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On Nuclear Energy: The Sixty-Year Pitch

Pilgrim was offline because the external grid, which sends electricity to the plant, went down. The plant shut down safely as a result. There was no mechanical or electrical failure at the plant as a result of the storm.  

February 18, 2015    View Comment    

On Calling Out Red Herrings about MOX Fuel for TVA

No, the MOX fuel will be fabricated from a combination at weapons grade plutonium and uranium.

However, MOX fuel can be made from spent fuel, but that is not being done here.


September 10, 2012    View Comment    

On With Jaczko out, is Magwood in?

It is incorrect to state that Magwood "orchestrated a failed coup"

As Matt Wald reported this morning for the NYTimes

“…Dr. Jaczko’s management of the agency rubbed his fellow commissioners the wrong way. Last year, all four of them — two Democrats and two Republicans — sent a letter to the White House chief of staff complaining about his management style. When the letter became public, the four commissioners told a House committee in December that Dr. Jaczko had withheld information from them, unprofessionally berated the agency’s professional staff and reduced female employees to tears with abusive comments. They said he had created a ‘chilled’ atmosphere that was hurting the agency’s ability to function.”



May 22, 2012    View Comment    

On Don't Believe the Fantasy Job Claims on Keystone XL: It's Not in Our Best Interest

The author writes . . .

<begin snip>

The truth about this project is that a Canadian company wants to run this pipeline through the heartland of the United States for the purpose of transporting the toxic sludge known as tar sands bitumen to Gulf of Mexico refineries.

<end snip>

There are some realities of the pipeline business that need to be brought into the dialog.

Bitumin, which you call "toxic sludge," cannot be transported by pipelines.  The oil that would come through the Keystone pipeline from the Alberta tar sands has to have a viscosity necessary to allow it to flow continuously over thousands of miles and through multiple pumping stations. The producers process the bitumen there to get it to flow. Otherwise, it would never wind up with buyers.

Pipeline owners have huge incentives not to allow leaks to occur because of the cost of the lost oil and the subsequent cleanup costs wipe out profits.

With regard to jobs, for any pipeline project is important to make a distinction between construction jobs and permanent jobs.  The big numbers are on the construction side.  Permanent jobs are relatively small in number since pumping stations are highly automated. 

Finally, the U.S. needs two things to achieve energy independence. The first is more oil, and the second is more oil refining capacity.  Like it or not the transportation segment in terms of energy consumption will be using refined oil products for a long time.  Every time a refinery shuts down, and there is no replacement capacity, it insures that the U.S. will import more gasoline, diesel and airline fuel, etc.

Unless you want to see $10/gallon gasoline, which is where Japan is headed, I suggest more attention be devoted to figuring out how to make the Keystone Pipeline a workable project instead of a political football in the 2012 presidential election.

None of these points implies in any way that air pollution controls aren't relevant or needed for this or any other extractive industry that requires processing once the product is taken out of the ground.


January 15, 2012    View Comment    

On “I Vote for Energy …”

There is always a risk of misunderstanding when satire and the unvarnished version are posted in the same space.  For instance, the movie "Thank you for not smoking," which has a title based on the Surgeon General's warning, was initially widely misunderstood even though it is a satire. 

Here's a link to information about that movie IMDB link

January 9, 2012    View Comment    

On White House Issues Apology By Jaczko

Take a look at my tweets @djysrv today from the House Oversight Hearing. There are documented charges of Jaczko bullying, brow beating, and having emotional tantrums in the office.  Also, there are several clear instances of Jaczko with holding information from other commissioners when by law they had a right to see it.

The letter from the four commissioners to WH CoS Daley, cited below, is unnerving in its specifics about his behavior.

On the other hand, in my blog post about the webinar I had with Jaczko, I noted he was fully prepared and completely professional in every respect.  



December 14, 2011    View Comment    

On Nuclear Power at a Crossroads

Tyler Hamilton's views opposing nuclear energy are long standing so this latest column should not surprise anyone.  What may surprise him is that I agree with one of his points. In the U.S. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has done little to open the door to review of new small modular reactor designs and to fast reactors.

That's why Bill Gates, yes that billionaire, is touting his TerraPower fast reactor in China and NuScale, which has a conventional 45 MW light water reactor in test phase, is marketing it to India.

B&W which is developing a 125 MW light water reactor is so wary of the uncertainties of the new Part 52 approval process for a combined construction and operating license that it has gone back to the Part 50 process which separately grants these licenses. And it takes the deep pockets of the Tennessee Valley Authority as a partner to go down this path.

December 11, 2011    View Comment    

On The Discussion Continues: Nuclear Power in Japan

The Dahli Lama seems to think nuclear energy is a good idea. I suggest that's a pretty good citation for "spirtual" support for this technology.  See my report here.

I have long felt that much of the debate over nuclear versus renewables is tied up in philosophical and lifestyle concerns as well as hard engineering and economic analysis. I think that some of the push back on nuclear is  its larger than human scale of industrial organization, its technological opacity and its de facto symbolism of being a monument to advanced industrial civilization.

 People are overwhelmed by the scale of industrial society and, without adequate education, seek a simple framework that includes solar and wind power.

 Why do these renewables have high public acceptance?

 First, they are transparent technologies. People readily grasp how they work. Aside from Walt Disney's example of bouncing ping pong balls sprung from mousetraps, it remains a challenge for people in the nuclear field to explain how a nuclear reactor really works.

 Second, if wind or solar projects fail, the effects are local with no risk of invisible ionizing radiation.

 Third, green groups have promoted them as "lifestyle" technologies, e.g., work on these energy projects and you will be “doing good” for the planet.  By branding solar and wind technologies with social acceptance, green groups leverage the normal human emotional desire people have to be admired for the work that they do.

 I feel the challenge for the nuclear energy industry is to promote science and engineering education, starting in high school, that creates a better understanding of energy technologies, and to shift the debate back to economics, fuel independence and energy efficiency.

 This challenge is made more complicated by the fact that anti-nuclear groups use a second tactic which is to scare people away from nuclear and towards solar and wind.  For example, anti-nuclear groups will include a picture of an mushroom cloud from an atomic bomb test on their web site even though commercial reactors in service to generate electricity are not used to make weapons grade materials.

 Fear evokes a powerful set of emotional responses. This combines with the desire of people to be liked and to avoid not being liked for supporting nuclear, an energy source they can’t understand or explain.

Abe Lincoln said, “We should be too big to take offense and too noble to give it.” Truth be known, nuclear power advocates accept the fact that all energy sources will be needed to meet growing demand for electricity. While our intent is not to defame other sources that are non-polluting like nuclear, it is time to stand our ground in a more visible way for the positive aspects of nuclear energy – safe, clean, reliable, affordable.

 Dan Yurman, publisher of Idaho Samizdat, a blog about nuclear energy

 Citation: Mousetrap fission


November 30, 2011    View Comment    

On Dalai Lama: Look At Nuclear Energy Holistically

Readers might be interested to know that the fluorine which is used to etch solar cells can come from its recovery from the process of enriching uranium to 5% U235.  That's the fissile isotope of uranium that "burns" in commercial nuclear reactors.

The way it works is that U238, which is 0.7% U235 in raw form, is converted to a gaseous state by combining it with hydrofluoric acid producing UF6.  Then the gas is spun in centrifuges at upwards of 7200 RPM separating the lighter and heavier isotopes. U235 is lighter than U238 so it can be collected and combined with U238 to produce fuel for nuclear reactors at 5% U235. 

The leftover "tails" of "depleted uranium" can be reprocessed through a "deconversion" priocess removing the fluorine for re-use.  High purity hydrofluoric acid recovered from the UF6 is used to etch computer chips, and solar cells, for industrial and commercial applications.

It is ironic that the solar industry gets some of its components manufactured in this manner. 

As for the future of renewables, Japan remains less than 50% self sufficient on food which is why it need high value manufacturing exports to pay for food imports.  It is unlikely Japan will turn off its nuclear reactors, permanently, any time soon for that reason.  You can't run auto factories and their component supply chains on solar and wind energy with today's technologies. 

The laws of physics, which govern battery storage, are also limiting factors.  It does make sense to use renewables on top of baseload electricity supplies, but you can't use them for on demand peaking.

November 12, 2011    View Comment    

On Dalai Lama: Look At Nuclear Energy Holistically

The Dalai Lama's remarks were widely reported by the mainstream news media in Japan and the U.S.  I don't have any reason to doubt the accuracy of the reporting, which included an article in the Wall Street Journal.

As a pro-nuclear blogger, in terms of the Dalai Lama's remarks, I should note that no one in my world saw that one coming.



November 10, 2011    View Comment    

On Crystal Clear Lessons from Solyndra

The financial failure of Solyndra is a symptom of an over abundance of enthusiasm for solar energy by the Obama White House.  Accoding to media reports, the White House interferred in the loan guarantee process that awarded the Department of Energy's $535 million in coverage to the firm's investors.  The Atlantic Wire has this to say about that.

"Back in May, ABC News reported that the Obama administration had "bypassed procedural steps meant to protect taxpayers as it hurried to approve an energy loan guarantee to a politically-connected California solar power startup." That company was Solyndra and one of its primary financial backers was Oklahoma oil billionaire George Kaiser, who bundled at least $50,000 for Obama during his 2008 campaign."

At least the investors walk away with their initial capital. The firm's employees, suppliers, and customers are not so fortunate.  This isn't the first time or the last an ambitious technology with high profile backing goes bust.

Mr. Harris is correct that the firm's failure is not a signal that there are fundamentals gone wrong with the conventional solar panel industry.  It is a symbol of business as usual in the nation's capital.


September 4, 2011    View Comment    

On Nukes Gone Wild

I am concerned about what I see as creeping "nuclear exceptionalism.'  Lou writes . . .

"This is not to imply that we’ll execute renewable energy projects perfectly, but you can’t escape the issue of the costs and consequences of a screw up. If you totally botch a wind farm or concentrating solar project you waste money and fail to deliver the promised electricity. That’s certainly not a good thing for anyone involved, but you’re not forcing the government, businesses, and individuals to measure and worry about radioactivity for years or decades, and you’re not incurring a huge decommissioning cost. You can tear down a huge wind farm and build one just like it somewhere else for a tiny percentage of the costs Japan will have to pay for Fukushima over the next several decades."

If you look at the fossil industry, there are similar risks to human health and the environment. For instance, last year eight people lost their lives in an explosion in California in a residential neiborhood due to a failed gas line.  Or how about the huge coal power plant tailings dam that burst in Tennessee in 2009 destroying entire subdivisions and flowing in a major river?

My point is that risks are comparable in terms of safety issues and so are decommisioning costs.

June 23, 2011    View Comment