Monthly Archives: February 2011

41st Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs

Energy density matters ~ graphic courtesy of Pop Atomic Studios

The 41st Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is up at CoolHandNuke. The carnival is a weekly round-up of the best blog posts from  the leading nuclear bloggers in the United States.

If you want to hear the voice of the nuclear  renaissance, the Carnival of Nuclear Energy Blogs is where to find it.

Past editions have been hosted at NEI Nuclear Notes, Next Big Future, Atomic Insights, Idaho Samizdat, ANS Nuclear Cafe, Canadian Energy Issues, and Yes Vermont Yankee, in addition to several other popular nuclear energy blog sites.

If you have a pro-nuclear energy blog and would like to host an edition of the carnival, please contact  Brian Wang at Next Big Future to get on the rotation.

This is a great collaborative effort that deserves your support. Please post a Tweet, a Facebook entry, or a link on your Web site or blog to support the carnival.

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The NN World List of Nuclear Power Plants

The hard-copy March edition of Nuclear News will soon be in the hands of American Nuclear Society members. That edition will also be available electronically to members. The edition contains the 13th Annual Reference Issue, which includes a 34-page special section on the World List of Nuclear Power Plants. The special section includes:

  • Notes on the 2011 World List of Nuclear Power Plants
  • The World List of Nuclear Power Plants
  • Power Reactors by Nation; Power Reactors by Type, Worldwide
  • Abbreviations Used in the List
  • Nuclear Power Plants No Longer in Service
  • Maps of Commercial Nuclear Power Plants Worldwide
  • U.S. Power Reactor License Renewal
  • New Power Reactor Projects in the United States; U.S. Power Reactor Ownership/Operator Changes

In addition, the March issue features a Q&A article with Doug Kothe, director of the Consortium for Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL), a project announced by the Department of Energy in 2009 as part of its Energy Innovation Hub initiative. CASL’s mission is to create a virtual environment for predictive simulation of light-water reactors.

Dome removed from the Hector reactor

Other items of note in the March issue include news about GE Hitachi’s ESBWR, Westinghouse’s AP1000, and Toshiba’s ABWR nearing design certification; the NRC’s pressing of TVA on Watts Bar-2 fire protection; the final environmental impact statement for Calvert Cliffs-3, which awaits additional information from UniStar; Shaw’s temporary halting of module prototype work at a fabrication facility; the denial of one petition and the proposing of others in the license renewal proceeding for Vermont Yankee; Holtec’s creation of a subsidiary to develop a small modular reactor design; the NRC’s easing of Oconee inspections and increasing oversight of Robinson-2; the GAO’s review of guidelines for securing smart grid systems; the NNSA’s work in West Africa on border security; Brazil’s and Argentina’s signing of an agreement to build research reactors; GE Hitachi signing of supply agreements with two Polish companies; the withdrawal of major investors from Romania’s Cernavoda-3 and -4 project; news of the political turmoil that erupted in Egypt as a nuclear tender was planned; Canada’s Bruce Power’s plan to ship decommissioned steam generators to a Swedish recycling facility; EDF’s adding to its nuclear decommissioning fund; the NRC extending the time period for on-site storage of used nuclear fuel; a dome removed from a heavy-water test reactor at Savannah River Site; General Electric’s closing on a $3-billion deal to acquire Dresser Inc.; Westinghouse signing of an agreements on fuel fabrication, AP1000 deployment in China; high-energy collisions at Large Hadron Collider are delayed until 2014; USEC looks to continue operations at Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant; U.S., international partners establish the National Center for Radioecology; and the NRC issues notice to medical licensees on release of patients treated with iodine.

Past issues of Nuclear News, including the February issue, are available here.

This post first appeared on the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

ANS president-elect Eric Loewen visits City College of New York

American Nuclear Society president-elect Eric Loewen on February 17 visited the City College of New York (CCNY). Loewen presented a talk during the noon hour on “Nuclear Reactor Physics at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl” to an audience of about 40 engineering faculty members and students. Most students were from CCNY’s mechanical or chemical engineering programs and have taken, or are currently taking, at least one of the college’s nuclear engineering concentration courses:

  • Reactor physics
  • Thermal hydraulics
  • Nuclear Power Plant Safety
  • Nuclear power plant design/operation

Following the presentation, Loewen met with the students in the nuclear program, answered their questions, and gave them individualized advice on how to set a path for a career in the nuclear industry.  Loewen’s presentation was part of a lecture series that has included other speakers in the past and will include other speakers in the future.

“I’ve received nothing but praise about Eric’s presentation,” said Charles Sosa, a nuclear engineering student who invited Loewen to the college. “I’ve spoken to all nuclear engineering concentration students at CCNY, including other engineering students and faculty who are not involved in the nuclear program, and all were thoroughly impressed by the mixture of science and humor that Eric incorporated into his presentation.”

Loewen speaks at CCNY

The concentration program

In spring 2010, the CCNY Grove School of Engineering started the concentration in nuclear engineering for its mechanical and chemical engineering  students. The program is run by CCNY Professor Masahiro Kawaji. An ANS Student Club was formed in 2010 as a direct result of the enthusiasm expressed by students to expand education beyond the classroom by attending ANS conferences and hosting talks by scientists and engineers in the nuclear industry. CCNY is currently working to get the student club recognized as an official ANS Student Section.

Loewen and CCNY engineering faculty and students (Sosa is standing furthest left)

The seeds for Loewen’s visit were sown in 2010, when Loewen gave a talk at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) about his nuclear fuel cycle work for GE-Hitachi. Sosa was a student researcherat GISS under the NASA MUST (Motivating Undergraduate and Science and Technology) program and briefly met with Loewen before his fuel cycle presentation.

Afterward, Sosa entered the nuclear engineering concentration program in conjunction with his CCNY mechanical engineering studies. Students in the concentration program are encouraged to bring industry experts to give lectures, and so Sosa reached out to Loewen, informed him about the newly formed nuclear program at CCNY, explained that the student body is enthusiastic about nuclear energy, and invited him to visit.

Future activities

The Grove School of Engineering

The concentration program and the CCNY ANS students are planning to continue a guest lecturer series highlighting the nuclear industry. John Yoshinari, chief operating officer of GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, on February 24 presented “The Technical and Financial Aspects of the Nuclear Business.” The nuclear concentration program is planning two nuclear energy plant visits—to the Indian Point and Salem facilities. A visit to Brookhaven National Laboratory is also being scheduled.

2011 nuclear technology scholarships

The Mississippi Section of the American Nuclear Society is offering two $1000 college scholarships to Mississippi high school graduates or college undergraduates. Scholarship winners are chosen from state-wide applications.

The application deadline is May 1, 2011.

“Selection gets harder every year because of the high caliber of students applying,” said Ryan Doerr, ANS Scholarship chair. Doerr is a senior engineer in procurement engineering at Entergy’s national nuclear fleet headquarters in Jackson, Miss. This is the sixth year that the Mississippi section of ANS has offered scholarships that encourage student interest in nuclear science, technology, and related fields.

The ANS scholarships are awarded to Mississippi students who will be enrolled or are currently enrolled full-time in college courses in science, mathematics and/or technical areas. Recipients are chosen based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities, an essay, and letters of recommendation from counselors and teachers.

To apply for the scholarship and for more information, go here.

The Mississippi Chapter of ANS is located at the Entergy Nuclear national fleet headquarters in Jackson, Miss., and at Entergy”s Grand Gulf nuclear plant in Port Gibson, Miss., with membership from area health care and nuclear power professionals promoting the awareness and understanding of the application of nuclear science and technology.  The chapter’s website is here.

Established in 1954, ANS is a professional organization of scientists and engineers devoted to the applications of nuclear science and technology. Its 11 500 members come from diverse technical disciplines ranging from physics and nuclear safety to operations and power, across the full spectrum of the national and international nuclear enterprise including government, academia, research laboratories,  and private industry. The ANS website is here.

Thoughts on meeting the Clean Energy target

By George Stanford

President Obama has declared “a bold but achievable goal of generating 80 percent of America’s electricity from clean sources by 2035.” How we are to get there is not spelled out, so there is room for speculation about just what the administration has in mind.

In searching for enlightenment, one might turn to the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administra­tion (EIA), which projects energy supply and demand to 2035.  The EIA predicted in December 2010 that electricity consumption will grow “from 3,745 billion kilowatt-hours in 2009 to 4,880 billion kilowatt-hours in 2035 . . . , increasing at an average annual rate of 1.0 percent.”  Well and good, but the EIA is of no help on the clean energy front. The agency’s accompanying chart would seem to be seriously out of step with Obama’s 80-percent goal, because it foresees 68 percent coming from coal and natural gas in 2035.

But wait a minute—we haven’t yet discovered what constitutes a “clean source.”  For that, we can perhaps go to the U.S. Senate and look at “S.20—Clean Energy Standard Act of 2010”—a bill introduced last year but never voted on, which is probably just as well. Its definitions of “clean energy” could drive a person to drink. There are 13 categories of clean energy, labeled (A) through (L), many of them with definitions convoluted enough to curl your toes.  (If you feel up to it, brace yourself and read the bill.)

I will comment only on category (I), “qualified nuclear energy,” whose definition, while surprising, seems at first to be not at all complex. Here it is: “The term ‘qualified nuclear energy’ means energy from a nuclear generating unit placed in service on or after the date of enactment of this section.” In other words, the output of the 104 currently operating nuclear power plants in the United States would not qualify as clean according to the Clean Energy Standard Act of 2010—except some of it might, after all, because there is this added complexity: “incremental” nuclear energy from current plants does qualify as clean (with limitations I won’t go into, but you can read about them in the bill):

“(13) INCREMENTAL NUCLEAR PRODUCTION- The term `incremental nuclear production’ means the incremental quantity of energy generated by an existing nuclear facility over the average quantity of energy generated at the facility during the preceding 3-year period that is attributable to permanent efficiency improvements or capacity additions made on or after the date of enactment of this section.”

The point of all this is that there’s no telling what weird and wonderful national energy policy will emerge as the vector sum of the various political forces influencing the decision-making process.

From a simple-minded technical viewpoint, the president’s 80 percent target should mean that four-fifths of our electricity would be generated by nuclear and the non-nuclear renewables by 2035, with the remaining one-fifth from fossil fuels. Using the EIA’s numbers, we have average electricity consumption of 427 GW (in 2009) growing to 557 GW in 2035, of which 445 GW would be from carbon-free sources—mainly nuclear—and 111 GW from coal and gas (currently  about 340 GW).  Note that with today’s 100-odd GW of nuclear power excluded from the “clean” category as defined in S.20, the 80 percent goal leads to 545 GW from carbon-free sources and 11 GW from coal.

To me, even the first of those outcomes seems too unrealistic (politically, not technically) to be contemplated by President Obama or Energy Secretary Chu.  Presumably, then, their assumption is that large-scale carbon sequestration will become practical. Or maybe the creative souls who came up with the definitions in S.20 will work some more semantic magic. But few goals are cast in concrete, and most likely this one will be modified as time passes.

Let’s face it—the United States is constitutionally unable to formulate and implement a coherent, rational, long-term energy policy. As it becomes increasingly evident that nuclear fission is destined to supply the bulk of the world’s energy needs, our erstwhile international leadership in the development and deployment of the technology continues to recede.

We live in interesting times.

Stanford

George Stanford is a nuclear reactor physicist, part of the team that developed the Integral Fast Reactor. He is now retired from Argonne National Laboratory after a career of experimental work pertaining to power-reactor safety. He is the co-author of Nuclear Shadowboxing: Contemporary Threats from Cold War Weaponry.

The nuclear-themed Indy cars

By Paul Bowersox

IndyCar is the premier open wheel racing series in the United States. IndyCar features street races, road races, and oval track races around the country, including the world famous Indianapolis 500. “Indy cars” are technologically quite sophisticated, as they are built only for racing. One particular Indy car this season will be sporting a clean, new nuclear-themed look, courtesy of the Entergy, the second largest owner and operator of nuclear power plants in the United States.

2011 "Nuclear Clean Air Energy" IndyCar

Nuclear energy’s hardest-driving spokesperson: Racer Simona de Silvestro

De Silvestro

The race car,  no. 78, is driven by one of the most promising young drivers in open-wheel racing, 22-year-old Simona de Silvestro, winner of the 2010 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Award.

De Silvestro dominated the developmental 2009 Atlantic Championship Series. She was the first woman in Atlantic Championship history to earn the most wins and pole positions, and to lead the most laps in a single season. In 2010, de Silvestro moved up to the top tier IndyCar Series. She led the field for several laps in her very first IndyCar race in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and finished in the top 10 in races in Toronto and Ohio. Entergy sponsored her in the 2010 Indianapolis 500, where she carried the message of emission-free nuclear energy on her racing uniform and racing car to an impressive 14th place rookie finish.

Entergy sponsored de Silvestro in the 2010 Indy 500 race

Enter Entergy with a new three-year sponsorship

Pit crew unveils 2011 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car

On January 24, 2011, Entergy Corporation made the official announcement of a new three-year primary sponsorship for de Silvestro and her team, HVM Racing. This rare long-term sponsorship, and the all new look of car no. 78, are the latest in Entergy’s Nuclear Clean Air Energy national education campaign. This campaign has reached millions of fans at racetracks, college campuses, and community events with its message of promoting emission-free nuclear power. These important exhibits and events use the eye-catching car to open up essential one-on-one discussions between the public and nuclear engineers, and to aid in recruiting prospective employees for the nuclear sector.

De Silvestro and fans

At the official announcement of Entergy’s sponsorship, an elated de Silvestro said, “It’s pretty special to have a sponsor like Entergy and to have such an important campaign as the Nuclear Clean Air Energy initiative. It’s a great message.” John Herron, Entergy chief nuclear officer, added at the sponsorship announcement, “Education is key to smarter energy consumers, and doing so with a young role model like Simona couldn’t be better.” De Silvestro is widely known in the racing circuit as affable, very approachable, genuinely pro-nuclear, and a fan favorite with a huge following.

Simona de Silvestro discusses her 2010 racing season here.

Simona de Silvestro gets her memory tested when she is asked to trace the Barber Motorsports course while blindfolded:

The ANS IndyCar Outreach Program

The story of nuclear promotion in open wheel racing spans nearly two decades. Denis Beller, research professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas (UNLV) and an American Nuclear Society Landis Public Communication & Education Award winner, was instrumental in using Indy cars to promote nuclear technology: “We had this wonderful source of electricity, medical breakthroughs, industrial applications… [in 1994] I was an IndyCar fan who had observed racing being used to successfully promote many organizations and causes, and I thought ‘Why not nuclear?'”

De Silvestro and Beller at Entergy's 2011 sponsorship announcement event

“I called Carl Haas at Newman-Haas Racing and explained my idea [in 1994, eight years before being introduced to Haas’s partner Paul Newman],” said Beller, “and he suggested that I call Dick Simon, co-owner of Dick Simon Racing. I also called Sharon Kerrick at ANS, and she got it instantly.” With approval from the ANS board of directors, Beller and Dick Simon Racing decided to put nuclear decals on the Simon team’s show car for the ANS Winter Meeting. Thus was born the ANS IndyCar Outreach Program.

IndyCar Outreach nuclear communications exhibit, 1996

“My wife and I towed the car [and showed it] all over the country during 1995,” said Beller. Among these very successful early exhibits were showings at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering Expo, the Mall of America in Minnesota, Northern States Power headquarters in Minnesota, Milwaukee Machine Tool Expo, Purdue University in Indiana, the Toronto Grand Prix, and, of course, the Indy 500.

Complementary exhibits by ANS local and student sections at many events promoted the benefits of nuclear energy to the public, policymakers, some celebrities, and often local television crews.

Beller, Newman, and Wachs

In 2002, Beller was introduced to actor and racing enthusiast Paul Newman. Beller hosted visits by Newman to the Department of Energy’s proposed Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada and to a nuclear waste recycling research project at UNLV. During the visits, nuclear issues were discussed. Newman, who eventually became a strong proponent of nuclear energy, co-founded Newman Wachs Racing (NWR) in 2006 with fellow racing enthusiast Eddie Wachs.

Several companies formed by Wachs are involved in nuclear design, modification, repair, maintainance, and decommissioning, and Beller wanted to meet Wachs and tour the companies. “We met on a Monday, and after quite a bit of discussion, he invited me to dinner,” said Beller. “We came up with the idea of the philanthropic use of their cars to promote nuclear power and ANS. Sharon Kerrick quickly got permission from ANS to put its decals on the race cars. By Thursday, NWR’s marketing exec was flying to a race in Mexico with ANS’s decals in her bags.” At the race that weekend in 2006 in Monterrey, Mexico, the ANS logo appeared prominently on the air for several minutes via the in-car camera.

ANS logo on 2006 NWR Car rear wing

Go Nuclear!

With the success of the Monterrey race, nuclear decals on NWR cars eventually expanded to a full ‘Go Nuclear!’ livery. The new look on exhibit helped with setting a student recruitment record into the nuclear program at Purdue University in 2006, and in 2007 local and student ANS sections set up very successful nuclear communications exhibits at races in San Jose, Denver, Las Vegas, and Road America [Wisconsin]. Of course, the car’s message was unmistakable on the racetrack.

Go Nuclear! car at Road America Wisconsin race 2006

Nuclear Clean Air Energy 2008

After two years of nuclear logos and livery on NWR cars, by 2008 the continuous efforts of Beller and other key ANS members had attracted the attention of Entergy, the Nuclear Energy Institute, and the newly-formed Nuclear Clean Air Energy campaign. That year, then-19-year-old de Silvestro drove Newman and his partner Wachs to their first Atlantic Championship victory in the 2008 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car.

2008 Long Beach Grand Prix champion

Newman-Wachs 2008 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car and driver

“My wife Judy deserves much of the credit for this whole thing,” said Beller. “She traveled with me all over the country towing the Indy show car, helped me unload the car from trailers and trucks and maneuver it into some very tight spots and move it up and down ramps—it had no engine or brakes and was very valuable—and she set up and ran exhibits sometimes 12 or more hours a day, stood by me at professional meetings, worked with ANS students, took thousands of photographs, convinced nuclear industry leaders that it would work, and so much more.”

There was a lot of support from many prominent people in ANS, “including then-President Alan Waltar of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Don Hoffman at Excel Services, Sharon Kerrick at ANS,” said Beller. “I thank every ANS member who has helped with exhibits or who has otherwise supported my many public communication efforts.”

Newman, longtime nuclear racing supporter Hoffman, and Wachs in 2006

De Silvestro with the last word and hopefully first place

Beller with 2011 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Indycar

When de Silvestro later moved to HVM Racing, Entergy’s interest in her ability to promote nuclear energy followed, with a sponsorship at the 2010 Indy 500, and now this year’s multi-year racing sponsorship. The first and lead spokesperson for Nuclear Clean Air Energy, de Silvestro perhaps summed it up best before the 2010 Indy 500 race: “Clean energy generation is a key issue globally, and I’m glad to be representing an industry that is a viable, green option.”

Look for the talented young driver in a new, clean green-and-white nuclear-themed car beneath the checkered flag this Indy racing season—along with a message of support for clean nuclear energy.

Bowersox

Paul Bowersox is a new open-wheel auto racing enthusiast and freelance writer who lives near Mid-Ohio Speedway and holds a master’s degree in science policy.

He is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

Nuclear budget proposals for FY 2012

By Jim Hopf

The Obama administration, and the Department of Energy, recently released their fiscal year 2012 budget request for nuclear related programs. The budget request is pretty favorable to nuclear, given the current pressure in Washington to cut spending.

Request details

The administration is, again, requesting an additional $36 billion in new nuclear plant loan guarantee volume, which would increase the total loan guarantee volume to $54 billion. This request was made last year, but was not appropriated by Congress. This increase in loan guarantee volume would increase the total number of covered projects to 9–13 reactors.

With respect to nuclear-related research and development, overall spending was reduced slightly (~3 percent), from $775 million to $754 million, versus the 2010 budget. (2011 spending was based on a continuing resolution, from the 2010 budget.) There are significant changes in funding, however—new initiatives, the termination of some existing funded programs, and some rearrangement and reorganization of some of the ongoing R&D efforts.

The most significant new initiative concerns small modular reactors (SMRs).  The budget request includes $100 million in support for SMR development.  This includes $67 million for sharing the licensing and development costs with industry for multiple light-water SMR designs. An additional $33 million is applied to general SMR R&D. Also increasing is the funding for fuel cycle R&D, which increased from $132 million to $155 million.

Programs that have been reduced include the Nuclear Power 2010 program, which is zeroed out because the DOE believes that the program has achieved its objective, and the Next Generation Nuclear Plant project, whose funding was reduced to $50 million. The Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems R&D program has been zeroed out, but most of that research will be funded under the new “Reactor Concepts Research” and “Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies” R&D programs, which together have a similar overall funding level.

One area of concern with the new budget request is the fact that the administration has zeroed out the $5 million in DOE funding for the “Integrated University Program.” This program was jointly funded by the NRC and the DOE in the past. The NRC has also not requested funds for this program for the new year. In response to the need for large numbers of new graduates in the nuclear field, universities across the country used the previous funding to create large numbers of nuclear faculty positions. With the cut off in funding, those universities will find it difficult to actually fill those positions.

House budget proposals

The administration’s budget request must, of course, be approved by Congress.  Details are still sketchy, but it appears at present that the budget being considered by the House is less supportive of nuclear than the administration’s budget request.

Initial indications are that the House budget reduces overall nuclear R&D spending (for FY 2012) by $131 million, including a $70-million reduction in the budget for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant. The overall DOE science budget is reduced by roughly $1 billion.

With respect to loan guarantees, the House is considering eliminating all non-nuclear loan guarantees. While the budget would not eliminate the current ($18.5 billion) nuclear loan guarantee volume, it would not increase the loan guarantee volume, as requested by the administration.

Several amendments to the House budget bill have been filed, including amendments that seek to reinstate loan guarantees for renewables, and amendments that seek to remove all funding for the Yucca Mountain project and for any NRC licensing activities related to Yucca Mountain. None of these amendments are considered likely to pass, however.

Senate actions

How the Senate will react to both the administration’s and the House’s budget proposals remains to be seen. There is also significant bipartisan movement in the Senate to develop and introduce Clean Energy Standard (CES) legislation that would, of course, have a dramatic impact on nuclear’s future prospects. The CES is also supported (and being pushed) by the administration. It is unclear, however, if any such standard will be able to pass in the House.

Hopf

Jim Hopf is a senior nuclear engineer at EnergySolutions, with 20 years’ experience in shielding and criticality analysis and design for spent fuel dry storage and transportation systems. He has been involved in nuclear advocacy for 10 years, and is a member of the ANS Public Information Committee. He is a regular contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.