Thursday, September 30, 2010
The amount of energy that the average American requires at home has changed little since the early 1970s -- despite advances in technology that have made many home appliances far more energy efficient. Dishwashers use 45 percent less energy than they did two decades ago, according to industry data. Refrigerators use 51 percent less. But on a per-capita basis, Americans still require about 70 million British thermal units a year to heat, cool and power their homes, just as they did in 1971. (One BTU is the energy required to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.) A key reason, experts say, is that American homes are getting bigger, which means more space to heat and cool. And consumers are buying more and more power-sucking gadgets -- meaning that kilowatts saved by dishwashers and refrigerators are often used up by flat-screen televisions, computers and digital video recorders.Read more
A once-unthinkable day is looming on the Colorado River. Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands. For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.Read more
Former New Jersey Gov. Christie Whitman, once a top political and environmental figure, is now an ambassador for nuclear power.
The former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends her days promoting an industry largely opposed by environmentalists.
Whitman, a Republican from Somerset County, works for the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition, a national group formed to promote nuclear power. In this role, she has been giving speeches and leading discussions in New Jersey and elsewhere touting the benefits of atomic energy. Whitman was a guest speaker earlier this year at Richard Stockton College’s Hughes Center for Public Policy in Atlantic City.
She has taken on this public role at a time when critical issues affecting nuclear plants and the public are being debated in southern New Jersey.
Eric Epstein 4100 Hillsdale Road Harrisburg PA 17112
To Whom It May Concern:
This is to advice you that the Commission in the Public Meeting on September 23, 2010 adopted an Order in the above entitled proceeding.
An Order has been enclosed for your records.
Very truly yours,
Rosemary Chiavetta Secretary
Download PDF of Order
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
PPL Corporation FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL) said Thursday (9/9) it has reached agreement to sell interests in certain non-core generating stations to LS Power Equity Advisors, an affiliate of LS Power. The transaction will include the 244-megawatt PPL Wallingford Energy plant, a natural gas-fired facility located in the Town of Wallingford, Conn.; the 585-megawatt PPL University Park plant, a natural gas-fired facility located in University Park, Ill.; and PPL’s one-third share in Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation, owner of the 421-megawatt Safe Harbor Hydroelectric Station on the Susquehanna River in Conestoga, Pa. The transaction, for approximately $381 million in cash, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2010, pending receipt of necessary regulatory approvals and third- party consents. The transaction is expected to result in an after-tax special item charge against PPL’s third-quarter earnings of $65 million to $80 million. Following the closing of the sale, PPL will continue to operate a diverse mix of competitive-market generating plants in Pennsylvania and Montana, with a combined capacity of nearly 11,000 megawatts. Credit Suisse and BofA Merrill Lynch served as PPL’s financial advisors in this transaction. PPL Corporation, headquartered in Allentown, Pa., owns or controls generating capacity in the United States, sells energy in key U.S. markets and delivers electricity to about 4 million customers in Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom. More information is available at www.pplweb.com. LS Power is a power generation and transmission group with a proven track record of successful development activities, operations management and commercial execution. LS Power has been involved in the development, construction, or operations of over 20,000 MW of power generation throughout the United States. LS Power is actively developing both power generation and transmission infrastructure to serve the need for new generation and improve the aging transmission system. Highly regarded in the financial community, LS Power has raised over $13 billion to support investment in energy infrastructure since 2005. For more information, visit www.LSPower.com.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
PPL Corporation (NYSE: PPL) said Thursday (9/9) it has reached agreement to sell interests in certain non-core generating stations to LS Power Equity Advisors, an affiliate of LS Power.
The transaction will include the 244-megawatt PPL Wallingford Energy plant, a natural gas-fired facility located in the Town of Wallingford, Conn.; the 585-megawatt PPL University Park plant, a natural gas-fired facility located in University Park, Ill.; and PPL’s one-third share in Safe Harbor Water Power Corporation, owner of the 421-megawatt Safe Harbor Hydroelectric Station on the Susquehanna River in Conestoga, Pa.
The transaction, for approximately $381 million in cash, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2010, pending receipt of necessary regulatory approvals and third- party consents. The transaction is expected to result in an after-tax special item charge against PPL’s third-quarter earnings of $65 million to $80 million.
Following the closing of the sale, PPL will continue to operate a diverse mix of competitive-market generating plants in Pennsylvania and Montana, with a combined capacity of nearly 11,000 megawatts.
Credit Suisse and BofA Merrill Lynch served as PPL’s financial advisors in this transaction.
PPL Corporation, headquartered in Allentown, Pa., owns or controls generating capacity in the United States, sells energy in key U.S. markets and delivers electricity to about 4 million customers in Pennsylvania and the United Kingdom. More information is available at www.pplweb.com.
LS Power is a power generation and transmission group with a proven track record of successful development activities, operations management and commercial execution. LS Power has been involved in the development, construction, or operations of over 20,000 MW of power generation throughout the United States. LS Power is actively developing both power generation and transmission infrastructure to serve the need for new generation and improve the aging transmission system. Highly regarded in the financial community, LS Power has raised over $13 billion to support investment in energy infrastructure since 2005. For more information, visit www.LSPower.com.
Last December's climate change conference in Copenhagen might inspire protests at the Three Mile Island or Peach Bottom nuclear plants.
April's Tea Party rallies in Hanover and York might prompt anti-government radicals to target government offices. And in July, al-Qaida's presence in Chechnya was raising some concerns. The York Haven Hydro Station and Holtwood Hydroelectric Plant on the Susquehanna River were possible targets in the admittedly unlikely event that al-Qaida leaders decided to strike at Central Pennsylvania.
Those were among the concerns related to York County that the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response raised in bulletins provided to the Pennsylvania Office of Homeland Security.
Gov. Ed Rendell recently expressed embarrassment over the bulletins, saying he was unaware of them, and canceled the $100,000 state contract with the Institute.
With the economy in a free fall and electric demand down in early 2009, PPL CEO James Miller started unloading people. The Allentown energy company eliminated about 200 jobs that year, cutting its work force by 6 percent to lower overhead that would have been a drain on earnings. And at the end of it all, Miller was rewarded handsomely. He received $7.7 million in cash and equity in 2009, making him the second-highest paid executive in the Lehigh Valley, according to a Morning Call analysis of executive pay at local publicly traded companies. That was 37 percent more than he received in 2008, even though the company's overall revenues and earnings had dropped. To many workers, the concept may seem cold and even cruel. If the company is doing so poorly that it has to cut jobs, how can it so richly reward its top executive? But it highlights the often complex manner in which CEOs are paid, a common subject of political debate that underscores disparities in wealth distribution. And it demonstrates how sometimes when companies upend lives by slashing jobs, they simultaneously cut their CEOs some slack.Read more
A thunderstorm in southern York County knocked down trees Wednesday night. But that storm posed a much greater threat - it knocked out the warning system from a nearby nuclear power plant. Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station is in Delta, York County. The towers that surround it are topped by emergency sirens. If there's a problem at the plant, they will sound the alarm - but a strong storm that knocked down trees and knocked out power also knocked out this first line of defense. "There are more sirens, they are louder, the system's better than it was before," said nuclear watchdog Eric Epstein. "But the system has no value if it's not operating."Read more
Friday, September 24, 2010
Installed power capacity from wind turbines around the world will probably rival the potential generation of electricity from nuclear plants within four years, the Global Wind Energy Council said. Installed wind capacity by 2014 will probably reach 400 gigawatts, Steve Sawyer, secretary-general of the council, said in an e-mailed statement. Current nuclear power capacity is about 376 gigawatts, according to the World Nuclear Association. Investments in wind power last year exceeded money spent on all other energy technologies including nuclear power, according to the International Energy Agency. Fifty-nine reactors are presently under various stages of construction globally, the World Nuclear Association said on its website. Growth of wind power in China and elsewhere is offsetting a decline in the U.S. and is little changed in Europe this year, GWEC said. China, the world’s most populous nation and second- biggest economy, will likely more than double the amount of wind power potential this year to about 18 gigawatts, Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates.Read more
A faulty electrical device knocked Three Mile Island off-line for about 24 hours from Sunday, Sept. 19 to Monday, Sept. 20, halting the production of power. The reactor did not shut down, but the malfunction, which affected the plant’s turbine generator, forced the unit off the grid. The plant resumed producing electricity around 11 p.m. Monday, Sept. 20, officials said. It is the second time in six months that electric generation at the plant was interrupted by a mechanical problem. In March, oil leaking from two reactor coolant pumps forced the shutdown of the reactor for 31 hours.Read more
A new teaching resource on one of the hottest topics in the region – natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale – hit the Internet on Tuesday. Eric Epstein, founder of the nuclear energy watchdog group EFMR (the initials of family members) and the political forum RockTheCapital.com, announced at a press conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday that the two organizations have produced “nonjudgmental” educational lesson plans and a resource guide entitled “Marcellus Shale: Natural Gas Energy.” Because teachers often incorporate current community issues into their classroom lessons, Epstein thought it important to provide such a resource. His groups put out lesson plans on coal, nuclear, wind and solar energy in the past. He hired educational consultant Diane Little, a former science teacher, to draw up the lesson plans and resource guide, which provide outlines and potential sources of information for lessons at the elementary, middle and high school levels.Read more
In response to a lack of long-term options, nuclear plants will be allowed to store high-level radioactive spent fuel on-site for up to 60 years after the plant stops operating, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ruled.
Previously, nuclear plants were only allowed to store the waste on site for up to 30 years.
Neil Sheehan, a NRC spokesman, said the decision is in response to the lack of a national nuclear waste storage site.
Tiny biotech Cleveland BioLabs Inc (CBLI.O) has won a $45 million contract from the Department of Defense to conduct clinical trials of a drug to prevent cell damage in the event of nuclear attack. The experimental drug has already been shown to protect mice and monkeys from the damaging effects of radiation. If it works in people, it would be the first drug of its kind. In animals, the drug has been shown to protect bone marrow and cells in the gut from being destroyed by radiation. "There are no drugs which protect humans from radiation," Michael Fonstein, the company's chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview. The drug works by interfering with a process of programmed cell death called apoptosis -- basically a form of cell suicide. This helps the body rid itself of damaged cells,Read more
DEP Monitors Stray Gas Remediation in Bradford County Requires Chesapeake to Eliminate Gas Migration
HARRISBURG -- While the Department of Environmental Protection continues to monitor Chesapeake Energy’s progress in remediating stray methane gas in Wilmot Township, Bradford County, the agency announced today that it has directed the company to take steps to prevent similar situations from occurring elsewhere in the region.
On Sept. 2, DEP received reports of bubbling water on the Susquehanna River. DEP and Chesapeake believe the culprit is gas migrating from six wells that are located on three well pads on the “Welles property,” which is approximately two to three miles northwest of the river.
“Ventilation systems have been installed at six private water wells. Water has been provided to the three affected homes and Chesapeake is evaluating and remediating each of its well bores within a four-and-a-half-mile radius of the gas migration, which is essential,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger.
DEP sampled six private water wells affected by the migration for compounds associated with natural gas drilling. Their analysis found methane levels in the water wells that fluctuated between non-detect and 4.4 percent, possibly as a result of barometric pressure in the atmosphere. No stray gas has been detected in the homes served by the water wells. DEP also found:
• Methane concentrations ranging from 2.16 milligrams per liter and 55.8 mg/L. • The water met the drinking water standards established for barium, chloride and total dissolved solids. • Three wells exceeded the iron limit of 0.3 mg/L and all six wells exceeded the 0.05 mg/L limit for manganese.
The iron and manganese limits are secondary limits, which mean that the limits are established to prevent taste and odor issues.
DEP and Chesapeake individually sampled isotopic readings from the gas, which could help pinpoint which well is responsible for the gas migration. DEP expects its isotopic analysis to be complete next week while Chesapeake’s is expected sooner.
To help prevent against future migration issues, Hanger said DEP directed Chesapeake to evaluate each of its 171 wells in Pennsylvania that used the well casing procedures used in the six Wilmot Township wells—a procedure that was used exclusively in northeast Pennsylvania. Well casings are installed in a well bore to act as a barrier to the rock formations and maintain the well’s integrity.
To do so, the company is using equipment sensitive to sound and temperature. When the equipment finds an anomaly, the company is to correct it immediately by injecting cement behind the casing that seals off the formation, eliminating the route for gas to migrate.
Once the remediation work is performed, it will take up to two weeks to determine if it was successful, although it may take longer for the stray gas to dissipate.
The Welles property wells were drilled between December 2009 and March 2010, but have not been fractured, or “fracked,” and are not yet producing gas from the Marcellus Shale formation, leading the agency to believe that any stray gas migrating from these wells is from a more shallow formation.
On Sept. 9, DEP issued Chesapeake a notice of violation for failing to prevent gas migration to fresh ground water and for allowing an unpermitted natural gas discharge into the state’s waters. DEP will determine future enforcement actions based in part on the speed with which Chesapeake eliminates the migrating gas.
“This situation perfectly illustrates the problem DEP is addressing through the improved well construction standards we have finalized,” said Hanger. “Chesapeake has assured me that all wells drilled by Chesapeake after July 31 conform to the regulations that the Environmental Quality Board will consider on Oct. 12.”
If approved by the EQB, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission is expected to vote on the regulations in November.
For more information, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us.
A private consulting firm says it found toxic chemicals in the drinking water of a Pennsylvania community already dealing with methane contamination from natural gas drilling. Environmental engineer Daniel Farnham said Thursday that his tests, which were verified by three laboratories, found industrial solvents such as toluene and ethylbenzene in “virtually every sample” taken from water wells in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County. Farnham, who has tested water for gas interests and for local residents, said it would be impossible to say that the chemicals he found were caused by gas drilling. The contaminated Dimock wells are in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, where a rush to tap the vast stores has set off intense debate over the environmental and public health impact of the drilling process.Read more
HARRISBURG -- The Department of Environmental Protection today issued a drought warning for 24 Pennsylvania counties and a drought watch for the remaining 43 counties as precipitation deficits continued to build statewide according to Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger.
“The hot, dry conditions over the summer months have led to steadily-declining ground and surface water levels, particularly in the southwest and east-central portions of the state,” Hanger said. “Pennsylvania’s Drought Task Force has concurred with DEP’s recommendation that drought watches and warnings be issued for all 67 counties to alert water suppliers, industry and the public of the need to begin conserving water.”
A drought watch declaration is the first level — and least severe — of the state’s three drought classifications. It calls for a voluntary 5 percent reduction in non-essential water use, and puts large water consumers on notice to begin planning for the possibility of reduced water supplies.
A drought warning asks residents to voluntarily reduce water use by 10-15 percent.
The 24 counties under a Drought Warning are: Allegheny, Beaver, Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Fayette, Franklin, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Lackawanna, Lawrence, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Pike, Schuylkill, Somerset, and Washington. The 43 counties under a Drought Watch are: Adams, Armstrong, Blair, Bradford, Butler, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Chester, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Elk, Erie, Forest, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lycoming, McKean, Mifflin, Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Wayne, Westmoreland, Wyoming and York.
Precipitation deficits over the past 90-day period are currently as great as 5.6 inches below normal in Somerset County and 5.5 inches below normal in Bucks County. DEP is sending letters to all water suppliers statewide, notifying them of the need to monitor their supplies and update their drought contingency plans as necessary.
DEP monitors a network of groundwater wells and stream gages across the state that provide comprehensive data to the state drought coordinator. In addition to precipitation, groundwater and streamflow levels, DEP monitors soil moisture and water supply storage, and shares this data with other state and federal agencies.
DEP offers the following tips for conserving water around the home:
- In the bathroom:
- Install low-flow plumbing fixtures and aerators on faucets;
- Check for household leaks – a leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water a day;
- Take short showers instead of baths.
- Kitchen/laundry areas:
- Replace older appliances with high efficiency, front loading models that use about 30 percent less water and 40-50 percent less energy;
- Run dishwashers and washing machines only with full loads;
- Keep water in the refrigerator to avoid running water from a faucet until it is cold.
The department also offers water conservation recommendations for commercial and industrial users such as food processors, hotels and motels, schools and colleges, as well as water audit procedures for large water customers.
Water conservation tips and drought information can be found online at www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: drought.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
A federal audit shows that the cost of cleaning up millions of gallons of radioactive waste at a South Carolina facility will cost almost $1.5 billion more than expected.
The report released Tuesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office finds that the U.S. Department of Energy underestimated the true costs of cleaning up the Savannah River Site in its $3.2 billion bid.
The GAO says the department underestimated labor costs by up to 70 percent and did not account for numerous other expenses.
Greenpeace specifically examined the outer shells of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants and found those of eight older reactors to be highly vulnerable to an attack. The walls of containment buildings at, for example, the Unterweser, Kruemmel and Neckarwestheim nuclear power plants were about one meter thick, said Oda Becker, a physicist at Hanover University and author of the study. That was too thin to protect even against a hit with "a conventional anti-tank missile using modern thermobaric warheads". The Russian-built AT-14 was one of the most frequently used weapons of this kind, she said and added "just one of these missiles isn't enough, but fewer than ten shots could trigger a horrible scenario."Read more
HARRISBURG -- The sun’s ability to produce clean electricity, create jobs, and reduce costs for families and businesses will be on full display this week as the Department of Environmental Protection sets out to showcase solar-powered facilities in south-central Pennsylvania.
“This is an opportunity for Pennsylvania to illustrate the benefits of solar energy, and how the commonwealth is a leader in developing and using this emerging technology,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger. “The companies we’re visiting this week are taking advantage of this technology, which will benefit their operations, their customers, and the environment for the foreseeable future.”
Hanger will visit the Foxchase Golf Club at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 15. The club, located at 300 Stevens Road in Stevens, Lancaster County, installed a 303.6-kilowatt system that is expected to generate enough electricity to meet nearly 100 percent of the business’ electrical needs, saving nearly $37,000 each year. It will reduce carbon emissions by 7.2 million pounds per year, or the equivalent of removing more than 600 passenger vehicles from the roads.
At 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16, acting DEP Small Business Ombudsman Robert Taylor will visit the Littlestown Veterinary Hospital in Adams County. The hospital installed a 24.6-kilowatt solar array, which will produce half of the facility’s electricity demands, saving it about $3,400 annually. The hospital is located at 5010 Baltimore Pike, Littlestown.
Representatives of the companies responsible for installing the two systems—Advanced Solar Industries LLC for the Lancaster County project and Astrum Solar for the Adams County veterinary hospital—will be on hand to discuss each system and its benefits.
Each stop in the south-central region is part of a statewide tour of facilities that generate energy on site using solar technology.
According to Hanger, these projects illustrate the economic potential of solar energy and how it can be used as a driving economic force in the state if used more fully. The secretary stressed the need for Pennsylvania to increase the solar share of its portfolio standards act.
“Six years ago, we saw the need for an aggressive portfolio standard and after we enacted one, we led the way toward a more sustainable future,” said Hanger. “Unfortunately, other states have passed us by since then, leaving us vulnerable to losing the jobs and companies this industry has created here in Pennsylvania. We have an opportunity to again position ourselves as a national green energy leader, but we must act now.”
Hanger said it is important for the General Assembly to consider legislation that would increase the commonwealth’s solar energy requirement to 1.5 percent—up from its current 0.5 percent target. Doing so, he explained, would create more demand for the solar industry and would make Pennsylvania competitive with neighboring states like New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, which have all enacted more ambitious standards. Less than two years ago, Pennsylvania’s installed solar capacity was minimal, but more than 39 megawatts of capacity—or enough to power 5,900 homes—has been installed since then. The state is also home to more than 600 solar businesses.
For more information on clean, renewable energy, visit www.depweb.state.pa.us or call 717-783-8411.
Solar Projects Drive $1.4 Billion into PA’s Economy in 2009 Solar Share of Generation Market Increases 350 Percent
HARRISBURG -- Sustained growth and declining costs are driving Pennsylvania's solar market to generate an ever-increasing amount of clean, renewable energy, which is saving consumers money, according to Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger.
The secretary said that in 2009, the share of solar energy generation among Pennsylvania's power pool increased by 350 percent, attracting $1.4 billion into state’s economy last year alone. “The cost of solar power is plummeting, making solar power increasingly a sound alternative for businesses and families that seek to stabilize and control their electricity costs,” said Hanger. “Right now, thanks to sharply lower solar power prices, it is a great time to consider solar power for a home or business.”
The median installed costs for small business and residential photovoltaic (PV) projects in the state dropped from about $9 per watt in 2008 to as low as $6 per watt in August; the lowest-cost projects are as much as $1 per watt less than this most recent figure. Large solar projects of one megawatt or more now cost about $4.50 per watt. The lower costs can be attributed in part to the PA Sunshine Solar Rebate Program, which reimburses up to 35 percent of the purchase and installation costs for residential and small business PV and solar hot water systems.
Since the program’s opening in May 2009, more than 2,000 projects have been installed, representing nearly 20 megawatts of new capacity. An additional 2,300 projects, representing 53 megawatts of capacity, have been applied for or are under construction.
“Since energy from the sun is free, lower equipment costs lead to lower electricity costs,” said Hanger. “The cost of electricity from the latest generation of projects in Pennsylvania is between 12 to 20 cents per kilowatt-hour, and that price is locked in for the 25-year life of the panels.
“Today the cost of electricity from a utility company to a small business or home ranges between 10 and 14 cents per kilowatt-hour. But how much will electricity cost two years from now? How about five, 10 or 25 years from now? For families and businesses using solar power, they know their electricity will not be more than what they are paying for solar today. For those businesses and families not using solar, most likely prices for electricity will go up and possibly by a substantial amount.”
Hanger also noted that solar power emits zero air pollution, which cuts soot, smog, mercury and heat-trapping pollution that can sicken and kill Pennsylvanians. In addition, solar power helps to keep the power grid reliable by providing more power on the hottest days of the year when very high demand can cause brownouts and blackouts.
They risked their lives to capture on film hundreds of blinding flashes, rising fireballs and mushroom clouds. The blast from one detonation hurled a man and his camera into a ditch. When he got up, a second wave knocked him down again. Then there was radiation. While many of the scientists who made atom bombs during the cold war became famous, the men who filmed what happened when those bombs were detonated made up a secret corps. Their existence and the nature of their work has emerged from the shadows only since the federal government began a concerted effort to declassify their films about a dozen years ago. In all, the atomic moviemakers fashioned 6,500 secret films, according to federal officials. Today, the result is a surge in fiery images on television and movie screens, as well as growing public knowledge about the atomic filmmakers. The images are getting “seared into people’s imaginations,” said Robert S. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb” and an atomic historian. They bear witness, he added, “to extraordinary and terrifying power.”Read more
It shouldn't be called the French Nuclear Miracle, says Mark Cooper. It's more like a recurring nightmare. Unlike computers, solar panels, wind turbines and most other high tech projects, nuclear power plants and projects don't go down in price over time. Instead, the costs escalate, and that's a recipe for a disaster, according to a report released today by Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. Rising costs means more expensive energy, he said. It also undermines the purpose of subsidies like government-backed loan guarantees, because the subsidies can't be phased out due to the continuing price increases. Worse, the vast scope of nuclear projects invariably absorbs the mental energy of utilities and crowd outs investment in other renewables and energy efficiency. "The French Nuclear Miracle is a misconception. There is no reason to think that things will change if the U.S. follows France," he said. "It would replicate what I call Nuclear Socialism. Nuclear power would remain a ward of the state."Read more
Accident at Russia’s Kursk Nuclear Power Plant reveals blatant disregard of safety standards: Is the Russian nuclear industry headed for a meltdown?
Incidents of various degrees of severity are not uncommon at Russian nuclear power plants (NPPs), but when repairs take longer than a month – as was the case with Reactor 1 of Kursk NPP, which was scrammed on July 22 and only went online on August 31 – concerns arise that serious damage must have occurred. A scrutiny of what happened at Kursk NPP seems to indicate the frightening possibility that a malfunction involving any RBMK reactor may turn out to be as devastating as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Kursk NPP: How extensive was the damage? Kursk NPP is located in Kurchatov – a town bearing the name of the prominent Soviet nuclear physicist, and the man behind the Soviets’ A-bomb, Igor Kurchatov. It stands 40 kilometers southwest of Kursk, a large city in Central European Russia, and operates four power units with pressurized-tube reactors with a total capacity of 4 million kilowatts. Last July 22, an incident took place at the plant that put Reactor 1, an RBMK-1000 installation, out of commission and led to what later turned out to be five weeks of ongoing repairs. Even more disturbing, what information was finally made available about the incident did not come through the official channels from the state nuclear corporation Rosatom or Kursk NPP’s head company, the nuclear power plant operator Rosenergoatom, but from Kursk employees.Read more
The issue of federal preemption at the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor over last winter’s radioactive tritium leak continues to simmer. In a filing Friday with the Vermont Public Service Board, the New England Coalition, a nonprofit anti-nuclear organization, said that Entergy Nuclear’s attempt to re-examine the issue of preemption is unnecessary and the company has failed to offer any valid reasons for another bite at the legal apple. Vermont has every right to investigate and protect its groundwater, the coalition argued, and there is well-established evidence that such radiological leaks ultimately increase the costs of decommissioning. The Vermont Public Service Board opened an investigation into the tritium leak at Vermont Yankee in February, to determine whether the leak had environmental or economic ramifications, particularly in the area of the ultimate decommissioning of the power facility and the contamination of groundwater.Read more
A series of unexplained mechanical failures — including a large hot water leak and the activation of a fire suppression system — triggered an emergency shut down of Indian Point 3 late Thursday night. It is the seventh unplanned shut down between the twin Indian Point reactors in the past two years. The facility is located less than 20 miles from the New Jersey border in New York.
The latest mishap comes just one week after failures in the steam generation system forced the shut down of the companion nuclear reactor at Indian Point 2. That reactor is still off line while engineers at Entergy Nuclear Northeast, owners of the Indian Point site, try to find what caused rising water levels in its massive steam generators, and triggered an automatic shut down.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission admits it is still learning how cracks form and spread in crucial reactor parts, such as those that kept the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant shut down for more than three months this year and for two years earlier in the decade.Read more
But the NRC insists the knowledge it has gained in recent years, along with stepped-up inspections, make it a safe bet that Davis-Besse near Toledo can operate for another year before the plant is outfitted with a new reactor lid.
An NRC special inspection team gave a public report of its findings Thursday in Oak Harbor. The final, formal report will be issued in 45 days.
Exelon Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Rowe said he expects natural-gas prices to remain low, pushing back the construction of new U.S. nuclear power plants by a "decade, maybe two."
"We think natural gas will stay cheap for a very long time," Rowe said in an interview today at Bloomberg's headquarters in New York. "As long as natural gas is anywhere near current price forecasts, you can't economically build a merchant nuclear plant."
Rowe said that the price of natural gas would have to rise to $8 per million British thermal units and permits for emitting a ton of carbon dioxide would have to be $25 to make the power prices from new merchant reactors competitive with gas-fueled plants. Merchant plants sell their power on wholesale markets without the income assurance that utilities with regulated electricity rates get.
Natural gas for October delivery fell 4 cents, or 1 percent, to $3.774 at 2:36 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Prices have fallen 33 percent this year and are down 76 percent from the 2005 high of 15.378.
Gas was used to generate 21 percent of U.S. electricity in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration. It's the second-biggest fuel source for U.S. power generation behind coal and drives electricity prices in parts of the country such as Texas.
EPA Formally Requests Information From Companies About Chemicals Used in Natural Gas Extraction / Information on hydraulic fracturing chemicals is key to agency study of potential impacts on drinking water
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it has issued voluntary information requests to nine natural gas service companies regarding the process known as hydraulic fracturing. The data requested is integral to a broad scientific study now underway by EPA, which Congress in 2009 directed the agency to conduct to determine whether hydraulic fracturing has an impact on drinking water and the public health of Americans living in the vicinity of hydraulic fracturing wells. In making the requests of the nine leading national and regional hydraulic fracturing service providers – BJ Services, Complete Production Services, Halliburton, Key Energy Services, Patterson-UTI, RPC, Inc., Schlumberger, Superior Well Services, and Weatherford – EPA is seeking information on the chemical composition of fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing process, data on the impacts of the chemicals on human health and the environment, standard operating procedures at their hydraulic fracturing sites and the locations of sites where fracturing has been conducted. This information will be used as the basis for gathering further detailed information on a representative selection of sites. “This scientifically rigorous study will help us understand the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water – a concern that has been raised by Congress and the American people. By sharing information about the chemicals and methods they are using, these companies will help us make a thorough and efficient review of hydraulic fracturing and determine the best path forward,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Natural gas is an important part of our nation’s energy future, and it’s critical that the extraction of this valuable natural resource does not come at the expense of safe water and healthy communities. EPA will do everything in its power, as it is obligated to do, to protect the health of the American people and will respond to demonstrated threats while the study is underway.” Hydraulic fracturing is a process in which large volumes of water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressures to extract oil and natural gas from underground rock formations. The process creates fractures in formations such as shale rock, allowing natural gas or oil to escape into the well and be recovered. During the past few years, the use of hydraulic fracturing has expanded across much of the country. EPA announced in March that it will study the potential adverse impact that hydraulic fracturing may have on drinking water. To solicit input on the scope of the study, EPA is holding a series of public meetings in major oil and gas production regions to hear from citizens, independent experts and industry. The initial results of the study will be announced in late 2012. EPA will identify additional information for industry to provide – including information on fluid disposal practices and geological features – that will help EPA carry out the study. EPA has requested the information be provided on a voluntary basis within 30 days, and has asked the companies to respond within seven days to inform the agency whether they will provide all of the information sought. The data being sought by the agency is similar to information that has already been provided separately to Congress by the industry. Therefore, EPA expects the companies to cooperate with these voluntary requests. If not, EPA is prepared to use its authorities to require the information needed to carry out its study. EPA is currently working with state and local governments who play an important role in overseeing and regulating fracturing operations and are at the forefront of protecting local air and water quality from adverse impacts. View the letter on the voluntary information request: http://www.epa.gov/hydraulicfracturing
Safety and PR officials at Entergy, the Louisiana-based owner of the Pilgrim nuke plant at Plymouth, Mass., are scrambling to find the source of a radioactive tritium leak that, after new monitoring wells were dug in May, flared to unacceptable during levels July and continues to show evidence of a leak. Published reports and sources tapped by Northampton Media reveal that state public health officials are holding urgent meetings to deal with the Pilgrim’s tritium leak, and that Pilgrim plant officials meet first thing every morning to deal with the issue. While the Pilgrim leak, documented in late spring, amounts to far less of the radioactive material than was found at Vermont Yankee last year, the fact that the reactor is located next to Cape Cod Bay and is less than 40 miles from Boston, and 20 miles as the seagull flies from Provincetown, is cause for concern.Read more
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
A Pennsylvania man kayaking on a local river found a tree fossil embedded in a rock at the river's side that experts say is almost 300 million years old.
Shaun Blackham of Demont, Pa., was paddling his kayak on the Kiskiminetas River in Armstrong County in July when he spotted the fossil imprinted on the surface of a rock, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
"There it was, staring me right in the face," said Blackham, 45.
The plant fossil was 3 to 4 feet long and 10 to 14 inches wide.
From the start, one question especially has concerned the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission: Why Crystal River?Read more ·:
Why did a 42-inch-thick wall at that nuclear plant separate into two layers during a big maintenance project last fall? Other nuclear plants have done similar jobs 26 times around the country, but no one ever saw a crack like Crystal River's — a crack that has kept the plant off-line for 11 months and piled up nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in outage costs.
On Thursday, NRC officials said they think they know the answers to that question and others.
Japan is a world leader in nuclear reactor technology. That lead, however, is threatened by China, France, Korea and Russia. Moreover, failure in the American State of Texas might be the end for Japanese vendors of commercial nuclear reactors; companies which have been spearheading expansion of Japan’s globe-leading industries. This failure is threatened not by mistakes by the companies themselves, but rather by the lack of political will and foresight of the U.S. Government, a government that has lacked the leadership to pass a carbon tax and not had the vision to appropriate adequate financing for nuclear power. Fortunately, there still is time for the Japanese nuclear industry to act to save itself, and, ironically, to save America as well from its short-sighted ways.
The solution isn’t complicated—but it is not inexpensive either. It will require Japanese vendors to take the lead and secure financing for plant construction and commitments for the power produced. Only by making sure these plants are constructed as planned will Japan secure its future in this developing industry. What’s more, if the world market for carbon-free energy continues to develop as anticipated, an added benefit of a commitment to take the output of these plants may be a nice additional profit in the merchant energy market.
This article will summarize the Who, What and How the Texas projects have failed or are likely to fail and steps that can still be taken to alter the current trajectory. Japanese companies had started down the right path, and they thought they had closed sales on three nuclear projects proposed to be built in Texas. Celebration of these deals may have been premature as one project is dead, another project was ordered by a company that now lacks the balance sheet to complete it, and the last project developer appears unlikely to be able to secure financing. Having recently lost out on nuclear projects in the middle east, Japan’s success in the U.S. market is critical to demonstrating it can deliver nuclear projects in a world market and compete effectively against the Chinese, French, Koreans and Russians.
Grants for projects aimed at improving the quality of water in the Schuylkill River were announced Monday — four days before a quasi-federal agency meets to consider the fate of a nuclear power plant project which some argue could degrade the quality of that same river water. The project, which adds water to the river from an upstream mine pool and reservoir, has been running on a trial basis for seven years. Permission to make the practice permanent is being requested by Exelon Nuclear — which contributed $224,441 to the Schuylkill River Watershed Restoration fund this year — for use at its Limerick Generating Station. With an additional $100,000 coming from the Philadelphia Water Department — contributing for the first time this year — the $324,441 fund is administered by Pottstown-based Schuylkill River Heritage Area and was divided among four watershed improvement projects — one in Schuylkill County, one in Berks County, one in Montgomery County and one in Philadelphia.Read more
Entergy Nuclear is drilling four additional monitoring wells outside the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant to better define the plume of underground radioactive contamination, the company said Thursday. Drilling of the wells is being delayed for about two weeks because Entergy engineers need to review and sign off on the project, said Larry Smith, spokesman for Entergy Nuclear. Levels of tritium continue to rise in the well closest to the Connecticut River and within the mapped plume. Smith said that well, GZ14-S, was shallow and about 60 feet from the river. Tritium was measured at 370,000 picocuries per liter last week, up from 353,000 picocuries per liter on Aug. 16. That level of radioactivity is similar to water inside the reactor. A new extraction well is being drilled near GZ14-S, according to the Department of Health, and new equipment will allow Entergy to withdraw higher concentration groundwater.Read more
Three Mile Island: Mid-Cycle Performance Review and Inspection Plan
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Exelon Corp. shut its Zion nuclear power plant 12 years ago rather than make costly repairs. Now, after spending more than $132 million babysitting it on the shore of Lake Michigan, the big nuclear operator is ready to have it torn down. On Wednesday, Chicago-based Exelon, the nation's largest owner of nuclear plants, is expected to transfer its Zion nuclear licenses to EnergySolutions Inc., a nuclear waste storage and services firm in Salt Lake City, Utah, giving it full control of the Illinois site so it can oversee the demolition. Both companies say the arrangement could provide utilities with a template for disposing of nuclear plants past their useful lives. It lets a utility focus on its business and puts a contractor in charge of demolition. The contractor receives government-mandated funds set aside years ago for plant closures. Most of the recent focus on nuclear energy has concerned the cost of building new plants. But there's anxiety about dealing with old plants, too. Plant demolition poses a challenge because some equipment is radioactive and requires special handling. Radioactive waste must be sent to licensed sites or put in special storage, at the site.Read more
Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power producer, experienced renewed problems with welding quality at the EPR nuclear reactor being built in Normandy, according France’s nuclear safety agency. Faults in welds of the containment liner of the Flamanville EPR, the utility’s first in France, were found during an inspection in July, the Autorite de Surete Nucleaire said in an Aug. 27 report on its website. EDF officials weren’t immediately available for a comment. “Welding difficulties caused by the ergonomics of the welder’s post” were the cause of similar problems at the building site in 2008 and 2009 and treatment by EDF “was not performed correctly,” according to the report. The agency also said EDF was slow in detecting “inferior weld quality.” EDF’s EPR, which was designed by Areva SA, is considered key to the utility’s ability to export nuclear technology to other countries. Earlier this month, EDF was asked for modifications of the control platform on the reactor, which is delayed and will cost more than expected.Read more
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
From CNN Tech:
Imagine outfitting your house with small, affordable solar panels that plug into a socket and pump power into your electrical system instead of taking it out. That's the promise of a Seattle, Washington-based start-up that is working to provide renewable energy options -- solar panels and wind turbines -- for homes and small businesses. The panels cost as little as $600 and plug directly into a power outlet. The company, Clarian Power, aims to be the first to bring a plug-in solar power system to the market, in 2011. Clarian's president, Chad Maglaque, says the company's product is different from existing micro-inverters, which convert solar panels' power into AC current. Maglaque says his system has built-in circuit protection, doesn't require a dedicated electrical panel and plugs directly into a standard electrical outlet.
Emergency Preparedness & Response News is a quarterly newsletter that is published by NSIR/DPR to highlight recent and upcoming events of interest to the radiological emergency preparedness community.
According to Energy Daily, Entergy is looking for a buyer for its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. Two potential buyers -- Exelon Corp. and NRG Energy Inc. -- have already show an interest in the power plant, according to Jeff Beattie, a writer for Energy Daily. "Apparently fed up with the troublesome investment -- and the difficult political environment it faces in the state -- Entergy Corp. has begun shopping its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to potential buyers," wrote Beattie. Entergy declined to comment on the information given to Beattie by his sources because it's not company policy to discuss market rumors or speculation. "But we have said that as part of Entergy's ongoing point-of-view based strategy, we would consider buying or selling any asset or business depending on what option creates the most value," Entergy spokesman Mike Burns, told Beattie. Exelon, the nation's largest nuclear operator has performed at least a preliminary round of investigation into the possibility of buying Yankee, according to Beattie's sources. NRG Energy, which owns 44 percent of a pair of reactors in Texas, has also conducted preliminary reviews, wrote Beattie.Read more
Friday, September 17, 2010
The New England Coalition on Nuclear Pollution is asking the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board to reopen its hearing into whether Entergy should receive a license extension for its Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon. NEC is asking the ASLB to admit a new contention that contends Entergy does not "have in place an adequate aging management program to address the effects of moist or wet environments on buried, below grade, underground, or hard-to-access safety-related electrical cables ..." Thus, wrote Ray Shadis, NEC’s technical consultant, Yankee is not in compliance with NRC regulations "and guidance and/or provide adequate assurance of protection of public health and safety." "The problem is that these cables are rated only for dry service. They are not for outdoor use," Shadis told Vermont Public Radio earlier this week. "So what can result is that safety equipment, when you need it, can short out and not function. We think this is a very serious safety issue. We think that the company before it goes into an extended period of operation - for another 20 years - really needs to address it."Read more
A design flaw that left the Three Mile Island nuclear plant vulnerable to damage from the severest of floods was corrected by plant engineers last week. The flaw had existed since the plant was built in the 1970s, officials said. It was found by engineers on Aug. 21 in an air intake tunnel sump deep inside the Londonderry Twp. plant and reported by plant owner Exelon Nuclear to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. What engineers discovered was a 6-inch diameter pipe that could have allowed flood water into the plant, possibly damaging crucial systems used to keep the reactor from overheating. The absence of a flood barrier on the pipe “could have prevented the fulfillment of the safety function of structures or systems that are needed to remove residual heat,’’ said an NRC event report. “This condition could have resulted in the unavailability of equipment in the Auxiliary Building.”Read more
An anti-nuclear group says federal regulators need to address a potential safety problem at Vermont Yankee.Read more
The New England Coalition says Yankee's electric cables could get wet and disable safety equipment.
As VPR's John Dillon reports, the coalition has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to reopen hearings on Yankee's request for a new, 20-year license.
(Dillon) Back in May, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted a routine inspection at Vermont Yankee and noted that a number of electric cables at the plant were submerged in water. The inspectors said it's a potential safety problem because the cables aren't designed to work when wet.
Now the New England Coalition has asked the federal agency to include the cables in its review of Yankee's request for a new 20-year license. Ray Shadis is technical advisor to the New England Coalition.
Tennessee Valley Authority's 1,065-megawatt Browns Ferry 1 and 1,104-MW Browns Ferry 2 nuclear power reactors in Alabama had increased output by early Tuesday, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in its power reactor status report.Read more
The Indian Point nuclear plant is quite literally in hot water: As I reported today, the plant’s current cooling system requires huge volumes of Hudson River water, and New York State instead favors the use of cooling towers to lower the impact on fish and other river organisms. Cooling towers are common at inland plants on small rivers, where there is so little water available that using so-called once-through cooling, the system used at Indian Point, would heat the water too much. Water that passes through Indian Point’s cooling system emerges 15 degrees hotter in summer than it went in, and in the winter the temperature gain is slightly larger. But cooling towers are very rare in locations with salt water or brackish water, like the Hudson near Indian Point. One such spot is the Hope Creek nuclear plant, near the southern tip of New Jersey.Read more
Facility: THREE MILE ISLAND
Event Number: 46194
Event Date: 08/21/2010
FLOOD BARRIERS NEEDED TO PROTECT SAFETY RELATED EQUIPMENT MISSING "On August 21, 2010 an inspection of the Air Intake Tunnel (AIT) sump identified missing flood barriers needed to protect safety related equipment in the plant. If enough flood water had entered into the AIT, water could have entered into the Auxiliary Building (AB) through the ventilation ductwork that connects the AIT and the AB. If flood water continued to enter the AB, then safety related equipment in the AB could have been affected. "This condition could have resulted in the unavailability of equipment in the Auxiliary Building including the 1A and 1B Decay Heat pumps, the 1A and 1B Building Spray pumps and 1A, 1B and 1C Make-up Pumps. This is reportable as an 8 hour ENS notification under 10CFR50.72(b)(3)(v)(B) and 10CFR50.72(a)(1)(ii) as a condition that at the time of discovery could have prevented the fulfillment of the safety function of structures or systems that are needed to remove residual heat. "Flood protection barriers have been established for the affected penetrations. Inspections of the flood protection barriers are ongoing. Further engineering review is being performed to determine the impact of the potential water intrusion into the AIT and AB." The licensee notified the NRC Resident Inspector. The licensee will notify the Pennsylvania Bureau of Radiation Protection.
This letter is in response to your letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) dated June 14, 2010, concerning prevention of safety problems at coastal nuclear plants that could be caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (Gulf oil spill). In your June 14, 2010, letter, you sought assurances that the proper federal and state agencies are working in a coordinated and comprehensive effort to prevent safety problems at coastal nuclear plants related to the Gulf oil spill. We understand your inquiry regarding the monitoring of subsurface oil plumes has been addressed in a letter from Captain Kevin C. Kiefer, Staff Director of the U. S. Coast Guard (USCG), National Incident Command (NIC) to TMI Alert, Attn: Scott Portzline, dated July 21,2010.Download ML1022300609 to read more
From the Rutland Herald:
In the Aug.10 public radio program “Vermont Edition,” the three Republican candidates to the U.S. House of Representatives discussed briefly our energy policy. Two candidates voiced a strong, but misguided support for the fast breeder nuclear reactors, and the statement was made that “we should build fast breeders, recycle the nuclear waste and get rid of it, instead of leaving it to our children.”
Nothing is farther from the truth. Although we hear it often, fast breeders cannot recycle waste and get rid of it. Nuclear power is generated by the fission of nuclear fuel, and each fission creates two radioactive fission products. Therefore, the fission products accumulate during the reactor operation, regardless of the type of reactor or the type of fuel considered. The more reactors operate, the more fission products we will have to deal with. There is no physical way to “burn” or recycle this waste. Fission products are here to stay until their natural decay transmutes them into something else. Unfortunately, this decay process can last for thousands of years.
From the Brattleboro Reformer:
In its report to the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Committee, submitted on July 26 and released to the public on Aug. 12, Fairewinds Associates, which is operated by Arnie and Maggie Gundersen, wrote that state agencies conspired to "belittle the accurate analysis of Fairewinds Associates, Inc. rather than investigate the existence of underground pipes at (Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant)."
Fairewinds Associates was commissioned to perform a number of assessments of Yankee for the JFC.
Arnie Gundersen was a member of the Public Oversight Panel that reviewed a reliability assessment of Yankee commissioned by the state. The assessment was meant to inform the state on whether the power plant should gain approval to continue its operation past 2012, its license expiration date. Entergy, which owns and operates Yankee, has applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to extend its license. The NRC has yet to issue its decision, but the state Legislature voted earlier this year against Yankee's continued operation.
Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, Units 2 and 3: Acceptance of License Amendment Request Related to Extending Completion Time for Technical Specification 3.1.7, "Standby Liquid Control system" (TAC Nos. ME3598 and ME3599)
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Susquehanna Steam Electric Station - NRC Integrated Inspection Report 05000387/2010003 and 05000388/2010003 Download ML102250028 (PDF)