We think this is a must-read (and share) op ed by the Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board …
Until Japan’s catastrophic tsunami and Virginia’s recent earthquake, nuclear power had been enjoying something of a renaissance. This was owing to its status as the only zero-carbon-emissions technology capable of providing reliable power on an industrial scale. The problems at Japanese reactors and the worries about U.S. ones have prompted second thoughts among erstwhile enthusiasts, and strident demands for a moratorium from those who never were convinced of nuclear power’s merits in the first place.
Photo Credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch
And it highlights the need for context and a view of the whole picture regarding our energy choices, especially compared with the alternative of continuing to maintain our use and dependence on fossil fuels:
Virginia’s reactors were hit by a quake bigger than they had been designed for, with remarkably little effect. And as difficult and alarming as the explosions and radiation leaks at Japan’s facilities have been, they need to be put in context. The reactors have served the Japanese people extremely well for many years. They were struck by a natural disaster of biblical proportions. And they largely withstood it. Nearly no nuclear-related casualties have been reported in Japan. That may change as time wears on, but it’s worth noting that even the worst nuclear accident to date — Chernobyl — is responsible for vastly fewer lives lost than the number who have died from the production and use of fossil fuels.
The Times-Dispatch writers then focus on Virginia and it’s energy choices, and make their summary view here:
Nuclear power boasts an astoundingly good safety record, and will continue to do so even after the events in Japan and Virginia are taken into account. Dominion Virginia Power sets a standard in this regard. It would be the height of foolishness to let the panic of the hour divert the country from a future in which nuclear power plays a much bigger part.
In easily understood terms, the completion of the Bellefonte Unit 1 nuclear facility is similar to the complete restoration and modernization of a solidly built house, only this improvement project will generate 2,800 construction jobs, 650 permanent operations jobs, and clean energy electricity for 750,000 American homes. read more…
To ensure clear and correct information is received and understood regarding the explosion at a low-level waste facility in France, here’s a summary of the situation according to our latest information:
The incident occurred at a low-level waste facility, called CENTRACO, owned by SOCODEI, an EDF subsidiary. Geographically, this facility is located at the Marcoule site in southeastern France. This site is quite large and hosts multiple other industries, including a separate AREVA facility.
This event had no impact on the AREVA facility or its operations.
The CENTRACO facility reduces and packages low-level materials, such as clothing and scrap metal from nuclear sites.
The explosion occurred near a furnace processing these materials.
Unfortunately, one person was killed and four injured.
Monitors outside the facility measure no radiological or chemical waste released into the outside environment.
The site is secured and a resulting fire was extinguished
There is no nuclear fuel processing at this facility.
Inspectors are onsite examining the site and monitoring the environment.
The sensational statements in a recent Washington Post article are fully addressed in a recent Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) paper on the seismic safety of nuclear power facilities.
As described in NEI’s information,
Like many scientific and engineering issues that span decades, there is new information emerging about earthquakes, particularly in the central and eastern regions of the United States. The industry and the independent U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission are evaluating this data and this fall will discuss steps that may be taken to update seismic criteria …
“… these increased estimates of seismic hazards would primarily have little impact on previous estimates of the potential damage to buildings and equipment.” This is because the safety margins built into nuclear energy facilities are expected to protect them against earthquakes that are stronger than the design basis for the plant.
Read the detailed content, including seismic safety information about the North Anna facility.
Or as Scott Peterson, senior vice president at the Nuclear Energy Institute, put it:
“Nuclear energy facilities in the path of Hurricane Irene have responded well and responded safely to this storm…Every facility was ready to take any steps necessary to maintain safety, thanks to careful planning and deliberate storm preparations several days in advance of the storm.
Highly trained operators and emergency response personnel were stationed at the plants throughout the weekend and were prepared to take actions beyond their usual duties to protect the power plants and communities that surround them. In the aftermath of the storm, operators are undertaking complete inspections of nuclear energy facilities to ensure that systems and equipment were not affected by the storm and that the plant’s condition is safe.”
We really like this video tour of the North Anna plant and the visual means of explaining to the CNN viewers (and Internet video viewers) how the North Anna plant’s back up generators, and safety systems performed during and after the Virginia 5.9 quake this week.
Safety upgrades and and the attention to multiple redundant back up systems made over the last 30 years can be hard to get across to users in non-abstract ways, and we think this video does a really good job. Do share it around.
By Danielle Decatur, MBA Candidate Thunderbird School of Global Management
Danielle Decatur (left), MBA Candidate Thunderbird School of Global Management
As an MBA candidate at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, it was my goal to land a summer internship in sustainability. So imagine my excitement when I found myself at AREVA, Inc. as the sustainable development and continuous improvement intern.
I recently had the opportunity to tour the Salem Hope Creek Nuclear Plant in New Jersey, hosted by PSEG, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) (http://nei.org/), and the Women’s Council on Energy and the Environment. My summer employment has allowed me to become familiar with key issues that frame nuclear and renewable energy – safety, stakeholder engagement, energy demand, and [the artist formerly known as] climate change (i.e. greenhouse gas emissions), to name a few. During my visit to the plant I was able to experience these issues first-hand and gain a renewed interest in the energy challenges the United States and the world face today. read more…
Multiple strengthening grids integral to EPR reactor construction.
Being defined by one’s actions instead of just words can be a daunting reality, but modern nuclear reactor facilities and designs unabashedly confirm the U.S. nuclear industry’s commitment and culture focused on safety.
This commitment created an astounding statistic: From the day President Eisenhower commissioned the first reactor to the present day, the ongoing commercial operations of U.S. nuclear reactors have caused zero (0) deaths in the workforce and general public. And modern reactors are designed to maintain that safety commitment with advanced technology and techniques.
For example, AREVA’s 1,600+ megawatt U.S. EPR™ reactor design completing review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) represents additional advancements in secure, robust construction and multi-layer preventive and reactive safety systems. Here are the details divided out by the numbers … read more…
Nuclear power expansion in Florida is still under fire, despite the growing need for cleanly generated electricity. At issue is how much Florida power consumers spend now to cover planning costs for building or expanding nuclear power plants.
While the Florida Public Service Commission needs to keep those fees from causing economic hardship for homeowners or large industrial users, the state also needs to promote planning for the future of electricity generation…
The PSC will decide in the next few weeks how much Florida Power and Light and Progress Energy Florida will charge customers in 2012 for reactors that have yet to be built and plants that need to be upgraded….
Large industrial users of electricity and nuke opponents are suggesting the plants will never be built. Construction costs are rising, technology is changing for the better and public sentiment is turning in wake of the nuclear disaster earlier this year in Japan, they say.
If the reactors are unlikely to be built, why charge consumers for them?…
Opponents of nuclear power suggest new technology, conservation and alternative energy will help ease demand in the future….
That is far too hopeful. Right now, coal accounts for about 25 percent of Florida’s electricity. To reduce that usage to something that causes fewer or zero carbon emissions, the state will have to turn to natural gas and nuclear power….
On the green front, the state should encourage wind and solar options, but those methods do not generate anything close to what Florida needs from major sources of electricity.
It’s not unusual for states to look far ahead when planning for nuclear power plants. The plants are costly, they need to have the most up-to-date technology and reactors, and they have to get through mountains of red tape. But once running, nuclear power plants efficiently provide millions of watts of power…
Florida must be prepared to deal with the growing demand for power. The state shouldn’t become too reliant on any one energy source — especially coal. Nuclear plants should be part of the mix.