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July 31, 2011

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 63

1. Margaret Harding goes over the realities of Entergy’s bet on fuel for Vermont Yankee (VY). Neither the naysayers, nor the supporters had it right. The fuel can be moved, but not easily. The fuel can be used in another reactor, but not easily. In any case, the cost probably will outweigh the benefits and Entergy is betting they will get to operate at least one fuel cycle of Vermont Yankee (VY).



2. Margaret Harding also has part 2 of my PESTEL analysis. This one examines the political roles of DOE (Department of Energy), NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission), and IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency). The DOE is misnamed since much of its funding is related to the support of the military parts of the national lab structure. The NRC has become a political lapdog (or at least its chairman has). And the IAEA is NOT going to become the international regulator some have called for.

3. Atomic Power Review has Nuclear Energy in Japan: The Scandal Widens Atomic Power Review reports on the growing list of questions about Japan's nuclear regulatory body, NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency - Japan's nuclear regulatory agency), and its apparent attempts to influence public opinion in less than up front ways.

4. Rod Adams at Atomic Insights has Build baby build - new nuclear power plants

CBS News aired a short piece that reminds people how vital reliable electricity is. That knowledge is reinforced when power grids are stressed and when people die due to complications associated with heat exposure. Nuclear plants have a far better chance of being available when needed than the wind turbines that were AWOL during a recent heat wave that blanketed about 1/4 of the US land mass.

When the heat domes hover, the air is still and muggy. If there was a reliable breeze we would not be so dependent on our air conditioners!

5. ANS Nuclear Café entry: Is the NRC on target with its call to redefine nuclear safety?

A report by a Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff task force calls for sweeping regulatory change, yet acknowledges that information about the Fukushima accident is unavailable, unreliable, or ambiguous.

What should be the response in the United States to the events in Japan? Dan Yurman asks a diverse group of nuclear energy professionals for their views on the NRC 90-day task force report.

6. Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat has Did Canada give away the store in sale of AECL?

Reactor refurbishment service will be a cash cow for SNC Lavalin with limited options for sales of new reactors. On June 29 the government of Canada finally put an end to industry uncertainty about how it would dispose of its nuclear crown corporation, Atomic Energy Canada Ltd. (AECL).

The administration of Stephen Harper signed away the company’s CANDU reactor division to SNC Lavalin as a re-branded entity, CANDU Energy, at the bargain-basement price of C$15 million in cash, plus $285 million in future royalties earned through the sale of new reactors.

That final price of $300 million had been kicked around in on-and-off negotiations for nearly two years.

7. Dan Yurman at Idaho Samizdat also has Entergy to refuel Vermont Yankee - The utility places a $100 million bet despite a hostile political environment

The future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor got a bit brighter this week as its owner and operator the Entergy Corp. (NYSE:ETR) announced its board of directors had approved the fabrication of fuel and the refueling of the Vermont Yankee reactor in October.

The refueling will cost as much as $100 million of which about two-thirds is the cost of the fuel and the rest labor and supplies. About 800 workers will be brought in over the course of the month long outage as part of the refueling process.

The new fuel will replace about one-third of the reactor core and is good for about 50 months of use before it will also have to be changed out. In effect, Energy is betting that it can beat the reaper in Vermont and continue to earn revenue from the sale of electricity in Vermont.

8. Yes Vermont Yankee has Vermont Yankee Will Refuel

At Yes Vermont Yankee, Meredith Angwin says she is happy about Vermont Yankee ordering fuel, but admits she had been pessimistic that they would take such a big bet.

9. Meredith also points out this other article at True North Reports - If people in other parts of the country think that opposition to Vermont Yankee is based on Entergy's missteps, the age of the plant, etc, they should think again. In a local blog, Meredith Angwin points out that the Senator Sanders of Vermont is proud of being the only dissenting vote when his committee voted on research funding for SMRs (Small Modular Reactors)

10. Amelia Frahm announces that Nutcracker Publishing Company is getting ready to release Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works.

It's the first children's picture book about nuclear power plants that, as Dr. Theodore Rockwell put it, "kids can learn the basic facts about nuclear energy without first being scared witless."

I had just sent the book to my illustrator when the nuclear emergency in Japan occurred. As far as I can determine, this is the first such book that is not anti-nuclear.

Check out our video of journalist, Birderson Cooper interviewing our chubby rat character, as he explains and demonstrates a fission chain reaction. Or, as the esteemed rodent put it, “What makes a nuclear power plant NU-CLE-AR.”

11. Nextbigfuture - Unit 1 at the Wolsong nuclear power plant in South Korea has been restarted following the completion of a refurbishment of the pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR). It marks the first time that a Candu-6 reactor has been successfully dismantled, retubed and restarted. The 679 MWe reactor to operate for a further 25 years. It took 839 days to refurbish (started in 2009).

AECL has completed the retubing of unit 2 and received regulatory approval on 30 June 2011 to start reloading fuel into the reactor. It is expected to be reconnected to the grid by the end of the year. Refurbishment work of unit 1 is also nearing completion and that unit is expected to be reconnected to the grid in early 2012.

12. Terrapower (traveling wave reactor company funded by Bill Gates and Nathan Myhrvolds) has changed its original design to make the reactor look more like a conventional one. The changes would make the reactor easier to engineer and build. The company has also calculated precise dimensions and performance parameters for the reactor. Terrapower expects to begin construction of a 100-megawatt demonstration plant in 2016 and start it up in 2020.



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