Nuclear Newsreel, Friday, February 28, 2014

Nuclear Power

The Virginia legislature has passed a bill to force ratepayers to help Dominion Resources build a new reactor at its North Anna site. That’s not exactly how the rather convoluted and obscure bill was presented to the legislature, but now that it’s passed that’s exactly how a Dominion official described it to the Washington Post. Although the bill sailed through the legislature, probably helped by the inability of most legislators to understand what it did, it also has some powerful opponents, including the state’s Attorney General Mark Herring and Virginia’s large industrial electricity users. NIRS has set up an action page where Virginians can urge Gov. McAuliffe, who has not yet taken a public position on it, to veto the bill. You’ll find it here. If you’re in Virginia, use it!

Fixed-price contract comes back to haunt: Areva lost 425 Million Euros on its Olkiluoto-3 reactor project in Finland last year. That’s on top of billions the company has lost since construction on the reactor began in 2005. Overall, Areva lost 494 million Euros in 2013; in 2012 it lost 99 million Euros. Apparently building and maintaining nuclear reactors is not as profitable a business as it used to be…. Meanwhile, a Finnish newspaper today is reporting that Areva is reducing its workforce in Finland to near-zero and will essentially be stopping work on the Olkiluoto-3 reactor until a dispute with the Finnish utility TVO over the spiraling costs of the project is resolved. The paper quotes anonymous sources as saying this will delay start-up of the reactor until the 2018-2020 timeframe. The reactor originally was scheduled to begin operation in 2009.

DOE says it’s too soon to know the health effects from last week’s radiation leak at the Waste Isolation Pilot Project radioactive waste site. At least 13 workers were exposed to what DOE officials have described as a “puff” of radiation. No official has yet announced the cause of the leak, or whether it is ongoing, or even made clear how much radiation was released or may still be being released. It may be that DOE doesn’t actually know, but if so DOE isn’t even saying that. Some have speculated that a ceiling may have collapsed or a waste canister was punctured somehow–but either of those two scenarios would seem to indicate an ongoing event rather than one that has ended. All in all, DOE’s credibility and commitment to transparency have taken a big hit from this event; WIPP’s future as anything other than a pilot project probably has taken a larger hit.

NRC: Entergy missed a radioactive water leak from its River Bend reactor for months in 2012. And the problem would have gone on longer but for a refueling outage that allowed an Entergy employee to actually check out the problem. The leak was first discovered in October 2012, but Entergy officials said they just “assumed” the water was not radioactive. It wasn’t until February 2013 that a plant worker discovered that the leak was indeed of radioactive water. Of course, all the usual industry disclaimers apply: no threat to public health and safety, blah blah blah….

The Asahi Shimbun has interviewed an anonymous Japanese government official who has written a strongly anti-nuclear novel that has drawn interest because of how it exposes the chummy relationship between politicians and the nuclear industry from an insider’s perspective. We just have to hope the book is published in English at some point.

Tepco lets the media into the control room, now unused, shared by Fukushima Units-1 and -2. Signs of the confusion and desperation of early hours of disaster are clearly evident, including handwritten water levels scrawled upon walls.

Can GE Hitachi’s PRISM reactor solve the UK’s (or anyone’s) plutonium problem? No. This article, originally from the NIRS/WISE Nuclear Monitor, was reprinted yesterday by The Ecologist.

A Michigan county excluded the public from attending “expert” reports on the proposed Lake Huron radwaste dump, and excluded opponents from presenting information at the meeting. Apparently St. Clair county officials, who said they wanted to hear the “facts” and not passion, only want to hear the “facts” presented by dump proponents. But activists are speaking out anyway.

Here is a well-reasoned op-ed by a Fordham University professor on the too-often overlooked issue of nuclear non-proliferation and the expansion of commercial nuclear power. Pointing out the various difficulties in protecting against diversion of plutonium for weapons purposes, the author concludes, “Thus if nuclear power plants are to be well-enough protected to be totally immune to the above risks, the unavoidable consequence is a society dominated by prohibitions, surveillance and constraints, all justified by the magnitude of the danger.”

An NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Board has ruled against intervenors, including NIRS, and yesterday recommended issuance of a license for a MOX plutonium fuel factory in South Carolina. The full decision has not yet been made public for security reasons. Glenn Carroll of Nuclear Watch South, which has been leading the intervention, said “Nuclear Watch South has bulldogged the MOX licensing proceeding for 13 years, and watched as construction problems have proliferated, costs spiralled out of control and the utilities have backed away from MOX use. Our small citizens group has forced significant upgrades to the program in waste handling, seismic planning, and contributed to the national nuclear security debate. We remain dubious that MOX will ever actually be produced despite the ASLB’s decision apparently removing a significant hurdle.” The Obama administration has been trying to end funding for this facility, but plant supporters, led by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), so far have been successful at keeping some taxpayer money flowing to the project despite its huge cost overruns and projected $30 Billion pricetag.

Clean Energy

solarwaterchinaChina has more solar power installed than any other country in the world. Last year alone, in fact, it installed more new solar power than the U.S. has installed ever, and it plans to install just as much this year. But even more striking is China’s lead in solar hot water, where it has installed more than the rest of the world combined.

This is the kind of progress we like to see: The largest solar farm in Mexico will replace an old coal plant.

Charting offshore wind’s next course: industry experts discuss what’s next for offshore wind power, which, in terms of both potential gigawattage and capacity factor, may be the largest renewable resource for the U.S. It certainly will be a critical component of a nuclear-free carbon-free energy system.

This is not exactly surprising, but two industry organizations–The National Electrical Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Manufacturers–have released results of a public opinion poll that shows voters overwhelmingly support energy efficiency policies. 90% believe it’s important to include energy efficiency as part of our country’s energy solutions; 56% strongly believe so. 74% support spending taxpayer dollars on energy efficiency programs if they would save consumers money. This part of the poll also isn’t surprising: 66% disapprove of the job Congress is doing in addressing energy issues and meeting the country’s energy needs. So, to all those members of Congress who voted to keep the non-existent U.S. incandescent lightbulb industry going: maybe you should listen to your constituents next time.

This is the grid. This is the grid on legalized marijuana. Any questions? According to some estimates, marijuana growing–which is nearly as energy-intensive as data centers–accounts for as much as three percent of California’s electrical demand. Could widespread pot legalization lead to the growth of so much weed that it cancels out energy efficiency programs?

Inside Washington

MediaMatters.org takes a look at nuclear industry spokesman and now climate denier: ex-Greenpeacer (a title he’s held nearly three decades now) Patrick Moore. And the look takes on everything from his decades of lobbying for nuclear power and other polluting industries to demolishing his claim of being a “co-founder” of Greenpeace. If the Nuclear Energy Institute thought hiring Moore was going to help its PR campaign this year (Nuclear Newsreel, Monday, February 24 and Wednesday, February 26) it can’t possibly now think this plan is going very well….

Michael Mariotte

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/02/06/nuclear-newsreel-friday-february-28-2014/

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