Times
Saturday, June 7, 2008
A nuclear power plant in Georgia was recently forced into an emergency shutdown for 48 hours after a software update was installed on a single computer. The incident occurred on March 7 at Unit 2 of the Hatch nuclear power plant near Baxley, Georgia. The trouble started after an engineer from Southern Company, which manages the technology operations for the plant, installed a software update on a computer operating on the plant's business network. The computer in question was used to monitor chemical and diagnostic data from one of the facility's primary control systems, and the software update was designed to synchronize data on both systems. According to a report filed with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, when the updated computer rebooted, it reset the data on the control system, causing safety systems to errantly interpret the lack of data as a drop in water reservoirs that cool the plant's radioactive nuclear fuel rods. As a result, automated safety systems at the plant triggered a shutdown.Washington Post
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Surprising research suggests that childhood cancer is most common in the Northeast, results that even caught experts off guard. But some specialists say it could just reflect differences in reporting.
Environmental factors might play a role, including exposure to radiation, said lead author Dr. Jun Li of the CDC. Radiation has been linked with the most common types of childhood cancer _ leukemia, lymphoma and brain cancers.
Radiation sources include X-rays, nuclear plant emissions and natural sources such as radon gas. But Li said research is needed to determine if these sources vary enough by region to affect childhood cancer rates.
At least three times when its purchase of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant was under review in 2001 and 2002, Entergy Corp. said publicly that it would assume the costs of decommissioning the plant when it eventually shut down. Now there are fears the decommissioning fund will come up short, possibly by hundreds of millions of dollars, and Entergy is saying something different.Brattleboro Reformer
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
NRC Receives DOE’s License Application To Construct High-Level Nuclear Waste Repository At Yucca Mountain
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission received an application today from the U.S. Department of Energy for a license to construct the nation’s first geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, Nev.
“We are ready to get to work on this challenging review,” said NRC Chairman Dale E. Klein. “Congress has given the NRC a strict timetable for reviewing this application, and I want to assure the American people that we will perform an independent, rigorous and thorough examination to determine whether the repository can safely house the nation’s high-level waste. The NRC’s licensing decision will be based entirely on the technical merits.”
The NRC will now begin a docketing review to determine whether the application is sufficiently complete to initiate a formal licensing review. If the application is deemed sufficiently complete, the agency will formally docket the application and publish a notice of opportunity to request a hearing before the NRC’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. A decision to docket the application for review would not preclude the NRC from requesting additional information or documentation from DOE during the review. If the NRC dockets the application, it will announce at that time the extent to which it will adopt DOE’s Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed repository.
Formal docketing of the application will trigger a three-year schedule set by Congress for the NRC to determine whether to authorize construction. Congress has given the NRC an option to request a one-year extension, and the agency expects to need a fourth year. The NRC expects to meet this schedule, subject to Congress providing sufficient resources in a timely manner.
Monday, June 2, 2008
By Marlene Lang
The Secretary of Energy last week asked Congress, in a most urgent tone, to hurry and pass the “Nuclear Fuel Management and Disposal Act.”
This was a rerun of a proposal made almost one year ago to set aside 147,000 acres at Yucca Mountain, Nev. and start building an underground dump for unsavory radioactive waste. The proposal expands the request the secretary made one year ago, though. Energy secretary Samuel Bodman explained last week that there is so much radioactive waste sitting around the country -- safely contained in “Monitored Retrievable Storage” -- that if the dump were built next week, it would be at capacity.
“Please let us build our radioactive waste dump now! The lawsuits are killing us.”
That’s a paraphrase.
Actually, the lawsuits were mentioned only after the energy secretary made an attempt at giving more popular reasons for passing his law. His entreaty was based on a few “key facts.”
“Expansion of nuclear power in the U.S. is a critical priority for ‘energy security’ and ‘national security,’” his letter states.
“Energy security?” Is it a priority? And, further, does a thing being a priority make that thing a fact? Maybe, since goals are facts, too, in the Department of Energy.
“In order to insure (the expansion of nuclear power), the Nation must have a repository for disposal of spent nuclear fuel (that’s the industry’s term) and high-level radioactive waste.”
It is a fact that nuclear power produces radioactive waste that takes centuries to degenerate to a state that will not cause abnormal structural changes to the atoms of, well, YOU. The DOE Web site assures us that, “These (radioactive) atoms will eventually quit being radioactive as they release their energy over time.” Yes, over time. How comforting. Bring me some hot chocolate while I ponder how much time. I guess 10,000 years or so qualifies as “over time.”
It is a fact, though, as noted by the esteemed secretary, that IF we keep churning out that heavy-metal-driven power, we will have “spent fuel,” or radioactive waste that needs a final resting place. It is not a “fact” that we must ensure that nuclear power expands. This is purely a corporate growth vision.
Yucca Mountain is less than 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The industry anticipated starting the project in 1998, but, darn, many in Nevada didn’t want the nation’s radioactive dump in their back yard, and many didn’t want any nuke waste dumps any place, so it’s been a rocky road for Exelon and other giants in the “clean and reliable” nuclear power biz, with generating plants scattered across 39 states. The waste is presently stored at about 100 varied sites, often at the site of the power plant in stainless steel pools, then in “containers” made of lead and concrete and other stuff that keeps us all safe. If the bill is approved, all that precious spent fuel will be moved to Nevada; some 55,000 metric tons awaits the journey to Yucca Mountain. If given the go-ahead, work will start soon and the dump will be ready to “receive spent fuel” 10 years from now. It’ll take a while to dig that 35- or 40-mile tunnel and line it with material that is supposed to keep the bad stuff in for millennia to come. In a cross-section drawing at the DOE Web site, it looks like a giant suppository. Poor mountain.
Meanwhile, as the decade marches on and the underground repository is -- or is not -- constructed, at least 20,000 metric tons more of radioactive waste will have piled up in those on- and off-site containers.
Plans originally set a 70,000-ton capacity for permanent waste storage at Yucca Mountain. If the Act passes, by the time the dump is taking trash, they’ll be at least 75,000 tons awaiting.
The radioactive waste will be transported by train and truck from places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Illinois to Nevada, in containers that look like bar bells, atop truck beds and flat cars. The Department of Energy tells us plainly, “The number of these shipments by road and rail is expected to increase.” This understatement is brought to you by the source that calls 10,000 years: “over time.” When does the circus begin?
Soon, the Department of Energy and the nuclear power industry hope.
Meanwhile, there’s the lawsuit “oh, sh--” factor. Bodman asks Congress to expedite the matter, not because of the mounting pile of radioactive waste sitting around in temporary containers, but because of the “mounting Federal Government liability associated with delays in opening the repository.”
Seems legislation passed in 1982 placed responsibility for disposal of spent fuel from nuclear power plants squarely on the shoulders of the federal government. Contracts were to be made with the facilities outlining removal procedures. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act presumed there would be a nice big dump ready by 1998 for the nasty load. Didn’t happen. The energy secretary reports -- and I imagine beads of sweat dropping and forming a puddle on the Senate floor -- that 60 lawsuits have been filed against the fed for breach of contract.
So far, Bodman reports, the government has paid out $214 million in three settlements. Three.
The federal government is already liable to the tune of about $7 billion, Bodman notes. And even if the Act becomes law, 2017 looks a long way off.
Watch for more on: The Issue Won’t Go Away. Well, maybe it will, over time.
Author Marlene Lang at Yucca Mountain.
After part of a cooling tower collapsed last August at Vermont's only nuclear power plant, the company that runs it blamed rotting wooden timbers that it had failed to inspect properly. The uproar that followed rekindled environmental groups' hopes of shutting down the aging plant. The proposed closing, albeit a long shot, has gained some support this year among Vermont politicians. The discussion here is bringing into sharp relief a conflict between two objectives long held by environmental advocates: combating nuclear power and stopping global warming.Rutland Herald
Entergy Nuclear can resume discharging heated water into the Connecticut River this summer, according to a decision by Environmental Court Judge Merideth Wright released Friday. However, Wright imposed conditions on the discharge and didn't grant the nuclear company its full request. She said Entergy couldn't discharge the 105-degree water until July, and ordered that the company install temperature sensors at the Vernon hydroelectric dam, which is downstream from the Vernon reactor. Under Entergy Nuclear's state discharge permit, it can discharge up to 543 million gallons of up to 105-degree water, as long as the temperature of the Connecticut River didn't rise more than 1 degree, higher than 76.7 degrees Fahrenheit.Rutland Herald