Tag Archives: EDF

NRC caves on foreign ownership (and why you shouldn’t expect it to value human life like other federal agencies)

atomicenergyactsinglestampThe NRC Commissioners voted unanimously earlier this month to adopt its staff recommendation that the agency’s rules be changed to allow a “graded approach” on meeting the Atomic Energy Act’s prohibition on foreign ownership, control, or domination of U.S. nuclear reactors.

This cave-in to the nuclear power wasn’t entirely unexpected (I wrote about it months ago here), although the unanimous vote was certainly a disappointing showing from the two newest Commissioners, who might have been expected to take a more skeptical line toward the industry than some past Commissioners. But it’s too bad.

And it’s just more evidence that the NRC sees its mission less as regulating the nuclear industry–even when the law is clear, and there are few laws more clear-cut than this Section 103(d) of the Atomic Energy Act–than in accommodating the industry. Continue reading

Advertisements

The accelerating decline of French nuclear power

The containment dome at Flamanville-3 has been installed. It would be exceedingly difficult and costly to replace the bottom head of the reactor pressure vessel installed here.

The containment dome at Flamanville-3 has been installed. It would be exceedingly difficult and costly to replace the bottom head of the reactor pressure vessel installed here.

For most people with any interest in energy issues, France is synonymous with nuclear power. With 78% of its electricity generated by the atom, it is by far the most nuclear-dependent country in the world. It’s state-owned flagship Electricite de France is the world’s largest nuclear utility. State-owned Areva is one of the largest nuclear reactor manufacturers in the world.

When nuclear industry lobbyists–anywhere in the world–try to find a success story for their technology, they invariably point to France. Continue reading

The EPR “anamoly;” what’s at stake for Areva

Installation of the reactor dome at Areva's EPR reactor at Flamanville, France. Now, indications of a serious problem with the reactor pressure vessel could scuttle the already delayed and over-budget project.

Installation of the reactor dome at Areva’s EPR reactor at Flamanville, France. Now, indications of a serious problem with the reactor pressure vessel could scuttle the already delayed and over-budget project.

 In early April, the troubled French nuclear reactor manufacturer Areva announced that there is an “anamoly” in the reactor pressure vessel installed at Electricite de France’s (EdF) Flamanville reactor currently under construction.

While the U.S. thankfully appears to have avoided any construction of the Areva EPR reactors–the U.S. EPR flagship reactor at Calvert Cliffs-3 was defeated in NRC licensing hearings and EdF has announced it is giving up on the U.S. market–EPRs remain under construction elsewhere, most notably in France, Finland and China.  Areva–the world’s largest reactor manufacturer–is already near bankruptcy; if this “anamoly” is endemic to Areva EPRs it could put the final nail in Areva’s coffin.

We appreciate the work of Yves Marignac of WISE-Paris, who prepared the following paper on what the problem is, how extensive it may be and its implications for Flamanville and the rest of the world.

Fabrication Flaws in the Pressure Vessel of the EPR Flamanville-3

Summary
Fabrication defects detected at the end of 2014 in upper and lower heads of the Flamanville-3 reactor pressure vessel are, by size and characteristics, very serious mechanical defaults. These phenomena strongly put into question the safety case of the EPR (European Pressurized Water Reactor) currently under construction in Normandy.

The reason why a well-known material heterogeneity problem was not solved during the forging of the pieces at Areva’s Le Creusot plant has yet to be investigated. The reason why the defects were detected or publicly released so late, at a moment when the pressure vessel was already in place in the reactor building, also needs to be scrutinized.

Areva will face a very difficult challenge in justifying the safety case for the flawed pressure vessel. The only alternative to demonstrating safety in spite of the defects would be to repair or replace the faulty components, which appears hardly feasible and particularly expensive in the case of the bottom piece. Therefore the future of the entire Flamanville-­3 project is at stake.

The problem has also international implications, since at least some of the upper and/or lower heads of the Taishan-­1 and -­2 EPRs, under construction in China, are apparently also affected. It is also not clear whether components destined for the Hinkley Point-­C have been fabricated yet and could be concerned.

On the 7th of April 2015, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced that fabrication defects had been found in the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) of the EPR reactor under construction at Flamanville. This information was soon confirmed by the manufacturer of the components, Areva, and the operator, EDF. Additional information was published by ASN on 8 April 2015. The following is a synthesis of this information completed by direct e-mail and phone communication between ASN and WISE-­Paris on 9 and 10 April 2015, and some additional research.

Safety Significance of the Reactor Pressure Vessel
The pressure vessel, which hosts the fission reaction of the nuclear fuel, is one of the most crucial pieces of equipment for the safety of a nuclear reactor. This is even more true in the case of the EPR: with a design capacity of 1,650 MWe, its pressure vessel would hold more nuclear fuel, and therefore a higher potential of danger, than any other reactor in the world. In particular, to exclude any breach of the pressure vessel is key in the safety assessment.

Considering the extreme kind of mechanical, hydraulic, thermal and radioactive loads it is exposed to, this imposes very stringent requirements for the mechanical toughness of the pressure vessel. The design pressure is 176 bar and the design temperature is 351°C. The reactor pressure vessel of the EPR is a cylinder of roughly 12.7 meters high and 5.7 meters diameter (7 meters with the nozzles), made of five main parts: three toruses, of which the upper one holds the nozzles connecting the vessel to the primary loops, and the cap-­‐shaped bottom which are welded together, plus a separate cap-­‐shaped head. Each of these manufactured components as well as the quality of the weldings has to meet specific requirements.

The defects announced on 7 April 2015 concern the pressure vessel head and bottom of the
Flamanville-­3 EPR. Unlike the largest parts of the pressure vessel that were forged by Japan Steel Works (JSW–operating the only forge in the world that can process the very large EPR vessel ingots–these smaller parts could be forged by Areva in its plant at Le Creusot.

Nature of the Defect
The vessel closure head is made up of a forged ring, the vessel flange, and a forged partly spherical upper head, penetrated by welded tubes. The lower head is a similar partly spherical forged piece, welded through a forged transition ring to the central core shells. The whole body of the pressure vessel weighs 410 tons, while the vessel head weighs an additional 116 tons.

China's Taishan 1 and 2 reactors, now under construction, may be affected by Areva's pressure vessel problems.

China’s Taishan 1 and 2 reactors, now under construction, may be affected by Areva’s pressure vessel problems.

The pieces are all made of 16MND5 steel. The defect consists in carbon segregation in a certain area of the partly spherical upper and lower heads. It occurs due to insufficient elimination during the forging process of the higher part of the ingot, where carbon tends to concentrate, in the fabricated piece. Why such a well-­known phenomenon was not avoided will be, according to ASN, an important part of its examination of the case.

The problem was found recently through destructive tests on a similar vessel head that had been forged in the same conditions. The results are as follows:

• Carbon concentration was found to reach 0.30% in the central area of the forged piece. The fabrication process should ensure, according to the technical specifications applying to 16MND5 steel, that higher concentrations found in the forged piece remain under 0.22%, which is the upper boundary for qualifying materials on the basis of existing studies and return of experience. In other words, as ASN put it, the carbon concentration in the segregated zone brings the material significantly far from the domain of knowledge where the required mechanical properties are well proven.
• This carbon concentration affects the mechanical properties of the material, and most particularly its resilience (its capacity to absorb the energy of a shock, expressed in Joules),which is one of the key properties to be assessed to qualify the pressure vessel. Samples from the segregated zone showed a resilience between 36 J and 64 J, with a mean value of 52 J. This is below the regulatory threshold for the vessel head and bottom, which is of 60 J on average. Taking into account the expected margins, the resilience aimed for and obtained in non-­segregated areas is above 100 J.
• The segregated zone is a concentric area with a diameter of around 1.20 meters, on the external face. The depth of the zone remains to be assessed.

Those results are highly likely to be transposable to the head and bottom of the Flamanville-3 pressure vessel, given the very same conditions of their fabrication. Moreover, non-destructive chemical tests on the surface of these parts have confirmed the presence of a similar defect.

Timing of the Process
The ASN was first informed by Areva of the results of the tests in December 2014. These destructive tests were part of the qualification procedure for the components of a pressurized nuclear piece of equipment which the manufacturer has to complete prior to its operation (independently of the whole approval of the reactor start-up, which has to be obtained by the operator).

The head and bottom were apparently forged as early as 2006 (even before EDF obtained the license to create the new reactor at Flamanville, which was granted by a decree in April 2007).

Major defects in the vessel closure head were found by Areva in the Autumn of 2010 and in June 2011. One concerned the welding of adaptor tubes, the other concerned the welding of more than 50 penetrating tubes (out of 107 in total). In October 2011 ASN allowed Areva to carry out deep repair work instead of fabricating a new head. Also some of the tubes probably cross the segregated zone, the reparation process, which is not complete yet, has apparently proceeded without noticing–or taking into account– this problem.

Meanwhile, no such welding issue was raised with the body of the pressure vessel, which was delivered to the Flamanville site in October 2013 and put in place in January 2014. Nevertheless, the destructive testing program, part of the upper and lower head qualification, was only proposed by Areva to ASN in September 2012. Finally, the tests which revealed the segregated zone were only run in October 2014.

It is unclear for the time being why the industrial process went as far as positioning the pressure vessel in the reactor pit and pursuing the construction around it for many months, when these qualification tests had not even started. This questions both the reason why Areva failed to spot this very important problem at an earlier stage, and the reason why EDF did proceed while qualification was not complete. According to ASN, the reasons for the late testing will be part of the investigation.

Regulatory Issue
Once fully constructed, the EPR reactor in Flamanville-3 would require a final operating license, delivered by ASN under the nuclear regime, to start commercial operation. Prior to that operating license, all pressurized nuclear equipment of the plant, starting with the pressure vessel, must be approved under specific regulations reinforced in 2005. Although previous requirements could have been applied during an exemption period granted in the 2005 ministerial order, ASN made it clear that 2005 regulation fully applies as Areva never asked for such an exemption.

The regulation requires that the manufacturer demonstrates that the pressure vessel meets all the mechanical specifications, of which resilience is an important part. Regarding the parts concerned with the defects, the regulation requires Areva either to prove that the vessel head and bottom meet the mechanical criteria, including an average resilience of 60 J, or to justify that it reaches an equivalent safety level by other means.

Theoretically, there is therefore room for the defective pressure vessel to be qualified through alternative proofing, although the nature and size of the problem will likely make it very difficult, if not impossible. It should also be noted that since vessel head and bottom are not subject to the same operational constraints, the technical assessment could reach different conclusions regarding the acceptability of the two pieces of equipment. In particular, the tube penetrations through the vessel head, needed for the control rods and other instrumentation, introduce further potential weaknesses on welded parts while increasing the mechanical constraints. The lower head, on the contrary, is free of such openings (which is an important change introduced in the design of EPR, compared to previous French reactor designs that had instrumentation penetrations in the bottom plates).

The first step in the reassessment process will be a new series of tests that has already been announced. Areva has proposed a testing program to ASN, which the authority has yet to approve. This will likely consist of further destructive tests on the similar head, which has already been used. These new tests will specifically aim for a more detailed characterization of the defect.

Areva will also need to reinforce the demonstration regarding the transposability of these findings to the actual head and bottom of the Flamanville-3 EPR. Although the program has yet to be discussed, the French Minister of Ecology already announced that the results are expected by October 2015. The ASN will then consider the justification case which Areva will build upon these results. Whether this could be conclusive, one way or the other, and when ASN could come to a final decision are still open questions.

Another open question is the regulatory status of such a decision and whether and how this could be challenged either by the industrial stakeholders or the project opponents, depending on the outcome. In particular, should a positive decision be granted on the basis of a modified justification, this could fall under the regulatory requirement to start a new license, going through a public inquiry, etc. Also, one important issue will be to clarify who would bear the responsibility either to stop the project or to start the reactor in such a context.

Alternative Options

800 protested against the Flamanville reactor in 2011. Photo from Beyond Nuclear.

800 protested against the Flamanville reactor in 2011. Photo from Beyond Nuclear.

If Areva fails to provide a convincing alternative proof to complete the safety case, then the only alternative option is to repair or replace the faulty pieces. The fabrication of a new pressure vessel head would be possible. Regarding the lower head, it is technically very unlikely either to separate it from the whole pressure vessel for replacement or to repair it in situ. Any repair or replacement would therefore almost certainly need the entire pressure vessel to be removed, which would be unprecedented and seems very challenging given the progress of work and lack of space inside the reactor building.

The technical hurdles which any repair or replacement solution for the pressure vessel bottom would need to get over, and the major new safety issues related, come with huge costs and high uncertainty. The feasible alternatives, if any, will raise serious issues of profitability. In other words, economic scenario assessments might show that abandoning the project is cheaper than repair or replacement options, when factors such as the financial costs of further significant delays, or the savings on decommissioning costs if the reactor doesn’t go nuclear, are included.

International impact
The question also arises of the potential impact on other EPR projects where similar defects could be found. There is no particular reason to believe that any vessel head and bottom which has been forged by Japan Steel Works would present the same defect. This is the case of those used for the pressure vessel of the Finnish EPR at Olkiluoto, which are therefore not concerned.

On the contrary, upper or lower heads for other EPRs which have been forged at Le Creusot are expected to be as defective. Although it is still not clear how many and which ones, some of the four parts consisting of the two heads and bottoms of the pressure vessels of Taishan-1 and -2 in China are concerned. One important issue will be the consistency of the technical assessments and the decisions taken by the safety authorities between France and China.

It also remains to be clarified, whether head(s) and bottom(s) already have been forged for the Hinkley Point‐C project in Great Britain or even that of Jaïtapur in India, and if so whether they were forged at Le Creusot.

Yves Marignac, Director of WISE-­Paris
Mail: yves.marignac@wise-­paris.org

April 13, 2015

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2015/04/13/the-epr-anamoly/

Your contributions make publication of GreenWorld possible. If you value GreenWorld, please make a tax-deductible donation here and ensure our continued publication. We gratefully appreciate every donation of any size.

Comments are welcome on all GreenWorld posts! Say your piece. Start a discussion. Don’t be shy; this blog is for you.

If you’d like to receive GreenWorld via e-mail, send your name and e-mail address to nirsnet@nirs.org and we’ll send you an invitation. Note that the invitation will come from a GreenWorld@wordpress.com address and not a nirs.org address, so watch for it. Or just put your e-mail address into the box in the right-hand column.

If you like GreenWorld, help us reach more people. Just use the icons below to “like” our posts and to share them on the various social networking sites you use. And if you don’t like GreenWorld, please let us know that too. Send an e-mail with your comments/complaints/compliments to nirsnet@nirs.org. Thank you!

GreenWorld is crossposted on tumblr at https://www.tumblr.com/blog/nirsnet

Some real Turkey Week turkeys

It's a race to the bottom: which reactor will come online first? Vogtle (pictured here in March 2014) or Flamanville (pictured below). Or, alternatively, which project will be abandoned first?

It’s a race to the bottom: which reactor will come online first? Vogtle (pictured here in March 2014) or Flamanville (pictured below). Or, alternatively, which project will be abandoned first?

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S., what better time to take a look at some of the real turkeys in the nuclear power business?

We don’t have to go back far, however. All of these turkeys took place just this week! Continue reading

Nuclear Newsreel, Monday, March 17, 2014

Nearly 30 years later, radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident continues to plague life in the region.

Nearly 30 years later, radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl nuclear accident continues to plague life in the region.

Some days I really wish this global warming stuff would hurry up and happen…ok, just a lame  joke but really, it’s another snow day here in Washington, DC–in mid-March!–our tulips are halfway up already; the government is closed and so are the schools and the little ones are running around the house demanding to be fed and entertained for about the 7th weekday this winter….it’s just not the easiest way to keep up with the news…..

It’s well known that the Chernobyl nuclear accident has greatly affected all kinds of life in the region, which encompasses northern Ukraine and southern Belarus. As a new article from Smithsonian Magazine puts it, “Birds around Chernobyl have significantly smaller brains that those living in non-radiation poisoned areas; trees there grow slower; and fewer spiders and insects—including bees, butterflies and grasshoppers—live there. Additionally, game animals such as wild boar caught outside of the exclusion zone—including some bagged as far away as Germany—continue to show abnormal and dangerous levels of radiation.”

Now, a new study by University of South Carolina biologist Timothy Mousseau finds that the forests around Chernobyl are not decaying properly. The microbes, fungi and insects that normally aid in the decay of organic matter–for example, leaves and dead tree branches, have been affected by the continued contamination in the region, and just aren’t doing their job. The article concludes with a warning from Mousseau that the lack of decay could lead to forest fires that could release catastrophic levels of radiation still contained in the organic matter. Having personally witnessed such a forest fire during a visit to Chernobyl in 1996, I can assure you this is a very real problem.

*The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has released its final decision on replacement power for the shuttered San Onofre reactors but there doesn’t seem to be much agreement on its implications.

On EcoWatch today, Sierra Martinez of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) hails the decision as a “major and symbolic step…to rely significantly on energy efficiency and other clean energy resources” to replace San Onofre. Martinez says the plan uses “efficiency and other “preferred resources”—those resources with lower environmental impacts—like demand response (ways customers can consume less energy at key times during the day) and renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as some upgrades to the electric system, to replace the vast majority of the lost SONGS generation.”

Not so fast, says this article by Jeff St. John on GreenTech, which starts: “It’s official: the long-range plan to replace 2,200 megawatts of shuttered Southern California nuclear power will include new natural gas-fired power plants, as well as a hefty share of green alternatives.” While Martinez played down the possibility of new natural gas as a replacement power option, the decision requires only 575 MW of the 1500 MW of new generation allowed under the order to be from those “preferred resources.” Anywhere from 300-900 MW could come from “any source” procurement and Southern California Edison is on record as saying that it “is not aware of a preferred resource ever prevailing against a conventional resource in an all-source RFO [request for offer].” That would mean, from their perspective, more natural gas. The Sierra Club held a protest at SCE offices last Monday against possible new natural gas plants in the region.

Adam Browning of the Vote Solar Initiative said the CPUC order underestimated how fast new energy efficiency measures, solar power, energy storage and other advanced technologies could be implemented in California, and thus gave those technologies an insufficient share of the replacement power.

While the shutdown of San Onofre certainly eliminates the possibility of new radioactive pollution from reactor operation, it so far hasn’t ensured that clean energy will be the replacement. That larger goal will need continued effort.

The Calvert Cliffs MD nuclear reactors. Photo, NRC.

The Calvert Cliffs MD nuclear reactors. Photo, NRC.

*The NRC will not charge Constellation Energy with any violations as a result of the sudden shutdowns of both Calvert Cliffs, MD reactors during a snow and ice storm in January. That may let Constellation off the hook for fines, but it doesn’t solve the larger problem. As NIRS’ Tim Judson pointed out, “But if we can take NRC at their word, it sounds like Calvert Cliffs really isn’t the ‘reliable, full-time’ power source Constellation likes to say it is,” he said. “This outage came during a really cold winter right before the polar vortex, and the shutdown caused a large spike in natural gas and electricity prices, which really hurt consumers.”

*Our partners at WISE International in Amsterdam have released a major new report on nuclear security issues in conjunction with a conference next weekend expected to bring 50 heads of state to The Netherlands to discuss that topic. WISE says the talks are focusing on “the wrong agenda”: “end-of-pipe-solutions; more protection, repression and military-type of protective measures to prevent further proliferation of radioactive materials into the hands of-mainly-terrorists.” Instead, the world should be addressing issues including the “origin and availability of fissile materials and of highly radioactive materials, potential terrorist actions with nuclear explosives; security and civilian nuclear power issues,  and nuclear security and economics.” The full report, Nuclear Security: In Cauda Venenum can be downloaded here.

*The Department of Energy has concluded that the truck fire that shut down the WIPP transuranic radioactive waste plant in February was “preventable.” The root cause of the event “was the failure of the current and previous contractors running the site to ‘adequately recognize and mitigate the hazard regarding a fire in the underground'”. The report said trucks used at the site were inadequately maintained nor “cleaned often enough to prevent the build-up of combustible materials,” according to this article from the BBC. The report added that “…a number of safety systems and processes failed….Emergency strobe lights were not activated for five minutes and not all workers heard the evacuation announcement. One worker also switched the air system from normal to filtration mode, which sent smoke billowing through the tunnels.” The report apparently did not address whether there is any connection between the truck fire and the latter release of radiation, including plutonium, from WIPP a couple weeks later that continues to keep the site closed.

*Speaking of fires, a “small” fire forced the shutdown of Unit 2 of Electricite de France’s (EDF) Hartlepool nuclear station in the UK over the weekend. Investigations continue, but one “possible cause of the fire was excess oil on the pipework from maintenance which has overheated.”

Michael Mariotte

March 17, 2014

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/03/17/nuclear-newsreel-monday-march-17-2014/

Comments are welcome! Say your piece above. Start a discussion. Don’t be shy; this blog is for you.

If you like GreenWorld, you can help us reach more people. Just use the icons below to “like” our posts and to share them on the various social networking sites you use. And if you don’t like GreenWorld, please let us know that too. Send an e-mail with your comments/complaints/compliments to nirsnet@nirs.org. Thank you!

You can also now support GreenWorld with your tax-deductible contribution on our new donation page here. We gratefully appreciate every donation of any size–your support is what makes our work possible.

Note: If you’d like to receive GreenWorld via e-mail daily, send your name and e-mail address to nirsnet@nirs.org and we’ll send you an invitation. Note that the invitation will come from a GreenWorld@wordpress.com address and not a nirs.org address, so watch for it.

Nuclear Newsreel, Thursday, February 13, 2014

Nuclear Power

Scientific American: Is radioactive hydrogen (i.e. tritium) in drinking water a cancer threat? Well, yes, but real data is surprisingly sparse. Because of large tritium releases from numerous U.S. reactors into water and groundwater in recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency is beginning to re-evaluate its tritium standards. Unfortunately, while SciAm does cover various angles of the issue, quotes from Oak Ridge nuclear advocate David Kocher permeate this article. “I think the levels of tritium in drinking water today are low enough that I wouldn’t worry,” Kocher says. “The good news about tritium is that: even if you inhale or ingest an awful lot, it is going to flush out of your body.” He adds: “Just have a few beers and you’re done.” Somehow we think that the advice to drink a few beers as a strategy of coping with cancer-causing tritium in your drinking water is not going to sit well with mothers of young children….

New York Times on Japan’s mixed messages on nuclear power. Anti-nuke candidates lost in the most recent election, but that doesn’t mean the nation is pro-nuclear either, explains one political science professor. The article does a good job of explaining the uncertain attitude about nuclear power that defines Japanese society three years after Fukushima.

Could a Fukushima accident happen in the U.S.? Yes. Dave Lochbaum of Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) explains.

Finland’s TVO utility can no longer provide even an estimate of when its Olkiluoto-3 reactor will come online. Construction began in 2005 and the Areva EPA reactor was originally scheduled to begin operation in 2009. But it is way over budget and, obviously, way behind schedule. Although why anyone might have expected any different outcome is beyond us.

Electricite de France says it needs to raise wholesale power rates from its nuclear reactors, by about 20%, in order to survive, even while, Bloomberg reports, “Factory owners have stepped up a campaign against energy costs that they say are higher in France because of the system of regulated power rates.” Tell us again how that nuclear-dominated grid is working for you, France…

The Washington Post excitedly reports today on a “fusion energy milestone” achieved by scientists at the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Livermore National Labs. That “milestone”? More power was produced by a fuel pellet (compressed by 192 lasers) than went into it. Which is not the same as saying that more power was produced than was used; as the article goes on to admit, “The experiment overall requires much more energy on the front end—all those laser shots—than comes out the back end.” When I first came to NIRS 28 years ago, I asked some experts about fusion, which I didn’t know much about at the time. I was uniformly told that it was 25 years away. Right on cue, the article quotes Stewart Prager, director of Princeton’s Plasma Physics Laboratory, “In 30 years, we’ll have electricity on the grid produced by fusion energy—absolutely,” Prager said. “I think the open questions now are how complicated a system will it be, how expensive it will be, how economically attractive it will be.” So, in those 28 years, fusion has advanced so far that it’s now 30 years away instead of 25….By the time fusion is ever commercially viable (although the opinion here is that that day will be never), it will be completely unnecessary: the new smart electric grid combining renewables and energy efficiency will be in place, and will be both cleaner and safer than fusion.

Clean Energy

The Ivanpah concentrating solar  power plant.

The Ivanpah concentrating solar power plant.

The Department of Energy is celebrating today’s dedication of the Ivanpah solar power plant; at 392 MW the largest concentrating solar power plant in the world. The agency is celebrating because it is one of the projects funded by the Department’s loan guarantee program that has worked as intended, unlike Solyndra, and unlike the proposed Vogtle nuclear loan, which is still in limbo. We note that at $1.6 billion, the DOE loan is only a fraction of the proposed $8.3 billion Vogle loan, and is a far better use of taxpayer money. But mostly we just wanted the opportunity to publish this amazing photo of the site…

Signs that the explosion in rooftop solar is only accelerating: SunPower to add storage to its rooftop solar systems; gets $220 million in new financing to support its rooftop leasing program. Storage, which will bring rooftop solar closer to (and eventually become) a 24/7 source of electricity, can make every building not only self-sufficient but a de facto power plant that provides power back to the grid. No wonder the old-line utilities are starting to fight it so hard.

solar-jobs-USNormally stories about corporate backstabbing and fighting amongst themselves are not of much interest to us, but this one, titled Strange Bedfellows of the Energy Industry caught our attention and is truly bizarre. According to the article, the business model of a company called SolarWorld, based in Hillsboro, Oregon, consists primarily of filing lawsuits before the International Trade Commission trying to keep low-priced solar panels from China out of the U.S. market. That might make some sense if those low-priced panels were actually preventing American manufacturers from being able to compete, but that doesn’t appear to be the case–in fact, there is more demand than supply for solar panels at the moment. And SolarWorld is actually a German company that may be as much as 30%-owned by a “solar” venture in Qatar that doesn’t seem to do anything solar-related except fund SolarWorld. Hmmmm.

The author concludes, “But the truly weird thing is that nobody questions these facts. SolarWorld doesn’t deny its company’s European roots, nor its involvement with the Qatar Foundation — which, for its part, has never done anything of consequence other than investing in a nearly bankrupt German company. Instead, the two happily parade around hand-in-hand while spending a fortune on legal battles that could put tens of thousands of American jobs in jeopardy. But all the while they claim to be safeguarding those very same American jobs.

“Is this just an attempt by a Middle East oil state to undermine renewable energy growth in the United States? The writing is certainly on the wall. But the truth may be even stranger than what we already know.”

Major hedge fund investor Jeremy Grantham predicts renewables will completely displace fossil fuels within decades. Knowledgeable energy experts have been saying this for years, but it sometimes takes a while for ideas that turn the world upside down to percolate to the business community. Of course, we believe both fossils fuels and nuclear power will be displaced by renewables (and efficiency, etc.) within decades–and, if technology is matched by well-targeted activism to bring about the necessary political changes to ensure the transition, it won’t be many decades.

30 MW Block Island offshore wind project along Rhode Island’s coast moving ahead; first step in 1,000 MW Deepwater Wind offshore wind farm across southern New England.

Massive $8 Billion, 3,000 MW wind farm proposed to be built in Wyoming; power would be sent to California, saving residents there $750 million on their electric bills. Per/MW price is competitive–probably even cheaper–than new nuclear power.

China planning incentives to ensure that 14 GW of new solar power will be built this year; will make China world leader in new solar again. Only 6 MW would be power plant size; the rest would be distributed generation. Even after accounting for solar’s reduced capacity factor compared to nuclear, this one-year construction program would provide about as much usable power as all four reactors currently under construction in the U.S.–and a lot faster.

Inside Washington

The big five oil companies made $177,000 in profit per minute last year. So of course they’re lobbying to keep their large tax breaks.

Environmentalists are none too happy about new Senate Energy Committee Chair Mary Landrieu’s environmental record–and for good reason. As the article points out, she is a staunch supporter of fossil fuel interests, especially the oil and gas industries. As the article fails to point out, she also has a strong pro-nuclear voting record. If there is one saving grace for clean energy advocates, it’s that nuclear power so far has not been one of her priorities.

Michael Mariotte

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/02/06/nuclear-newsreel-thursday-february-13-2014/

Comments are welcome! Say your piece below. Start a discussion. Don’t be shy; this blog is for you.

Note: If you’d like to receive GreenWorld via e-mail daily, send your name and e-mail address to nirsnet@nirs.org and we’ll send you an invitation. Note that the invitation will come from a GreenWorld@wordpress.com address and not a nirs.org address, so watch for it.

Nuclear Newsreel, Monday, February 10, 2014

Nuclear Power

What those pro-nuke climate scientists just don’t understand: The unavoidable economics of nuclear power. Another on-target piece from economist Marc Cooper, who takes the small minority of climate scientists arguing for more nuclear power to task. A couple of excerpts that provide a sense of Cooper’s well-formed arguments:

“But the evidence shows that nuclear power has always been substantially more expensive than the alternatives and there is nothing in the historical or contemporary record to suggest that it will be less costly than low-carbon alternatives in the foreseeable future. The climate scientists who claim ‘much has changed since the 1970s’ have not noticed the collapse of a nuclear renaissance caused by exactly the same problems that scuttled the nuclear sector in the 1980s – a tripling of the estimated costs and design and construction problems.”

“Indeed, given the fact that there was as much dangerous radioactive material in waste storage at Fukushima as in the reactors, the climate scientists’ claim that we must view ‘safer nuclear systems’ as ‘essential to any credible effort to develop an energy system that does not rely on the atmosphere as a waste dump’ does not ring true. Shifting to a technology that treats the earth as a waste dump instead of the atmosphere makes little sense when there are alternatives that treat both the air and the land much more gently. Waiting for a nuclear technology that does not produce waste is an unacceptable answer, not only because nuclear advocates have been talking about it for decades, but also because the climate scientists calling for such solutions are the same ones insisting immediate action is needed.”

79 sailors from U.S. aircraft carrier re-file lawsuit charging health damages from Fukushima radiation. We’re not sure whether this lawsuit will come to any better a fate than a previous one, which was withdrawn: proving harm from radiation exposure in a courtroom is a nearly insurmountable task, especially when the radiation levels that the sailors received are unknown but presumed by the authorities, at least, to be low. But the descriptions of the illnesses suffered by U.S. sailors is heartbreaking. One of the attorneys bringing the suit will be appearing on Harvey Wasserman’s (who wrote this article) Solartopia radio show Tuesday, February 11 at 5 pm.

75 children in Fukushima area now diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Of course, there is no proof the thyroid cancers are a result of radiation releases from the accident, but the suspicion is certainly high.

Japanese nuclear utilities carp about safety checks/paperwork needed for reactor restarts. Sorry, but those requirements are there because the utilities blew it; or have they forgotten about Fukushima already? Indeed, in a sane world, the utilities would be complaining about the safety checks and paperwork needed to undergo decommissioning, because those reactors would never restart.

Anti-nuke candidates split vote, allow pro-nuker to win Tokyo gubernatorial election with 30% of vote. Two former Prime Ministers had joined forces and sought to make the election a referendum on nuclear power in Japan, but with 13 candidates, most of whom were anti-nuclear, the election went to the one candidate supported by current Prime Minister Abe. As a referendum, perhaps the gambit succeeded–the anti-nuclear vote clearly carried the day. But that vote didn’t put anyone in office.

Fuel rod corrosion found at 25 of EDF’s 58 French reactors. Maybe that will lead to a regulatory crackdown in France? Maybe?

New York Times: Some see WIPP–limited by law to transuranics, which are long-lasting but not terribly active nor thermally hot–as a potential new site for high-level commercial radwaste. They perhaps have forgotten that WIPP stands for Waste Isolation Pilot Project. In other words, it was meant to be a test of geologic storage for certain types of waste–not a permanent fixture, nor a candidate for expansion into an entirely different and much more hazardous waste stream. WIPP is in a salt dome; salt is highly corrosive and is questionable at best as a storage medium for thousands of steel casks, which tend to rust over the years (thousands of years in this case) when exposed to corrosives.

Bipartisan group of Senators question Obama administration’s failure to require reprocessing ban for nuclear trade. This article by former NRC Commissioner Victor Gilinsky brings up an often overlooked issue. The U.S. is promoting trade in nuclear power at the same time it is seeking to combat nuclear proliferation. At the moment, trade is winning. For reasons that are not clear other than the likelihood that the dollars from sales are beating concerns about proliferation, the Obama Administration is taking perhaps the weakest position on proliferation in history and seems unwilling to require that countries that want to purchase nuclear materials not pursue uranium enrichment and reprocessing programs. That has brought rare agreement among Senate Democrats and Republicans, who blasted the Administration’s position at a completely overlooked Senate hearing January 30.

The nuclear power market remains weak. Uranium producer Cameco scraps “lofty production goals” due to global surplus of uranium with little likelihood of increased demand.

Clean Energy

Amory Lovins: Renewables are disrupting utilities in Europe as well as U.S. And that’s a good thing. As we’ve been writing about regularly at GreenWorld since we began publication last month, the old utility model of building big power plants that provide baseload power and then collecting lots of money from captive ratepayers is rapidly turning on its head. Utilities that can’t adapt to the rapid changes in energy production and distribution technology are going to fade away and be replaced by far more nimble competitors offering what consumers really want: clean energy at a reasonable price, preferably generated close to home and without the enormous backup power requirements needed to replace 1,000 MW power plants when they go down for refueling or suddenly by a scram or other problem. We’ve been focusing on the U.S., Amory Lovins points out that the same factors are disrupting utilities in Europe in the same way–but perhaps even faster.

As Lovins points out, “Laments for Europe’s money-losing electric utilities were featured in an October 2013 cover story in the Economist. It said Europe’s top 20 energy utilities have lost over half their 2008 value, or a half-billion Euros – more than Europe’s banks lost. Many utilities therefore want renewable competition slowed or stopped. Indeed, some European giants, like Germany’s E.ON and RWE, are in real trouble, and five of Europe’s top ten utilities have suffered credit downgrades.” Excellent article and a must-read if you want to understand what is happening to the electric utility industry.

Solar carport at Whole Foods in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Solaire Generation.

Solar carport at Whole Foods in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Solaire Generation.

This is what every parking lot in America should be: a solar power station. Solar power opponents frequently talk about the huge land requirements to generate large amounts of solar power. They forget about all that “land” above us; not only on rooftops but also above parking lots. Think about how much land is used by parking lots in the U.S., and then think about using that “land” above the parking lots to create solar power plants. Seriously: this is what every Ikea, Wal-Mart, shopping mall, factory, government and every other institution’s parking lots should look like. And, by the way, they can also be set up as chargers for the oncoming wave of electric cars….providing both electricity and reducing reliance on oil. A win-win if we’ve ever heard of one.

New ad reveals Duke Energy’s anti-solar, monopoly protection plan. From TUSK (Tell Utilities Solar won’t be Killed).

Renewables provided 15% of California’s power during last week’s emergency; time to go to 100% renewable? Yes.

Bipartisan Senate bill would extend Investment Tax Credit, which provides a boost to solar power and other 21st century energy technologies.

Oh boy, this is something we could have waited about another hundred lifetimes for….Sen. Ted Cruz (Insane-Texas) will give a speech tomorrow outlining his energy agenda (think fast approval of Keystone XL pipeline, then apparently add in incentives for every other polluting fuel you can think of). He’s reportedly preparing a legislative proposal, the American Energy Renaissance Act. Fortunately, we expect it to be about as successful as his government shutdown efforts.

Michael Mariotte

Permalink: https://safeenergy.org/2014/02/06/nuclear-newsreel-monday-february-10-2014/

Note: If you’d like to receive GreenWorld via e-mail daily, send your name and e-mail address to nirsnet@nirs.org and we’ll send you an invitation. Note that the invitation will come from a GreenWorld@wordpress.com address and not a nirs.org address, so watch for it.