APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TVA plan update

MarketWatch is now reporting the same thing we noticed and reported here a short while back - namely, that the Tennessee Valley Authority is finishing a new 20 year plan which includes less fossil fuel and more nuclear. This link takes you to the MarketWatch article; the plan isn't set in stone yet (vote early next year) but it sounds like they're serious.

Some Calvert Cliffs comments

By now, many of you have read the letter that Constellation Energy has sent to Electricite de France, both of whom are partners in UniStar, which was set up to build a now stalled, new third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs site. That letter offers EDF the stake in UniStar that Constellation formerly had for one dollar, but requests payment of a fractional share of the development costs that Constellation has paid over the years. Overall, if EDF wants a foothold in the US nuclear market it should sign quickly.

What I note today is the section of Constellation that indicates "serious reactor design deficiencies" or some such. The intended plant to be built was, we understand, to have been a French AREVA design (the 4500 MWt AREVA Evolutionary Power Reactor, or "EPR.") One has to wonder what those shortcomings are - and one wonders if such exist with designs already well along in the licensing process, such as the Westinghouse AP1000 that might get built twice at Southern Company's Vogtle site in Georgia. Again, we see evidence of how the largely fractured and segmented nuclear power industry in the US hurts us.

Friday, October 15, 2010

B&W does get a Bellefonte contract after all

Just in here is the news that Babcock & Wilcox, original reactor vendor for the cancelled Bellefonte 1 & 2 reactor plants in Alabama, has won a contract to build the steam generators for Unit 1. The company's B&W Canada subsidiary will perform the actual fabrication. See our previous posts on Bellefonte for more details.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Breaking 5:45 PM EDT Weds - EDF to go it alone?

Bloomberg is presently reporting that Electricite de France, or EDA, has responded to Constellation's having backed off plans to add a nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs by saying it's willing to buy out Constellation and forge ahead. The plan includes the mention that after a process another partner or co-investor would be found. This is a bright note for nuclear here, and should be a wake up call that if US utilities and manufacturers and contractors and reactor vendors won't get it done, someone else will.

Here is the Bloomberg article.

TVA brief update

Nuclear Engineering International is reporting that the Tennessee Valley Authority's long term plan includes an increased focus on nuclear power, and indicates that the federally-owned utility company may even shut down some fossil fuelled plants when emissions restrictions are made more stringent by the EPA. Most interesting is the assertion by NEI that it seems likely that TVA will push forward with Bellefonte, in Alabama (two unfinished units) and that work is already underway (as noted here) on Watts Bar 2. These, along with Vogtle, look like our best near-term bets for getting new reactors on the grid.

Watts Bar 2 is an unfinished Westinghouse PWR, rated 3411 MWt, 1177 MWe net, while Bellefonte 1 & 2 are unfinished Babcock & Wilcox PWR plants, which the company was referring to in print as their BW-205 model (with 205 fuel elements) and which were to have been rated 3620 MWt / 1213 MWe. As previously reported here and everywhere, Vogtle 3 & 4 are to be Westinghouse AP1000 plants. Look at this blog's LINKS section for the Westinghouse link; from there you can find an excellent downloadable Westinghouse brochure on the AP1000 plant, in PDF file format.

Pilgrim: Tritium >limits again

We note briefly now that the groundwater sampling at Entergy's Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (General Electric BWR plant) near Plymouth, Massachusetts has revealed a rise in tritium again, above limits. This has been an ongoing problem at this site, and serious investigation as to the source is underway. As before, this tritium has been found by the groundwater sampling program which is designed to catch this sort of thing BEFORE it gets into any publicly available water, or the general water table, so that Entergy is reporting that no one in the public is at any risk.

Look here for a very brief and very new article.

NRC Special Inspection: Robinson 2

No surprise to anyone with any smidgen of knowledge of the industry is the arrival of an NRC inspection team at Robinson-2 yesterday. This article, derived from the NRC release, is a good brief description.

As noted in our post in this blog on October 8, the combination of events at Robinson that resulted in two separate incident reports made to the NRC (one for the low-flow scram, another for the failure to isolate feed condition later on) was in sum somewhat alarming, and the NRC is on site. The inspection will run a week or so and the NRC will publish results on its site; we'll be watching.

H.B. Robinson Steam Electric Plant Unit #2 is a Westinghouse three-loop Pressurized Water Reactor. The construction permit for the plant was issued in 1967; the operating license was issued in 1970 and the plant went on line producing power for Carolina Power & Light in March, 1971. Robinson 2's rating by NRC records is 2339 MWt and 710 MWe. (For those new, let's refresh: "MWt" is Megawatts Thermal, or heat output from the reactor in megawatts, while "MWe" is the net electrical power output in megawatts to the supply lines or "grid.")

Back to Bataan!

By following this link you'll see a very fascinating web page.

As it happens, the Philippines began construction of a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor plant at Bataan in 1976, and after what appears to have been a vast debate nationally about funding and safety, completed the plant in 1984 although the debt for it was not paid off until 2007.

No fuel was ever loaded. No steam was produced; not one watt of electricity was generated or delivered.

The plant remains intact, complete, and finished.

Now, this web page seems quite against some fairly recent proposals to fuel and start up the plant. For example, included are lists of "Major nuclear plant accidents" (not complete, not exactly accurate, and mostly not applicable to a plant such as this) and some information on Chernobyl (not applicable at all.)

Those faults notwithstanding, this is a prime example of a wide array of unfinished plants all over the world, really, and what it REALLY is, is proof of the ability of a nation to waste vast amounts of money to build something they'll probably never use because fear caused them to pull back from what they thought was a brink but was actually a new horizon. The public apparently augured disaster; we might look to the great confidence we found after the building and operating of S1W, Shippingport, Vallecitos, Dresden-1, Yankee Atomic Electric (Rowe) and a number of other early plants. We know now what both paths look like.

Funding issues for new plants...

Two recent announcements have put a little hitch in the nuclear renaissance.

First, Constellation has halted further plans to add another nuclear generating plant to its Calvert Cliffs station; see articles here, and here.

Adding to this, Progress Energy won't add a plant at Shearon Harris; see the announcement here.

What this means is that as of this point, only the loan to Southern Co. for the purpose of adding a plant at Vogtle is active. While the price of natural gas seems to be having some effect on comparisons with nuclear, there's no question that there is both an economic basis to build nuclear plants and a public initiative to do so, not the least of which has been spearheaded by the President.

By the way, let's include a quote from Matthew Wald's article for the New York Times, linked above:

In 2005, President George W. Bush spoke at Calvert Cliffs, the first presidential visit to a nuclear plant in 30 years. “It is time for this country to start building nuclear power plants again,” he said.

Ah, so the first spark of this renaissance should be credited as having happened five years ago, it seems! Wald goes on to note that the last groundbreaking for a new nuclear plant which was actually completed occurred in 1973; I will add that present day historians should always remember that new plant orders stopped in 1978, a year before Three Mile Island. Economics struck the first blow last time the nuclear parade stopped; regulations and alterations as a result of the accident at TMI-2 struck the second blow. Let's hope that economics viewed short term aren't going to do it this time.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Robinson problems...

We noted early today, and have now seen a Business Week report on, an incident at Robinson 2. It appears that for whatever unknown reason, one Main Coolant Pump tripped which led to a protective full scram on loop low flow. That pump now exhibits some leakage. During the event, a protective fire prevention water deluge system incorrectly actuated, and a hose ruptured during that sequence. Further, two Main Feed pumps tripped as well during the recovery.

Adding to this chain is another separate event reported to the NRC concerning an apparent operational procedural error during subsequent plant recovery and stabilization operations that led to an inability to isolate feed to prevent rapid cooldown of the primary .. setting up the potential for thermal shock.

While none of these things by themselves is all that alarming, the whole of the events coupled with some other recent problems at Robinson gives cause for attention, which it appears the NRC is giving. We'll report more if and when needed.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Bellefonte moving forward

On August 24th we noted here that TVA was moving toward finishing one or both B&W plants at the Bellefonte site; today we have reports that TVA has completed a contract with AREVA (that's a foreign concern, folks) to finish one of the plants. This article gives brief details. One wonders whether or not Babcock & Wilcox was consulted, or considered since that company was the original reactor vendor. It may indeed be the case that B&W is no longer in a position to act as vendor for such large plants.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vermont Yankee debate continues

The matter of whether or not Vermont Yankee is allowed to extend its state-issued license (if you don't recall our post on this a while back, Vermont gave itself a hand in nuclear licensing state-wide) is clearly not over yet. This article, and especially the comments added to it, really gives a good view of what's going on in Vermont. Basically, the anti-nuke people are anti-nuke at heart, and that's it. However, they also mistrust Entergy for having supposedly been much less than honest over the years. Further, they're sure that power-sharing over the grid with entities outside the state is the way to go.

How long will it take to forget the big multi-state blackout? Apparently in Vermont they already did. Straining an already strained network isn't the answer. I applaud Andy Leader's article and agree that the anti-nuclear view in Vermont is indeed irrational.

Surry 1 & 2 uprate approved by NRC

The NRC has approved an uprate of the two Westinghouse PWR plants at Virginia Power & Light's Surry Nuclear Power Station. These plants were rated 2546 MWt / 799 MWe when built, according to NRC records; the present uprating is from 842 MWe to 857 MWe. Many plants around the US have been uprated - in many cases, inaccuracies in various measurements of plant parameters have been tightened, allowing an increased rating, while in others there have been actual equipment and/or core upgrades. According to this article, the plant uprate will occur in November. Artist's view of Surry 1 & 2 pre-completion from postcard in APRA library.

Dominion will build, even if it isn't nuclear

This article in Business Week describes the indication by Dominion Resources that it needs to increase its base load generating capacity - and that if the company doesn't go ahead with a third reactor plant at its North Anna station then it'll have to build something else. Of course, that could be natural gas or trash burning or a number of other things; we think nuclear makes more sense.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

State of the Renaissance

I can't put it any better than this article, just published in Industry Week and which is worth reading in whole. I've given the link to see the article all on one page to save you time and ad-reading.

Did we jump the gun? No. Everyone with any knowledge -- any real knowledge -- about nuclear has been behind it for years, hating the decline of the industry in our country and watching the sharing then handing off of technology, then responsibility and money, to Japanese firms (both Westinghouse and GE are deeply involved with Japanese firms in regards to nuclear power, while Babcock & Wilcox is not.) The problem is that every time something happens to get the public back in favor of nuclear energy the public quickly gets over whatever crisis frightened them in the first place and goes back to being frightened of nuclear energy. This time, it was the fear of the recession which led the President to, in part, get some money flowing to industry and utilities to stimulate jobs added to fear for the environment when the Gulf of Mexico oil spill happened. Most of the real, sensible reasoning behind both of those decision making paths is still valid now as it was then but the problem is that everyone would like to go back to worrying about which big screen TV to buy and forget about the environment or energy use.

Let's keep some things in mind: First, if we're going to prevent another major blackout, we'll need more generating capacity. That's both base load and peak capacity. Second, if we're going to get more independent from oil, we'll need more generating from something else. Third, if we're really worried about greenhouse gases, global warming and oil spills, we need something non-combustive to replace oil. The answer for all of these at once is nuclear. It's proven (see the FitzPatrick entry earlier today) and it's ready. Cost is a factor, but it'll buy peace of mind. Eventual spent fuel storage is a factor, but if the government goes ahead as promised originally with Yucca that problem is already solved.

It's right now that we're at the tipping point. The wind was blowing our way, pretty hard, for the last year or so. It's getting eerily calm right now.

FitzPatrick plant operation US record

Entergy's James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant (GE BWR-I, 2536 MWt / 852 MWe, online July 28, 1975) just set a US record with 702 days of continuous operation with no failures or safety issues. Read here for details and some other previous records. What a fantastic banner to fly for our side -- this is one that the anti-nuclear crowd can't talk down and can't ignore.

Awaiting shakeout of Piketon hearing

This article explained the meeting that was to be held the 13th for public discussion of construction of a new nuclear plant in Ohio. We're looking for the results and will report them when available. Duke may in fact be backing off on this particular plan and focusing on nuclear construction elsewhere, frankly, so we won't get too excited here.

Small RX plant at Savannah River?

World Nuclear News reported on the 10th that Hyperion has a fresh agreement with the DoE to construct one of its proprietary small, fast reactors for testing with an expected output of roughly 75 MWt / 25 MWe. Apparently there are some shortcuts through the red tape that would normally obstruct building this new design at, say, a commercially operated site since DoE plans to build this unit at the Savannah River Site. This fast-tracking would get the reactor built much sooner than if it were built for commercial power generation and operated by a utility. With the seeming very recent cooling down of the nuclear fervor, let's hope this gets done.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Looking back: Vallecitos

As I continue to follow the progress of the various projects here and abroad to advance nuclear energy, I can't help but wonder if we're all feeling just a tiny bit of the excitement and anticipation that was felt back in the 50's, when the technology was relatively in its infancy. This brings to mind Power Reactor License No. 1, issued by the AEC for GE's Vallecitos Boiling Water Reactor.

Left, VBWR illustration from AEC photo presentation made to 1958 Geneva Conference entitled "Atoms For Peace / USA 1958." Photo courtesy General Electric. While it's true that the Shippingport Atomic Power Station (a Westinghouse project) was the first nuclear power plant to be designed to provide commercial electric power and then get built and placed on line, GE did in fact beat that plant to the punch with the later but much smaller and simpler VBWR (in those days, all reactors had three or four letter designators, with the Shippingport plant being known as the PWR.)

VBWR was conceived in 1955 as a prototype and dress rehearsal for the much larger project that became Dresden-1, and a new Vallecitos Atomic Laboratory was built near Pleasanton, California. The construction permit from the AEC was received in June 1956, and very rapid construction led to completion one year later. VBWR was a test plant, and so could operate both as a direct-cycle boiling water reactor and as a dual-cycle boiling water reactor (which latter duplicated Dresden as finally built.) During the planning it was decided to actually build an electric generating station to connect to the Pacific Gas & Electric system, and PG&E shared costs and provided a 5000 KW generator salvaged from a ship and modified. Core power of VBWR was designed as 20 MWt but the reactor on test proved capable of developing 30 MWt with no adverse effects. Initial criticality occurred October 17, 1957; on October 24 the plant was placed on the PG&E grid and delivered the full rated 5 MWe. Later AEC documents for siting indicate, for purpose of source term calculation, a core power of 50 MWt. Operation continued through 1963, when the plant was shut down.

Vallecitos remains in SAFSTOR today, although it isn't alone like it was in the photo above. Another reactor was built alongside of it and although originally it was planned to operate in tandem as a superheater plant, eventually the second plant was left on its own.

Here we see, on the left, the original VBWR. In this illustration, an artist has added (from blueprints) on the right the plans for the ESADA VESR reactor. Empire State Atomic Development Associates, a group of seven New York state utilities, was formed to investigate three high-efficiency reactor designs through investment with, and contracts with, major reactor vendors. The VESR, or Vallecitos Experimental Superheat Reactor, was one of these. This was a 12.5 MWt reactor designed to be operated with steam supplied by the VBWR. According to the scant information available, this probably only happened for a short time if at all since the superheat reactor only started up for the first time in November 1963. After that, until the reactor was shut down and the license made 'possession only' in 1970, it operated on its own investigating superheating elements for boiling water reactors. In some early documents this same reactor is referred to as the EVSR or Experimental Vallecitos Superheat Reactor. It's easy to see why this letter system was abandoned.

We all know the result of GE's having built Vallecitos Laboratory; the highly successful Dresden Nuclear Generating Station, and many more (and much more advanced) GE boiling water reactors since.

Dresden Nuclear Power Station, Grundy County Illinois; first criticality October 1959. Original rating 626 MWt / 184 MWe, later 700 MWt / 200 MWe. Very complicated dual-cycle construction, with high external central steam drum and four secondary circulator loops each with pump and steam generator.

Big Rock Point, near Charlevoix Michigan. 240 MWt core power, although not initially; plant initially rated 48 MWe but later increased incrementally to 71 MWe although the target had been 75 MWe. First criticality September 1962.

I hope you've enjoyed this very brief look back in time - and now it's time to move forward!

A good day for Westinghouse?

Another hurdle for Vogtle cleared; click here to read a brief AP piece reporting that a draft report issued by the NRC has vacated any environmental concerns about the plan to build two new Westinghouse AP1000 plants at the Vogtle site. Given FPL's rate hike (see earlier post) it looks like a good day for Westinghouse.

FPL / Turkey Point 6 & 7 project funding

Rate increases have been approved for customers of Florida Power & Light, which is on track to acquire funds to construct two more generating plants at its Turkey Point Generating Station. A recent article can be seen here.

Turkey Point 1, 2 and 5 are conventional (ie, non-nuclear) plants while Turkey Point 3 & 4 are Westinghouse 3-loop PWR's whose construction began in 1967. These plants are rated 2300 MWt / 693 MWe. The intention is that Turkey Point 6 & 7 will be Westinghouse AP1000 plants, rated 3415 MWt / 1117 MWe. You can find a link to Westinghouse's site on the links section and there's a great pdf brochure on the AP1000 that's downloadable free.

Click here to see FPL's official information about Turkey Point 3 & 4.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Icebreaker LENIN

Our atomic showpiece vessel was, and remains, the N.S. Savannah; you can find links to see a great deal about this ship on this blog's home page.

The showpiece of the former USSR was the atomic powered icebreaker Lenin. Clicking here will take you to a fabulous photo tour including many incredible interior spaces, decorated fantastically for 1959 when it entered service. Viewed also are the actual reactor control room and a view into the reactor compartment. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AP reports on standardized plants

This article comes to us today from the Associated Press. In it, author Ray Henry appears to try to get us to think that standardized plant designs are a somewhat new thing.

What's really happening with this and other similar articles is that authors and reporters are re-educating themselves in atomic energy, and catching up on many years worth of having ignored or belittled news and developments from both pro-nuclear people and the industry itself (meaning both vendors and utilities.) Henry even admits that the idea for standardized plants isn't new and says that it dates back to the 80's.

Actually, it dates to the 50's with both common standard training reactors built all over the US and in fact the world by a number of vendors, and standard military plant designs developed and built primarily for the Navy, but also in a small number for the Army.

The training reactors had to be safe and reliable, and of course the military reactors had to be those things plus a large number of other things, and so standardized design cut risk, design time, and some development cost even though in the case of military plants the cost in dollars per MW output was incredibly high compared with any other range. In fact, for many years, all of our submarines of all types being built (585 class, 594 class, 637 class attack submarines as well as all classes of ballistic missile submarines) were powered by essentially the same power plant (Westinghouse S5W) with modifications and improvements over the years.

Again, some mention is made (and - what a surprise - within the first thirteen lines of text) of the TMI-2 accident in 1979. Mr. Henry; of COURSE the industry learned from this accident. Let's not be ridiculous now. And, Mr. Henry, you describe the TMI-2 accident as a "disaster." How many people were killed? How many animals, how much livestock? How many acres of crops were contaminated and unfarmed thereafter? How much of the ecosystem was impacted by release of radioactivity into non-plant areas?

Answers: None; none; none; none.

That's not a disaster. Major nuclear plant accident? Yes. One that was contained adequately by the designed containment structure and primary plant.

But, enough bashing Mr. Henry; he's obviously been colored by a few decades of complete misinformation.

What is of interest to me is that today's nuclear renaissance is featuring essentially conventional PWR and BWR plants; there was a time after TMI-2 that various sources were indicating that only 'inherently safe,' radical new designs could possibly be acceptable to restart our nuclear industry (see "The Second Nuclear Era," a fabulous book long out of print and hard to find but in the APRA collection and well read.) Now it's all too clear that conventional plant designs, with safety updates above and beyond those in place in 1979 are very adequate and in fact are the basis for this renaissance. This knowledge, and the wind of public opinion, mean that the time is right not to take advantage of standardized design but to realize that standardized design in nuclear plants has been employed and working fine for 50 years. It's time to get moving, as I keep saying -- and it seems that every day we are, a little more.. at least as fast as bureaucracy allows.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sherwood be nice

If you ask most people on the street, you'll find that there's a general opinion that fusion power is possible if we throw enough money at it. Many still believe "cold fusion" worked but was killed off, somehow, by the government. Or big oil. Now, if you ask most scientists you'll get a much more educated and conditioned answer and usually it'll include the tag line "we're still about twenty or twenty-five years from being able to achieve this," whatever this it was that was being described.

That was the same thing they were saying in the late 50's during Project Sherwood, which was the AEC program to develop fusion energy.

Now, it appears that Iranian know-how has pushed that time gap down to a very manageable ONE DECADE time frame! This article and a number of others are detailing the Iranian assertion that they'll have a fusion reactor in 2020.

Iran just started fueling its first commercial atomic power station this last week.

Really?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Comanche 3 & 4 .. ?

I've just finished reading this article, which seems to me to be a very well-balanced piece on the future plans for additional units at Comanche Peak Steam Electric Station, in Texas. A good if brief background on construction of Units 1 & 2 is given; both are Westinghouse 4-loop plants (PWR) with Unit 1 rated 3612 MWt / 1200 MWe and Unit 2 rated 3458 MWt / 1150 MWe.

As described in the article, construction of these plants was extremely protracted; the NRC issued construction permits for both on December 19, 1974 and the plants were finally able to supply power to the grid in 1990 (Unit 1) and 1993 (Unit 2.)

Units 3 and 4 are to be Mitsubishi Advanced PWR plants rated over 4400 MWt each. Incidentally, two new (replacement) steam generators, built in Japan by Mitsubishi, were just delivered for installation at San Onofre 3 in California. See them here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TVA to dust off Bellefonte?

Two unfinished BW-205 plants are located at TVA's Bellefonte Nuclear Station in Alabama, and every once in a while the idea of restarting construction (which went for 12 years and then stopped) comes up. Now, TVA has budgeted for exactly this at Unit 1, at least, and it appears this project might have legs. Look here for a few details.

(The BW-205 design essentially was the same as that actually built at Oconee, but uprated - with more fuel elements, more powerful main coolant pumps, etc. Nothing about the new plant design as compared with the old was different enough to require any radical study prior to licensing one of these plants.)

This is made all the more interesting when you consider that, back in 2007, TVA applied to the NRC to get a project going to build Unit 3 and 4 at this same site, which are to be Westinghouse AP1000 plants. One wonders if this new announcement won't scuttle that plan.

Zion to be dismantled

ILLINOIS: The Zion generating station decommissioning and dismantling took a major step as ownership of the license for the site will be transferred from Exelon Nuclear to a firm that will perform the whole operation all the way down to having the site released for public use. Look here for a brief description of the upcoming legal and licensing events.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We kind of knew this

The Christian Science Monitor recently ran this article that is a fair summing up of the growing public and industry viewpoints on nuclear -- stopped too soon, not enough work done in the doldrums, too slow to restart now, not enough funding or enough initiative. It's worth reading as a "finger on the pulse" piece.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Brief Crystal River status report

The outage at Crystal River continues... Originally planned as a steam generator replacement but now into a partial rebuilding of the containment. This article gives a good overview of where the project is right now.

Crystal River 3 is a Babcock & Wilcox PWR rated 2609 MWt / 838 MWe. Construction of the plant began in late 1968 and the plant was ready for commercial service in early 1977. The plant is No. 3 because there are four other plants at the site, all fossil fueled, numbered 1, 2, and 4. There have been, and are, a number of other plant sites like this such as Robinson and LaCrosse where fossil plants and nuclear plants are side by side.

Vogtle - not the way to start

Although the previous post about the GOP candidate support for nuclear energy must be good news for Southern Company, this article shows that there is some bad news. Since one of the contractors didn't provide the proper questionnaire for construction employees, and then, when it did, had the unfortunate but totally avoidable mistake occur wherein a supervisor "filled out" the forms for some employees, the NRC has decided to pay a visit. This isn't the way to start off the first nuclear plant construction in almost a generation. Let's hope that this little hiccup is quickly put behind and that the two AP1000 plants go up.

GOP support for Vogtle

This article reports that both of the Republican Party candidates in the running to become Governor of the state of Georgia are decidedly in favor of nuclear energy, and thus are behind the plan to get two Westinghouse AP1000 plants added to the Vogtle site. We're sure that Southern Co. won't mind reading this!

PSEG Early Site Permit applied for

Five or six sources reported this afternoon (probably more now) that PSEG had filed with the NRC an application for an Early Site Permit to add a fourth reactor plant to its Salem / Hope Creek plants. The new plant is expected to be built by Hope Creek.

Shown here in front of Salem Nuclear Generating Station's two CE PWR plants under construction is THE SECOND SUN, which was a floating public information center designed to allow the public, free of charge, to learn about nuclear energy. Many plants had such centers, actually, which isn't common knowledge today but we're not aware of any other that was made from a converted river boat like this! This article gives details on not only the ESP that PSEG filed for but history of the whole Salem / Hope Creek plant sites, in very brief but decent detail for review. Postcard of Salem Nuclear Generating Station and 'The Second Sun' from APRA collection.

-first post omitted link to Reuters article, now in place.-

Thursday, August 5, 2010

GTS and SNPF

Perhaps one of the least remarked nuclear plants in the US was the plant of the Saxton Nuclear Experimental Corporation, labeled usually by the AEC (NRC/DOE) as the SNPF or Saxton Nuclear Power Facility. This Westinghouse PWR in the roughly 60 MWt range was operated for most of the 60's and just into the 70's as an addition to an existing plant (somewhat like Elk River, an ACF Nuclear / Allis-Chalmers indirect cycle BWR and Piqua, an Atomics International organic-moderated and organic-cooled reactor with superheat, both of which supplied steam to existing power plant turbine generators.)

We aren't here today to give a monograph presentation on SNPF, though; we're here to provide a link to an excellent page by GTS Technologies on their part in the DECON stage of the SNPF's life. Click here to see it and be sure to click on the link at the bottom for some very interesting photos that give a much better appreciation for the engineering and work required to get this project done.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Babcock & Wilcox / mPower Test Facility

I note that while there was some buzz generated by the July 28 announcement that Babcock & Wilcox is going to construct a test facility for the new joint B&W / Bechtel modular reactor plant "mPower" concept, the actual test equipment will both be scaled down from actual size and will NOT be nuclear powered. Rather, the facility will use electric heat to simulate the nuclear primary heat, and will prove out the overall generation package.

Now, getting away from the news to opinion, I wonder to myself... "WHY?" Do we need to reinvent all of the technology and relearn the experience with modular plants that started with ALCO Products and Fort Belvoir, and with Argonne National Laboratory and its various projects, and ML-1 and on and on? No. Let's move forward faster, I say.

Other updates on previously down plants

For completeness, we report that today's NRC status shows Surry and North Anna plants back at 100% PRx. This should complete previous information on this site about plants down.

Susquhanna 1 back up

PR Newswire is reporting today that the river water problem at Susquehanna 1 is corrected and that the plant is back on line.

Today's NRC status for Susquehanna 1 showed 16% PRx.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Surry update

NRC reports show Surry at 98% power on the 17th and 100% on the 18th and today; apparent then that the voltage regulator problem was fixed quickly.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Virginia at 50%

Apparently Surry 2 did not complete the restart after turbine generator voltage regulator problems surfaced, contradicting our earlier report in this blog and as of this writing has not gone back on line. Further, a steam leak at North Anna 1 forced a shutdown Wednesday evening and that plant isn't on line either. Surry 1 and North Anna 2 are steaming at rated capacity.

Click here for a brief local article.

All four are operated by Dominion Virginia Power. North Anna 1 and 2 are Westinghouse 3-loop PWR's rated 2893 MWt / 903 MWe and which went online in 1978 and 1980. Surry 1 and 2 are also Westinghouse 3-loop PWR's, rated 2546 MWt / 799 MWe and went online in 1972 and 1973. We provided an illustration of the Surry Nuclear Power Station on this blog previously; see the older post.

Susquehanna 1 shutdown

PR Newswire is reporting that Susquehanna 1 shut down today when a leak of river water began in the lower level of the turbine building. It sounds as if a manhole or inspection hatch on the condenser was the source of the leak. Click here for PR Newswire's brief story.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

NRC Chairman at Vermont Yankee

The Brattleboro Reformer has been doing a bang-up job of covering all angles of the Vermont Yankee stew that's brewing up in Vermont .. so here is a hot link to today's report by that fine paper.

I myself keep bringing the Vermont Yankee story up because it's really the most "down to the wire" of the stories surrounding operating plants that would need renewals or extensions and are right up against deadlines. Or that have a bunch of numbskull interference by witless politicians (are you getting this, Vermont legislature?) It's been pointed out in a few places and certainly on this blog that Vermont would lose about one third of its generating capacity if Vermont Yankee closed; it would then have to rely on power from elsewhere and be subject not only to external rate setting but very likely increased outages. Is that smart? Would higher rates and lower reliability cause industry and business to move into, or out of, Vermont? We'll see.

Bechtel, B&W and small NSS

Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox form a consortium to build small Nuclear Steam Supply systems; see this link. B&W was shopping a design it called the CNSS (the "C" was for "Consolidated") pretty soon after the N.S. Savannah was built, and in fact the OTTO HAHN employed such a system for propulsion. The CNSS featured all components inside the primary containment including pumps and steam generators. This (the small reactor system) is one well thought out, well discussed but non-starting approach that probably should be pursued; the companies' statements about the system's application and future should be read and noted.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You've GOT to see this; Vt. Yankee

It appears by this article and others that the pro-nuclear Vermont Energy Partnership has been closed out of NRC meetings with concerned parties that are being held relative to Vermont Yankee's continued operation.

Want to know what Vermont Energy Partnership, or VTEP, is all about? Click here and see the video. It's incredible. SEE the founder of Greenpeace standing on top of the reactor containment inside Vermont Yankee! See him in the control room. See and hear his PRO-NUCLEAR information. And, learn a lot about Vermont Yankee.

"This is the nuclear renaissance." I .. and we .. have been saying that for about a year now. Vermont- are you listening?!

Surry 2 back up after brief shutdown

Surry 2 is back on line today after a brief outage that began Sunday night with discovery of a leak on the river side of one of the condensers. This article gives a brief statement about this and a good picture of Surry now; I've included here with this post a picture (click to expand it) that gives an artist's conception of how Surry 1 & 2 would eventually appear- the art is before completion.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vogtle 3 & 4 construction restart very soon

Bloomberg is reporting that the hiring paperwork omission that has held up construction work at the Vogtle site is cleared up and that construction might restart today or tomorrow. The site will add two new Westinghouse AP1000 plants with this project; see earlier posts on this topic.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Good news for once; an anniversary!

Catawba Nuclear Station just hit 25 years of operation, as reported by the Herald out of Rock Hill, S.C. The plant is owned and operated by Duke Energy; the two plants are Westinghouse four-loop PWR's rated 3411 MWt / 1129 MWe and went into service in June 1985 and August 1986. The operating licenses have been extended for both through December 2043.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Babcock & Wilcox to be independent

Today it was announced that McDermott Industries will indeed spin off B&W by issuance of new shares of B&W stock, one for each two shares of McDermott held. This action is expected to occur before the end of July. Here is McDermott's official release on the matter.

Temporary hitch at Vogtle

Apparently, a required screening form was omitted when new hires were made for work on what might become Vogtle 3 and 4; this resulted in the temporary halt of work on the site until the proper forms are filled out by the employees and returned. This article sums it up. It isn't anything major but I do report everything of note that I find.

Duke Energy proposed Lee Nuclear Station

I happened upon this link while looking around at the great information that Duke has to offer online and I think it's a great thing that the company not only has two operating visitor centers and a great website but also features plans on future nuclear construction. This is how you do it.

Use the Westinghouse link over on the right of the blog page to find out about the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor plants that Duke intends to have constructed for this project. There's a good pdf brochure to download at the site.

Oconee Visitor Center still operating!


Incredibly, the old Keowee-Toxaway Visitor Center built right by Oconee Nuclear Station is still open! Click on the photo and it should enlarge. Click here and see Duke Energy's present site and look around.

The company also still operates the EnergyExplorium by McGuire Nuclear Station.

PNPF

Yes, I'm enjoying myself with BING maps.

Here's a link showing the still in-place, SAFSTOR Piqua Nuclear Power Facility. This organic-moderated and cooled reactor sent steam over a small bridge across the river to the original Piqua powerhouse, explaining why there's no turbine building or electric switchyard visible here.

CVTR

Use of this link should give a view of the site of the old Carolinas-Virginia Tube Reactor which operated 1963-1967 and which has apparently been totally decommissioned (of course) and demolished.

Northern States / NRC hearing

Some recent safety findings by NRC inspectors are to be discussed in public meeting on the 13th of July. This article details the meeting for those wishing to attend and gives a brief synopsis of the scenario, which, to parallel the quote given, sounds just slightly greater than green anyway. Northern States operates two plants at that site, Prairie Island 1 and 2 which are Westinghouse two-loop PWR's rated 1650 MWt and which were placed online in 1973 snd 1974. Northern States is a subsidiary of Xcel Energy.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

India - nuclear energy expansion - Korea?

According to this very well written and concise article, India may be next in line for Korean nuclear plant construction. The article linked gives the briefest thumbnail view of Korea's rise to a notable position as an exporter of nuclear plants (even though none have been built yet, I should add - they're just contracts at this writing) and echoes posts I've made here over time, including today.

Morocco wants in

The nation of Morocco expects that if all goes well it'll have nuclear energy on line in roughly 12 to 14 years, if this article is to be believed.

There have been a lot of announcements of this general type within the last several months, and it's no wonder that Japanese companies have teamed with their government to get some of these foreign contracts. While no hard contract has been made in the case of Morocco, the steps discussed in the article linked are necessary to get there. Once again, one wonders whether or not any US companies were considered. Will there only be one or two potential nations left to bid on before we get going too?

Saudi Arabia tosses in its hat

Reports are out today that Saudi Arabia will sign a deal with France for nuclear energy technology to both provide electricity and to provide fresh water. Several articles are available; here is a concise one from a reliable source. Is this to result in a contract between the Saudi government and Areva that a company here (see links on the blog page) could have had? Yes, very likely.

Japan responds to contract losses

Several Japanese corporations have grouped together with funding from the Japanese government to develop a consortium whose purpose is the export of nuclear energy through out-of-country contract plant construction.

This article today in the Wall Street Journal, echoed by several others, is not much of a surprise to this author. Surely there was as much disappointment in Japan as anywhere when the UAE (United Arab Emirates) selected a South Korean bid for construction of new nuclear plants; the announcements since then by Nigeria and Vietnam, among others, cannot then be allowed to pass without serious attempts. Thus, the government-backed consortium.

This isn't different really in broad concept from the AEC-funded plants built here in the several rounds of the Power Demonstration Reactor Program; one was even built in Puerto Rico under that program. We know the concept has merit. The point is that now, during the 21st Century Nuclear Renaissance, the Japanese are preparing to use that same sort of thinking to get export contracts. Do we need a similar program here to stimulate jobs and maintain our position in the industry? I wonder.

Ghosts of Project Plowshare

Plowshare was the overall name given to US projects during the 60's and 70's that used nuclear devices (that's weapons, folks) to perform peaceful functions like creating massive water reservoirs, or tapping natural gas deposits that were encased in rock, or creating large underground stored energy reservoirs. There were many ideas and many tests. The Soviets had a similar program, and also dug canal sections with lines of devices.

The ghost of such projects has appeared again, and seems not to be disappearing with just a glimpse. Now, as shown in this article, one of the men directly involved with the old Soviet program feels that the Deepwater Horizon drill site that BP is fighting with in the Gulf of Mexico should be .. nuked.

I mentioned this idea once before in this blog and I'd like to point out that while the Soviets did apparently attempt to test this concept with above-ground operations it's never been tested a mile under water with, if I've read correctly, about a 4,500 psig difference between sea pressure at that depth and well head pressure. You would need to liquify and then instantly cool a large amount of material to fully seal the well off, it seems to me; making a big rubble pile will just result in a half square mile of porous oil-leaking sea bed.

What makes me mention this again is the fact that someone who actually DID WORK with such a program is now advocating the idea. I've always admired our nuclear weaponeers, particularly Dr. Edward Teller and Dr. Frank Shelton, and I wonder myself, now, if anyone still living here with direct Plowshare experience has been contacted for an opinion.

A further $9B in loans

Calvert Cliffs, Summer and South Texas sites are on the list now for loans as noted in this article which I now link here for completeness. As noted in this article, these are on top of guarantees I mentioned here a while back for Vogtle in Georgia. Sometime soon I'll compile a list of all the working projects that have gotten to the loan guarantee phase (even though you could do that from posts here with some effort) and start a running commentary on project status for all of them. That way, progress on all serious working projects here in the US will be easier for everyone to follow in encapsulated form.

It's very reassuring to note that the nuclear renaissance is getting wide enough to need boiling down, isn't it?

Pay attention, because they mean it

Did everyone notice how the South Koreans made the decision some years back to enter the US automobile market? They did it; Hyundai is now a perfectly viable and competitive brand. This article ought to make it clear (if it isn't already after the UAE contract I've mentioned here before) that their ambitions aren't by any means limited to the roads and highways.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

If I have to do it, well...

All right. Normally I don't pay attention to news reports about nuclear energy in foreign countries, but this one's worth looking at since the British media here sounds a lot like the media here twenty years ago or so.

Here is the article.

First; why does any fire anywhere at a nuclear power plant have to be a "blaze?" Doesn't "fire" work well enough? Would they use "conflagration" or "pre-apocalyptic inferno" if it wouldn't reduce the headline's font size to unreadability? Probably, if the general average anti-nuclear alarmist could understand it, which in itself is highly unlikely. So "blaze" is the best choice to express near-total disaster with one word if you have to, which of course we all know is exactly what you must have when there's any kind of a fire at a nuclear power plant. Right? Well isn't it? I mean, you can't have a "blaze" at a Ford plant, can you?

Second, a statement by some anti-nuclear organization leader: "Making electricity from nuclear energy is a highly-dangerous (sic) process."

Counterpoint- a statement by an experienced person who spent years on board a submarine operating a nuclear plant: Wrong.

Notice how the "Level 0 emergency" event status is buried waaaay down in the article, right above pointless statements about how many fire companies were called to respond. At the end, we find out the most important fact: No evacuations, and so nothing happened.

Yawn.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Well, get Babcock & Wilcox to do it then!

This article complains strenuously about foreign-made components being included in all of the presently planned new-construction nuclear plants. First; did anyone lament the loss of such manufacturing capability when those facilities that shut down here actually did shut down? Second, a look at Babcock & Wilcox's site reveals that it can still fabricate pressure vessels and closure heads which are among the largest components; it can also fabricate two general types of steam generator, which it is in fact doing for replacement installations in US plants.

Let's face it; some of our manufacturing capacity here was allowed to shut down with no (or almost no) public outcry even though those of us with any experience knew what was being allowed to happen. Sure, companies can't maintain staff and equipment just in case future orders might come in- there's certainly no profit in that. My point is that the manufacturing base DID erode and people knew it. Let's move past that and get the plants built. Perhaps B&W can fabricate components under sub-contract for the other primary vendors or perhaps the loan guarantees could stipulate that if it's that important.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

LaSalle tritium in groundwater

It seems that tritium has been detected in samples of groundwater around LaSalle County Generating Station. Exelon, owner of the site (LaSalle 1 and 2, GE BWR-II and 3489 MWt and rated 1118/1120 MWe by NRC records but stated by Exelon as 1138/1150 MWe net) states that the situation is under control. See this article.

Also see Exelon's site here for a page on LaSalle County Generating Station.

Calvert Cliffs 3?

The initial moves to get a third plant at the Calvert Cliffs site are underway. This article indicates that loan guarantees are being sought for a joint project with Areva to increase generating capacity at that site. Calvert Cliffs 1 and 2 are Combustion Engineering PWR plants rated 2700 MWt and 873/862 MWe respectively and which entered service in 1975 and 1977 respectively.

Utah nuclear / Green River site

It looks like another early but important step in Utah getting a nuclear plant built has been taken. This article describes the funding arrangements being made for a new three-reactor 4500 MWe site. The comments on this article seem to indicate fear on the part of residents-- fear of conspiracy (since supposedly all the generated power will be sold to the West Coast on the grid) and fear of water shortage (since there's little water, the plants will take it all.) I don't know about any of that since I don't live there and am not involved in Utah politics, such as they are but I can tell you that seeing any opposition to any nuclear plant is no surprise.

Anti-nuke without a clue

This article on an admittedly liberal "news" site is just irritating. However, this is just one brand of stupidity we face. The quote "wealthy nuclear power industry" and its use in anything other than a joke is just ludicrous.

I linked another article from .. I can't recall where .. last week and the link is still of course in the blog archive. That article gave a capacity factor for installed wind turbine power in the United States at something right around 30%. Nuclear capacity factor was on average somewhere around 90%. Does anyone think that wind and solar are the answers to our overloaded and underpowered electric grid in the United States? Not at 30% capacity factor. There's too much money in THAT angle- the "green" angle - for no payoff to the end users. There's just feeling that you are behind something good, which is nice but at the end of the day will still leave you in the dark. It's time to get more educated out there, libs!

Yucca Mountain on again

At least two sources are now reporting that the NRC has effectively told the DoE that it isn't a policy-making entity and that it cannot stop the Yucca Mountain waste disposal site project, and neither can the President right now, unless and until legislation is passed by Congress to reverse its previous law. In other words, the enviro-nuts can't just step in and stop something that's already legislated and mandated. Good for the NRC, I say; we need this project and many others working right now to serve their roles in the resurgence of nuclear energy.

Idaho: Second atomic plant

It looks like another nuclear plant may be built in Idaho, which until recently didn't have plans for even one (outside of the long history of NRTS that is.) This article today reveals developments surrounding zoning for a second. It's good to see the 3 to 1 approval rating quoted since it reflects today's reality with the populus and not yesterday's fears of the mass media.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Davis-Besse

Davis-Besse was back online this morning at 4:25 AM according to a number of local news sources. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that the plant was operating this morning at about 21% PRx and that FirstEnergy will increase output over the remainder of the week.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yankee dirt to move West

Because Vermont Yankee is in the spotlight right now for two reasons (contaminated ground water, and the state legislature's decision not to allow an operating extension past next year) it might be good for the sake of complete coverage to check out the information and slant found in this article. This is one of those kinds of articles that haunts the ear but confuses the mind; on first read it sounds fairly condemning but on second read, to those of us who know what's what, it isn't really that serious. At least not to me. But, hey; I'm pro-nuclear. "Pro-nuclear" with experience directly with nuclear power, that is, not anti-nuclear with no experience whatsoever with nuclear power. I'm not making a comment against the author with this assertion; I'm just stating my position, which those who read this blog regularly already know. Anyway, check out the article so you're up to speed.

Vermont- are you reading this?

Considering the fact that the Vermont legislature thinks that extending Vermont Yankee's license would be a bad idea, and that it would rather rely on the grid at large and power sharing schemes to provide the one third of Vermont's power supply that cessation of operation at Yankee would vacate, it might be a good idea if they'd read this article. What they should pay attention to is the very high capacity factor that Yankee has and the very low factors accomplished by everything else.

(You may need to allow pop-ups to read that article's content.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

WPPSS and/or Trojan Phoenix

This article published today is an excellent summation of the Pacific Northwest's experience with and view toward nuclear energy over the last several decades. Of course, there is the usual error so common now that tells us that TMI-2 and Chernobyl killed off nuclear energy here in the US (remember that the orders for new nuclear plants had already tailed off and stopped, and project cancellations started before TMI happened with no new contracts since 1978) but we can excuse that for now. This article is another in a great string of very sensible summations of nuclear energy in terms of correcting the mass viewpoint and I like it.

Most amazing is the 62% "for nuclear" Gallup poll result. It's time!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bechtel Corporation

I've added links on the blog page to represent both of Bechtel's general nuclear energy concerns; namely, its original design and contracting business, and its much more recent (2008) operation of both Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory and Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory which were formerly operated by Westinghouse and Lockheed-Martin. Knolls was originally operated by General Electric. Bechtel's next major project for the BMPC operation appears to be the A1B reactor plant for the next generation of aircraft carriers, to be known as the CVN-21 class.

There is a good description of Bechtel's history and operations to be found here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our newest nuclear power plant

The United States has completed the latest of a very long line of almost totally successful* nuclear power plants; that aboard the USS New Mexico, which commissioned in March of this year. The New Mexico, SSN-779, is powered by a General Electric S9G reactor; the stated shaft horsepower for this plant is 40,000 SHP.

The history of both Westinghouse and General Electric as regards the US Navy's Nuclear Power Program is absolutely one of the most fabulous episodes in all of the history of atomic energy and should be told completely some day. (Combustion Engineering was responsible for exactly one plant design and although Allis-Chalmers tried a very early concept under contract, it was dropped.) Yes, there is some good nuclear news to report.

*-- The S1G/S2G plants that were sodium cooled, beryllium moderated were not successful; the S2G plant on board SSN-575 was replaced with an S2Wa pressurized water plant.

The Soviets didn't get the hint and spent billions of rubles on lead-bismuth cooled plants (and a pier-side steam plant) for the Alfa class-- an expensive blunder they'd probably rather forget.

Nuclear Journal - June 24th

I notice today on the wires that Vietnam has announced intent to place online a fleet of nuclear power plants by the year 2030; this follows the equally slightly improbable announcement by Nigeria that it intends to have nuclear energy by the year 2019. The reasons for both to develop nuclear energy are obvious, in terms of oil independence, but one wonders about the complete lack of technological base in each nation.

What neither lacks, apparently, is initiative. We used to have initiative here, before the environmentalists got involved in the 70's. Atomic power was the way to the future, it was envisioned, and would allow many labor and time saving conveniences which would naturally require a massive electric generating base. The fact that our base is inadequate without the fleets of electric trains and artificial biospheres and such that were envisioned is all too easily proven by the constant power interruptions in major cities and even small ones, for various reasons. That says nothing about the 'Great Blackout' a few years back. In reality the need for nuclear energy didn't go away; our perspective changed, weighted as it was by a decidedly biased and vocal minority, and that led to a loss of intiative.

The initiative has been lost to the point that where once the United States led the world in atomic energy, it now cannot entirely build any plants with all-US companies and materials. For many of us, this is a shame.

What will happen in Nigeria and Vietnam? Well, if history is an indicator we might figure that we'll lose out on those prospects too. After all, the UAE contracts went to South Korea. South Korea, using French designs developed originally from US-based Westinghouse plants, but South Korea nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Where'd the time go?


Well, vacation's over in 20 minutes. That was too fast. I think I need vacations more often than every nine or ten years.

Miscellaneous Nuclear News Items

DAVIS-BESSE has been given NRC permission to start up following CRDM nozzle repairs to alleviate stress corrosion cracking; the plant is expected online next month.

DIABLO CANYON today had a site alert when a fire suppression system test released excessive carbon dioxide into a lube oil tank room. The plant continued at full power; we don't at the moment know which plant it was. Diablo Canyon 1 & 2 are both Westinghouse 4-loop PWR's rated 3411 MWt / 1120 MWe, and went online in 1985-1986.

VERMONT YANKEE now has a cooling tower leak, as reported by UPI. This is nothing major, and in fact barely worth noting except that this plant needs no further publicity of any kind right now. This water, for those unaware, is totally clean water that's used only in the cooling tower circuit, for lack of a better concise description. No news would be good news is my point.

Daya Bay 2; I told you so.

We just looked around enough to get confirmation of what we wrote on June 15th (see the entry if you'd like) -- the "radiation leak" at China's Daya Bay 2 plant was a minor fuel element failure. Operation continues as expected.

Osorb?

Yes, Osorb. Supposedly, ABS Materials of Wooster, Ohio has a material made from silicon polymer that can absorb eight times its own mass in oil, which can then be removed later. They're proposing it for use in the Gulf of Mexico; this article gives some details.

Vogtle 3 and 4 funding moving along

Just a note here to confirm in this blog for completeness that Georgia Power accepted the loan guarantee made by the Federal Government through the Department of Energy on June 21. Loan guarantees were also made to GP's partners in the project. Vogtle 3 and 4 will be Westinghouse AP1000 plants; see the Westinghouse link on the right to find details and a full downloadable pdf file brochure.

Vermont Yankee tritium, Vermont legislature ignorance

Entergy has revealed that the tritium leak to groundwater was due to a very likely unforseeable combination of circumstances, related both to underground pipe corrosion and inaccessibility for inspection and also related to how later, supposedly non-interfering construction on-site can affect already built piping systems. Suffice it to say that this writer doesn't think that Entergy or anyone involved was evasive about this- they didn't originally understand the problem. It's been given a workaround and tritium deposition to groundwater cut.

Unfortunately, in Vermont the state legislature has say over nuclear plant operation and licensing and voted overwhelmingly against extending Vermont Yankee's operation beyond the previously scheduled March of next year. According to World Nuclear News, Vermont Yankee provides one third of Vermont's power... but the lawmakers think that energy will be more expensive WITH the plant than without, which of course means they'd rather pay someone else's rates sharing load or else bet on new fossil plants. Brilliant. Vermont- vote them out!

Lightbridge all-metal fuel

Lightbridge Corporation has announced a new all-metal fuel that it has been developing as of this morning. This article describes the savings and benefits without releasing any proprietary data; most interesting is the 30% power increase per volume promised for PWR plants.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vacation time going by

My vacation is more than half over. I haven't taken a vacation, that is to say a trip of any sort in any serious way in about nine years. I have to say that not only did it really refresh me, but I really think it re-energized my interest in my old hobby by making old friends closer and by allowing me to make some new ones. I also think that I'm re-focused on getting a new venture off the ground, which is APRA and its products. That's for sure. However, vacation still isn't over and I'll get the most out of the last of it! I'm also planning to take the rest of the vacation I'm owed this year. Just so you all know.

Xenon, etc.

Last month, a six-times normal Xenon concentration in the air was monitored in South Korea. That spurred looking for evidence of a nuclear test (none found) or some kind of reactor accident. Nothing was stated, but North Korea did mention a breakthrough in fusion energy of some kind. Of course, the Xenon could have come from China or even the former USSR.

That is why right now this article is interesting - it mentions research programs here that would essentially release Xenon to atmosphere.

Davis-Besse to install new Rx vessel head in 2011

Because of pressure from the NRC, Davis-Besse will get its new reactor vessel head in a 2011 shutdown, instead of waiting through until a previously scheduled time in 2014. Several sources are reporting that the head is ready but still in France, awaiting shipment by Areva. With any luck, the plant will get itself off the radar screen after this happens.

Monday, June 21, 2010

This isn't commitment. It's lip service.

I found an article at the Jacksonville (Fla.) Times that really details how a utility should NOT position itself for the nuclear resurgence. The only thing they did, really, was say "we might throw in on something that'll pay off twenty years from now, or so.. maybe." We don't need people or utilities or local or state governments giving lip service to nuclear energy; we need either commitment or silence. The pros and cons are known; the history is known (apparently not by the author of the linked article, though, who credits TMI with the cutoff in nuclear plant building that had already happened) and the lead time is as short as several years for a committed utility and community.

We could do without comment from JEA, really, in this case.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Typewriter Convention Travelogue; Finale

No update was made for Saturday nite; I was too tired!

The meeting that Richard held was, due mainly to Richard but also due to the input of everyone involved, EPIC. Further attendees included Alan Seaver (soon to be made co-webmaster of my sites,) Mike Brown, Jack Knarr, William Lawson, Jerry Lee Atwood, Devin Thompson (Duffymoon!) and his wife, Jett Morton and his fantastically supportive and fun parents, Gabe Burbano and his wife and son, and all the folks mentioned previously on the blog here. I hope I am not leaving anyone out - if I did I'll make an edit!

Events took place Saturday at Richard's all day, with dinner out in town at a German place. (Awesome Wiener Schnitzel a la Holstein, by the way.) Sunday was a movin' around day with the big antique show down in Kentucky, brunch in Burlington, Kentucky at a really trendy and happening bistro, followed by a tour of Richard's office and then a little wind-down at Richard's.

In whole, the functions were grand, including lots of showing and telling. Machines from collections all over the eastern and upper midwestern US were displayed, and we saw Richard Polt's collection both at home and at his office. I was given a personal tour later on of Richard's workshop which is really just as perfect as you could get, and Richard and I finished the afternoon not only talking typewriters (that means pulling out machines, looking at patents and past articles and his massive reference library) and discussing many, many past, present and perhaps future events but also eating one more kind of local cuisine (Skyline Chili- awesome!) and taking a scenic tour of local highlights.

I'm very sure that ETCetera will feature a writeup, as will probably Typex, so I won't go into detail here blow-by-blow except to say that this weekend's events were better than I could have imagined. I reinforced a number of internet-only friendships that have existed from the halcyon days of my constant website work and work for ETCetera, and made a bunch of new friends too. The machines were fabulous, and the stories and laughs were even better. Just absolutely grand.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Changing the assumptions

This article, by Rod Adams, is a reprint of a 1996 article he wrote wherein he challenges the assumption that in order for nuclear energy to be cost effective, it must be developed in very large core sizes such as were being constructed near the end of the first building phase of plants here (around 3000 MWt, and ending in 1978). It's enough to make you wonder whether or not "let's get going with nuclear" is going to decide to analyze and wait for demand, or replace existing generating capability with large plants, or just get going and start building anything we can use. Adams' concept of jumping on the learning curve, as he puts it, is surely as much sales pitch as it is common sense as related to his article's content and I'd sure like to see some of these small plants that have been discussed for decades finally get built and put through the ringer.

Now, having completed my semi-daily self-imposed requirement to dig for atomic power news, it's back to getting ready for DAY TWO of the typewriter collectors' gathering that Richard Polt is having here in Cincinnati. It's storming outside right now, but that should clear out. I think.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 7: FRIDAY

What a great day! After a truly event-free drive, and a quick clean-up, it was off to Richard's place to meet with some long-time friends that I'd never met face to face.

At Richard Polt's house when I got there were Peter Weil, Marty Rice, Herman Price and Travis Hamric. Maddie Parra showed up later, as did another of Richard's friends, Felicia. After a great dinner at a really happening Indian restaurant in a wonderfully alive, busy part of town, we all went back to Richard's to unload our machines and an impromptu show-and-tell broke out. Machines everywhere; stories abounding! It was great fun and a great introduction.

Really looking forward to tomorrow; more friends showing up, more machines, more activities.... and pancakes!

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 6

Arrived safe; checked in and getting settled at my hotel. Didn't see anyone else with any typewriters....

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 5

About to depart here within 20 minutes, just a bit "ahead of the advertised," to borrow a railroading term. That means that the next time you'll hear from me will be when I log on in Cincinnati later today after arrival at my hotel. Then it's dinner with a few collectors this evening before the big get-together tomorrow. It's already hot outside here and I have a feeling that goin' south it won't get any cooler. Luckily, the A/C is working fine in the car and it has tinted windows! I'll post on arrival.

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 4

About T minus 2 hr 50 min until launch here; expecting to arrive at my hotel around 3 or probably 4 PM down there in Cincinnati. Full tank of gas, and first experimental deployment of Prestone (tm) BUGWASH washer fluid. They make promises. We shall see.

I'm considering a plan deviation upon departure since I could conceivably go north on I-75 and swing by Piqua, Ohio to photograph the Piqua Nuclear Power Facility. It's easily visible from a nature path built right by it. Not sure yet. Wouldn't that make this really kind of the Mecca pilgrimage overall for me?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sweden to allow new nuclear plants

Very new news as of this post; Sweden has decided to scrap its 1980 plan that called for phasing out all 10 of its nuclear reactors by this year, and in fact will replace them. The vote was close (two vote margin) but it passed. Normally I don't report too much on nuclear news outside the USA, but this seems significant in being a national reversal of policy.

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 3

Repairs to the Alpina are complete; the last consisted of gluing back in some loose soundproofing pads inside the ribbon cover. Now it's ready to go. I sure hope that someone gets a lot of enjoyment out of it- and I hope whoever gets it doesn't already have one. In fact, I think I'll make that a set criterion.

I have satisfied most of the requests for typewriters that other collectors might like to see, but I've also included a couple of surprises that are sort of wild. Not your run-of-the-mill typewriters. Several of them are "only one in captivity" examples!

Now I've just got to finish laundry, put together a travel bag and shaving kit, finish writing out directions, pick some outfits to wear, maybe get some dinner, and then get to bed before 1:00 AM. Yeah, right!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Poll: Do you favor the expanded use of nuclear power to meet the world's growing energy needs?

Poll: Do you favor the expanded use of nuclear power to meet the world's growing energy needs?

This link goes to a poll at the MARKETWATCH special report on nuclear energy. When I looked at it just now, the "for nuclear" was 90%. Against was 7% and 'don't know' was 3%. That's the most favorable thing I've read in many years in terms of public opinion on any poll.

MarketWatch - broad nuclear coverage

This article and related features, linked conveniently, give a good idea of the level field that nuclear energy finds itself on now. I'm linking it from here for general interest.

One small fault-finding; the article says that "in 55 years of nuclear plant operation no one has been killed in a plant accident" or something very like that. If you count only civilian power, that'd be right- if you include military power, we all know that three men died at the SL-1 plant at NRTS Idaho.

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 2

Dave and I just finished making the mechanical repairs and tweaks to an ALPINA that I'll be bringing down with me to the meeting. It's an old green one, serial 96228 and it's not labeled as Alpina but rather as AMC. It's the oldest Alpina-made AMC I've seen. Since I have a green Alpina in the 130,000 range, and two late gray and white ones (one an AMC and the other the only known AVONA) I'll be more than happy to give this one away. It's in good enough shape that you could enter the typing contest on it.

I have begun to gather other machines to bring along with me by request; one of those is the Groma Combina. What a horrible contraption. Maybe if it were new and well adjusted it might be all right, or at least OK but at this point it's really not a good machine. The devil's in the details and the redone details to take the Groma portable from regular machine to removable carriage machine are just not well done. We have a number of machines with removable carriages (like the SIEMAG) or type baskets (like the Blick 90) or whole typing action units (Pittsburg, Reliance, Imperial) and most of them are better than this Combina. It's true that the only online story about one I found and translated was about how bad they were.

But that makes a rare machine now, doesn't it? Bad then meant low sales then, which meant scarcity shortly in number and in spare parts. It really should be no surprise that the majority of really rare typerwiters are also really BAD typewriters, should it?

Getting closer to launch time Friday morning....

Surry-1 update (see June 13 entry)

More details are now out on the incident at Surry 1. It seems that a vital bus was dropped during maintenance, leading to loss of power to some instrumentation. According to reports, feed flow control was lost as were various channels of instrumentation; the reported small fire was in the control room. The NRC has dispatched a special inspection team to the site.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fuel Element Failures - see previous post...

Let's take a moment to look more closely at something I mentioned in my previous post - failed fuel elements in nuclear reactors.

As I wrote earlier, you do expect fuel elements to fail in any number of ways from minor cladding or canning imperfections and defects to total rupture. It's going to happen, and so long as you don't have a very catastrohic failure that blocks channels or widespread fuel element swelling you may continue operation. In fact, the design analysis that takes place for any reactor includes a well thought out, deliberately conservative number of fuel element failures which would take place over the expected core lifetime. Using that expected failure number results in, for example, a given amount of radioactive content in circulation in the coolant (and largely deposited in crud) and this results in calculable exposure levels which are then used for many further considerations. The point is that it's really expected to occur and that it's usually in reality far less than the design basis.

We need look no further than the Reactor Protection Analysis performed for the very first commercial nuclear plant in the US to be approved - the Shippingport Atomic Power Station. This plant was officially launched as a project in 1954 and placed in operation in December 1957; this was a Westinghouse pressurized water plant (which in fact was often referred to in early parlance as the PWR plant -- as if there wouldn't be other PWR's!)

If we look at the design considerations for a major loss of coolant we see that the designers considered that when this happened they'd also assume the maximum credible activity in the coolant from, of course, the maximum credible number of failed fuel elements. Right from the book: "The release of 100% of the reactor coolant to the outside atmosphere would not result in a biological hazard at the site boundary even if the core had been operated for 3000 hr at a power level of 275 MW and the coolant contained the maximum expected activity, ie the activity caused by imperfections in the cladding of about one percent of the UO2 fuel elements (1000 defected elements during the lifetime of the core.)"

I could go on and on, but this whole "radiation leak" (author cringes) stuff is hoo-ha if based on a predicted, expected fuel element defect or some such. There is clearly a wide spread of expected problems from minor imperfection to major failure.

Again- you can have a serious element failure and a major spike in coolant activity. That's something much more serious, like if for example a fuel plate swells and cuts down coolant flow, furthering the swelling until it ruptures. Even so, this can happen and operation can sometimes continue. Shippingport had a complicated FEDAL system, short for Fuel Element Detection And Location, designed to tap all of the coolant outlets of all the blanket fuel elements to see if any one had experienced a failure in its assemblies. They were ready for this in the 1950's. Let's hope the press keeps itself informed on this sort of thing as nuclear power begins its predicted climb back to the fore of US energy policy.

Chinese Nuclear Plant "Radiation Leak" (Oh, my!)

There are some rather exaggerated reports that DAYA BAY 2 experienced some sort of "radiation leak" (whatever that's supposed to mean) and there's an increase in breathless love for fear beginning on the net. Let's stop all that right now.

What appears to have happened was a minor fuel element failure. Before you jump me, YES, there are actually major fuel element failures. Fuel elements are always going to experience some kind of compromise in nuclear reactors. Each has many hundreds or even thousands of fuel pellets, or else fuel plates, or fuel pellets or spherules dispersed in a metallic fuel matrix and somewhere, sometime, there might just be a failure at a point. The whole design analysis takes this into account for any modern reactor, and there is actually a planned number assumed to fail during the life of any core.

When this happens, samples taken multiple times daily of the primary coolant will begin to reveal FP's (Fission Products) or even possibly fuel in the coolant in trace amounts. This is carefully tracked, and rate of change carefully measured. Everyone knows this will happen and when it does, so long as you don't have a multiple-days-long stratospheric increase you're all right. I can't de-nuclearize, or slim it down for the non-nuclear public, any better than that. It's like having belts on the engine in your car- you KNOW one's going to fail sooner or later. However, the actual number of people who've had a belt break while driving is a fraction of those actually driving. See?

So let's not all freak out about some "cover-up" until we hear that they've got something worth covering up over there.

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 1

Here I am in northern Ohio at about T minus 72 hours and counting until I launch off to the convention for typewriter enthusiasts that's being held down in Cincinnati by Richard Polt. I'll be posting travelogue entries here on this blog and hope to get a full update each day about the events.

As I prepare to start to begin to think about possibly scheduling which of my myriad machines I might bring, I'm reminded overall of the vast variety that will be presented and displayed not only by Richard but by everyone and one thing has come to the front of my mind - and that's Beeching's repeated asserticn (which all of us know to be correct) that there was probably no quicker way to lose a fortune than to engage it in the building of a typewriter!

Typewriters, believe it or not, were really NOT super-high-profit items to build. Really. They weren't. Sure, the Union typewriter trust fixed the price of their standard machines (office machines, that is) at $100 at the end of the 19th Century so as to control the market and control profit, and profit they did. However, we also know that any company that tried to make a fully competitive but substantially lower priced machine failed, and we know that many lower-quality, lower-priced machines failed too. If you wanted a quality machine you had to get a good design, good materials, good machine tools and great workers, and then you had to have an expensive and well-trained staff at the end of the pipeline to make sure that every machine left the factory in perfect condition, adjustment and alignment. Then you had to ship 'em out very well-packed.

The real game-changer was the portable. When it began, the Corona was selling for half the price of standard typewriters but in reality cost much less to make. In other words, the profit margin was MUCH greater. The big companies figured this out first, and very soon they all got into the market. Except Woodstock, that is, which is always kind of a special case no matter the time frame you pick.

When you have this in mind as you look at a typewriter, you really get into the machine itself. Operational qualities become fairly secondary as you consider how all of the parts are made and assembled, and how the whole design that began in someone's head was translated through foundry and stamping press and extrusion die and assenbly jig and leather gloves and type bar maul and crate and nails to a real machine in the hands of a real user. I think it's that part I'm looking forward to most from the "typewriter" angle; from any other angle of course it's meeting people I've worked with for years but never met face to face.

Overall, as I begin to change my connection to the typewriter world from what it once was (intense, all-consuming, passionate) to what it will be (who knows until you're there.. and then do you, really?) I am really looking forward more to the human aspect and not the mechanical. But for one glorious weekend I'll merge the two and see how that works. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 14, 2010

TerraPower, Gates, Toshiba / Westinghouse

It looks like the waste-burning reactor concept is getting a little closer to reality. Bill Gates' TerraPower has $35 million to put towards its goal of developing a reactor that will use waste from highly enriched uranium-fuel plants as its own fuel for long, slow burns. According to this article, the company is holding some initial talks with Westinghouse (owned by Toshiba... @#&$!) to develop the actual core design details. It looks as if this concept may actually see the light of day after all!

This writer detests the ownership of vital nuclear energy interests by foreign corporations, no matter their origin, in case you couldn't tell.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Surry-1 N.I. fire, shutdown

Surry 1 experienced a partial loss of electrical power and a brief nuclear instrumentation fire leading to a scram on June 8th. This article describes the incident as far as is known and indicates an NRC inspection team is enroute. One might suspect a transient leading to an NI power supply failure of some sort, leading to the shutdown but that's just guesswork. Surely we'll find out soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Minor leak at Vermont Yankee

A minor leak, at least in terms of flow rate, was found and fixed the same day at Vermont Yankee, according to this report. It would seem that this was a primary coolant leak, and not some other cooling system leak, since the report is clear that the water was activated. One wonders if the plant will get extended.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Further $36 Billion in nuclear energy loans proposed

Republican senators are proposing a new "Practical Energy and Climate Plan" which will, in part, increase by $36 Billion dollars the loan guarantees from the federal government for new nuclear power plants. See some further details here.

Nuclear Power in Parade Magazine, Sunday June 6

Perhaps not particularly detailed when compared with other reports, but significant nonetheless was the appearance in the syndicated PARADE magazine this last Sunday of a brief article and large map on nuclear energy. The article mentions the push for more nuclear energy, and a statement from the Union of Concerned Scientists ("Hey, we're scientists! And we're concerned!") about emergency planning. Of more interest is the map displaying the 17 sites under consideration for new reactors (21 total) - if you exclude one or two. Brevity and slight inaccuracy aside, it's refreshing to see more and more mentions of nuclear energy in the many various print media and a map in one of those printed outlets showing an array of plants in various stages, and not just one or two in the "maybe" stage.

AEHI Inc; Idaho plant project, nuclear desalinization

Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. is touting two interesting plans; first, one for a plant in Idaho for commercial power production (Idaho is still the site of the NRTS and so is not 'non-nuclear' in toto but it doesn't have any commercial nuclear plants yet) and second a plan for the construction of nuclear seawater desalinization plants which would produce both drinkable water and some byproduct electrical output. You can see all this on their site. Both plans are very interesting and deserve some further press.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Davis-Besse closer to startup

The reactor vessel closure head repairs and modifications are complete, according to FirstEnergy Nuclear. According to MarketWatch, a town meeting was held on June 4th to inform the NRC and the public. Alleviation of the stress corrosion cracking of the CRDM nozzles is assured for the interim period until an entirely new head is installed four years from now.

The plant is expected online sometime in July, with proper approvals.

APRA library addition

We've just added a new volume to the APRA library here, which is a part of our historical research for the study on the early history of atomic power in the United States. This volume, "The Economics of Nuclear and Coal Power" by Saunders Miller and which was published by Praeger in 1976 was written at that critical time point at which the economics of atomic power essentially were considered to have turned. As many of us know, it wasn't TMI that made the industry go dormant; no new orders for nuclear plants had been placed since 1978. That was before TMI. This study, performed two years prior to the final orders of the time, is something we've been seeking as a proper endpoint for the first volume of the study and it already appears to contain all the information we'll need on that historical point.

Work on that volume, and the first in our monograph series which will cover historical and technical aspects of the PWR project (Shippingport Atomic Power Station) progresses smoothly.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Tornado damage; Fermi-2 shutdown

According to this article, severe weather damage led to a shutdown of Fermi-2 near Detroit and an outage affecting 35,000 people yesterday evening.

As of four hours ago when another news article appeared online, which would be about 3 PM Eastern, Fermi-2 had not restarted due to slight damage to some buildings on-site and also, mostly, due to LOOP (Loss Of Offsite Power.) No restart time has been announced but the plant is clearly safe.

Fermi-2 is a GE BWR-I plant, rated 3420 MwT / 1122 Mwe which went online in January 1988 after a protracted construction dating from September 1972, when the construction permit was issued by the NRC. Fermi-2 is, of course, very near the location of the original fast-breeder sodium-cooled Enrico Fermi Atomic Power Plant of much legend in the nuclear energy community.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

McDonald's- Shrek Glasses containing WHAT?!

CADMIUM : Atomic symbol Cd, element No. 48, with atomic weight 112.41 AMU. Cadmium is a metal which, in common with Boron and Hafnium, is used as a neutron absorber in nuclear reactors. Commonly, Cadmium has been used in control rods (and so has Hafnium) and is not considered as a "burnable poison" as is Boron. Cadmium is toxic to animals, has a melting point of 610 degrees Fahrenheit, and interestingly among commonly used neutron absorbers has the largest macroscopic cross section for absorption for thermal neutrons at 2550 barns. Cadmium can also be found in some collectible drink glasses presently offered at McDonald's restaurants across the globe which celebrate the most recent Shrek movie. Customers can be both amused and poisoned by these glasses, and will also benefit from greatly increased ability to absorb free neutrons (in thermal energies only, since Cadmium is less effective as energy of neutrons increases.)

McDonald's already recalled the glasses, by the way.

This sounds bad! Oh, wait.. it isn't.

I see today that ten or twelve news articles have exploded onto the net about supposed major problems found when a preparedness drill was run in the vicinity of the Beaver Valley facility in April. Articles like this one try feebly to trump up some kind of fear, but in fact the article is so short that it's really impossible to get all up in arms even if you know nothing about nuclear energy.

Why not "Oil Spill Drill Reveals Several Operational Deficiencies?" Or how about "Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Simulation Reveals Disturbing Results?" See, the problem here is (and has been) the 'golly gosh gee whiz oh my, lions and tigers and bears' mentality that brought us Greenpeace and the movie "The China Syndrome" and which has fueled fear of the nuclear energy field for decades now. Let's just go ahead and compare the physical, social and economic impact of the Three Mile Island accident and.. oh, I dunno... let's pick the Deepwater Horizon incident. Will anyone do that? Yes, they will. Or "he" will. That is, I will.

Let's start now. Number of personnel killed directly in all Class V Nuclear Accidents at reactors in the United States: Three (all at one accident, SL-1.) Number of personnel killed directly in Deepwater Horizon Incident: Eleven. The rest of the comparisons will be similar in final result, although very probably in much larger magnitudes.