March 25, 2012

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 97

1. Atomic Power Review - Will Davis offers a primer on steam generator design and construction helpful to the wider audiences in light of the details emerging in the media about the problems at San Onofre. This post is part of Davis' ongoing attempt to educate the general public about the technology of nuclear power, and the history of that technology's development.

2. Dr. Robert Hayes at newsok gives information on eating and drinking radioactive materials

Radioactivity in and of itself is not something to be feared just because it is radioactive. Radioactivity is really just about as natural and normal as anything one can imagine in nature. It should however, be respected and handled in accordance with the level of risk it poses. A unit which places different amounts of radioactivity into measures of risk is the annual limit of intake (ALI). An ALI basically is how much radioactivity you can literally swallow to obtain a lifetime dose of 5 rem (a rem is a unit of radiation dose). The reason 5 rem of dose is chosen is that 5 rem is the regulatory limit of radiation dose a person can get when employed as a radiation worker here in the United States. The value of 5 rem is approximately 6 times larger than the average dose Americans receive each year from natural and medical sources.

3. Yes Vermont Yankee submits the account of our rally in celebration of Vermont Yankee's continued operation: Green Power for St. Patrick's Day. Seventy people of all ages rallied to celebrate Vermont Yankee's license extension, favorable judicial ruling, and continued operation.

4. Canadian Energy Issues - Healthcare efficiency more important than posturing in Nordion isotope business

General Electric recently bailed on a project to make a critical medical isotope using low enriched uranium. GE's reason was pure dollars and cents. A Canadian company, using high enriched uranium (HEU), can supply the isotope at a much better price, and GE cannot compete. That's because HEU-based production is far more efficient. A worldwide effort to phase out HEU could tilt the board in GE's favour. But would that be good for the healthcare system? Because it would make this hugely important isotope far more expensive.

5. Idaho Samizdat - On February 1 Southern California Edison safely shut down Unit 3 at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) to begin dealing with what has turned into a marathon unplanned outage that continues some seven weeks later. If the problem is not fixed, there could be power shortages in Los Angeles and San Diego this summer.

The problem began when operators got indications of a steam generator tube leak. What plant operators found on inspection was that some of the equipment installed as brand new in 2009 showed unusual wear for the time it was in service. Worse, some of the tubes, which transfer reactor heat to make steam to turn the plant's turbines to make electricity, were failing under pressure tests. To date no one knows what is causing the excessive wear.

6. Neutron Economy - Not all energy is fungible - and it matters

A recent Pew poll on energy issues highlights several key public opinion trends of relevance to nuclear energy, including a slow reset to the historical average opinion on nuclear energy expansion. As expected, support for different energy options is still deeply divided along party lines, but more importantly, one thing the public doesn't seem to get is that not all energy is fungible between different sectors, an issue with severe implications for energy policy and nuclear in particular.

7. Neutron Economy - Energy finance in free markets - an open conundrum

A persistent objection to nuclear is that it is essentially a state industry, given the difficulty and inherent front-loaded financial risk in constructing capital-intensive facilities. Yet this is a larger issue relevant to any capital-intensive energy project in liberalized energy markets, provoking the question - is there a better way to finance capital-intensive investments in energy in deregulated electricity markets?

8. At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus follows up on a March 2 blog summarizing comments she received from several readers reinforcing the concerns she had expressed about the fact that the 2013 Federal budget request had zeroed out funding for nuclear engineering education programs, and adding some factual information based on their experiences. The commenters included Rod Adams, another blogger participating in this Carnival, someone who had been a member of a Nuclear Engineering Student Delegation to the Hill, and someone with knowledge of INPO's educational activities. She continues to urge people to write to their members of Congress to ask that the funding for nuclear engineering education be restored via Congressional action.

9. ANS Nuclear Cafe - Call to action: Educate and encourage students about nuclear science

Educational outreach activities such as K-12 classroom visits are essential in teaching young people about how nuclear energy works, and perhaps even encouraging a child to someday consider pursuing a career in engineering or the sciences. Bethany Cargle at the ANS Nuclear Café writes about a recent classroom reading by Amelia Frahm at Steele Creek Elementary School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Amelia Frahm is the author of the one-of-a-kind children’s picture book Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Plant Really Works! (Warning: This article includes ping-pong balls, mousetraps, spitballs... and a late-breaking video news update on nuclear energy by famed television news anchor Birderson Cooper!)

10. Nextbigfuture - Russia is also pushing ahead with a small modular fast reactor cooled by lead-bismuth eutectic, the SVBR-100. The plan is to complete the design development and put on line a 100 MWe demonstration plant by the end of 2017, with total investment of RUR16 billion ($585 million). The site is to be the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors at Dimitrovgrad - Russia's largest nuclear research centre.

The SVBR-100 could be the first reactor cooled by heavy metal to generate electricity. It is described as a multi-function reactor for power, heat or desalination and a power station with 16 such modules would be expected to supply electricity at lower cost than any other new Russian technology, said AKME, while achieving inherent safety and high proliferation resistance.

11. Nextbigfuture - In May, 2011 the Natural Resources Defense Council estimated that there would be 100 excess cases of cancer among the population of 2 million from the Fukushima nuclear reactors. That was portrayed as a high-end estimate, because it assumed that everyone in the Fukushima area stood outside during the release events and did not take shelter.

Under ordinary circumstances 40 percent of the Japanese population gets cancer, so a population of 2 million would expect to see 800,000 cases. An excess of 100 deaths over a lifetime would mean an extra one hundreds of one percent or one part in ten thousand.

12. Nextbigfuture - NB Power has received permission from the Canadian nuclear regulator to load fuel into the refurbished single-unit Point Lepreau plant in New Brunswick. The Candu reactor is expected to restart later this year, having been offline for over four years.

The single unit Point Lepreau plant is a 680 MWe Candu 6 pressurized heavy-water plant, which began commercial operation in 1983. It was taken off line in March 2008 for a major refurbishment including the replacement of all 380 fuel channels, calandria tubes and feeder tubes. Originally anticipated to take 16 months to complete, the C$1.4 billion ($1.4 billion) refurbishment was further extended by the need to remove and replace all the calandria tubes for a second time after problems with seal tightness.

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