Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, February 14, 2014

Nuclear Power

The mindset over at the Tennessee Valley Authority is just impossible to fathom. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that TVA will spend $160 million for replacement steam generators at Watts Bar-2–before the reactor is even built! Construction at Watts bar-2 began more than a generation ago–back in the 1970s–and the reactor still isn’t finished. But the original steam generators have flaws that have caused leaks at other reactors and have aged while waiting for construction to be completed. TVA decided it would be too expensive to replace them now, before starting up the reactor. So it’s planning to get the reactor running with faulty steam generators, and then planning to replace those generators in just a few years. If, of course, the existing faulty generators don’t rupture by then. Citizens of Tennessee have to hope for the best….

Of course, TVA won’t include the replacement steam generators in its initial construction costs, making them look lower than they otherwise would. “Nuclear power is always sold as the cheapest power until it isn’t,” said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, an anti-nuclear group based in Knoxville. “It’s not cost competitive when you have these billion-dollar cost overruns that we’ve already experienced at Watts Bar 2 and now we’re having a look at what will probably be a half billion dollar replacement project in the not too distant future.”

Arnie Gundersen and the remnants of Fukushima Unit-3

Arnie Gundersen and the remnants of Fukushima Unit-3

Tepco has finally admitted what Fairewind and NIRS have been saying for nearly three years now: the Fukushima Unit-3 fuel pool is in much worse shape than the Unit-4 pool which caused so much concern late last year. In this new video from Fairewinds, Arnie Gundersen explains the problems that will face Tepco–and the world–when clean-up of this mess begins. 50 tons of rubble fell on top of and into the pool.

Sometimes state legislatures do stupid things, Part 1. Washington state legislature approves creation of task force to examine feasibility of new nuclear power in the state. Most of Washington’s electricity comes from hydropower, just three percent from the one reactor in the state–the remnant of the legendary WHOOPS collapse of the early 1980s. That happened when the Washington Public Power Supply System (WPPSS) tried to build five reactors at once and couldn’t do it; only one was completed. The other four were abandoned at various levels of construction and WPPSS defaulted on billions of dollars of bonds–in fact, still the largest such bond default in U.S. history. Renewables other than hydro account for relatively little of Washington’s supply–there should be more. As Tom Buchanan of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) says here: “There are other options. We think that carbon free and nuclear free go hand in hand.” He said renewable energy sources including wind and solar, along with continuing energy conservation are the way forward. We agree.

Sometimes state legislatures do stupid things, Part 2. The Texas legislature will examine the feasibility of offering up some part of the state to be an “interim” high-level radioactive waste site. A potential permanent site, at Deaf Smith County, was dropped in the 1987 “Screw Nevada” radioactive waste bill and isn’t likely to be revived. But there’s a lot of wide-open space in west Texas, so some legislators think a “temporary” radioactive waste dump could bring in a few extra bucks. Better watch out Texas: those “interim” sites aren’t exactly fail-safe and could quickly become permanent when it’s clear that no one else will take the lethal waste. Or as Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen puts it here: “It’s idiotic to even consider disposing of high-level radioactive waste in Texas. Other states have rejected having high-level radioactive waste dumped on them. It’s all risk and very little reward for Texans.”

Electricite de France (EDF) is overwhelmed by nuclear reactor upkeep operations, reports Bloomberg. Adding to the financial pressures on the world’s largest nuclear utility (yesterday, we posted that EDF is trying to raise its wholesale nuclear power rates), EDF is finding that maintaining and attempting to upgrade its 58-reactor fleet is costing twice as much and taking 50% more time than projected. Add to that the utility’s woes in attempting to build the way-over-budget and way-behind-schedule Flamanville EPR reactor and the European Commission’s initial finding of illegal subsidies that may scuttle EDF’s proposed Hinkley Point complex in the UK, and you get the picture of a utility, that despite posting record profits last year, is scrambling for its life to get out of a self-imposed nuclear collapse.

Clean Energy

The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration says that coal plants will be retired much more quickly, at least through 2016, than previously projected. That’s the good news. Oddly, EIA projects coal retirements will slow rapidly after that.

Distributed resources, including combined heat and power systems and solar PV, could make up a full third of the U.S. power grid by the end of this decade. And while rooftop solar isn’t a huge part of that this decade, its rapid growth suggests that the percentage of power provided by distributed generation will continue to increase rapidly every decade.

Inside Washington

This one isn’t exactly energy-related but it’s a must-read anyway. The two best people writing on economic issues these days are Paul Krugman of the New York Times and Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone. In this piece, The Vampire Squid Strikes Again: The Mega Banks’ Most Devious Scam Yet, Taibbi reports on a little-known piece of some 1999 legislation that is fundamentally transforming the American economy–and not for the better. The subtitle gives some indication of the issue: “Banks are no longer just financing heavy industry. They are actually buying it up and inventing bigger, bolder and scarier scams than ever.” And, indeed, the article notes that the mega-investment bank Goldman Sachs is now in the uranium business. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Mariotte


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4 thoughts on “Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, February 14, 2014

  1. stock

    I started this “one liner list of nuke lies” Please review and add to it.

    ”no immediate health effects”
    ”safe to eat”
    ”no cause for alarm”
    ”dispersion in the ocean makes it harmless”
    ”too low to measure”
    ”safer than eating a banana”
    “larger dose from flying on an airplane”
    “sleeping next to someone gives you a larger radioactive dose”
    “because I-131 radiation rapidly depletes due to quick half life, we don’t have to worry about any of the radiation.”
    ”within safe limits”
    ”part of background”
    ”definitely not caused by radiation”


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