On May 15, 2013, I had the opportunity to attend a session at the Nuclear Energy Assembly titled Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Supplying the Nuclear Energy Industry in the 21st Century.The panel discussion was moderated by John Hamre, President and CEO of Center for Strategic and International Studies. Participants included E. James Ferland, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Babcock & Wilcox Company; Caroline A. Reda, President and Chief Executive Officer, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy; Michael W. Rencheck, President and Chief Executive Officer, AREVA Inc. and Daniel L. Roderick, President and Chief Executive Officer, Westinghouse Electric Company.They discussed a number of challenges and opportunities including small modular reactors, competition with natural gas, market distortions caused by targeted subsidies, financial benefits to US of the Export-Import Bank, innovation, competing against government-owned corporations, and the obsolete nature of the prohibition against foreign ownership of US based nuclear power plants. (That last one was in response to a question from the floor. Some of you might recognize the source of the question. :-) )Since it is difficult for many nuclear professionals to take the time away from their normal duties to attend meetings like the NEA, I thought it would be worthwhile to share this informative discussion with you.
Attempting to transition away from fossil fuels to an "all renewable" energy system is fraught with cost and reliability challenges. Germany is running into substantial challenges and is burned 5% more lignite - brown coal - in 2012 than it did in 2011. Recently completed studies that including a range of scenarios in Australia and California indicate the magnitude of the challenge of trying to do without both nuclear energy and fossil fuel.Not surprisingly, we agreed that future energy systems that include a large dose of nuclear energy are more achievable and will also result in increasing human creative capabilities rather than restricting our development potential.Additional topics included the recent final shutdown of the Kewaunee nuclear power station, nuclear tourism, growing interest in Small Modular Reactors (SMR) around the world, including Australia, and the positive responses that Robert Stone is getting at college campuses as he holds screenings for Pandora's Promise. That well-received documentary that tells the story of people who have made a personal journey from nuclear opposition to nuclear energy support will be released in theaters around the US (and perhaps the rest of the world) in June 2013.Guests on this episode of the Atomic Show: Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth about Nuclear Energy Ben Heard, director of Think Climate Consulting and a principal author of Zero Carbon Options Margaret Harding, principal at 4 Factor Consulting Steve Aplin, who blogs at Canadian Energy Issues Paul Lorenzini, who was the CEO at NuScale Power from 2008-2012
Many nuclear professionals have been attracted to the technology because of its inherently light footprint when compared to all other alternative power sources. It uses less land, less metal, less concrete, and a tiny volume of fuel when compared to producing a similar quantity of energy from other sources of reliable power, especially when the fuel extraction and delivery lifecycle is included.Unfortunately, the established Environmental Movement turned away from nuclear energy during a transitional period in the late 1960s and early 1970s when they were convinced by key leaders that atomic energy was something to fear and fight. Before that period, conservation groups like the Sierra Club recognized that it was better for the land that they loved to produce power with "Atoms, not Dams". During that campaign, Sierra supported nuclear energy as a better alternative than filling up a pristine valley full of water as part of the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric power project.Guests on this show include:Margaret Harding, an independent consultant with 30 years of BWR fuel design experience. Margaret blogs at 4 Factor Consulting and writes a column for Fuel Cycle Week. Will Davis, a former submarine reactor operator who blogs at Atomic Power Review and ANS Nuclear Cafe and also writes a column for Fuel Cycle Week Meredith Angwin, who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee and ANS Nuclear Cafe and recently published an eBook titled Voices For Vermont Yankee. Steve Aplin, who blogs at Canadian Energy IssuesWe all remain convinced that emission free power from an incredibly energy dense fuel sources is better for the environment than producing that power by burning hydrocarbons and dumping the waste product. We also believe that it is better for many of the things that true conversationists and environmentalist hold dear to produce power from reliable, compact machinery than to attempt to capture natural energy flows using inherently large machinery that is often idle and doing nothing except being a blight on formerly scenic vistas.
Darryl Siemer is a professional chemist who spent his career in nuclear waste remediation at the Idaho National Laboratory. While there, he developed a reputation as someone who will not go along to get along and apparently made quite a few waves by su...
On March 9, 2006, Shane Brown and I recorded the first episode of The Atomic Show. We formatted the show as a couple of geeks chatting about atomic energy and published it on Cameron Reilly's The Podcast Network. On March 17, 2013, I hosted and recorde...
Before March 11, 2011, "Fukushima" was the name of a relatively unknown prefecture in Japan. Now it is a shorthand reference to an event in which three large nuclear power plants melted and released a small quantity of long lived radioactive material that has not harmed any human being.Here is a brief synopsis of the events that have turned "Fukushima" into one of the most frequently found words on the internet.Immediately after a very powerful earthquake and tsunami hit the north east coast of Japan, killing at least 16,000 people and destroying the man made infrastructure over more than 100 miles of the Japanese coast, the word "Fukushima" was still not well known outside of Japan. We were focused on the tragedy and the visual images of incredible shaking in offices, malls, and tall buildings and the frightening sight of a wall of black water washing over people, automobiles, and multi-story structures.Within about a day of the initial tragedy, however, the world was distracted as a larger and larger portion of the major news media outlets outside of Japan decided to focus our attention on the unfolding drama at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station. Though the station did not suffer any significant immediate damage, and though essentially all of the people on the site were safely protected from the effects of the earthquake and tsunami, the events had knocked out all electrical power.Both the off-site power system and 12 out of 13 diesel generators on site were severely damaged. Off-site power was knocked out by the earthquake when a large transmission line tower fell down; the diesel generators were knocked out by the tsunami. Unfortunately, those generators were on the sea side of the plant and located below the flooding caused by the tsunami. Even their fuel tanks were washed away. This loss of power made it very difficult for the operators to provide the continuing flow of coolant required after a nuclear plant shuts down. The plants were never "out of control" but they were gradually heating up due to the effects of radioactive decay.As Margaret Harding, one of my favorite nuclear energy professionals, describes the way the media decided to focus on the struggles at the nuclear plant instead of the immense human tragedy of the casualties and property damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami, the events at Fukushima Dai-ichi were like a slow motion disaster movie. The talking heads - or their producers - decided that it was more interesting to tell that story than to help us understand where the real needs were.Groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth and individuals like Arnie Gundersen and Helen Caldicott have worked overtime to use the difficulties at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear station to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt about the use of nuclear energy. There are hundreds of thousands of real victims of that fear mongering campaign of disinformation, some of whom have already experienced shortened lives due to the negative health impacts of living under severe stress, worried that they have already become a victim of "contamination" that they cannot see, feel, or smell.Even after scientists and technicians have used the simple instruments that can detect incredibly minute quantities of radioactive material and given a clean bill of health, the fear mongers have convinced people that they are not out of the woods. According to their purposeful campaign, affected people must continue to stress out about "hot particles", about food whose measured radioactivity is less than the natural activity of a banana, a glass of beer or a Brazil nut, and about the very soil on which their children should be playing.Partly as a result of the focused fear-spreading campaign, Japan is spending at least $60 billion more per year for imported fossil fuel to replace the output of its 50 operable reactors. Even with all of that extra cost,
A few days ago, Steve Aplin wrote an inspiring post on Canadian Energy Issues titled The electric grid: the greatest invention of all time expanded after women won the vote. That post described how important electricity was to the effort to free women from household chores so that they could choose to pursue more interesting ways to spend their time.He also mentioned that March 3, 2013 was the 100th anniversary of a march on Washington in which at least 5,000 women organized a parade to demand the right to vote and to participate fully in American democracy. That inspired me to gather some terrific ladies together to talk about the importance of reliable energy in the form of household electricity. I tried getting Steve to participate; after all, it was his idea, but it turned out that there was another reason why March 3, 2013 was an important day for his family.My guests on this show included: Meredith Angwin, who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee and has just published an eBook titled Voices for Vermont Yankee which is available for both Kindle and Nook Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy and one of the stars of Pandora's Promise Margaret Harding, the principle at 4 Factor Consulting who has recently started assisting the NGNP Alliance, with, among other things, their social media strategy. Suzy Hobbs-Baker, the director of the Nuclear Literacy Project, the founder and director of Pop Atomic Studios and the current world traveler who is blogging about her journey at Diary of a Nuclear Tourist.I hope that you enjoy the show and think about the important benefits provided by reliable, affordable, convenient electricity. Ensuring the continued availability of a product so important that loss to access for just a few hours makes headlines is one of the reasons that I keep doing what I do.
On Sunday, February 24, I gathered a group of fission fans to talk about a number of nuclear energy related topics. We discussed Romance of Radium and how perceptions about radiation have been molded over the 76 years since it was produced. Then, people had learned enough about the benefits of using power emitted from atomic nuclei so that the only powerfully radioactive material was valued at $750,000 per ounce, and had also learned enough about time, distance, shielding and consumption avoidance to have essentially eliminated accidental radiation related injury.We also talked about the importance of sharing accurate nuclear science and technology related material with as many people as possible. We discussed an interesting model situation in the UK where the Sellafield installation is taking over a financially struggling, but popular tourist museum named The Beacon so that it can help people better understand the benefits of a complicated technology.Guests on this episode of The Atomic Show include: Meredith Angwin, who publishes Yes Vermont Yankee and who recently released Voices for Vermont Yankee on Kindle. Steve Aplin, who publishes Canadian Energy Issues which focuses on the energy situation in Ontario. (Steve confessed that his day job employer is in the fossil fuel industry, but we don't hold that against him. He knows the importance of energy density and ultra low emissions.) Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy and one of the stars of the Sundance sensation titled Pandora's Promise. (Gwyneth talked a little about some of the opportunities she has had recently to talk to some very deep-pocketed people in Mountain View, CA who are intensely interested in using nuclear energy to save the world. Will Davis, who publishes the authoritative Atomic Power Review and who frequently contributes to ANS Nuclear Cafe and Fuel Cycle Week. Andrea Jennetta, who publishes Fuel Cycle Week and I Dig U MiningI hope you enjoy the conversation. Please provide your commentary; we are always interested in learning more about how to better communicate what I believe is the most important message available - nuclear energy really does have the power to change the world and make it a cleaner, more prosperous, more energetic place.
On Sunday, February 17, 2013, a group of five nuclear energy professionals gathered to share their thoughts about the current state of the atomic energy business.Participants included: Margaret Harding (@M2harding), 4 Factor Consulting Meredith Angwin (@yes_VY), Yes Vermont Yankee Andrea Jennetta (@NuclearBuzz), Fuel Cycle Week and I Dig Uranium Cal Abel (@cal_abel), PhD candidate GA Tech Rod Adams, Atomic InsightsWe covered a lot of ground, groused a bit about the industry's lack of aggressive marketing, and worried about how so many people have lost touch with where things that make their lives comfortable come from. We discussed uranium mining in Virginia, competing against natural gas, using nuclear heat to upgrade coal into a much more valuable liquid or gas fuel product, and the human side of engineering as a profession. We worried together about the fact that some leaders in our nation seem to be happy to be directing a post industrial economy despite the fact that people still want things, not just services like those provided by lawyers and accountants.In the end, we agreed that nuclear energy use will grow dramatically because it is so abundant, so clean, and so affordable when done correctly and at the proper scale. We agreed that humans need energy and that the best available fuel source for providing that energy is the uranium, thorium, and plutonium that we know exists in sufficient quantities to provide for abundant use for thousands of years.We are atomic optimists, we hope that others in the nuclear energy profession will join us in talking about why we do what we do.
On Sunday, January 13, 2013, I had a conversation with Dr. Jerry Cuttler and Dr. A. David Rossin. Each of these distinguished gentlemen has a long history of working with ionizing radiation and studying its biological effects on human beings.Dr. J...
The first Atomic Show of 2013 is a geeky, chemistry laden discussion aimed at helping to answer the question that many people who fight nuclear energy try to use as their trump card "What do you do with the waste."It often makes their head spin or makes them put their fingers into their ears when you take the question seriously and provide reasonable answers that start with a statement that the material is not waste, it is valuable raw material.NNadir is a bit of a local hero for pro nuclear advocates. He is a die hard liberal Democrat who takes the future seriously. He has produced 399 diaries on Daily Kos; those entries have attracted nearly 8,000 comments. For professional reasons, he seeks to maintain his nom de plume; I respect that. However, I can tell you that he is a professional chemist with a vast store of knowledge built in a Jeffersonian fashion - by spending a large portion of his free time reading good science in libraries.Please check back to this post later; I will be posting additional reading recommendations, but thought you would like to start listening. Before you do, pull out your periodic table; it will help make the conversation more understandable if you have that useful tool in front of you.
On Sunday, December 30, 2012, I gathered a group of atomic advocates to talk about their favorite nuclear energy stories from 2012. Participants in the discussion included:Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy Will Davis from Atomic Power Review, ANS Nuclear Cafe and Fuel Cycle Week Meredith Angwin from Yes Vermont Yankee and the Energy Education Project of the Ethan Allen Institute Ben Heard from Decarbonize SA and the author of the recently issued report titled Zero Carbon Options: Seeking An Economic Mix For An Environmental Outcome.We talked about Jaczko's departure from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the approval of COLAs for Vogtle 3 & 4 and VC Summer 2 & 3, the landslide election of a pro-nuclear party in Japan, Vermont Yankee winning in court, and the fact that the sky continues to remain in place despite all predictions to the contrary from the anti nuclear fear mongers.There are still no instances of negative health effects from exposure to radiation or radioactive materials as a result of the small quantity of material released from three melted reactors at Fukushima Dai-ich in March and April of 2011. There is a growing body of evidence indicating that fear of radiation has caused a great deal of harm. Perhaps a thousand people experienced early deaths related to the stress of evacuating their homes or hospitals and there is a continuing contribution to ill health from lack of outdoor exercise in "contaminated" areas where dose rates are well below naturally occurring radiation levels in other areas of the world.Ben Heard mentioned one of the best news stories that received little coverage - a man has opened a restaurant that specializes in selling food grown or raised in the Fukushima prefecture.Finally, we mentioned what Meredith often refers to as the "brownie gap". That is her shorthand for discussing the fact that pro nuclear advocates do not spend enough time socializing with each other and supporting each other in our mutual effort to make the world a better place by taking advantage of the energy density found in uranium and thorium. Those materials are marvelous gifts to humanity; we need to use them more often as tools to make our world a better place.Happy New Year!
Ben Heard is one of the growing number of environmental professionals who have seriously evaluated all options for reducing mankind's annual production rate of carbon dioxide and discovered that the best tool available is nuclear fission energy. As a part of his continuing journey of discovery, he worked with Brown and Pang to produce a report titled Zero Carbon Options: Seeking an Economic Mix for an Environmental Outcome".The report uses the results of a recently completed report detailing a proposed mix of wind and solar power supplies that would produce as much electricity each year as two aging coal fired power stations in South Australia to show how much less costly and more effective it would be to replace those stations with nuclear power than to attempt to achieve the same emission abatement result using an overbuilt mix of unreliable power supplies. The full report is available as a free PDF download.Though the initial work was unfunded, a successful campaign using Pozible has provided some financial resources for distributing and promoting the report. (Disclosure: I felt strongly enough about the importance of the effort to contribute some of my own personal funds to that campaign.)Ben and I got together on Skype on December 16 (for me) and 17 (for him) to talk about Zero Carbon options and the need to rationally evaluate the available tools for addressing a very real problem - the steady accumulation of excessive quantities of carbon dioxide (and other, more noxious waste products from fossil fuel combustion) in our shared atmosphere. I hope you enjoy the show and consider doing what you can to spread the word that we have a proven, scalable, available technology that can no longer be ignored. The elephant in the room will no longer remain quiet as more and more people discover what Ben has discovered - atomic fission energy is fully capable of replacing a major portion of our current demand for hydrocarbon fuels.Since fission is capable of achieving that task without requiring a great deal of other societal changes or changes in individual lifestyles, it is a far more powerful and effective tool than any other alternative. Attempting to achieve what is already a very difficult task without using the best available technology is simply absurd.
On Sunday, December 2, 2012, I gathered together a group of nuclear professionals to talk about the impact to human history of the construction and operation of Critical Pile 1 (CP-1). That simple assembly of graphite, uranium, and uranium dioxide was built in about 6 weeks. When measurements taken during construction indicated that the system was large enough to sustain a chain reaction, Enrico Fermi scheduled a test. It worked as expected on the first try.Fission, a power source that releases 2 million times as much energy per unit mass as burning the most densely concentrated hydrocarbon fuel, worked fine. If the discovery had taken place at any other time in human history, progress would have been made far more quickly to turn that new power source into an amazing boon for mankind. As it has turned out, we have made progress and developed a reliable alternative to burning fossil fuel, but there is still vast untapped potential.Guests on this show include:Margaret Harding - 4 Factor Consulting Leslie Corrice - The Hiroshima Syndrome Will Davis - Atomic Power Review Suzy Hobbs Baker - PopAtomic Studios Kirk Sorensen - Co-Founder, Flibe Energy and creator of Energy from ThoriumI hope you all enjoy this show as much as I enjoyed hosting the conversation.
There are 34 nuclear reactors located in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. Of those, 7 were shutdown for planned maintenance. Three units tripped due to disturbances on the grid or issues with one of their redundant cooling systems. The other 24 remained operational and supplied as much power as the grid could accept.On Sunday, November 4, I gathered a group of pronuclear communicators, each with their own blog, to talk about the technology's resilience and about how a certain segment of the antinuclear industry loves to spread scary what if stories. Every time nature tests our nuclear power plants and they perform well, the anti's tell us that "we almost lost (fill in the blank)". Then they point to an event like Fukushima and tell us that proves that nature can throw more at nuclear plants than they can handle.What they fail to admit, however, is that even a very bad event that destroys three formerly productive nuclear power units at an admittedly vulnerable site with insufficient preventive measures did not result in a single human injury any worse than a mild sunburn from exposure to radiation.As amateur pro nuclear communicators, we have all chosen a rather unusual hobby; we continue to spread the truth about nuclear energy and continue to explain to people that it really does have the power to save the world from many of its most pressing challenges.Guests on this show include:Margaret Harding, who blogs at 4 Factor Consulting Meredith Angwin, who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee and ANS Nuclear Cafe Will Davis, who blogs at Atomic Power Review and ANS Nuclear CafeAdditional ReadingSpent Fuel Pool at Oyster CreekEntergy Louisiana and Entergy Arkansas and Hurricane SandyHurricanes and Nuclear Plants in the Main Stream Media