August 10, 2012

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 117

1. ANS Nuclear Cafe - Converting heat into electricity without moving parts.

Rod Adams has been fascinated by nuclear batteries -- also known as radioisotope thermal generators or RTGs -- since he first saw a plutonium-238 pacemaker battery in a museum exhibit. On the occasion of the successful landing of the Mars rover Curiosity, powered by a Plutonium-238 RTG, he notes the technology remains virtually unknown outside of a few high profile space missions. This is the case in spite of a myriad of potential applications in which a small amount of long-lived, reliable power would be very valuable -- including a thought-provoking potential application in nuclear power stations.

Also a very interesting and informative comment thread.

2. NEI Nuclear Notes - The U.K. government is openly courting nuclear energy companies interested in building new plants in the island nation. NEI's John Keeley takes a closer look as to why.

2. NEI Nuclear Notes - The endangered crocodile is thriving in Florida thanks to the staff at FP&L's Turkey Point Nuclear Power Plant. NEI's Mark Flanagan investigates.

3. NEI Nuclear Notes - The American Wind Energy Association boasted this week that US electrical generation from wind power is now roughly equivalent to 11 nuclear reactors. NEI's David Bradish looks at why that milestone isn't nearly as impressive as it sounds:

It looks like AWEA has the calculations correct. Fifty gigawatts (GW) of wind at a 30% capacity factor generates about 131,400,000 megawatt-hours of electricity in a year. This is roughly equivalent to the annual generation from 11 new nuclear reactors with an average capacity of 1,400 MW, each operating at a 90% capacity factor. It’s also equivalent to the annual generation of nearly 17 nuclear reactors with an average capacity of 1,000 MW, each at a 90% capacity factor.

This is a great milestone for the wind industry, however, they need to increase their capacity by roughly another 250 GW to equal the annual generation of the U.S. nuclear fleet. It’s also worth noting that the quality of power from 50 GW of wind is much different than the quality of power from 11 nuclear reactors. Wind is intermittent, only available in certain locations, requires significant amounts of transmission, and produces the least amount of electricity in a year during the summer and winter months because the heat and cold stifle wind flow.

4. NEI Nuclear Notes - The National Academy of Sciences investigated the emergency response to the 2011 floods in Iowa and found that emergency preparedness drills conducted in conjunction with the Duane Arnold nuclear power plant helped save lives.

5. Nuclear science and technology blog The process by which the sun is able to continuously emit heat and light onto the earth is through a nuclear chain reaction. Never thought of the sun as a nuclear reactor? Well it is too late now; that seed of truth has been planted and now you know the sun is a massive nuclear reactor. The sun is not the same kind we have here on earth making electricity for us, but rather the kind that is in a hydrogen bomb. Not the smaller nuclear bombs like those dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, rather the kind which is almost a thousand of times stronger

6. Margaret Harding has a report on the first day of the ANS UWC. She’s planning several more posts, but for now has summarized Tom Kilgore and Josh Bleill’s opening remarks.

7. Nuclear Diner - NRC Freezes Decisions on Reactor Licensing

The NRC is freezing final decisions on licensing new reactors and relicensing old ones, until it comes up with a substitute for the waste confidence rule recently overturned by the US Court of Appeals. Processing of applications will continue.

8. Atomic Power Review - NRC halts licensing over Waste Confidence Rule problems

Atomic Power Review provides details and analysis on this week's NRC decision to halt licensing of nuclear plants until the issue of High Level Waste storage can be resolved. Includes background, as well as links to the NRC release and other outside news stories.

9. Idaho Samizdat - Dan Yurman - Cameco Takes 2Q Hit On Falling U3O8 Prices

Cameco (TSX:CCO) recorded precipitous drops in revenue and earnings for the 2012 second quarter compared to the first quarter.

The second quarter’s average realized U3O8 price declined 15%, from $49.40 at the start of the year to $42.21 by June 30.

And sales to customers were off by 3.2 million pounds, due to scheduled deliveries being back end loaded to the fourth quarter.

In a conference call with securities analysts on July 27, CEO Tom Gitzel said demand for uranium globally has fallen since the March 2011 Fukushima crisis. He said, however, that sales, revenue, and production for the year are unchanged from previous guidance.

10. Nextbigfuture - In January 2011, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) launched a Strategic Priority Research Program named “Advanced Fission Energy Program” to confront two grand challenges in the nuclear energy world – long-term nuclear fuel supply and permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel. The program consists of two projects, the TMSR (Thorium Molten Salt Reactor) and the ADS. The TMSR project is to utilize the thorium energy via the development of molten salt and molten salt-cooled reactor technologies, in order to secure the long-term nuclear fuel supply by diversifying the sources of the fuel. By around 2035, the TMSR project shall build a 1000MWe molten salt-cooled demonstration reactor and a 100MWe molten salt demonstration reactor (liquid fuel), as well as possess the technologies that pave the road to commercialization of the thorium-fueled nuclear energy systems. The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics is leading the efforts to build a 2 MW molten salt research reactor in five years. A center dedicated to TMSR research (TMSR Center) has already been established.

11. Nextbigfuture - nobody in Fukushima has died as a result of radiation, there were 761 victims of “disaster-related death”, especially old people uprooted from homes and hospital because of forced evacuation and other nuclear-related measures.

Shunichi Yamashita, son of a hibakusha, or atomic-bomb survivor, and vice-president of Fukushima Medical University, is adamant. Recently returned from a trip to Chernobyl, he insists the fallout in Fukushima is far less severe than the Soviet Union’s nuclear accident of 1986, despite having reached the same technical status (Level 7) because a majority of the radioisotopes were blown out to sea. Also the government quickly stopped consumption of contaminated food and milk, which reduced the potential of thyroid problems, such as those suffered by children around Chernobyl.

Several studies bear out his views. A fortnight after the disaster, the authorities screened the thyroids of 1,149 children exposed to radiation and found that the maximum equivalent thyroid dose was 35 millisieverts (mSv). This is much less than at Chernobyl. Researchers from Japan’s Hirosaki University followed up the study a few weeks later. Their findings, published recently, showed iodine-131 active in the thyroids of 46 out of 62 evacuees. The average dose was about 3.5mSv in adults and the equivalent of 4.2mSv in children—which is better than 100 times less than the average for Chernobyl evacuees, 490mSv.

12.Nextbigfuture - Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory used photolysis on a uranium azide–a molecule containing one uranium atom and three nitrogen atoms–exposing it to ultraviolet light and using the energy from a photon to break off nitrogen gas, resulting in a molecule with a single uranium nitride group.

This breakthrough is important because uranium nitride materials show promise as advanced nuclear fuels due to their high density, high stability, and high thermal conductivity–enabling them to run cooler in advanced reactors.

13. Nextbigfuture - Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, Inc. (LPP) is a research and development corporation whose primary goal is the scientific demonstration and commercialization of a compact nuclear fusion generator that will provide cheap, clean, safe and abundant energy for the world. Net fusion energy is like a tripod, and needs three conditions to stand (or in the LPP case, get more energy out than is lost). Despite FF-1’s low cost of less than $1M, the results LPP published showed FF-1 has achieved two out of three conditions—temperature and confinement time—needed for net fusion energy. If they were able to achieve the third net fusion energy condition, density, they could be within four years of beginning mass manufacture of 5 Megawatt electric Focus Fusion generators that would scale to meet all global energy demands at a projected cost 10 times less than coal. While we still must demonstrate full scientific feasibility, FF-1 already achieves well over 100 billion fusion reactions in a few microseconds.

14. This week, Gail Marcus reacts to Senator Harry Reid's recent attack on Commissioner Magwood. She starts by saying, "Those of us who live and work 'inside the Beltway' can sometimes get a little smug in our conviction that we really understand how things work around here. Recent events, however, are leading me to question my own sense of certainty about my understanding." Her Nuke Power Talk blog notes that the last few months have been punctuated by a series of unusual events, starting with the letter from four Commissioners to the White House complaining about the behavior of former Chairman Jaczko, moving on to the fund-raising efforts on his behalf by some of his Hill colleagues, and ending, at least for now, in a vitriolic attack by the Senator. She speculates on reasons Senator Reid may be engaging in this exercise now, when it would seem that the replacement of Jaczko by Allison Macfarlane should have closed this chapter.

15. Atomic Insights contributions this week - Media coverage – Chevron’s Richmond, CA refinery versus SCE’s San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station

Contrasting the way the media has covered the physically consequential and photogenic fire at Chevron's Richmond refinery against the way that it has covered the physically inconsequential steam generator tube leak at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

Is it possible that Chevron's status as a long time major advertising buyer plays a role in the way that editors choose to cover their problems?

16. Atomic Insights - Winning a debate in Sydney – We have seen the future and it’s nuclear

During a recent Big Ideas debate in Sydney, Australia, Ben Heard spent his allotted 9 minutes telling people how he became convinced that the only path to an abundant, reliable future energy supply system that minimizes CO2 and all other air pollution is one where nuclear provides most of the energy. Ben started his journey of discovery from a position where he was ideologically opposed to the use of nuclear energy; he describes how his feelings about the topic were almost on the level of a phobia.

The host declared that Ben Heard, Michael Angwin, and Professor Daniela Stehlik had won a resounding victory on the question of the night and that the audience now agreed that the future of energy is nuclear.

17. Meredith Angwin who blogs at Yes Vermont Yankee was so tickled to see another Angwin winning a pronuclear debate that she reached across the globe to talk to Michael and congratulate him.

18. Canadian Energy Issues - When does energy efficiency become demand destruction? Japan knows”

A recent Bloomberg article reported that electric power utilities in Japan are now emitting record levels of greenhouse gases (GHGs) because they are forbidden to restart nuclear plants that were taken off-line in the hysteria over the casualty-free Fukushima meltdowns of March 2011. In spite of these record emissions of GHGs, Japan still suffers under endless electricity shortages. Steve Aplin points out that the only way to alleviate these shortages is to restart the idled nuclear plants. But that will require a sea-change in official Japanese rhetoric regarding fission and history.

19. Leslie Corrice submits from Hiroshima Syndrome - Japan’s No.2 newspaper intensifies discrimination against F. Daiichi workers. In parallel with Monday’s Japan Today report of discrimination inflicted on F. Daiichi workers, the Asahi Shimbun posted an article that can only exacerbate the situation. Using rumors and fearsome innuendo, the Asahi makes Fukushima workers out to be suicidal money-grubbers. Further, the Asahi says such “underhand” practices are usual and commonplace with all Japanese utilities.

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