Still more ratepayer bailouts needed, says Entergy exec"> Thumbnail for 369557

“I’ve made it clear FitzPatrick [pictured here, from NRC] has been a marginal unit for a while,” he said. “We’re really counting on some positive changes in market design to be able to continue to run it,” says Entergy exec William Mohl.

The nuclear power industry increasingly reminds one of nothing so much as the spoiled brat (or, possibly, the greedy king Midas) who, upon receiving a gift, instantly wants “more!”

Thus, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) June 10 approved a plan put forth last December by the PJM grid–the largest of the three major grids in the U.S.–to reward high-performing power plants and penalize low-performing units, Entergy’s (the second largest nuclear utility) instant reaction was “more.”

A little translation may be in order. After all, it would seem to make perfect sense to reward the best and penalize the worst. But the real intent of PJM’s plans was to funnel more money to nuclear reactors at the expense of renewables and gas, under the guise that reactors are better able to keep the lights on during things like polar vortexes and other freaks of nature.

It’s all part of the nuclear industry’s “reliability” pitch that appears in just about every industry press release and public statement. Actually, reactors, especially Entergy’s, haven’t been all that reliable in extreme weather: its Pilgrim reactor was shut down more than once last winter because of major snow storms, for example. But renewables, by definition, are low-performing: their capacity factor is low compared with nuclear and fossil fuels. That’s not necessarily a problem in the real world; it just means you need more nameplate capacity with renewables to get the same actual output.

And you need a grid that can handle the variable nature of renewables. Again, not a problem, as several countries in Europe have shown the ability to incorporate far higher levels of renewables than exist yet anywhere in the U.S. Although, fortunately, we’re starting to catch up–and installed solar power close to reaching less than $1/watt is one reason why.

Anyway, as it turns out, Entergy wants another $3-5 per megawatt hour from ratepayers to keep its unprofitable reactors running. That’s roughly the same amount Exelon wants the Illinois legislature–or someone, Exelon isn’t all that picky about the venue–to award it to keep its uneconomic nukes operating.

Entergy’s solution is to have FERC simply issue an order requiring the nation’s Independent System Operators to do that.

In Entergy’s view, a rate increase of this size “is pretty minor compared with a present market structure where we’re shutting down viable plants.” So says well-paid Entergy exec William Mohl.

Unless, of course, you’re trying to live on a fixed income and pay your ever-rising electric bills.

But you’ve got to love the gall. Because even if you’ve got plenty of money to pay your electric bills, there is no downside for consumers at all in shutting down “viable” nuclear reactors. Indeed, even in strictly economic terms, there is an obvious upside: avoiding additional radioactive waste …read moreRead More

Debate over future of nuclear power systems in space"> Thumbnail for 369375

A image of the explosion of the Space-X rocket

NASA has released a study claiming there is a need for continued use of plutonium-energized power systems for future space flights. It also says the use of actual nuclear reactors in space “has promise” but “currently” there is no need for them.

The space plutonium systems—called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGS)—use the heat from the decay of plutonium to generate electricity in contrast to nuclear reactors, usually using uranium, in which fission or atom-splitting takes place.

The “Nuclear Power Assessment Study” describes itself as being done as a “collaboration” involving “NASA centers,” among them Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “the Department of Energy and its laboratories including Los Alamos National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories,” and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

The study, released this month, comes as major breakthroughs have been happening in the use of solar and other benign sources of power in space. The situation parallels that on Earth as solar and wind power and other clean, safe technologies compete with nuclear, oil, coal and other problematic energy sources and the interests behind them.

Examples of the use of benign power in space include the successful flight in May of a solar-powered spacecraft named LightSail in a mission funded by members of the Planetary Society. Astronomer Carl Sagan, a founder of the society, was among those who have postulating having a spacecraft with a sail propelled through the vacuum of space by the pressure of photons emitted by the sun. LightSail demonstrates his vision.

Yet, meanwhile, NASA cancelled its own solar sail mission scheduled for this year. It was to involve the largest solar sail ever flown. In 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency made the first solar sail flight with a spacecraft it named Ikaros. Before the NASA solar flight cancellation, NASA last year declared on its website: “The concept of a huge, ultra-thin sail unfurling in space, using the pressure of sunlight to provide propellant-free transport, hovering and exploration capabilities, may seem like the stuff of science fiction. Now a NASA team developing the ‘In-Space Demonstration of a Mission-Capable Solar Sail’—or Solar Sail Demonstrator for short—intend[s] to prove the viability and value of the technology in the years to come.” NASA said the mission, also called Sunjammer, was cancelled by NASA because of problems ” with the project’s contractor, L’Garde of California.

And also, meanwhile, demonstrating that solar power can be harvested far out in space, the Rosetta space probe of the European Space Agency (ESA), energized with solar power, successfully rendezvoused last year with a comet 375 million miles from the sun. ESA at the start of this mission explained that it did not have the plutonium power systems that NASA had, so instead it developed high-efficiency solar photovoltaic panels for use in space. And they worked enabling Rosetta to meet up with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and send a lander to its surface. Rosetta continues flying alongside …read moreRead More

Praful Bidwai and the nuclear discourse in India"> Thumbnail for 368942

Praful Bidwai’s departure has created a huge void. He took on the mighty and well-heeled nuclear establishment of India through his exemplary rigour and finesse. He democratised the Indian discourse on nuclear issues and filled it with people in flesh and blood, without which it would have just been a narrow lane of with nuclear policy elites chatting among themselves. …read moreRead More

Holtec President says HI-STORM dry storage casks can last 300 years"> Thumbnail for 366800

Holtec International President Kris Singh told the Vermont Nuclear Decommissioning Citizens Advisory Panel on Friday that the HI-STORM (Holtec International Storage Module) spent nuclear fuel storage casks constructed by his company can withstand cold weather and even being flooded.

Singh asserted that the HI-STORM casks were the best and safest in the world and claimed that each cask would last 300 years — even though the longest a HI-STORM cask has been used in the field is only 15 years.

Each cask is constructed out of stainless steel and high-density concrete. One of the features of the casks is that they don’t have welds, which are prone to leaking. They are designed to withstand high-impact crashes, high temperatures and bullets.

A dry storage cask prepared for loading

The cask is placed in the spent fuel pool to load spent fuel assemblies.

The cask is placed in the spent fuel pool to load spent fuel assemblies.

After the spent fuel assemblies are loaded the top of the cask is welded shut

After the spent fuel assemblies are loaded the top of the cask is welded shut

After they are sealed the canisters are placed inside of the overpack.

After they are sealed the canisters are placed inside of the overpack.

The loaded cask is transported to the above-ground storage pad.

The loaded cask is transported to the above-ground storage pad.

A view of loaded casks

A view of loaded casks

The post Holtec President says HI-STORM dry storage casks can last 300 years appeared first on Enformable.

…read moreRead More