Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Episode 74 - The Renewable Question, News & Events


Download the Audio File Here

In this podcast I discuss the question “Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?” that I first posed in a recent blog post.

In addition, I added the following discussion of recent news and events:

Indian Point License Extension Proceeds Despite Anti-Nuclear Hurdles

Despite barriers erected by anti-nuclear groups to block the license renewal for the Indian Point nuclear reactors, the two unit nuclear plant in NY has passed two major hurdles in the life extension process.

  • On August 12 NRC issued their final safety evaluation report and concluded there are no safety issues that would preclude running the plants for another 20 years.

  • On Sept 23 the independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards, and independent team of experts that advice the NRC, recommended that the license extension be granted.

Unless renewed, the current licenses expire in 2013 and 2015.

In 2007 the anti-nuclear group Riverkeeper filed five contentions opposing the 20 year license extensions. The NRC granted Riverkeeper a hearing to review arguments on three of their five contentions. In those hearings Riverkeeper was unable to provide sufficient evidence to support their claims and the NRC ruled the contentions had no merit.

On the NRC’s web site they have a schedule showing a tentative final decision on Indian Point’s relicensing in February of 2010.

Riverkeeper’s opposition of the plant is backed by several elected officials including Andrew Cuomo, the State Attorney General with a long family tradition of anti-nuclear politics. Twenty years ago his father, then Governor Mario Cuomo successfully closed the brand new Shoreham nuclear plant. In Super Mario’s deal the state purchased the plant for $1, and passed on $5 Billion in construction costs to taxpayers who received nothing in return except some of the highest electricity rates in the country. That case was a perfect example of the flawed two-step licensing process in which utilities were first issued a permit to construct the plant, and then after the plant was built they applied for a license to operate the reactor. The new reactor licensing process is a combined construction and operating license (called a COL) that should be more predictable for utilities and investors.

The NRC has received 17 COL applications from utilities interested in building 26 new reactors, but has suspended the review of four applications at the request of the applicants.

Pro-Nuclear Victory in Germany

This week there was a huge win in Germany for supporters of nuclear energy. Angela Merkel was reelected Chancellor and vowed to reverse that nation’s plans to prematurely shut down their 17 nuclear reactors. Nuclear energy currently provides 31% of Germany’s electricity and closing the reactors will mean higher energy costs and greater reliance on imported coal and natural gas. Her coalition government now has a comfortable majority over the opposition Green Party and Social Democratic Party who were responsible for instituting the nuclear phase out in 1998 in favor of wind and other renewable energy sources.

Germany’s plan to replace nuclear energy and fossil fuels with renewable has not yielded the results that the Green Party promised. While it’s true that with heavy government subsidies the production of wind energy in Germany has grown exponentially, the amounts are still too small to offset growth in demand. Since 1991 Germany’s coal imports have more than doubled from 20 million short tons per year in 1991 to about 49 million short tons in 2006 and their natural gas imports have risen by more than 10%. German utilities are planning to build several new coal plants to keep up with demand. With the possibility of nuclear plants staying open beyond 2020 some of those coal plant projects will need a second look.

Other News

INL has created a new FaceBook page for news, videos and photo galleries of energy research projects. They have recently won several new energy research grants (thanks to Tom Fields and Ryan Weeks)

Upcoming Events:

Center for Energy Workforce Development – Annual Summit October 7-9 in Indianapolis, IN

Symposium on Nuclear Energy in Pennsylvania and the Mid-Atlantic – October 15 – 19 State College PA (thanks to Karen from Penn State)

Thorium Energy Alliance – First Meeting in Washington DC on October 19 and 20, 2009 (Thank you to John Kutsch)

“How to Identify, Control & Mitigate Risk Factors for Time and Cost Effective Project in US Nuclear Construction” – By Nuclear Energy Insider on Oct 26-27 in Washington DC. $200 discount if you mention “This Week in Nuclear” when you register (thanks to Louise).

ANS Winter Meeting – November 15-19 in Washington DC


John Wheeler

Is Nuclear Energy Renewable?

Broad support for nuclear energy is growing. The once maligned energy source is finding new friends across the political and social landscape from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Bob Geldolf of the Boomtown Rats. Conservatives Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh have been talking up nuclear energy for some time. Now even people like liberal columnist Thomas Friedman and Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace are advocating a nuclear expansion. All this is happening because people are becoming more educated about nuclear energy. They are beginning to view the anti-nuclear crowd as close-minded and unable to acknowledge the differences between nuclear weapons and the peaceful, safe uses of nuclear energy.

With this kind of support building, it's time to answer an important question...

Is Nuclear Energy Renewable ?

It's an important question because "renewable energy" is viewed by governments, policy makers and opinion leaders as the path to a cleaner, safer world. In addition, "renewable portfolio standards," designed to reduce carbon emissions and cut fossil fuel consumption by forcing utilities to generate part of their power from renewable sources, ignore the carbon-free contribution made by nuclear energy facilities. Permitting utilities to credit nuclear energy towards meeting renewable portfolio standards would help the nation meet greenhouse gas reduction targets more quickly and more cheaply.

It's time to examine the definition of "renewable" and determine if nuclear energy deserves to receive the RENEWABLE seal of approval.

Episode 73 - Exploring Nuclear Lake (video)

podcastDownload the Video File Here

Join me on an expedition to Nuclear Lake, the site of an early atomic research and development facility. The Nuclear Lake Facility was the site of a plutonium spill that has been the target of a great deal of anti-nuclear criticism over the years.

Recently anti-nuclear activists have posted fictitious accounts of mutant fish and acid-like water in Nuclear Lake.
We were shocked fishing in nuclear lake at the shear size and magnitude of the fish. They were nothing like we had seen before. We had several basscrocodile mix fish that weighed in at 17-30 lbs. i do not understand why this is not catching the eye of the authorities. I reported this to the nuclear regulatory commitee with no response. Beware fishing there, fish from shore, I personaly saw several fish over 8 ft. in length feeding on large canadian geese.

do not swim here. I has lost a lure in a submerged tree brance and was severely bitten by the strange fish there when reaching in to retrieve the line. Do not submerge human flesh in any way!!! The fish here do not resemble normal fish. beware, i would not eat them.

Come with me to Nuclear Lake and we'll discover the truth.

Thomas Friedman is Right - We're a Nation of Anti-nuclear Wimps!

We're a nation of wimps. At least that's the opinion of NY Times Op Ed Columnist and three time Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas S. Friedman. I read his column fairly regularily and don't always agree with his opinions, but in this case Friedman is right on the money.

Episode 72 - Sea Stories from the USS John C. Stennis


Listen to the Podcast Here

Download the MP3 file here


I’m writing this from the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS John C Stennis. We're somewhere off the coast of California steaming north to the ship's home port in Bremerton, Washington. It's a pretty nasty day outside; the Pacific Ocean is cold and dark blue with cop, white caps and salt spray reaching up from below to sting your face. The wind on the flight deck is a chilly 58 knots and seas are six to eight feet. Inside the ship there is a gentle rocking motion and it's a bit on the cool side. Most everyone is wearing sweaters or light jackets although it's the middle of summer.