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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

SEVMORPUT Completes Trials After Overhaul; Signs for the Future

ROSATOMFLOT, operator of Russia's nuclear powered icebreaker fleet, recently announced that the unique nuclear powered, icebreaking cargo ship SEVMORPUT (which means "Northern Sea Route") has completed its shakedown cruise after undergoing a heavy overhaul.  The ship still requires two to three months worth of work to finish deck fittings and equipment, but is expected to return to revenue service in early 2016.

This ship has had a long history, which included a period of semi-abandonment at the pier in Murmansk (where the nuclear icebreaker fleet is based) during which it was intended at times to scrap the ship.

The project to create this ship began in 1978, when Russia had already had at least one nuclear icebreaker in service continuously for almost 20 years.  The idea was to construct a relatively shallow draft cargo vessel with a limited icebreaking capability for service on the Northern Route.  Construction began January 1982 and the ship was completed in December 1988.

SEVMORPUT has a single KLT-40 nuclear steam supply system, rated at 135 MWt.  Turboelectric drive through one screw (with variable pitch blades) provides 40,000 SHP to drive the ship at speeds up to just over 20 knots, although this is considerably reduced when breaking ice -- which the ship can break itself in thickness up to three feet at a speed of two knots.  If ice is beyond this thickness, a nuclear icebreaker is used ahead of the ship as with conventional vessels.

From January 2007 to December 2013 the ship lay out of operation at Murmansk.  At that time the decision was made to refit the ship rather than scrap it; as we now see, the process to return the ship to operation has consumed two years.  The reactor was refueled, and according to ROSATOMFLOT much of the equipment was disassembled for inspection.  The nuclear plant was given a life extension, and the operators are quoted as saying that the ship will operate for 15 years.

There is an important point to be made here, beyond the life extension / rebirth of the world's only operable nuclear powered cargo vessel.  That is that the Russians have continuously remained dedicated to the use of nuclear power for the purpose of navigating these difficult sea routes since their first nuclear icebreaker (the LENIN) was placed in service in 1959.  That's significant, but what may be more significant in the broad sense is the development that this has now enabled, which is shown below.

Shown above is an artist's conception of the floating nuclear power plant project now under construction by ROSATOM.  Named AKADEMIK LOMONOSOV, this plant will include two KLT-40S reactors derived from the KLT-40 of SEVMORPUT and the KLT-40M design used on the two "coastal" nuclear icebreakers TAIMYR and VAIGACH.   Electric power output of the plant will be 70 MWe.  The plant can be moved more or less anywhere in the world there's water access.

Above, floating nuclear plant AKADEMIK LOMONOSOV under construction.  This project began construction in 2007 at Sevmash but in 2008 was transferred to JSC "Baltic" in St. Petersburg.  Originally scheduled for completion in 2015, but this date seems to have been pushed back.

The benefits of having a fully mature, developed and reliable highly compact nuclear plant can be seen in the translation of that technology to this vessel.  Long time readers of this blog (and my writings elsewhere) will know the history of the original floating nuclear plant, built by the US in the 1960's and will realize that such floating plants have the potential to bring zero emission energy to coastal areas anywhere they can be docked.

The Russians are not the only ones developing such floating nuclear plants for provision of power, or even clean water, ashore.

Above, China General Nuclear Corporation's concept for the ACPR50S floating nuclear power plant.  Feasibility studies for this project were completed in 2010, with the conceptual design having been completed in 2012.  Construction of the first unit is expected to occur shortly (originally having been planned for 2015) and CGN intends to complete and operate the first example in 2018.  The plant will be able to provide electric power, clean water, and steam for building heating on shore.

The dedication to construct compact, powerful nuclear reactors for ocean going service has thus led directly to floating nuclear plants in Russia; the dedication to develop similar technology for SMR or Small Modular Reactor plants on shore has led directly to floating nuclear plants in China.  The message is clear enough that such plants could be an important part of the future energy mix -- and may someday be required for many commercial ships on the vast oceans as concerns about carbon emission, and eventually carbon penalties, come into play.

For now, though, we must be satisfied with the fact that the world's last remaining nuclear powered cargo vessel has been pulled from the brink, which surely even by itself is cause for hope.

Photos courtesy ROSATOMFLOT, ROSATOM and CGN Nuclear.

DECEMBER 30, 2015

Monday, October 19, 2015

ANS Winter Meeting 2015

This year's Winter Meeting of the American Nuclear Society (in Washington, D.C.) is shaping up to be a very important event.  As usual for such ANS meetings -- large ones like this are held twice a year -- there is a large list of experts and industry people who will be on hand to make presentations and take part in expert panels.

I will of course be there, and you'll see my reporting on the ANS' Social Media outlets (ANS Nuclear Cafe blog, Twitter and Facebook) as always.

I consider these meetings absolutely vital for networking with other professionals, and particularly for discussing communications about nuclear energy and technology.  If you're an ANS member, I hope you agree.

ANS has created a press release for this year's Winter meeting, and I'm passing that along here:


Climate Change and Nonproliferation Topics Lead
Nuclear Energy Meeting
ANS Members from Around the World to Gather in D.C. for Winter Meeting
LaGrange Park, IL, – Nuclear professionals from the U.S. and around the world will meet to discuss climate change, nuclear nonproliferation and the growth of nuclear technology at the 2015 American Nuclear Society (ANS) Winter Meeting November 8th – 12th in Washington, D.C.

ANS President Gene Grecheck will welcome hundreds of members in a plenary session on Nuclear: The Foundation of Sensible Policy for Energy, Economy and the Environment as the role of nuclear energy in combating climate change is at the forefront of national and global discussions. Many sessions throughout the week will expand on the role of nuclear energy as part of the solution to reducing carbon emissions and climate change.
International security and energy consultant Susan Eisenhower will present the first Dwight D. Eisenhower Award to George Schultz, former Secretary of State for Ronald Reagan and Dr. Sidney Drell, Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute. Drell and Schulz are being honored for their historical achievements in advancing nuclear nonproliferation, arms control and the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The meeting provides an opportunity for attendees to explore the current trends and important advances in nuclear technology and hear from notable nuclear experts from around the world. Technical sessions include cutting-edge nuclear topics such as advances in fast reactor designs, MOX fuel, SMR’s, and the prospects for construction of new nuclear facilities in the U.S. and around the world. A copy of the full program can be viewed at www.ans.org.

ANS Winter Meeting registration is available at
Press may register online at


Established in 1954, ANS is a professional organization of engineers and scientists devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its more than 10,000 members come from diverse technical backgrounds covering the full range of engineering disciplines as well as the physical and biological sciences within the nuclear field. They are advancing the application of nuclear technologies to improve the lives of the world community through national and international enterprise within government.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Entergy: Pilgrim closing by 2019

Today we got some news that we were expecting.  I don't mean to say about Pilgrim Nuclear Station being closed by 2019 -- I mean the news that some nuclear plant or another in the US was going to announce closure due to market conditions sooner or later.  This sort of feeling is becoming pervasive; it's not any sort of pall of doom, but the plain fact of the matter is that Pilgrim was only one of a number of plants today being threatened by forces that didn't exist when these plants were built.

What forces did exist when these plants were built?  Well, Pilgrim was ordered as a part of that very first breakout flood of orders for commercial nuclear plants in 1965, a year that saw seven units ordered.  1964 had seen none, and 1963 saw four commercial units ordered (one of which, Malibu, was cancelled.)  So 1965 really was the spark; 1966 saw 20 ordered, and 1967 saw 31.

The New England region was, back at that time, heavily in the grip of oil fuel.  This was used (in various grades or names) for electric power generation and for home heating, and was used perhaps more extensively here than anywhere else.  Coal had very little play here, as compared with the rest of the nation.  So, when oil prices started and kept going up, New England poured on the nuclear plant construction; it continued as clean air became more and more important in addition.

•1956:  Yankee Atomic Electric plant for Rowe, Mass. ordered
•1962:  Connecticut Yankee ordered
•1965:  Pilgrim and Millstone ordered
•1966:  Vermont Yankee ordered
•1967:  Maine Yankee and Millstone 2 ordered
•1968:  Seabrook announced (but not ordered)
•1972:  Pilgrim 2 and 3, Seabrook 1 and 2, Millstone 3 ordered
•1974:  Montague 1 and 2, and New England 1 and 2 ordered

(Above - conceptual view of New England 1 and 2, ordered in 1974 by New England Power.)

In about 1980, Boston Edison was using a mixture of 70% oil and 30% nuclear energy to generate electricity.  It said at that time that between 1970 and 1980 the cost of the oil it was burning had increased 1500% --- rising from about $2.22 per barrel to over $35 per barrel.  This caused Boston Edison (and as you can see a number of other utilities) to begin a rush of ordering of nuclear plants at first slowly in the end of the 60's, and then heavily in the first few years of the 1970's as the oil price trend became very clear.

Pilgrim by itself made up for about 7 million barrels of oil per year, saving the company's customers about $115 million per year (1981 numbers.)  It's quite easy to see why the large nuclear build was put on up in New England.

Of course, it didn't all pan out.  If one looks at Seabrook station today, the plant for all the world looks like a two unit nuclear plant.  But only one unit is complete and working.  Of the units listed earlier, Pilgrim 2 and 3, Seabrook 2, Montague 1 and 2 and New England 1 and 2 were never completed.  In fact, the last two projects never started real construction.  The reasons for this are many, but I'm getting to a point here.

Let's take a look at a key passage from the informative booklet "About: Pilgrim Station," published by Boston Edison in 1981:

"The New England Region relies more heavily on imported oil for its energy needs than any other part of the country.  Its uncertainty in both cost and availability mandates that this dependence be greatly reduced.  Thus, currently, nuclear power is the only option for the foreseeable future and represents the most economical, safe and readily available opportunity to reduce our reliance on expensive foreign oil."

Now, I want you to read this again, but this time substitute "natural gas' for "imported oil" or "foreign oil."  Because this is what New England is looking at -- it's looking at giving up its most reliable, lowest carbon base load power and becoming dependent upon a single fuel.  In the past that was oil; now it will be natural gas.  The implications are obvious -- if (when, actually) natural gas prices go back up there will be NO escape.

(Item:  At one time, a certain utility in Kansas was told by its natural gas supplier that there would be a sudden price increase and reducing availability scaled through the future as gas was then re-prioritized for home use.  The response?  It ordered a nuclear power plant--  Wolf Creek.  Think about this for a moment.)

Really what's happening here is that Entergy is losing about $40 million a year on Pilgrim, and since it's facing buying fuel next year for a 2017 outage and is also facing increased regulatory oversight and possible equipment backfit / modification implications, it's decided to go ahead and announce a final termination for plant operation.  This termination (not later than 2019) IS FLEXIBLE and may be moved up to the 2017 outage, or even sooner, the company says.

As I started out by saying, this was expected.  Several plants are known to be "on the block."  Kewaunee and Vermont Yankee have been the first to shut down for similar circumstances, and much as I hate to say it, it's almost certain this trend is not yet over.

You'll find some more information and some official links, as well as a really informative NEI link, by clicking here to get to ANS Nuclear Cafe.

2:30 PM Eastern
Atomic Power Review

Friday, October 9, 2015

Westinghouse announces Lead Cooled Fast Reactor initiative

On Friday, October 9, Westinghouse announced that it had launched a program to work with the US Department of Energy in the development of a new, lead-cooled fast reactor (commonly, "LFR") which would combine the advantages of lead cooling (high temperatures, primarily, as well as lower pressures) with advanced accident tolerant fuel to push the Gen-IV envelope to what it perceives as Gen-V --  a term that seems to imply the "state of the art" in perhaps 30 or 50 years down the road.

Westinghouse's press release:  Click Here.

Also, the US DOE announcement of the opportunity can be found here.

The action taken up to this point is that Westinghouse has, in acting on the requirements of the DOE opportunity, made an application to DOE for consideration as recipient of funding.  These applications were due by October 5.  Two awardees are expected to be named.


Westinghouse held an exclusive blogger teleconference on this announcement and on the new LFR program with Cindy Pezze, Westinghouse Vice President, Global Technology Development and Chief Technology Officer today; more than one nuclear blogger had been invited, but yours truly was the only one who called in.  As a result, the content below is an exclusive to this blog.

Pezze began by offering the observation that while Westinghouse was deeply involved in the launch of commercial nuclear power (with the PWR concept, first applied for commercial use at Shippingport Atomic Power Station, about which this author has written repeatedly) and thus has deep roots in the field, the company today is an extremely dynamic and much different looking company than it had been in the past.  She pointed out the company's pride in the involvement with no fewer than three simultaneous new construction projects (the AP1000 - one site in China, two in the United States) and described these as "the most advanced PWR nuclear plants anywhere."  Also mentioned were Westinghouse's venerable nuclear fuel program, and further Westinghouse's continued (if reduced) presence in the market for nuclear plant components and services. "Unfortunately, a field we have to address is decommissioning, decontamination and remediation" of closing nuclear plants, Pezze added - a field in which Westinghouse has an increasing presence as, clearly, the requirement for such work will continue to increase.

It is against this established background that Pezze contrasted the very new ("visionary," as she put it) approach by Westinghouse CEO Danny Roderick wherein Roderick challenged the Westinghouse engineers (which according to Pezze have been concentrated centrally to enable a "focus for innovation and for the enhancement of existing lines and technologies") this past February to take a clean sheet of paper and study, both from a nuclear design / feasibility standpoint as well as an economic standpoint, the various types of truly advanced reactors to "see what the future generation nuclear plant should look like."  Roderick emphasized that the selected technology had to incorporate both "unparalleled safety" and "unprecedented economics."

According to Pezze, this task was vigorously pursued and all types of reactor were considered, whether cooled by gas, various metals, and even molten salts.  Safety of each design was the key consideration, but economic viability (without which none could be built) was also a guiding consideration.  (She noted that "the team did even look at LWR or Light Water Reactor designs for this study as well.")

The study, including some 15 or 16 criteria appropriately weighted, resulted in a rather clear winner - the lead cooled fast reactor or LFR.  Pezze noted some of the outstanding aspects of this design throughout both the presentation and the Q&A portion of today's call; here, compiled, are some of those mentioned qualities:

•Inherent safety features such as reactivity feedback and high boiling point of the coolant
•Unpressurized coolant system which is inherently safer than those operating at high pressures (a pool type reactor was hinted at during the discussion, as opposed to a tank or sealed pressure vessel type)
•Coolant not reactive with air or water (as is sodium, also being pursued as a coolant in other Gen-IV designs)
•Fewer challenges with radioactive byproducts than other designs (perhaps molten salt.)

Not mentioned was the ability of such designs to assist in the disposal of spent fuel / transuranics by burning it in the reactor (appropriately processed into fuel, of course.)

Perhaps of major importance outside the electric utility field is the ability of the LFR, because of the high temperature of its coolant, to be very useful in the generation of process steam -- making economic production of hydrogen closer to reality, as well as being of benefit to industrial processes of all types.  Desalination of water is also a potential use for such a plant.  (The high steam quality also means that large wet steam turbines as are used at all conventional LWR nuclear plants will give way to much more common superheated steam turbines.)  The high temperature steam will add the benefit of improving plant efficiency, thus plant economics.  (This was one of the most pushed points of the old General Atomics gas cooled reactor program back in the 60's that resulted in two commercial but essentially prototypical plants, and no others in the US; it remains valid today, however.)

The ability of such plants to load follow was not addressed specifically on the teleconference but is noted in Westinghouse materials distributed to this writer; this is important should such a design be required to operate in concert with renewables in a situation in which the renewables have dispatch priority on the grid, and in which the LFR plant would then be expected to ramp.

Pezze observed that roughly 10 or 20 years ago, LFR projects were dropped or sidelined because materials problems appeared too daunting.  However, the decades of work in metallurgy have now caught up, and the LFR appears to be a short to mid term commercial reality now.

Inside Westinghouse this program has been loosely tagged as "Gen-V," which bears some explanation.  This simply refers to the fact that while Gen-IV reactors are classed as advanced designs having improved safety (above Gen-III / Gen-III+ LWR designs,) improved resistance to proliferation, reduced generated waste and improved economics, this concept by Westinghouse is hoped to provide (as noted) safety and economy on a not-yet-seen scale.  Pezze observed that it's the company's belief that much of the Gen-IV technology has not been commercialized at all yet (effectively) because it's simply not economical to do so.  The Westinghouse LFR project is intended to meet all the Gen-IV stipulations for overall design mentioned above, but also will be exceedingly safe and highly economical to build and operate.  She described the "Gen V" label as a target out in time at which this project is directed.

(Side note, and my thoughts only: This is an interesting exercise.  It essentially says that most or all Gen-IV designs are more or less a range of theoretical potential prototypes, into each of which as we all know variable amounts of money have been poured but for any of which, as conceived now, the economics are just not there.  This identification that extravagantly expensive and highly technically idealized nuclear plants will not get built may be a key, so far as this writer is concerned, to the success of Westinghouse's program.  We might well refer to the "technically ideal" fluid fuel, aqueous homogeneous reactors that died a difficult and well deserved death commercially in 1959 after which they were supplanted in all quarters of research and commercial construction by "less ideal" concepts which actually could get built and operated.  Keep in mind these are my observations, not those of Westinghouse or anyone associated with it.  Now back to the story.)

A key factor in safety for this new LFR program is noted by Pezze as being the use of advanced accident tolerant fuels, on which Westinghouse has been working and which have an increasing focus.  On the other end of the promise is economy - which Pezze points out is largely due to the fact that the primary coolant system is unpressurized, allowing components to be smaller and/or less expensive because they quite simply can be made thinner.  Having a non-reactive coolant (with water or air) also means simplification of plant safety systems as compared with other technology choices which embrace a reactive coolant to obtain other characteristics.  (To this writer, this move appears to be right in line with Westinghouse's continued desire to simplify nuclear plants, dating from the AP600 era and working right through to the present AP1000 and now, apparently, beyond.)

Pezze's description of the selection process included the thought line that if one selects a high pressure design of plant (NSSS or Nuclear Steam Supply System) then the protections against radioactive release from the plant get more complicated and expensive -- and of course the actual materials of the NSSS get thicker, heavier and more expensive.  Adding to these costs by using a reactive coolant (such as sodium) drives cost up even further.  Now, given that much research has been done on the use of lead in nuclear power as a coolant, and that Westinghouse feels that with dedicated work the materials problems can be solved in the short to mid term, then all these cost increases as described above are "off the table."  In other words, some advanced reactor design choices add a sort of self-inflicted cost and complexity increase over the LFR for no practical advantage.

So what are the next steps?  Pezze says that within several months the DOE announcement of who will be awarded the funds to develop an advanced design is expected, although no firm date is known.  Westinghouse is working with 12 different parties, said to be national labs and universities but cannot name them all specifically just yet (although that is coming eventually in a future press release; we'll have to wait and see.)  The DOE FOA is a five year program and we can expect further announcements and developments through that time frame.


There you have it.  Westinghouse has thrown its hat back into the advanced reactor field (it was once quite seriously in that field, as it was the lead reactor vendor for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor project.)  The design chosen has all the hallmarks, at least as presented to me today by Westinghouse, of something that may not be the furthest up the scale of "theoretically ideal" designs, but which can and will get built.  The notion that Westinghouse will focus on extreme safety AND extremely economical cost for the plant tell me that the company is paying attention to what the entire world is saying about nuclear energy -- and that Westinghouse also knows we need nuclear energy for many, many years to come.  One more thing - a big "thank you" to Westinghouse for reaching out to the nuclear blogging community.

Atomic Power Review
5:45 PM  10/9/2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

IAEA Director's Report on the Fukushima Daiichi Accident - September 1, 2015

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has just released an absolutely massive report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident.  While there are literally dozens and dozens of previous reports that any researcher can consult (check the stand alone page on this blog for a good list of these) this report appears to attempt to be definitive.  There are thousands of pages of report and annex to go through; I've downloaded the report (which has to be done somewhat laboriously through multiple links) and will report back here on this blog should I find anything especially surprising.


1 SEP 15

Monday, May 18, 2015

Nuclear Energy Blog Carnival 261

We've had to repost this Carnival because of  HTML errors that crept into the first post while it was being made.  

The Carnival is a rotating feature hosted among the top English language pro-nuclear blogs, and appears each week displaying the top selected posts as designated by either the authors or the publishers.


Next Big Future - Brian Wang

Supercritical Water Cooled Reactors part of Gen-IV Options:  China has announced that it is building a SCWR, with a rating of 1000 MWe and which is designated SCR-1000.  Euratom is collaborating on the fuel design.

X-energy developments;  X-energy recently convened a panel of nuclear energy experts to discuss the design of its pebble (bed) type fuel.  The company plans to utilize this fuel in its pebble bed reactor sometime in the mid-2020's.


Yes Vermont Yankee - Meredith Angwin

Celebrating, Traveling, and a book on Advocacy:  Meredith Angwin will be reducing her activities at her blog, taking some time off to travel.  However, she announces a new book is in the works that will reflect her wide nuclear advocacy experience.


Northwest Clean Energy - John Dobken

Too Much News from Few Facts:  Recently, some pipe flaw indications at Columbia Generating Station have made the news.  While the operator takes these indications seriously, the press has more seriously overblown the issue.  The post contains important data and graphics.

Update:  This second post provides updates to the first on the pipe flaw indications, with more data and graphics.  Readers will be able to have a good handle on the situation between these two posts.


Hiroshima Syndrome - Les Corrice

Gundersen 14 Meltdown Myth:  Arnie Gundersen may well have told the biggest whopper of his career when he asserted recently that Japan missed - by "luck" - having 14 reactor meltdowns after the Great East Japan / Tohoku quake and tsunami.  Les Corrice sets him straight.


Nuke Power Talk - Gail Marcus

The Future of Nuclear Beyond Gen-IV:  Recently Dr. Marcus was asked what the future of nuclear energy might hold, and might look like, beyond the presently considered "Gen-IV" reactors.  Taken by surprise by this question, she looks at the scope of future applications and asks readers to begin to imagine, guided by some suggestions, that very future.


Energy Reality Project - Rick Maltese

Guest author Michael Mann provides a look at R. E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant, and gives a number of valid reasons why the plant's future is important to, and inextricably tied with, the future of the whole surrounding region.  The plant's performance, and focus on quality and safety, are particularly brought into view by veteran plant employee Mann.

Alex Cannara provides a letter to the California Energy Commission, and Rick Maltese talks about California energy, lobbyists, activists, and in particular the prospect of pro-nuclear advocacy by people who are knowledgeable.. and who are regular people too, just like us.  Well worth a look.


Forbes - Jim Conca

Why don't nuclear scientists get respect?  Jim Conca wonders (not to himself, fortunately for us) why it is that environmental scientists are, as an example, consulted by media on environment matters but why then, on nuclear matters, nuclear experts are not.  Instead, we are forced to sit through dissertations by pop-science talking heads who have never set foot in a nuclear plant.  Conca's article provides a sobering look at who we look to, societally, as "experts."


That's it for this week's Carnival!  All the entries are great, and I thank the authors and publishers.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Physical versus Political Realities and Nuclear Plants - Indian Point

Over the weekend, an output transformer at Indian Point Energy Center in New York failed in a somewhat spectacular manner, as is fairly often the case with oil filled transformers at any power plant or electric substation -- it leaked, burned and exploded and required water and then firefighting foam to extinguish.  This event would have been fairly unremarkable except for the fact that some of the oil, whose volume was added to by firefighting water and foam, went into the Hudson River.  Even that would have been something likely contained to local news services and stations, but because the event occurred at a nuclear power plant, and because politicians are adept at capitalizing on problems to turn them into crises, we now face some 600 news stories on the event world wide.

"Public perception (of nuclear energy) is hindered by the symbiosis of the anti-nuclear lobby (who need public exposure to survive) and the public media (who need controversy to entertain)," said Sir Walter Marshall in a speech to the Atomic Industrial Forum in 1985.  His remarks could be amended to say that anti-nuclear politicians, who also require public exposure and a following to keep their jobs, are tied inextricably to the media -- a media that in this country is largely biased to the left.  And on that left politically is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who missed none of the opportunity to show up at Indian Point's gate for the press.

Cuomo has long been an opponent of having (clean, reliable, carbon free, around the clock) Indian Point operating in his state; the record is quite clear on this fact.  He kept that vein when he issued some of his typically deeply insightful analysis of the plant's situation, as reported by the AP.

When asked about environmental impact of the oil that reached the river, he said "obviously it's not good."  Well, the fact is that Entergy Nuclear's environmental contractors were on site the same day and this morning's report from Indian Point is that the oil is mostly contained to an area set up by floating booms and that very little has entered the larger waterway.  So Cuomo, without any real knowledge of the spread or the impact (which he could have had none of at the early hour he made the quote) steps out on a limb of credibility -- a limb which none of the media will shake or test.

Cuomo is quoted as having uttered this gem:  "Luckily, this was not a major situation.  But the emergency protocols are very important.  I take nothing lightly when it comes to this plant specifically."

"This plant specifically?"  Well, naturally - you're against the nuclear plant itself.  You'd like to drive up energy prices, drive down grid reliability, and drive up carbon emissions overall by shutting it down -- which panders to your environmentalist base.  The problem is that the plant's operating experience shows it to be safe and reliable. This is why Cuomo must by needs speak in such vague terms. Vague accusations are the stock in trade of the anti-nuclear politician.  They are carried instantly and breathlessly by the compliant media who needs such fabricated controversy to sell advertising spa-- sorry, I mean to sell news stories.

So the situation boils down to this:  Unit 3 at Indian Point was forced to shut down immediately as a result of the failure, and because most folks don't have transformers this big just sitting around and because even if you do they take time to put in, the unit might be down several weeks.  The impact of the oil and extinguishing measures was mitigated and contained as rapidly as possible... probably FAR more rapidly than if it had occurred at some unmanned remote substation.  There was no impact to the public at large at any time.  However, hundreds of news items (many of which are just the same AP piece reprinted over and over) are carrying the klaxon alarm of Cuomo, who vows to get to the bottom of the event.

A transformer failed.  Some oil got in the water, but its impact is minimal.  The plant is all right; the nuclear portion is safe, and stable.  Return to your home, Governor Cuomo - there really is nothing to see here except you, grandstanding for votes.

Will Davis  - May 11, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

TVA Backs off Bellefonte

Bellefonte Nuclear Plant, courtesy TVA

TVA has announced both in public form and in an official "road map" for its future that the two unit Bellefonte nuclear station is no longer intended for completion.

This plant was part of a wave of nuclear plants ordered by TVA in the late 60's and early 1970's when TVA was facing what it saw as enormous increases in demand through the 1970's.  As those estimates proved overly high, TVA began to cancel nuclear plants it had ordered.  The cutoff for TVA was not like that, though, for other utilities; while it completed some plants and outright cancelled others, there were some units that were slowed down, or you might say "put on ice" -- the two Watts Bar units (the first of which was completed after a long time period, and the second of which is due to be completed this year, i.e. 2015) and the two Bellefonte units.

The Bellefonte plant was officially ordered in August 1970, at which time TVA ordered two of Babcock & Wilcox's largest and most powerful Nuclear Steam Supply Systems (NSSS) of the day - the Babcock -205.  These units were to have been rated at roughly 3760 MWt / 1175 MWe (first figure from B&W "Steam" 38th ed. 1975 and second figure from AEC publication WASH-1174-71) and were to have been completed and in commercial service in 1977 and 1978 (WASH 1174-71.)

At the same time as Bellefonte was ordered, TVA ordered the two Watts Bar units (Westinghouse 1169 MWe, intended for completion originally in 1976-1977 and for which construction permits were acquired immediately, unlike Bellefonte.)

TVA actually cancelled outright three entire nuclear power stations which were ordered after Bellefonte.  In December 1972 TVA ordered four GE BWR units for the Hartsville A1 and Hartsville A2 sites; in August 1974 it ordered two more for Phipps Bend and two more for Yellow Creek.

August 1982 saw the first round of cancellations.  In that month, Hartsville B1 and B2 were cancelled (17% and 7% complete, respectively) and so were Phipps Bend 1 and 2 (29% and 5% complete, respectively.)  Two years later, in 1984, TVA cancelled Hartsville A1 and A2 (44% and 34% complete, respectively) and also cancelled Yellow Creek 1 and 2 (35% and 3% complete, respectively.)  Clearly, it can be seen by the completion percentages that not all of the units were being constructed at the same pace -- deferral of work had already been taking place.

All of the nuclear units TVA ordered prior to August 1970 were completed (Browns Ferry, Sequoyah).  Only one of the four ordered in August 1970 has been completed (Watts Bar Unit 1, not completed until 1996) although another (Watts Bar Unit 2) will be.  All of the units ordered later than August 1970 by TVA were cancelled.  The only "in limbo" units with any state of completion that could offer hope of operation are Bellefonte 1 and 2, although it should be pointed out that some components of these units were removed and scrapped over the years and would need to be completely replaced.

Knowing that last set of facts and the fact that TVA has expected nearly flat demand growth for some time (this was said way back when the plan to build a Generation mPower SMR plant at Clinch River was in the works and this author was told then that TVA did NOT need the power these units would generate, by an inside source) it isn't surprising at all that Bellefonte is on the chopping block again.

Now, will TVA cancel these units outright?  Or will it again place them in stasis?  The word is not out on this yet, but when I hear it one way or another as a certainty, I will post that here.

5:45 PM Eastern 4/13/2015

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SNUPPS - Why it mattered then, and should now

Over on the ANS Nuclear Cafe blog, a large and detailed (if not overly involved or technical) article on the SNUPPS nuclear power plant construction project which I wrote has just been published.  My friend and colleague Glenn Williams provided invaluable help both in providing supporting information and peer review for this piece on what must certainly be considered the ultimate conceptual development for project management in the flood of new nuclear plant construction of the 1970's.

The question I need to answer here is this:  Why did I write it?

Frequently today in many varied discussions using every kind of media you can imagine (including the old ones like face-to-face and the phone) I find that knowledge of SNUPPS is non-existent.  Sure, some people have heard of it, but know little or nothing of what it actually was or how it was supposed to operate. 

I first learned about it as a "new nuke" back in about 1988 when I picked up a copy of "The Second Nuclear Era," which mentioned the project a number of times and pointed toward its advanced, standardized (duplicate, actually) nuclear plant design approach.  That book, however, gave no real details of the program.  Since then I've been curious about it and have wanted to write on it.  This reached a crescendo lately as discussions about how new nuclear plant construction in the United States could ever go forward considering the delays and overruns we're seeing with the new plants being built.  I decided that since every time I mentioned an integrated approach such as SNUPPS for US utilities, should they decide to work together, I got either silence or blank stares or even sometimes good questions, it was time to put permanently on the internet something that could show what the concepts of the program were, a bit of how it was carried out, and what some of the challenges turned out to be.

SNUPPS mattered then because of the enormous costs being incurred by delay, and the growing costs of regulation.  The program sought to cut these in an innovative way.  We see these problems now, today.  And they're not going to disappear.

So, having said all that, follow this link to ANS Nuclear Cafe and check out the article.  Feel free to comment on it or ask further questions.  I think we need ... dare I say it ... a paradigm shift again, and something like SNUPPS' management setup could allow a general approach by multiple, disparate utilities to get plants built en masse.

4:10 PM Eastern 3/17/2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

SMART SMR Moves Ahead - in Saudi Arabia and at Home

SMART SMR Nuclear Plant Integrated Design Concept, courtesy KAERI
It has been announced that South Korea and Saudi Arabia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which includes the construction of SMART Small Modular Reactor nuclear plants.

This follows the formation in January of a separate company to promote export of the SMART SMR.  See the text of Korea Atomic Energy Institute's press release on the formation of SMART Power Company below:


{SPC (SMART Power Co.), an entity responsible for the export of the indigenously developed 100MWe small integral reactor SMART was launched on January 29, 2015.

SPC’s full-fledged activities began with the opening ceremony that took place at its head office building in S Tower, Gwanghwamun, Seoul, with the attendance of important figures from politics and finance such as the invested companies’ CEO, former Prime Minister, lawmakers as well as relevant people from Office for Government Policy Coordination, MSIP and KAERI.

SMART is an integral-type small reactor, developed in 2012 after 15 years of research. It received the first-ever Standard Design Approval (SDA) from a regulatory body for a 100MWe (330MWth) integral reactor. SMART generates only a 1/10 of a large nuclear plant (over 1,000 MWe), but since it is an integral-type reactor it has enhanced the inherent safety by containing  major  components such as a pressurizer, steam generator, and reactor coolant pumps in a single reactor pressure vessel.  It was designed especially for export and can supply a city with a population of 100,000 with 90 Mw electricity and 40 thousand tons of fresh water per day concurrently. .

SPC, founded with the investment of capital and manpower from 6 corporations, including POSCO E&C, PONU Tech, and DAEWOO E&C, will make its proactive activities to promote the export of SMART by devising customized export strategies aligned with the demands of potential importers and by carrying out PR and joint feasibility studies in these countries.

MSIP plans to  form a government-supported consultative body  with the Office for Government Policy Coordination, the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy (MOTIE) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to support SMART export cooperation activities and private businesses.

Keung Koo  Kim, Director  of the SMART Development Division, mentioned that "the potential importers of SMART are countries with small scale electric power grids, countries with scattered population that have difficulty in building grids for a large scale nuclear plant, or those with water shortages" and also pointed out that " Middle East countries that need seawater desalination facilities are one of the prime potential importers." }


It might go without saying, but it was necessary for KAERI - who developed the SMART SMR in the first place - to find some other outlet if it wished this design to move forward, since KEPCO (Korea Electric Power Company) had no desire to build small power plants in the size range SMART would provide.  Proof of this can be found in the ever-increasing size of plants being put on the South Korean grid -- now, the units under construction are model APR1400 which will deliver 1400 MWe to the grid, not the 100 MWe promised by the SMART single unit plant.

SMART SMR exterior view and cutaway (courtesy KAERI) shows classic iPWR configuration
According to early reporting of the deal by Korea Herald the MOU will see a three year development program launched, which will determine feasibility of building SMART SMR nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia.  The feasibility studies will be done by 2018 under this agreement; if plans go forward with one to two units the contracts (again according to early reporting) could amount to as much as $2 billion.

Alan Ahn of the Global America Business Institute, Washington D.C. observes that with "100% Korean technology, a US type 1-2-3 agreement is not required."  Ahn points out that the lack of such agreements definitely "poses barriers" for export of nuclear plants incorporating US technology. 

It is beginning to appear if South Korea is "hitting on all cylinders" now when it comes to nuclear plant export.  The APR1400 plants at Barakah, UAE are on time and on budget.  Now, a MOU (which definitely is not an order for plants, but is definitely the first step) for the KAERI designed SMR is on the books and real, meaningful work studying the construction of power plants using this design in arid locations is about to begin.

I will follow this development and update the story as other details emerge.

1:42 PM Eastern 3/3/2015